Monday, January 31, 2011

Maize 'n' Brew: What to Expect on Signing Day

Why not?

I put up a post yesterday on Maize 'n' Brew about What to Expect on Signing Day, including predictions on Michigan's few remaining recruits.  Check it out if you're interested.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mailbag: Could Desmond Morgan play fullback?

Desmond Morgan + truck stick = fullback?

With all of the linebackers Mattison is bringing in, where does a kid like Desmond Morgan fit in?  Do you think they are going to run a 3-4 in the future or do you think he might be able to fit in as a fullback in the future?  I know it's crazy but just think if you had a fullback who could throw the ball..... what kind of trick plays you could run.... or just having him as the protector on punt formation... Just seeing what your thoughts were on where he might end up.  Thanks, Andy
Without hearing a plan come directly out of Greg Mattison's mouth, it's difficult for me to say with any certainty what type of defense Michigan will run in the future.  If the rumor is true that Will Campbell has made the switch back to defense, then I would say that's a good indicator of intentions to run a 4-3 type of defense.  After all, there wouldn't really be a need for so many defensive linemen if Michigan were only going to use three of them at any given time.  New recruits have also reported that head coach Brady Hoke was selling a 4-3 defense.

I said in a previous post that I think Michigan will run a defense that looks an awful lot like Greg Robinson's in 2009.  That's with Craig Roh as a rush linebacker, plus a NT, a 3-tech DT, and a 5-tech strongside end.  The biggest difference between Michigan 2009 and Michigan 2011, I'm guessing, will be the use of a nickel corner in obvious passing situations.  Whereas Robinson used converted safety Steve Brown as a three-down linebacker, a guy like Courtney Avery might be able to play over the slot receiver, replacing a linebacker less gifted in pass coverage.

As for Morgan himself, I expect that he'll stay at linebacker.  I think he's perfectly suited to be a middle linebacker in a 4-3.  And as far as I know, none of the coaches have mentioned to him the possibility of moving to offense.  My assumption about why Hoke and Mattison are pursuing so many linebackers comes down to this: the linebacker play at Michigan has been quite putrid for a few years, and the fact that nobody really challenged Mouton or Ezeh for most of that time doesn't bode well for whoever's behind them on the depth chart.  Demens did a pretty nice job taking over at MIKE, and I'm not convinced that J.B. Fitzgerald can't be a solid player.  But Fitzgerald is a senior and his chance to impact is dwindling.  We haven't seen much of the guys behind them.

The fullback position might be a bit overblown by Michigan fans, too.  Al Borges has shown a propensity for using two tailbacks in the backfield at the same time.  Think Bo Jackson and Marcus Allen if you're old enough, Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams if you're not.  When the latter pair played for Borges at Auburn in 2004, Brown ended his season with 913 yards and 8 touchdowns.  Williams had 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns.  This is going to be a different style of offense than we saw Michigan use in Lloyd Carr's last few years.  Instead of big bruisers like Kevin Dudley and Obi Oluigbo, this is probably going to be more B.J. Askew.  The only fullback Michigan offered in the 2011 recruiting cycle is Trayion Durham (since committed to Kent State), who's a pretty nifty runner.  I wouldn't be surprised to see a kid like Stephen Hopkins or Michael Cox play "fullback" while Michael Shaw or Fitzgerald Toussaint plays tailback.  That would give Michigan's backfield a nice combination of size and wiggle.  Additionally, John McColgan could return for a fifth year, and there's a fullback from Traverse City named Joey Kerridge who should be coming to Ann Arbor as a walk-on.

Regarding fake punts and trick plays, I don't think Desmond Morgan playing linebacker would preclude him from being the upback on punts.  In fact, that would probably be a great place for him.  As for running trick plays out of the regular backfield . . . it would be possible, but I don't know that I've ever seen a fullback throw a pass before.  If you're using a fullback, he's typically about four yards behind the line of scrimmage and in a blocking position.  Handing or tossing him the ball and expecting him to get a throw off from the fullback spot would be a tall order.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Chris Bryant, Wolverine

Yes, Chris Bryant's high school team
was the Wolverines, too.

Chris Bryant, a 6'5", 330 lb. offensive lineman, committed to Michigan on Friday night.  It had been rumored for many months that Bryant was a Michigan lean, and he finally made the public announcement.  Bryant is from Simeon Career Academy in Chicago, IL.

The hulking lineman is a 4-star prospect to Rivals (which projects him as an offensive tackle), but both Scout and ESPN give him a 3-star rating (as an offensive guard).  He also had offers from Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, and Stanford, among others.  The other finalists for his services were Arizona, Illinois, and Pitt.

I find the above rankings to be a little funny.  Bryant's body type obviously leans toward playing guard at the next level, but the two sites who project him as a guard gave him only three stars.  Conversely, the one site that oddly ranks him as a tackle gives him a very high rating.  That seems to be backward, but oh well.

Clearly Bryant has some work to do on his body.  There's a humorous quote from a interview where Bryant says, "I'm not a sloppy 330, I'm built."  Well . . . he's a little bit sloppy.  Not too many high schoolers are 330 lbs. and "built."  In fact, I might even go out on a limb and say zero of them are.  High school kids don't have the hormones, time, or inclination to be a built 330 lbs.  So Phil Pfister he's not, but if a kid wants to think he looks sexy with a big belly, who am I to stop him?

The bottom line is that Bryant is a very powerful kid.  He has a reported bench press of 395 lbs.  His squat number of 420 lbs. isn't extremely impressive, but when you consider the fact that he's lifting his own 330 lbs. plus another 420, well, that's not bad.  When you watch Bryant's film, it's evident that he plows over defensive linemen.  He's the type of lineman that demoralizes you by blocking you into the ground and then hitting you again and again when you try to get up.  Eventually players just bide their time until the whistle blows.  He's not quite to the level of Taylor Lewan in nastiness, but he's pretty close.

The thing I like most about Bryant, though, is his footwork.  For such a big kid, he moves his feet superbly.  Unlike fellow class of 2011 behemoth Aundrey Walker, Bryant keeps his feet moving throughout the play.  Whereas Walker gives opponents a shove or two and expects them to give up, which they often do, Bryant drives his man or keeps his feet moving laterally in short, choppy steps.  (Bonus: I ranked Bryant just ahead of Walker and just behind recent USC commit Cyrus Hobbi back in January.)  His excellent footwork and potentially overwhelming size and strength should turn him into an excellent offensive lineman at Michigan.

Bryant will need to play a little bit lower and condition his body, but from all accounts, he is a high character kid.  I expect that he'll get his weight under control, improve his lower body strength, and be a multi-year starter at Michigan.  He'll almost certainly redshirt in 2011 and watch Patrick Omameh and Ricky Barnum man the guard positions in 2012, but as a redshirt sophomore in 2013, Bryant should be in line to step into the starting group.  He's not the all-around athlete that former 5-star William Campbell is, but as strictly an offensive lineman, I would take Bryant 2011 over Campbell coming out of high school.

This is commitment #17 for Michigan.  There are three or four spots remaining in this class, one of which would likely be reserved for Traverse City offensive lineman Jake Fisher.  A commitment from Fisher would likely end offensive line recruiting, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the coaches pursue a lower level player over the next few days if Fisher doesn't give off positive vibes to the Michigan staff.

TTB Rating: 87

The link HERE is a good highlight film but can't be embedded, so here are some clips of him at the Sound Mind Sound Body camp in Ann Arbor:

Coaching Clinic: Anybody going?

Sophie Reade will be there.  I hope.

On March 3-5, I'll be attending a coaching clinic in Allentown, PA.  Among various college and high school coaches, speakers will include:

  • Danny Hope, Purdue
  • Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
  • Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
  • Doug Marrone, Syracuse
If anyone is planning to go, feel free to comment on here or e-mail me.  I don't really care one way or the other about Ferentz, but I hate Danny Hope.  I'm considering sitting in on Hope's session and heckling him the entire time.*

I'm sure I'll relay some of what I learn on this here blog like I did a couple years ago after the Penn State clinic (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)

*Not really, though.

Friday, January 28, 2011

2011 Offer Board Update

Louisiana cornerback Floyd Raven

The 2011 Offer Board has been updated:

Ray Drew (DE) committed to Georgia.

Brandon Fulse (TE) committed to Auburn.

Mickey Johnson (NT) committed to LSU.

Stefan McClure (CB) committed to Cal.

Josue Matias (OT) committed to Rutgers.

Errin Joe (OG) committed to Georgia Tech.

Deon Lee (DE) committed to Troy.

Darius Patton (WR) committed to Pittsburgh.

Tre Mason (SB) committed to Auburn.

Floyd Raven (CB) committed to Ole Miss.

Antonio Poole (LB) committed to Michigan.

Added Russell Bellomy (QB) who committed to Michigan.

Malcolm Crockett (SB) committed to Pitt.

Terrell Chestnutt (CB) committed to West Virginia.

Added Trayion Durham (FB).

Floyd Raven (CB) committed to Texas A&M.

Malcolm Crockett (SB) decommitted from Cincinnati.

Added Marlin Lane (SB) who committed to Tennessee.

Hakeem Flowers (WR) committed to NC State.

Added Ryan Nowicki (OT).

Jay Rome (TE) committed to Georgia.

Byron Moore (FS) committed to Miami.

Matt Wile (K) committed to Michigan.

Raymon Taylor (CB) committed to Michigan.

Keith Heitzman (DE) committed to Michigan.

Bill Belton (WR) committed to Penn State.

Christian Westerman (OT) changed his commitment from Texas to Auburn.

Added Keith Heitzman (DE).

Michigan 61, Michigan State 57

Zack Novak and Stu Douglass: Yes, Michigan's part-time power forward looks shorter than its shooting guard.
 Congratulations to the Michigan men's basketball team, which beat Michigan State at the Breslin Center for the first time in 14 years.

I watched the entire game while doing cardio at the gym.  As you might guess, my legs are tired this morning.

Go Blue!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Maize 'n' Brew: The Remaining Scholarships - Defense

Antonio Poole was the first one to drop.

I recently put up a post over at Maize 'n' Brew on how Michigan might fill out the remainder of its recruiting class.  Take a gander over there if you're interested.

Mailbag: How will the blocking schemes change?

The California Golden Bears use a zone blocking system

Hey Thunder,
I'm curious as to how you think the Michigan offensive line will perform in 2011. What are the main differences in zone blocking vs. man blocking schemes, and do you think Michigan's current group is up to the task? I've never coached offensive line (or defensive line) in my brief career, so I'm curious. Thanks!
To first get some terminology out of the way, no team out there runs a true "man blocking scheme", at least not the way many people interpret those words  That phrase can be disingenuous. 

When one talks about zone blocking, it usually refers to a play in which a running play is intended to go in a general direction, not necessarily to one particular hole.  The offensive linemen do follow some rules about who to engage, but generally, a linemen tries to lock on to a defender, take him in whichever direction he wants to go, and then let the running back find a lane to follow.  A good explanation from a blog I like comes from Smart Football's post on the matter.

When one talks about man blocking, it often refers to rule blocking.  There are some plays within man blocking schemes in which the offensive linemen choose who to block based on counting the number of defenders to their side of the ball.  For example, on a running play to the right, the center might block the #1 guy to the right of the ball (whether it's a defensive lineman or linebacker), the guard takes #2, the tackle takes #3, and the tight end walls off #4.  In that type of situation, it doesn't matter how the defense aligns - the linemen just count at the line of scrimmage and then try to drive defenders off the ball.  A post from provides a list of pros and cons for each type of scheme.  Man blocking schemes do have the ability to run complicated plays, such as the counter trey, on which the backside guard and backside tackle pull and lead through a hole.  Unlike zone plays, these plays typically are intended to go to one particular hole.

As for how Michigan's linemen will fare in what we can only assume will be a more man blocking-oriented scheme, I think they'll be just fine.  Rich Rodriguez and Mike Barwis realized last year that 290-pound linemen can't get the job done at Michigan, so several of them bulked up to 300 pounds for the 2010 season.  I don't expect that Michigan will return to having oodles of 320-330 lb. behemoths, but some of these guys should be able to hit 310-315.  New strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman has talked about keeping down his players' body fat percentage, so I don't expect Michigan to turn into a bunch of Wisconsin Badger-like fatties.

Individually . . .

LT Taylor Lewan. He was somewhat light this past season due to his youth, but I think he can be successful in any scheme.  He's strong, nasty, and athletic.  I've said since he was recruited that he plays like Jake Long.  He'll continue to add some weight and continue to be a mauler.

LG Ricky Barnum (?).  I'm operating under the assumption that Barnum will replace the departed Steve Schilling.  Barnum has flirted with playing offensive tackle in the past, but he doesn't have the length to play tackle.  To me he's a prototypical bowling ball of a guard.

C David Molk. Molk might be the lightest guy on the offensive line, but he's also the strongest.  Centers are typically the smallest offensive linemen, so I'm not concerned about his lack of size.

RG Patrick Omameh.  I still think that Omameh would be a good fit at offensive tackle, although I'm not sure he'll switch positions at this point.  He doesn't have the prototypical body type for a guard in a man blocking scheme; he might be heavy enough, but he's more the athletic guard type than a straight ahead mauler.  He's excellent on the move, like former UCLA Bruin and Baltimore Raven Johnathan Ogden (although obviously not as big and probably not as good), so I expect offensive coordinator Al Borges to run counters, waggles, and traps to utilize Omameh's athleticism.

RT Mark Huyge.  I've never been impressed with Huyge, but maybe he'll take a leap as a senior.  He's got the size, but I've just never thought of him as a great athlete.  If another guard steps up (Rocko Khoury, maybe), I wouldn't mind seeing Omameh bump out to RT and having Khoury step in at right guard.  We'll see what happens.

These guys probably won't be the equivalent of the mean, nasty, road grading offensive linemen that populated Michigan in decades past, but they should be able to hold their ground.  If Borges and Brady Hoke hold to their promise of making changes to the offense based on personnel, then they should be able to take advantage of this line's strengths.  I don't want to see Borges forced into zone blocking if that's not his specialty, but he needs to get these guys on the move.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Former Michigan Athlete of the Week: LaMarr Woodley

LaMarr Woodley

Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley is headed to the Super Bowl.  He helped oust the New York Jets by a score of 24-19.  Woodley had 4 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss, 2 quarterback hurries, and 1 pass breakup.

Honorable mention: Green Bay Packer Charles Woodson had 3 tackles as the Packers beat the Chicago Bears, 21-14. 

The Steelers also have backup linebacker Larry Foote and backup safety Ryan Mundy, both of whom are Michigan products.

Antonio Poole, Wolverine

Antonio Poole chose Michigan instead of someplace worse.

Antonio Poole, an outside linebacker from Cincinnati, OH, committed to Michigan on Tuesday after receiving an in-home visit from new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison on Monday.  Poole is a 6'1", 215 lb. prospect with other offers from Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Purdue, among others.

Poole is a 4-star prospect and the #13 outside linebacker to Scout, but a 3-star to Rivals and ESPN.  Rivals ranks him as the #26 player at his position and ESPN puts him at #41.  There's a bit of a wide spread in the rankings, but overall, it seems that Poole is a solid prospect for Michigan to pull at this point in the recruiting cycle.  I'm encouraged by Poole's offer from Louisville, since head coach Charlie Strong (a former University of Florida defensive coordinator) clearly has a good idea of how to run a defense.  I would tend to agree with Scout more than the other two here.  I don't see what Rivals and ESPN dislike about the kid's game.

Poole reminds me a bit of Chris Graham in body stature, who played weakside linebacker for Michigan a few years ago.  The thing I like most about him is that he's a very physical tackler.  Graham had a couple de-cleaters as a Wolverine, but he was never a standout.  (On a related note, Graham is currently playing middle linebacker for a pro football team . . . in Germany.)  Unlike Graham, however, Poole plays downhill and seems to diagnose quickly.

I think Poole could play either weakside linebacker or middle linebacker.  He's an excellent tackler and wades through the trash well.  Much like Graham, it seems like Poole would fit best as a good two-down weakside 'backer.  He blitzes well and he's a good run stopper, but I expect Mattison to use nickel corners (a position that disappeared the last few seasons) in obvious passing situations, and Poole might be lifted when offenses try to spread the field.

This gives Michigan 16 commits for the class of 2011.  Linebackers Frank Clark and Leilon Willingham are rumored to be silent pledges, so Michigan should be done at the linebacker positions.  There should be four or five scholarships left to use in this class, which will likely be used on a couple offensive linemen , a defensive tackle, a running back, and perhaps a fullback.

TTB Rating: 82

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Russell Bellomy, Wolverine

Russell Bellomy probably thinks what I think:
"Purdue coach Danny Hope is a tool."

Russell Bellomy, a quarterback from Arlington, TX, committed to Michigan on Tuesday.  He had previously been committed to Purdue but hadn't been offered by Michigan until Brady Hoke took the head coaching job at Michigan.  Bellomy is a 6'3", 180 lb. prospect who also holds offers from Boise State, Colorado, Marshall, Minnesota, and South Florida, among others.

Bellomy is a 3-star prospect to all three recruiting services, and mostly viewed as a dual-threat quarterback.  Scout ranks him as the #39 overall quarterback, while ESPN puts him at #35.  Rivals has no opinion on the matter, but at least their site looks pretty.

Watching highlights of Bellomy, his high school team runs an offense that looks a lot like Auburn's.  It's somewhat surprising that Rich Rodriguez, who needed a quarterback in the class of 2011 after Kevin Sousa decommitted, didn't pursue Bellomy.  Bellomy has some serious wheels and escapability.  He only completed approximately 59% of his passes over the past couple seasons, but he threw very few interceptions (seven total from 2009-2010) and ran the ball for 1,200 yards over those two seasons.

Interestingly, Bellomy is a bit like offensive coordinator Al Borges' old protege, Cade McNown.  Bellomy is a little bit taller than McNown, but he's mobile, has somewhat erratic mechanics, and lacks great arm strength.  He shares those qualities with McNown, although the former UCLA quarterback also lacked some leadership qualities.  Judging by a couple interviews I've seen of Bellomy, he seems to be a very grounded, respectful, humble young man.

I expect Bellomy to redshirt in 2011.  Michigan has two capable-to-fairly capable quarterbacks in junior Denard Robinson and sophomore (or redshirt freshman) Devin Gardner.  There's no need to get Bellomy game experience as a true freshman.  Experience is only necessary if he's expected to play in the near future (like freshman Ryan Mallett in 2007, who would presumably have taken over once senior Chad Henne graduated).  If injuries to Robinson and Gardner occur in 2011, Michigan's chances of winning likely go down the drain, whether Bellomy gets a few garbage snaps or not.

The Wolverines are almost certainly finished with quarterback recruiting for 2011.  Three scholarship quarterbacks is the minimum number a team should carry, but having four quarterbacks spread out over only three classes would cause a bit of a logjam.  Expect to see Michigan pursue another quarterback or two in the class of 2012.

TTB Rating: 74

Mailbag: How will Craig Roh be used?

Indiana sucks.  Craig Roh doesn't.

My understanding is the he DC ran the 3-4 at Baltimore and I'm concerned what this means for Roh.  He doesn't seem suited to play LB or DE in that system. Is he strictly a one-gap lineman and if so, how do you see him being used by the staff?
First of all, I think Roh is one of the top two defensive players on the roster (with Mike Martin).  He's 6'5", 250+ pounds, he's strong, he can cover a little bit, he's pretty quick, and he's aggressive.  So I don't blame you for being concerned about how he will be used.

Luckily, I think new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison will put Roh in a position to achieve success this coming season.  In my opinion, the old coaching staff was almost criminally negligent in their use of Roh last season.  As a true freshman in 2009, Roh split time with Brandon Herron and notched 7.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks.  As a full-time starter in 2010, Roh inreased his total tackles by only six (37 to 43) but his tackles for loss dropped to 5.5 and he had a whopping 1/2 sack.  That's why I was so convinced that the spring 2010 practice rumors were erroneous or overblown that Michigan would be using a 3-3-5.  Sure enough, Michigan tried to play Roh as an outside stacked linebacker, which was a failure.  Rumors popped up that Craig and his father, Fred, approached the coaching staff about using Roh appropriately . . . or running the risk of seeing him transfer.  Almost immediately afterward, we saw Roh playing defensive end again.  I can't vouch for the validity of those rumors, but generally, where there's smoke there's fire.

As for Michigan's defense in 2011, recruits have reported that Brady Hoke has been relaying messages about running a 4-3.  Obviously, things could change or be misinterpreted, but that's the word on the street.  On the other hand, Mattison did indeed run a version of a 3-4 this past season with the Baltimore Ravens, and I have a hard time believing that he would change schemes at the snap of a finger.  On the other other hand, someone with Mattison's age and experience probably knows the ins and outs of both systems.

Really, it would be nothing more than a guess for me to say what type of defense Michigan will run in 2011.  There seems to be evidence for both.  But Roh has the size and skill set to play weakside defensive end in a 4-3 (Tim Jamison was 6'3", 263 as a senior) or outside linebacker in a 3-4 (Terrell Suggs is 6'3", 260).  My guess is that the defense will be a hybrid type of 3-4/4-3 in which we'll see Roh deployed like he was in 2009, back when Greg Robinson had some semblance of a clue what he was doing with the defense (remember when Roh looked promising and Steve Brown had such a solid season?  You know, before Rodriguez forced the 3-3-5 on him?).  Once in awhile, Roh will drop back into the flat or pick up a running back in man coverage.  Once in awhile, Roh will stand up and blitz the interior of the line.  Most of the time, he'll rush the passer.

I was wrong last year when I said that Michigan would probably run a 4-2-5, but after the defensive performance of 2010, I'm not convinced I was wrong that Michigan should have run a 4-2-5.  It's not that the 3-3-5 can't be successful in the Big Ten, but that assumes that the linebackers can be competent.  Obi Ezeh was a disappointment, Mouton was off-and-on, Roh was misused, and by the end of the season, only Mouton remained in the same spot (Ezeh was benched for Kenny Demens, and Roh was put at defensive end).  Rodriguez, Robinson, and the other defensive assistants had no clue how to work together and employ their personnel, and they were sent packing because of it.

Now that Hoke is in charge and brought in one of his guys - somebody he knows and trusts - I think the defensive coaching will be much smoother.  Michigan had an identity when Rodriguez brought Calvin Magee to run the offense.  They both knew what they wanted to do, and the offense improved steadily.  Conversely, Rodriguez brought in a 4-3 guy that he didn't know (Shafer), forced him to run a 3-3-5 after two-thirds of a season, fired Shafer, brought in a 3-4/4-3 guy that he didn't know (Robinson), forced him to run a 3-3-5 after a full season, and then got everyone fired.

I still believe in Roh's talent, and sadly, a 3-3-5 is just about the only defense where he can't fit somewhere.  I think 2010 was a bit of an aberration in Roh's maturation, and we'll see an explosive pass rusher and stellar athlete wearing #88 once again, rather than this:

Yes, that's a 250 lb. defensive tackle lined up over Mississippi State's left guard.  It's also a touchdown.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Matt Wile, Wolverine

San Diego kicker Matt Wile

Matt Wile, a 6'2", 210 lb. kicker from San Diego, CA, committed to Michigan on Saturday.  Wile is a 2-star recruit to Rivals and ESPN but unranked to Scout.  He also holds offers from Air Force, Nebraska, San Diego State, and Washington.

Originally recruited by Brady Hoke's staff when they were at San Diego State, Hoke honored the scholarship offer when he got the job at Michigan.  Wile is the fifth kicker in the history of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl to choose Michigan, making Michigan the most frequent destination for USAAB kickers.  The other four have been Garrett Rivas, Zoltan Mesko, Brendan Gibbons, and Will Hagerup.  And when Wile enrolls later this year, he will be a fifth-generation Michigan Wolverine.

As a junior, Wile went 9-for-12 on field goals with a long of 48.  He also kicked the ball into the endzone 89% of the time.  In his senior season, he finished 10-for-13 with a long of 49 and a touchback percentage of 91%.  He also played linebacker for his high school team, and you can see some of his tackling/blocking talents in the video below.

Michigan kickers (the aforementioned Brendan Gibbons, who is on scholarship; and walk-on Seth Broekhuizen) combined for a 4-for-14 season in 2010.  Rich Rodriguez successfully recruited a kicker in the 2011 class, convincing Matt Goudis to flip from Boise State; however, Goudis obviously makes a habit of indecision, since he changed his commitment to Miami a couple weeks later.  New coach Brady Hoke obviously still saw a need for another kicker, which is why he's also committing a third scholarship to a specialist.  All three scholarship kickers on Michigan's roster are USAAB alumni, but it's somewhat rare that a school has to commit three free rides to specialists.

I know very little about kicking, so I won't pretend to have much criticism here.  What I do know is that Michigan's field goal accuracy in 2010 (29%) paled in comparison to Wile's over the past couple seasons (76%).  If giving out a third scholarship to a kicker means that Michigan can attempt more field goals - and make a higher percentage of them - then I'm okay with it.  You can't just throw a crappy kicker out there, cross your fingers, close your eyes, and hope.  Wile's presence will either spur Brendan Gibbons (whose work ethic has been questioned) to fight for his job or give Wile a shot to kick as a true freshman.

Punter Will Hagerup took over the kickoff duties late in the season, and he did a better job than either Gibbons or Broekhuizen.  Even though Wile averaged over 41 yards per punt as a high schooler, Hagerup's job as punter probably won't be challenged. 

What should Michigan fans expect?  Wile has been practicing kicking off the ground for a couple seasons, so the transition to college shouldn't be extremely difficult for him.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Wile kicking field goals in 2011.  Gibbons couldn't beat out some mediocre kickers as a true freshman in 2009 and redshirted.  In 2010 he sat most of the time and watched another walk-on beat him out.  It's not a stretch to imagine that Gibbons will once again be watching from the sideline this coming season.

Raymon Taylor, Wolverine

Highland Park defensive back Raymon Taylor

Raymon Taylor, a 5'10", 170 lb. defensive back from Highland Park, MI, committed to the Wolverines on Saturday.  He had been committed to Indiana for a couple months, but when Hoosiers coach Bill Lynch was fired at the conclusion of the 2010 season, Taylor began to rethink his commitment.  Taylor had always been a Michigan fan, but he did not receive an offer from the Wolverines until nearly the end of the Rich Rodriguez regime.

Taylor is a 4-star recruit to Rivals and a 3-star to both Scout and ESPN.  Rivals and ESPN rank him as an "athlete" and Scout thinks he's the 49th best cornerback in the country.  In addition to Indiana, he had also been offered by Cincinnati, Illinois, Iowa, Pittsburgh, Toledo, and Wisconsin.

It's unclear what position Taylor will play at the next level.  He reminds me of outgoing senior cornerback James Rogers.  Rogers was a standout receiver/running back with great speed in high school, but he wasn't all that sudden of a player.  Much like Rogers, Taylor doesn't exactly make quick cuts but catches the ball well and can run away from opponents.  One thing Taylor has on Rogers, though, is that he's a little more physical.

Some analysts think Taylor is destined for safety, but I'm not a big fan of playing small-ish cornerback types at free safety.  Receivers ought to be terrified of going across the middle, and while Taylor is an adequate tackler, he's not going to scare opposing wide receivers.  Due to his lack of size, I expect Taylor to play cornerback at Michigan.  That might also allow some current Michigan cornerbacks who lack a little bit of speed (J.T. Floyd, Cullen Christian) to move to free safety.  Neither Floyd or Christian is a great hitter, but each might benefit from a change of position.

Michigan is still recruiting 4-star defensive backs Stefan McClure and Floyd Raven, but those are highly rated recruits with many options.  I think the Wolverines coaching staff would accept a commitment from either one, but I don't expect that Brady Hoke will pursue any new leads on cornerbacks.  Unless one of those two players wants to commit, defensive back recruiting should be finished for 2011.

TTB Rating: 67

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Keith Heitzman, Wolverine

Keith Heitzman thinks helmets are unnecessary

Keith Heitzman, a tight end/defensive end from Hilliard, OH, committed to Michigan on Saturday.  A 3-star prospect to all three major recruiting services, Heitzman is a 6'3", 237-pound prospect.  Previously committed to the Vanderbilt Commodores, Heitzman switched his commitment after being offered by Brady Hoke's staff on Friday.  He also holds offers from Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Marshall, Miami (OH), Minnesota, and Toledo.

Heitzman played both ways as a high schooler.  According to him, his only discussions with Michigan coaches have been with defensive coordinator Greg Mattison and linebackers coach Mark Smith.  I do expect Michigan to get a tight end in the Class of 2011, so it's unclear at this point what position Heitzman is destined to play.

As for defense, Heitzman finished his junior year with 60 tackles and 13 sacks.  To cap his career, he was named the defensive player of the year for the Central Division District I as a senior.

I'm not extremely impressed with Heitzman's film, but as I said upon the commitment of Tamani Carter, Michigan has scholarships to give and might as well use them.  Heitzman has some physical skills, including a willingness to hit and some pretty quick feet.  But his footwork as a blocker and a defensive end are suspect.  He gets by on having superior athleticism and size, but those advantages will disappear somewhat at the next level. 

Regardless of what position Heitzman plays, he'll likely redshirt.  Tight end is manned adequately by senior Kevin Koger, whose backup will be redshirt junior Brandon Moore.  Unless there's an injury, Michigan won't need a freshman's services.  Defensively, Michigan has a fair number of options at end, all of whom have superior size and equal athleticism.  Even if the Wolverines suffer an injury or two at DE, Heitzman should rest easily on the sideline for a year or two.

TTB Rating: 63

Saturday, January 22, 2011

2011 Offer Board Update

Ohio linebacker Antonio Poole

Commitments, offers, and new are coming fast and furious now.  The 2011 Offer Board has been updated:

Christian Westerman (OT) changed his commitment from Texas to Auburn.

Added Keith Heitzman (DE).

Added Antonio Poole (ILB).

Sheldon Royster (FS) committed to South Carolina.

Added Tamani Carter (CB) who committed to Michigan.

Added Max Issake (DE) who is committed to Pitt.

Added Leilon Willingham (ILB).

Jon Lewis (DT) changed his commitment from Texas Tech to TCU.

Added Chris Barnett (TE).

Woodson Greer (OLB) committed to Colorado.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tamani Carter, Wolverine

Cornerback Tamani Carter (#3) digs pink.  And maize and blue.

Tamani Carter, a 6'0", 175 lb. cornerback from Pickerington Central (Ohio) committed to Michigan on Wednesday.  He was offered a scholarship by new coach Brady Hoke on Sunday night and took a few days to mull it over, but ultimately decided to switch his commitment from Minnesota to Michigan.  And really, who wouldn't rather be a Wolverine than a Gopher?

Carter is a 3-star to Scout and Rivals, and a 2-star to ESPN.  He had offers from Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota, and Stanford, as well as a few others.  Carter's Rivals profile also lists a bench max of 295, a 35-inch vertical jump, and a 4.48 forty yard dash.

Prior to Carter's commitment, Michigan had only used 10 of its approximately 20 scholarships available for the Class of 2011.  Many fans and some analysts think that if Michigan can't get elite prospects to fill out this recruiting class, then they should bank those unused scholarships for the next recruiting cycle.  I disagree with that theory.  As of now, approximately 16 players should be graduating after the 2011 season, leaving at least 16 scholarships open for next year.  More likely, that number will swell to 20 or so, which is a decent sized class.  This "banking scholarships" thing only really makes sense if next year's class would be a very small number, say 10 or 12; that's not the case.

Therefore, I'm not that concerned with Michigan using a scholarship on Carter.  Including Class of 2011 additions to the roster, Michigan could have nine cornerbacks on the roster.  I expect that at least one of those nine will move to safety, so the numbers are fluid.  The ultimate goal is to get talented players on the roster, and I'd rather Michigan use a scholarship on a guy like Carter than just handing it to a walk-on whose maximum contribution might be running down the field on kickoff coverage a few times.

That being said, nothing about Carter really stands out on film. He has decent size (unlike many cornerbacks Rich Rodriguez recruited), he has decent speed, he's not afraid of contact, etc.  It's not a wasted scholarship.  At the same time, I don't see the suddenness and change of direction that I'd like to see from a cornerback.  This is not an "elite" player, but Michigan can't exactly hold out for elite players when the class has ten guys and less than two weeks until National Signing Day.  I would like Carter more if he were going to be playing in a Cover 2 defense and sitting in the flat most of the day, but that's not what I'm expecting from new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.

At this point, Michigan needs to secure the commitments of a few linemen (Jake Fisher, Tony Posada, Chris Bryant, and maybe a fifth guy), a quarterback, a tight end, a linebacker, a safety, and hopefully a couple defensive linemen.  That would bring the class to approximately 19.  I'm hopeful that Michigan can also convince a highly touted cornerback like Stefan McClure or Floyd Raven to join the squad.  Michigan lacks a true free safety outside of Ray Vinopal, in my opinion, and while McClure is purely a corner, I think Raven has the instincts, speed, and tackling ability to be an outstanding free safety. 

TTB Rating: 62

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Final Recruiting Rankings

Justice Hayes (Rivals #85, Scout #131) is Michigan's highest-ranked recruit
 Players offered by Michigan in the final Rivals 250 (the top 26 were given 5-star rankings, the rest 4-stars):

1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE
2. Curtis Grant, LB
3. George Farmer, WR
4. Cyrus Kouandjio, OT
6. La'El Collins, OT
7. Ha'sean Clinton-Dix, S
8. Karlos Williams, S
9. Ray Drew, DE
11. James Wilder, Jr., RB
15. Sammy Watkins, WR
18. Jarvis Landry, WR
19. Demetrius Hart, RB
20. Kris Frost, LB
25. Mike Bellamy, RB

27. Christian Westerman, OT
29. Timmy Jernigan, DT
34. Braxton Miller, QB
36. Marqise Lee, S
40. Mike Blakely, RB
41. Michael Bennett, DT
44. Anthony Chickillo, DE
45. Lamar Dawson, LB
55. Lawrence Thomas, LB
56. Jay Rome, TE
58. Savon Huggins, RB
64. Aundrey Walker, OG
65. Anthony Zettel, DE
66. Brandon Shell, OT
67. Tyler Moore, OG
70. Matt Hegarty, OT
72. Brett Hundley, QB
77. Bobby Hart, OG
80. Delvon Simmons, DT
83. Charone Peake, WR
84. DeAnthony Arnett, WR
85. Justice Hayes, RB
88. Christian LeMay, QB
89. Kiehl Frazier, QB
90. Gregory Robinson, OT
92. Demetrious Nicholson, CB
97. Trey DePriest, LB
100. Charles Jackson, CB
102. Doran Grant, CB
107. Wayne Lyons, S
109. Quan Bray, RB
110. Cyrus Hobbi, OG
114. Andre Yruretagoyena, OT
117. Nick Waisome, CB
118. Stefan McClure, CB
127. Miles Shuler, WR
129. Andrew Buie, RB
132. Ray Hamilton, TE
133. Blake Countess, CB
136. A.J. Johnson, LB
139. Giorgio Newberry, DE
151. Floyd Raven, CB
153. Garrett Greenlea, OT
155. Brian Miller, TE
158. Deion Barnes, DE
161. Josh Turner, CB
162. Brandon Fulse, TE
165. Sheroid Evans, S
166. Kiaro Holts, OG
167. Steve Miller, DE
171. Travis Hughes, LB
175. Kyshoen Jarrett, CB
178. Davaris Daniels, CB
179. Jordan Walsh, OG
181. Avery Walls, S
189. Sheldon Royster, S
190. Devin Lucien, WR
191. Darius Jennings, WR
192. Nick Vannett, TE
195. Mickey Johnson, DT
199. Tre Mason, RB
201. Brennen Beyer, LB/DE
203. Chris Bryant, OG
213. Remound Wright, RB
214. Dondi Kirby, S
225. Austin Traylor, TE
234. Bill Belton, RB
241. Shawn Oakman, DE
245. Josue Matias, OG
247. Marquise Williams, QB

Players offered by Michigan in the final Scout 300 (the top 50 were given 5-star rankings, the rest 4-stars):

1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE
2. Cyrus Kouandjio, OT
6. Trey DePriest, LB
7. Ha'sean Clinton-Dix, S
8. Karlos Williams, S
11. La'El Collins, OT
13. Anthony Chickillo, DE
15. Delvon Simmons, DT
17. Christian Westerman, OT
18. Kiaro Holts, OG
19. Curtis Grant, LB
23. Savon Huggins, RB
24. Bobby Hart, OG
27. George Farmer, WR
29. Jarvis Landry, WR
30. Timmy Jernigan, DT
33. Ray Drew, DE
35. Brandon Shell, OT
36. Braxton Miller, QB
37. Lawrence Thomas, LB
39. Brett Hundley, QB
41. Sammy Watkins, WR
42. Steve Miller, DE
47. James Wilder, Jr., RB
48. Jalen Grimble, DE

51. Charles Jackson, CB
52. Garrett Greenlea, OT
57. Michael Bennett, DT
59. Travis Hughes, LB
60. Mike Bellamy, RB
61. Demetrious Nicholson, CB
63. Demetrius Hart, RB
64. DeAnthony Arnett, WR
66. Jordan Walsh, OG
68. Jay Rome, TE
69. Stefan McClure, CB
70. Doran Grant, CB
73. Charone Peake, WR
76. Brennen Beyer, DE/OLB
78. Marqise Lee, S
81. Ryan Shazier, LB
85. Bill Belton, WR
86. Mike Blakely, RB
88. Josh Turner, CB
92. Nick Waisome, CB
101. Christian LeMay, QB
105. Matt Hegarty, OT
112. Andre Yruretagoyena, OT
115. Tyler Moore, OG
116. Cyrus Hobbi, OG
121. Miles Shuler, WR
129. Lamar Dawson, LB
131. Justice Hayes, RB
132. Damiere Byrd, WR
133. Gregory Robinson, OG
143. Corey Marshall, DE
144. Anthony Zettel, DE
146. Giorgio Newberry, DE
149. Sheldon Royster, S
151. Valdez Showers, CB
153. Wayne Lyons, S
154. Quan Bray, RB
161. DaVaris Daniels, WR
165. Darian Cooper, DT
169. Ron Tanner, S
178. Remound Wright, RB
182. Kyshoen Jarrett, CB
183. Ryan Kelly, OC
187. Devin Smith, WR
193. Sheroid Evans, S
195. Shawn Oakman, DE
196. Jabriel Washington, CB
200. Javares McRoy, WR
204. Aundrey Walker, OG
210. JaJuan Story, WR
213. Blake Countess, CB
216. Mickey Johnson, DT
217. Jerrard Randall, QB
222. Quinta Funderburk, WR
226. Kellen Jones, LB
241. Brandon Phelps, CB
248. Jake Fisher, OT
250. Dexter Staley, LB
253. A.J. Johnson, LB
254. Everett Golson, QB
263. Marquise Williams, QB
268. Kris Frost, LB
275. Brandon Fulse, TE
279. Darius Jennings, WR
282. Tre Mason, RB
283. Devin Lucien, WR
290. Josue Matias, OT
291. Nick Vannett, TE
292. Zach DeBell, OT

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Former Michigan Athlete of the Week: Rich Rodriguez

Former Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez led the team onto the field in 2008

Okay, Rich Rodriguez never played football at Michigan.  But he was Michigan's coach, and he did a very nice thing for charity and the people around Ann Arbor.  Rodriguez donated over 400 items to the Salvation Army to be auctioned, and the proceeds total almost $13,000.  Kudos to Coach Rodriguez.  I was not a fan of his hiring and he frustrated me at times when he was in Ann Arbor, but he seems like a guy who got a raw deal in many ways.  I will be rooting for him to succeed wherever he ends up, whether it's this year or next.

Honorable mention: New York Jets inside linebacker David Harris had 12 tackles, 1 pass defensed, and 1 interception returned for 58 yards in a 28-21 victory over the New England Patriots.  The win advances the Jets to the AFC Championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  I hate the Jets and despise their coach, but Harris played a good game.

Monday, January 17, 2011

2011 Offer Board Update

Vista, CA cornerback Stefan McClure (#21)
The 2011 Offer Board has been updated:

Added Stefan McClure (CB).

Added Floyd Raven (CB).

Added Trevarris Saulsberry (DT) who is committed to Tennessee.

Added Jordan Williams (DE) who is committed to Tennessee.

Dallas Crawford (CB) decommitted from Michigan.

Jake Fisher (OT) decommitted from Michigan.

Added Matt Wile (K).

Matt Goudis (K) changed his commitment from Michigan to Miami.

Jack Tabb (TE) committed to North Carolina.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Snapshots: Freshmen and Freshman Mistakes

Courtney Avery is itty bitty.

My newest post at Maize 'n' Brew breaks down a running play against Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mailbag: Why would Denard change positions?

Denard Robinson: Faster than a horse.

Thanks for the blog, which I enjoy. As you are clearly knowledgeable about football, I was surprised by the following comment:
"My initial reaction is to expect that Robinson will transfer, perhaps to Pitt, where former Michigan offensive coordinator Calvin Magee has alighted. He could go to Pittsburgh, sit out 2011, and have two years of eligibility to play quarterback. In my opinion, the best chance Hoke has to retain Robinson is to make a pitch for Robinson to become a running back or wide receiver."It seems to me that if Robinson stays, he simply must be a quarterback. Otherwise, with Forcier gone, Michigan would be down to one scholarship quarterback, which is clearly unacceptable.

As of now, there are no QB commits in the 2011 class, and at this late date, I suspect the best Hoke could get is a mid-range three-star who will show up in August unprepared for Division I football. If Robinson transfers, we will have to live with that. But if Robinson stays, I cannot imagine that the coaches would choose to hand the job to Gardner, with an anonymous true-freshman three-star kid as his backup.

Let’s assume that Gardner would beat out Robinson in an open competition (not at all obvious to me, but I’ll run with it). You still need two guys ready to play the position. QB is hard enough to learn when you practice it full-time. I can’t imagine that Robinson would have be able to learn a new playbook, get fully prepared to back up Gardner, and have any significant amount of time left to practice other another position that he has never played before.

On top of all that, Robinson seems to want to play QB. I doubt that he would survive a whole season at running back, given his propensity for injury, and he has no history catching the ball. But even if Robinson wanted and were suited to another position, the lack of depth at QB pretty much precludes that idea.

Again: love the blog. I just wonder what on earth you were thinking when you suggested a position switch for Denard. It seems to me the world’s most impractical idea.

Best regards, Marc

Here's my thought process on the matter...

Denard is an excellent runner. He's a mediocre thrower and I'm not sure he has the ability to play quarterback in an offense that's something other than an option offense where he's a frequent running threat.  His mechanics are iffy, his decision making is iffy, and his 62.5% completion percentage belies his scattershot arm.  There's a frustrating lack of accuracy on short throws from Robinson that often prevents his receivers from doing much with the ball once it hits their hands - and that's to say One could point to Roy Roundtree's frustrating drops - especially in the second half of the season - as a reason that Robinson's completion percentage should be higher, but I would argue that Robinson's running ability created a significant amount of wide open, easy catches (see Terrence Robinson's catch against UConn, Roundtree's touchdown against Mississippi State, and Roundtree's long touchdown against Illinois for just a few examples).

I don't think I said this in the other day's post, but I expect that Brady Hoke will recruit one or more quarterbacks in the Class of 2011. They probably won't be top-tier guys, but they'll be quarterbacks nonetheless. That would leave Devin Gardner, perhaps Tate Forcier (if he's reinstated), and a freshman or two.

I believe Gardner is a better fit for a pro-style offense than Rodriguez's zone read option. Gardner isn't a great runner. I think he's a pocket guy who can scramble. He would be great out of the shotgun, but he's not going to break big runs like Denard, Pat White, etc. I won't say that Rodriguez and Gardner were a mismatch, but I think Gardner would be more effective when deployed like Ohio State's Jim Tressel uses perennial bonehead Terrelle Pryor.  So here are the steps I was suggesting Michigan should take:

1. Prepare Gardner to be the starter.
2. Bring in a freshman or two and see if they can handle being the backup.
3. Move Denard to RB or WR. Create a package for him to be the "Wildcat QB" or just let him get a few reps at QB in case of an emergency. And if people get hurt ahead of him, he could always move back to QB in a Paul Thompson (ex-Oklahoma QB/WR) or Justin Siller (Purdue QB/RB) type of way.
I don't think Denard is as injury-prone as you suggested, although I do think he's injury-prone for a quarterback and was asked to run too much. He got his shoulder dinged up, but the main reason that mattered was because he was playing quarterback. A minor shoulder injury isn't a big deal for a RB because he doesn't have to throw. And Denard did bang up his hip and knee, but I would guess a majority of running backs get dinged up throughout the year. They were all pretty minor injuries, and I don't think they would have been as big of a deal if Denard wasn't a QB and touching the ball on 100% of the plays.

It's unclear whether Robinson has the ability to play wide receiver, which requires precise route-running and good hand-eye coordinator.  Quarterbacks usually have pretty good hands, and with Robinson's speed, I don't doubt that he could play receiver, at least the college level.  And he's already essentially a running back at times; we've seen his patience in waiting for blocks to develop, his ability to outrun or outmaneuver defenders, and his ability to accelerate through the hole.  Receiver might be a huge question mark, but I have no doubt that Robinson could be an outstanding running back at the college level.  I see no discernible difference between Robinson and Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson - one is listed at 6'0", 193 lbs. and the other is 5'11", 191 lbs. - who seems to be doing rather well for himself.

Like I said, it's partially dependent on whom Hoke can recruit to play QB. If he can't recruit someone for the class of 2011 and Tate Forcier doesn't return, then Denard surely has to stay at quarterback. But I agree that Denard does want to play quarterback, and there's something to be said for that. I just also think that Denard's NFL future depends on his versatility, and playing RB or WR might prepare him more for his future. Guys who convert from QB in college to another position in the NFL generally aren't anything more than role players in the NFL, although there are a few exceptions (Josh Cribbs, Antwaan Randle-El, etc.). There are guys out there like Julian Edelman, Brad Smith, and Bert Emanuel, but I don't think many superstar college players want to be the next Bert Emanuel.

None of this is to say that I dislike Denard Robinson or that I want him to transfer.  His leadership, on-field demeanor, effort, and talent are unquestionable.  I hope he remains at Michigan for two more years, Brady Hoke can use him effectively, and Robinson goes on to a long and illustrious football career.  If his goal is to be an outstanding college quarterback, win a lot of games, and re-insert himself into the Heisman race, then it might be in Robinson's best interest to play at a different school.  But if his goal is to maximize his effectiveness and begin a transition to a position that is more likely to get him to the NFL, it wouldn't be a bad idea for him to become a running back.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tate Forcier, ex-Wolverine . . . for now

See you later, Tate.  Or not.
During Wednesday's press conference to introduce new head coach Brady Hoke, athletic director David Brandon was asked about the status of Tate Forcier, Michigan's starting quarterback in 2009 and backup in 2010.  Brandon responded that Forcier is "no longer with the program."

Some reports indicate that Forcier is no longer at Michigan due to flunking out during the fall semester.  Mike Forcier, Tate's father, stated that his son did not flunk out of school. Regardless, he was ineligible for the Gator Bowl against Mississippi State.  Forcier is supposedly enrolled at a community college in the hopes of re-applying to the University of Michigan.  If Forcier were to be reinstated to U of M for the fall semester, he would not lose a year of eligibility, as far as I know; he would be a true junior for the 2011 season.

Forcier is a 4-star recruit from San Diego who enrolled early in January 2009 to take the position vacated by Steve Threet (transferred to Arizona State) and Nick Sheridan (relegated to the bench).  He immediately seized the starting position and  held onto it for his entire season freshman.  The team went 5-7 and Forcier finished 165-for-281 (58.7%) for 2050 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.

Some reported immaturity and the meteoric rise of classmate Denard Robinson sent Forcier to the sideline for the majority of 2010.  He originally responded poorly to the benching, entertaining thoughts of a transfer when true freshman Devin Gardner overtook the sophomore Forcier for second place on the depth chart during the 2010 opener against Connecticut.  However, Forcier's third-place spot on the depth chart turned out to be maturity based rather than performance-based, and he eventually overtook Gardner.  Forcier saw spot duty in several games, but really showed out when Robinson was injured against Illinois.  Forcier finished out the second half of the 67-65, triple-overtime victory.  He ended the season 54-for-84 (64.3%) for 597 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions.

I was excited about Forcier when he was recruited back in 2009.  I thought he had a chance to be a version 2.0 Rich Rodriguez quarterback, the type who would throw the ball a lot, run a little bit, and hand off to some as-yet-undiscovered superstar Rich Rodriguez running back.  But . . . uhhh . . . none of that really happened.  Forcier turned out to be a little too headstrong for his own good, throwing passes he had no business throwing, scrambling with the ball loosely held in one arm, taking his starting job a little too lightly, and ultimately losing his spot on the football team.  He still has potential to be a decent quarterback if he matures - both on and off the field.  But I also won't be surprised if he fades into the background like both of his quarterback brothers (Jason, who was a backup at Michigan and Stanford; and Chris, who played at UCLA and Furman).

Forcier's departure almost guarantees that new coach Brady Hoke will need to recruit one or more quarterbacks for the Class of 2011.  Even if Forcier finds himself back on Michigan's campus in the fall, the quarterback position would remain thin with only three scholarship players.  While Hoke has promised to incorporate Denard Robinson's skills into the offense, I expect that Michigan will try to find a pro-style quarterback before National Signing Day.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Attractive Michigan Girl of the Week: Michelle Beadle

Michelle Beadle

Okay, she didn't go to Michigan or anything.  But she did visit campus and wear a Denard Robinson jersey while she was in Ann Arbor.  So whatever.

If you have any other pictures of girls wearing Michigan gear, feel free to send them to me at

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Who fits and who doesn't?

Quarterback Denard Robinson might struggle in a Brady Hoke offense

After Lloyd Carr retired in 2007, Rich Rodriguez was hired and struggled to turn Carr's pro-style personnel into a spread-style offense.  Steve Threet and Nick Sheridan didn't light the world on fire in 2008, and Tate Forcier was decent for a freshman in 2009.  But the quarterbacks and other offensive players didn't hit their Rodriguez-level spread until 2010, when Denard Robinson temporarily vaulted into the lead of the Heisman Trophy race.  That leap was short-lived, since Rodriguez was ousted and replaced by Brady Hoke in January 2011, signifying a return to a pro-style offense.

I really had no reason to watch or study San Diego State University's offense during the football season, but I've since watched some highlights and read some accounts of Hoke's offensive schemes.  Since no assistant coaches have been announced yet, it's impossible to say for sure what schemes will be run.  However, here are some thoughts based on what I've seen from SDSU's 2010 offense.

It's Michigan all over again.  Lloyd Carr-style Michigan, at least.  Multiple tight end sets, two backs in the backfield, play action with deep posts, a little bit of shotgun spread, I-formation, etc.  Yep.  You've seen it before.

Quarterbacks.  Both of SDSU's quarterbacks were 6'4"-6'5" and 210-215 lbs.  This does not bode well for Denard Robinson, who is approximately 6'0" and 193 lbs.  Additionally, Robinson's best asset is his ability to run, not to drop back and read defenses.  My initial reaction is to expect that Robinson will transfer, perhaps to Pitt, where former Michigan offensive coordinator Calvin Magee has alighted.  He could go to Pittsburgh, sit out 2011, and have two years of eligibility to play quarterback.  In my opinion, the best chance Hoke has to retain Robinson is to make a pitch for Robinson to become a running back or wide receiver.  I think most people realize that Robinson's NFL future lies in a position other than QB, so perhaps Hoke can convince him to begin that position change now.  The rumor is that Tate Forcier has flunked out of the University of Michigan, so that leaves sophomore/redshirt freshman Devin Gardner to helm Michigan's offense.  I do not expect Gardner that would look elsewhere, and he could potentially be a four-year starter for Hoke.  Gardner is more suited to play in a pro-style offense than Rodriguez's spread, in my opinion, so this could be a positive change for him.

Running backs.  This might be partially due to the talent available at Ball State and San Diego State, but Hoke doesn't seem to mind using smaller running backs.  One might think that he would revert to the 6'1", 220 lb. running backs that Michigan used to employ in the 1990s and early 2000s, but that won't necessarily be the case.  I think each of the running backs on the current roster should be compatible with Hoke's offense if they so choose.

Fullbacks.  Michigan fans shouldn't necessarily expect the bruising, blocker-only fullbacks that Lloyd Carr often used.  Don't think Kevin Dudley or Obi Oluigbo.  Think B.J. Askew.  Senior John McColgan could fit here as a blocker, but guys like Stephen Hopkins or Michael Cox would likely be more effective.

Tight ends.  Michigan's current tight ends shouldn't have a hard time fitting in with Hoke.  He likes to involve the tight end in the passing game (SDSU's starter had 29 receptions and averaged 11+ yards a catch), and both Kevin Koger and Brandon Moore are athletic, pass-catching types.  Ricardo Miller has reportedly changed positions to become a tight end, as well.

Wide receivers.  In the short-term, Michigan should be fine at wide receiver.  Hoke ran a West Coast style offense that uses bigger wide receivers.  The likes of Darryl Stonum, Roy Roundtree, Je'Ron Stokes, D.J. Williamson, Jerald Robinson, and Jeremy Jackson should be fine.  A couple of those guys aren't exactly big, but they're big enough and the top few guys are good enough to be successful.  Martavious Odoms played outside in 2010, even though he's more of a slot receiver.  I do think Odoms could be a factor at WR because of his athleticism, blocking, and chutzpah, but he's probably not the type of wideout that Hoke will recruit.

Slot receiversYeah, this is the position that will likely be phased out at Michigan.  That's not to say that we should expect Jeremy Gallon, Terrence Robinson, Kelvin Grady, or Drew Dileo to get cut.  Every team out there seems to be able to use one or two of those types of guys to return punts and kicks, be a change-of-pace runner, or play in the slot.  But there won't be a need to keep so many of those types of kids on the roster.  I wouldn't be surprised to see some attrition from this position.  I hope that none of these guys transfer, so don't take this the wrong way, but it might make sense for a guy like Gallon or Robinson to go elsewhere.  Gallon would have two years of eligibility remaining since he redshirted already; Robinson would only have one if he went to an FBS school, but he could play immediately in the FCS.

Offensive line.  Michigan's offensive linemen beefed up for the 2010 season, and I don't think the transition will be much of a problem for them.  We might see them adding a little more bulk for 2011 - especially Taylor Lewan - but it's not like Rich Rodriguez was playing 260-pound linemen.  Michigan might be a little undersized at center for a couple years, but David Molk is the strongest offensive lineman on the team and Christian Pace should have another year to add weight.  But guys like Lewan, Patrick Omameh, Ricky Barnum, Elliott Mealer, and Rocko Khoury should be just fine.

Summary.  Offensive attrition should be minimal as far as numbers go.  Michigan might lose a quarterback, and I would understand if a running back/slot guy or two decided to try his hand elsewhere, but the transition from Rodriguez's spread to Hoke's pro-style offense shouldn't be as much of a culture shock as Carr-to-Rodriguez.  However, just looking at the quarterback position, the performance might suffer in the short-term while Hoke hones the skills of whichever quarterback(s) sticks around.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Brady Hoke, Wolverine (again)

Tony Siragusa Brady Hoke will be the new Michigan football coach

Athletic director David Brandon released a statement on Tuesday announcing that Brady Hoke, the San Diego State head coach, will replace Rich Rodriguez as the head coach at the University of Michigan.  Hoke was a defensive line coach at Michigan from 1995-2002 and has since spent eight seasons as an FBS head coach at Ball State and SDSU.  He's married with one daughter.

Hoke's results at Ball State . . .
2003: 4-8, 3-5
2004: 2-9, 2-6
2005: 4-7, 4-4
2006: 5-7, 5-3
2007: 7-6, 5-2
2008: 12-1, 8-0

Hoke's results at SDSU . . .
2009: 4-8, 2-6
2010: 9-4, 5-3

Totals . . .
47-50 overall
34-30 in conference
1-1 in bowl games (Hoke did not coach in Ball State's 2008 bowl game)

The 2010 version of San Diego State finished 16th in total offense, 19th in scoring offense, 43rd in total defense, and 36th in scoring defense.

I am not a fan of this hire.  At all.  The all-time winningest program in college football history just hired a guy with a 47-50 career record, a .484 winning percentage.  The all-time winningest program in college football history just hired a guy who has three winning seasons in his career, or 37.5% of the time.  The all-time winningest program in college football history just hired a guy who was probably Michigan's third choice - at best - behind Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles.

I said after the 2010 Ohio State game that I thought Michigan's coaching ranking should be:

1. Jim Harbaugh
2. Rich Rodriguez

If David Brandon was going to wait until after the Orange Bowl to make a firing/hiring, then he should have sewn up Harbaugh immediately or retained Rodriguez (and forced him to fire Greg Robinson).  There shouldn't have been a third option, like Miles or Hoke.

I don't care if Brady Hoke is a Michigan Man.  He's not a proven coach.  He loses more than he wins.  It took him five seasons to get the exact same record (7-6) at a MAC school as Rich Rodriguez earned in his third season at Michigan.

Meanwhile, Hoke runs a pro-style offense whose two quarterbacks in 2010 were 6'4"-6'5" and between 210 and 215 pounds; Denard Robinson will probably either agree to change positions or transfer to Pitt.  Meanwhile, Hoke had better hope that sophomore/redshirt freshman Devin Gardner can play quarterback fairly well, because . . . well . . . choices are slim.  Well, "choice" is probably too broad of a term there.  I know David Brandon can't make a decision about a program based on one player or one position, but when you go with a losing coach who also probably plans to totally revamp the offensive and defensive systems, that's kind of a double blow.

Hoke isn't all bad.  He had two 1,000 yard receivers in 2010.  He also had the 10th leading rusher in the country.  He went 9-4 and won a bowl game.  By all accounts he's a nice guy, a solid recruiter, and a fiery leader. 

By the way, I'm keeping my Rivals account to follow recruiting, but not for the inside information.  Chris Balas, the "insider" over there charged with following the coaching situation, originally implied that Harbaugh would be hired, then he switched his pick to Hoke, then Miles, then Hoke again.  I said after the bowl game that I expected Harbaugh to be the next coach, but after that, I quit guessing.  You get one chance to be right.  If you screw it up, you just throw up your hands and say "I don't know what the hell is going on."  Not Balas, though.  I guess you're bound to be right if, once you're wrong, you get to change your answer a bunch of times.  I wish the ACT had been like that back when I was in high school.

What Could Have Been . . . Austin White

Former Michigan running back Austin White has enrolled at Central Michigan University and joined the football program there.  White was a part of the Class of 2010 and enrolled at Michigan in January 2010, but he clashed with the coaches and got into some trouble over the summer.  White was one of the players who had to "earn his wings" in fall camp, and the two parties decided to go their separate ways prior to the season.

Visit the Ex-Wolverine Encyclopedia page to find updates on former Michigan commits/players like Dewayne Peace, Sam McGuffie, Ryan Mallett, Shavodrick Beaver, Pearlie Graves, DeQuinta Jones, Dann O'Neill, Bryce McNeal, Kevin Newsome, Toney Clemons, Cobrani Mixon, and Quintin Woods.

Monday, January 10, 2011

2011 Offer Board Update

Safety Wayne Lyons committed to Stanford

The 2011 Offer Board has been updated.  As you can imagine at this point, none of these recent commitments have gone in Michigan's favor:

Jon Lewis (DT) committed to Texas Tech.

Keith Lewis (OLB) committed to Ole Miss.

Armstead Williams (ILB) committed to Purdue.

Demetrius Hart (SB) changed his commitment from Michigan to Alabama.

Kris Frost (LB) committed to Auburn.

Wayne Lyons (SS) committed to Stanford.

Devondrick Nealy (SB) committed to Iowa State.

Quan Bray (SB) committed to Auburn.

Doran Grant (CB) committed to Ohio State.

Anthony Zettel (DE) committed to Penn State

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Preview: U.S. Army All-American Bowl

Cornerback (and Michigan commit) Blake Countess is playing in today's U.S. Army All-American Bowl

Over at Maize 'n' Brew, I've posted a preview for today's U.S. Army All-American Bowl.  It discusses several Michigan prospects who are playing in today's game, several of whom are considering Michigan.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Top 10 Failures of Rich Rodriguez

1.  Losing games.  This is obvious, but it belongs on the list.  Rodriguez finished his three years at Michigan with a 15-22 record.  That winning percentage (.405) is the worst in Michigan history.

2. Losing to rivals.  Rodriguez was 0-6 against Michigan's two biggest rivals, Ohio State and Michigan State.  If you want to include Penn State, he was 0-9.  He was outscored by a total of 317-140 in those nine games.  It's unclear how much a couple victories against Ohio State or Michigan State might have affected Rodriguez's tenure, but wins against Indiana and Purdue don't carry the same weight.

3. Neutering Scott Shafer.  Shafer has proven to be a solid defensive coordinator at every other stop - Western Michigan, Stanford, and Syracuse.  The former two were prior to Shafer's hiring at Michigan.  But Rodriguez's other defensive assistants were proponents of the 3-3-5 and seemed to undermine his authority.  Late in the season, Rodriguez even authorized a mid-season switch of defensive schemes from the 4-3 to a 3-3-5; Michigan subsequently allowed 42 points to Purdue, a team using a converted running back to play QB.  Shafer could have been a good coordinator at Michigan and helped Rodriguez keep his job, but he was fired after the 2008 season because, well, someone's head needed to roll after a 3-9 season.

4. Hiring Greg Robinson.  Robinson had intermittent success as a coordinator in the NFL and in college.  But just like Shafer, Robinson was a 4-3 or a 3-4 guy.  In my opinion, the defense showed some promise in 2009, when Robinson used safety Steve Brown as an outside linebacker and freshman Craig Roh as a rush linebacker.  However, Rodriguez used the 2009-10 offseason to convert to the 3-3-5, and Robinson was obviously uncomfortable and inexperienced with running that defensive set.  That resulted in 458 points allowed in 2010, an average of 35.2 points per game.

5. Not retaining holdover players from the Carr era.  Michigan was extremely short-handed in 2009, fielding a team of 69 or 70 players who were given scholarships right out of high school.  Some of those players were bound for a career of anonymity, I'm sure, but others were not.  Quarterback Ryan Mallett was vaguely in Heisman contention this season.  Justin Boren became an All-Big Ten guard at Ohio State.  Adrian Arrington chose to enter the NFL Draft (and became only a 7th round choice) a year early.  Rodriguez can't shoulder the blame entirely for these departures, but there's no question that a guy like Boren would have been helpful in 2008 and 2009, the former season featuring a starting guard (John Ferrara) that was a mid-season position switcher from defensive tackle.

6. Stretching too much.  The Detroit Free Press reported some trumped-up charges regarding Michigan's practice schedule, and that sparked an NCAA investigation.  While the charges were blown out of proprtion, they were a black mark on the Michigan program and resulted in probation and some lost practice hours.  Rodriguez wasn't responsible for everything that went wrong in the compliance department, but his staff did fail to keep track of its countable practice hours accurately and a graduate assistant watched some voluntary 7-on-7s, which is a no-no.

7. Not finding his Steve Slaton.  Pat White got a lot of hype at West Virginia, but running back Steve Slaton was almost as important as White.  And prior to White's arrival on campus, Rodriguez used running backs like Quincy Wilson and Kay-Jay Harris to great effect.  Rodriguez never found "that guy" at Michigan, partially due to injuries and partially due to recruiting.  Therefore, the offense wasn't as spectacular as it might have been.  The lack of a running game cost Michigan a couple games throughout his tenure.

8. Not developing top prospects.  Rodriguez seemed to have an abnormal number of high-end recruits bomb out of the program.  And it's probably a coincidence, but most of them seemed to come from the defensive secondary.  Four 4-star players recruited by Rodriguez never made a significant positive impact at Michigan (Demar Dorsey, Boubacar Cissoko, Justin Turner, Vladimir Emilien), which resulted in five true freshman defensive backs seeing significant time in 2010.  Furthermore, arguably Michigan's best prospect in the last few classes (William Campbell) has yet to make an impact at Michigan and just switched from nose tackle to offensive guard in the middle of the season.

9. Handing out the #1 jersey to J.T. Floyd.  Before Rodriguez ever coached a snap at Michigan, he tried to give the #1 jersey to true freshman cornerback J.T. Floyd.  He was either unaware of the jersey's significance or chose to ignore that aspect, but it was nonetheless a mistake.  Nothing seemed to highlight the fact that Rodriguez wasn't a "Michigan Man" more than the #1 jersey snafu, which pitted some alumni and fans against him from the start.

10.  Poor player personnel decisions.  Part of the heat falls on the assistant coaches, but Rodriguez shoulders most of this blame because he has the final say: Rodriguez didn't put his players in their best positions to succeed.  Running backs Sam McGuffie and Vincent Smith played far too much when there were more productive and explosive backs on the roster (Brandon Minor and Michael Shaw for starters).  Obi Ezeh should have been an outside linebacker starting back in 2008; and at least according to their play on the field, Ezeh should have been replaced by Kenny Demens much earlier.  Cameron Gordon - who has linebacker speed - spent half the 2010 season playing free safety.  William Campbell spent two years toiling on the defensive line before making a permanent move to the offensive line, and he didn't even redshirt to allow for a fifth year of eligibility.