Sunday, March 31, 2013

Drew Henson, Ex-2-Sport Phenom, Opens Up

Elisabetta Gregoraci
Sweeny Murti talks to former Michigan quarterback Drew Henson, albeit mostly about his baseball career.  It's still an interesting read for people who remember him as a golden boy from Brighton High School in Michigan.

Yahoo! Sports: Denard Robinson works toward his Michigan degree while preparing for NFL Draft

Dan Wetzel from Yahoo! writes a piece on Denard Robinson working on his college degree.

Video: Raymon Taylor talks spring practice

Poll results: Best wide receiver in 2013 class?

Westland (MI) John Glenn wide receiver Da'Mario Jones
Last week I asked the readers to choose who would be the best wideout in the 2013 class.  Overwhelmingly, TTB readers chose Da'Mario Jones.  Here are the results:

Da'Mario Jones - WR - Westland (MI) John Glenn: 71%
Jones is a 6'2", 185 lb., 3-star prospect.  He has a little more speed than the other two receivers in the class, but he was under the radar, partly because he bounced from New Jersey to Michigan before his senior year.  Jones was my choice for the top receiver in the class.  Here's his commitment post.

Jaron Dukes - WR - Columbus (OH) Marion Franklin: 15%
Dukes is about 6'4" and around 200 lbs.  He did not have a great senior season, which has been partly blamed (according to observers, not Dukes) on a lack of quality quarterback play at Marion Franklin.  My biggest question about Dukes is his lack of speed, which might limit him to being an occasional target as a possession receiver; of course, he could also be a good red zone target due to his size.  He has some upside, but his athleticism leaves a little to be desired. (Commitment post.)

Csont'e York - WR - Harper Woods (MI) Chandler Park: 13%
If I were ranking these guys, I would have put York second and Dukes third.  While York lacks some of Dukes's length, I think York is a more natural pass catcher.  He's still not an explosive target, but he adjusts well to the ball in the air and catches the ball with his hands away from his body.  I think he will be a quality target on jump balls and near the sideline, somewhat like a Brandon Lloyd (minus some speed) who can contort himself into making some difficult catches. (Commitment post.)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Wolverine Nation: Exit Interview - Kenny Demens

Kate Upton
Michael Rothstein interviews outgoing linebacker Kenny Demens.

Video: Hoke press conference

Visitors: Last week of March 2013

Huber Heights (OH) Wayne safety Tyree Kinnel
Joshua Alabi - DT - Detroit (MI) Cass Tech: Alabi is a 6'4", 245 lb. defensive tackle prospect from the class of 2015.  He has offers from Michigan and Michigan State and has visited Michigan numerous times.

Alex Bars - OT - Nashville (TN) Montgomery Bell: Bars is a 6'6", 287 lb. prospect with offers from Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, and Stanford, among others.  He has an older brother at Penn State and an older brother at Michigan (offensive guard Blake).  The younger Bars is a 4-star prospect to ESPN, Rivals, and Scout.

Jayru Campbell - QB - Detroit (MI) Cass Tech: Campbell is a 6'3", 190 lb. prospect for 2015 with offers from Alabama and Notre Dame, among others.  He has led Cass Tech to state championships during both his freshman and sophomore seasons.

Orlando Carter - OT - Detroit (MI) Cass Tech: Carter is yet another Cass Tech product, in this case a 2015 lineman who's already near 300 lbs.

Jalen Embry - CB - Detroit (MI) King: Embry is a 5'11", 180 lb. prospect with offers from Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Toledo, and Western Michigan.  He's a 3-star and the #64 cornerback to 247 Sports.

Carl Fuller - LB - Detroit (MI) King: Fuller is a 6'3", 195 lb. linebacker with offers from Ball State, Eastern Michigan, Syracuse, Toledo, and Western Michigan.  He's a 3-star and the #28 inside linebacker to 247 Sports.  As a junior in 2012, he had 83 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 interception, and 2 forced fumbles.

Keith Jones - LB - Detroit (MI) Cass Tech: Jones is a 6'1", 235 lb. prospect from the 2015 class.  He has no offers at this time.  He's classmates with Joshua Alabi and Michael Weber, both of whom have Michigan offers.

John Kelly - CB - Oak Park (MI) Oak Park: Kelly is a 5'10", 170 lb. prospect for 2015 with no offers at this time.

Tyree Kinnel - S - Huber Heights (OH) Wayne: Kinnel is a 6'1", 190 lb. safety with no offers at this time.  He's a 2015 prospect who has visited Michigan multiple times, including last fall and earlier this month.  He once again visited campus on Tuesday, and he seems to be expecting an offer sooner or later.  Kinnel claims a 4.5 forty time.

Avonte Maddox - CB - Detroit (MI) King: Maddox is a 5'9", 160 lb. corner with offers from Ball State, Eastern Michigan, and Toledo.  He's a 3-star and the #72 athlete to 247 Sports.

Lawrence Marshall - DE - Southfield (MI) Southfield: Marshall is a 6'3", 225 lb. prospect with offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Oklahoma, among others.  He was recently rated the #12 weakside end and the #206 overall prospect by 247 Sports, although Rivals initially ranks him as a 3-star. UPDATE: Marshall was unable to make it to campus.

Malik McDowell - DE - Detroit (MI) Loyola: McDowell is a 6'7", 290 lb. prospect with offers from Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oregon, and USC, among others.  He's the #2 strongside end and the #30 overall player to 247 Sports.

Michael Ruf - DE - Darlington (WI) Darlington: Ruf is a 6'4", 240 lb. prospect with no offers at this time.

Chance Sorrell - TE - Middletown (OH) Middletown: Sorrell is a 6'6", 250-pounder with offers from Bowling Green, Indiana, Kent State, and Ohio.  He has visited Michigan several times, but he's more of a blocking TE prospect and may be a ways down the pecking order for a Michigan offer.

Tyriq Thompson - S - Detroit (MI) King: Thompson is a 6'1", 220 lb. prospect who's a part of the 2015 class.  As a sophomore that size, he will likely grow into a linebacker before all is said and done.  He's also the son of former Michigan defensive back Clarence Thompson, who was All-Big Ten in 1995.  The younger Thompson transferred from Missouri after his sophomore season.

Maurice Ways - WR - Detroit (MI) Country Day: Ways is a 6'3", 193 lb. wideout with offers from Ball State, Bowling Green, Iowa, and Toledo.  As a junior in 2012, he had 51 receptions for 952 yards and 9 touchdowns.

Michael Weber - RB - Detroit (MI) Cass Tech: Weber is a 5'10", 195 lb. prospect for 2015 with offers from Michigan and Michigan State.  As a sophomore in 2012, he had 1,700 yards and 21 touchdowns.  He has visited Michigan numerous times.

I will be adding to this list if any players trickle in throughout the week.  Some high schoolers are on their spring break, so they can make midweek visits before Easter.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Smart Football: Designing a Complete Passing System

Kendra Kennedy
Chris Brown from Smart Football  excerpts a book called Recoded and Reloaded  by Dan Gonzalez about how to install a complete passing game in your offense.

Video: Greg Mattison talks spring ball

Scouting Report: Erick Smith

Cleveland (OH) Glenville safety Erick Smith
Name: Erick Smith
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 195 lbs.
Position: Safety
High school: Cleveland (OH) Glenville
Class: 2014

Notes: Holds offers from Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Indiana, Louisville, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and West Virginia . . . Rivals 4-star safety, #228 overall . . . 247 Sports 4-star, 90 grade, #26 safety . . . Attends alma mater of Michigan defensive end Frank Clark and defensive tackle Willie Henry

Strengths: Good straight line speed . . . Good leaping ability . . . Solid inside-out pursuit player . . . Not afraid to hit . . . Runs feet after contact . . . Does a good job of wading through traffic . . . Sheds blocks aggressively . . . Very aggressive blitzer . . . Seems to be excited about getting into backfield

Weaknesses: Somewhat limited as an athlete . . . A good athlete, but doesn't really leap off the screen . . . Needs to use hands better to shed blocks . . . Could improve backpedal . . . Hips lack fluidity transitioning out of backpedal

Projection: Strong safety.  I don't think Smith is at his best backing up in coverage, although he does have decent range and athleticism.  He's a good tackler who deals well with traffic, so I think he would fit best playing in the box, helping with the run, and then occasionally giving the offense a different look by playing deep coverage occasionally.

Reminds me of: Thomas Gordon.  While Smith appears to be a little taller, his playing style reminds me of current Michigan safety Thomas Gordon.  Gordon, of course, has been playing free safety for the past couple seasons, but he has been playing strong safety this spring and may fit best at SS in the long term.

Likelihood of coming to Michigan: Ohio State appears to be the leader, but if the Buckeyes falter in his recruitment, the Wolverines appear to be lurking in that next group of schools.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Smart Football: Packaged Plays and the Evolution of "Option" Football

Here's a piece from a guest writer at Smart Football  on how different plays in the "option" have evolved over the years.

Mike Kwiatkowski, #81

Mike Kwiatkowski
Listed as a 6'5", 235-pounder, Kwiatkowski attended Macomb (MI) Dakota but graduated in 2008 without any scholarship offers, despite some fairly solid production with 26 receptions, 351 yards, and 7 touchdowns as a senior.

He enrolled at Michigan and spent a couple years as a student before making the team prior to the 2010 season.  Rich Rodriguez used him as a scout team offensive guard, but with Brady Hoke's arrival in 2011, Kwiatkowski moved to his more natural position of tight end.  He played as a backup in two games in 2011.  Penciled in as a backup again in 2012, Kwiatkowski stepped in when fellow fifth year senior Brandon Moore injured his knee.  The walk-on would go on to start six games as a senior, making 4 receptions for 37 yards throughout the season.

6 starts; 4 receptions, 37 yards

Academic All-Big Ten in 2012

As you can tell by my season countdown preview for Kwiatkowski from last season, he didn't completely come out of the blue.  In the few clips that I had seen of him from spring practices and such, I thought he had the right size and athleticism to be a contributor.  I didn't expect him to be a starter because Moore seemed to have that job wrapped up, but the injury helped pave the way.  Kwiatkowski turned out to be a solid blocker (perhaps helped by that one season as a scout team offensive lineman) and a capable receiver (I don't remember a single drop), although he wasn't outstanding in any particular phase.  To start six games and catch a few passes is a pretty good deal for someone who only joined the team during what amounted to his redshirt sophomore year.

. . . being a walk-on who turned into a solid player.  I wish he had a couple more years left, because I think Michigan could really use him over the next couple seasons.

I think Kwiatkowski's football playing days are over.  He does not have the speed and athleticism to be a receiving tight end, and he doesn't have the mass or power to be a blocking tight end at the next level.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Wolverine Nation: Exit Interview - Craig Roh

Kayden Kenzie
Michael Rothstein interviews outgoing senior defensive end Craig Roh.

Recruiting Update: March 25, 2013

Plano (TX) West running back Sotonye Jamabo (image via Dallas News)
Cincinnati (OH) Moeller outside linebacker Sam Hubbard was offered by Michigan.  He's a 6'5", 225 lb. prospect with offers from Michigan State, Ohio State, and Stanford, among others.  He is currently committed to Notre Dame as a lacrosse player, but his football exploits are earning him more attention and making him think twice about which sport to play in college.  Hubbard played safety as a junior in 2012, but with that size, he'll certainly change positions in college.  Hubbard is the #25 athlete and #239 overall player to 247 Sports.  Moeller has produced several Michigan targets in recent years, including LB Shane Jones, WR Monty Madaris, and DE Marcus Rush, each of whom have picked Michigan State.

Plano (TX) West running back Sotonye "Soso" Jamabo was offered by Michigan.  Jamabo is a 6'1", 190 lb. prospect with offers from Ohio State and Oklahoma.  As a sophomore in 2012, he had 1,697 rushing yards, 453 receiving yards, and 28 total touchdowns.  He's currently the #2 player in the state of Texas for the 2015 class and claims a 4.55 forty.  Plano is a hotbed of football talent, with players from the area including Rex Burkhead (Nebraska) and Jackson Jeffcoat (Texas), the latter of which attended West.

Buford (GA) Buford defensive end Isaac Nauta was offered by Michigan.  Several recruiting sites claim this is Michigan's first offer for the 2016 class.  Nauta is a 6'4", 248 lb. prospect with offers from Clemson, Tennessee, and Virginia Tech.  He started for Buford as a freshman this past season, a team that won the Georgia state championship


St. Louis (MO) DeSmet offensive tackle Andy Bauer committed to Ole Miss.  The 6'6", 304-pounder had previously been committed to Missouri, prior to which he visited Michigan and claimed strong interest.  He de-committed from the Tigers several months ago and now follows the recent trend of big-time players (he's Rivals' #92 overall prospect) going to Ole Miss.

Downers Grove (IL) South offensive tackle Erik Swenson has been removed from the board because he apparently never had a Michigan offer.  One was reported months ago on 247 Sports, but with the recent news of Nauta being the first offer for 2016, 247's error seems to have been corrected.  He's still a 6'7", 285 lb. prospect with listed offers from Illinois and Notre Dame, so it's not out of the question for him to be offered down the road.

Here's a list of this past weekend's visitors.

247 Sports updated their top 247 players for the class of 2014.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Wolverine Nation: Exit Interview - Brandon Moore

Michael Rothstein interviews outgoing senior tight end Brandon Moore.

B-Ball Highlights: Michigan 78, VCU 53

247 Sports Top 247 for 2014 updated

Mason Cole is the #103 player in the country
I have not always kept up with the changes in the top 247 because 247 Sports updated their rankings too frequently to do a list like this every single time, but regardless, here's the first comprehensive update of the 2014 list since August.

Here's the movement for Michigan's commits:
- Mone appears at #51 on the list
- Cole dropped from #44 to #103
- Ferns dropped from #98 to #174

1. Da'Shawn Hand - DE - Virginia
2. Leonard Fournette - RB - Louisiana
3. Lorenzo Carter - DE - Georgia
4. Andrew Brown - DT - Virginia
6. Cameron Robinson - OT - Louisiana
7. Quin Blanding - S - Virginia (Virginia)
9. Jabrill Peppers - CB - New Jersey
10. Myles Garrett - DE - Texas
11. Jalen Hurd - RB - Tennessee (Tennessee)
15. Damian Prince - OT - Maryland
16. Edward Paris - S - Texas (LSU)
19. John Smith - ATH - California
21. Adoree' Jackson - CB - California
24. Bo Scarbrough - ATH - Alabama (Alabama)
28. Jalen Tabor - CB - Washington, DC
30. Malik McDowell - DE - Michigan
31. K.C. McDermott - OT - Florida
32. Lorenzo Featherston - DE - Georgia
33. Marshon Lattimore - CB - Ohio
36. Drake Harris - WR - Michigan
43. Jamarco Jones - OG - Illinois
48. Braden Smith - OG - Kansas
49. Khairi Clark - DT - Florida
51. Bryan Mone - DT - Utah (Michigan)
53. Nyles Morgan - LB - Illinois
54. Malachi Dupre - WR - Louisiana
63. Mark Andrews - WR - Arizona
68. Demetrius Knox - OG - Texas (Texas)
72. Tyler Luatua - TE - California
75. Joe Mixon - RB - California
76. Bentley Spain - OT - North Carolina
81. Andy Bauer - OT - Missouri (Mississippi)
83. Dante Booker - LB - Ohio
86. Jamal Adams - S - Texas
91. Roderick Johnson - OT - Missouri
93. Josh Malone - WR - Tennessee
103. Mason Cole - OG - Florida (Michigan)
109. Devon Thomas - RB - Oklahoma (Oklahoma State)
113. Garrett Dickerson - DE - New Jersey
114. Artavis Scott - WR - Florida
123. Nick Watkins - CB - Texas
124. Elijah Hood - ATH - North Carolina
125. Jalen Brown - WR - Arizona
127. Dexter Wideman - DT - South Carolina
131. Dwight Williams - LB - California
136. Jay Hayes - DT - New York (Notre Dame)
144. Casey Tucker - OT - Arizona (USC)
154. Wesley Green - CB - Georgia
161. Damon Webb - CB - Michigan (Ohio State)
163. K.J. Williams - WR - Pennsylvania
170. Otaro Alaka - LB - Texas
171. Parrker Westphal - CB - Illinois
174. Michael Ferns III - LB - Ohio (Michigan)
175. D'Andre Payne - CB - Washington, D.C.
176. Kiy Hester - ATH - New Jersey
180. Demarre Kitt - WR - Georgia
182. Alex Bars - OT - Tennessee
184. Montae Nicholson - S - Pennsylvania
192. Andrew Williams - DE - Georgia
200. T'Kevian Rockwell - LB - Texas
205. Bryson Allen-Williams - LB - Georgia
206. Lawrence Marshall - DE - Michigan
210. Adarius Pickett - CB - California
212. Saeed Blacknall - WR - New Jersey
214. Kenny Young - LB - Louisiana
216. Steven Parker - S - Oklahoma
225. Nic Weishar - TE - Illinois
236. Juwann Winfree - ATH - New Jersey
238. Juwann Bushell-Beatty - OT - New Jersey
242. Brandon Simmons - S - Texas
245. Christian McCaffrey - RB - Colorado
246. Kyle Berger - LB - Ohio

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Comparing high school and NFL 40 yard dash times: A horrifying revelation

Rali Ivanova
Patrick Vint from SB Nation compares the 40 times of NFL prospects at the NFL Combine . . . to the 40 times of those same players when they were in high school.  News flash: players and coaches lie whenever possible.

B-Ball Highlights: Michigan 71, South Dakota State 56

Video: Desmond Morgan spring practice interview

Visitors: March 22-24, 2013

Olathe (KS) South offensive lineman Braden Smith is one of the top linemen in the nation
(image via MaxPreps)
Danny Burns - OT - Fairfield (OH) Fairfield: Burns is a 6'7", 308 lb. prospect with offers from Louisville, Nebraska, Pitt, and West Virginia, among others.  He lacks some of the athleticism that most Michigan offensive line offerees do, and I would be surprised if Michigan extends an offer anytime soon.*

Timothy Cason II - CB - Clarkston (MI) Clarkston: Cason is a 6'0", 185 lb. prospect with offers from Bowling Green, Toledo, and Western Michigan.  With Michigan high on the lists of Adoree' Jackson, Jabrill Peppers, and Parrker Westphal, it might be a while before Cason earns an offer.

Jalen Embry - CB - Detroit (MI) King: Embry is a 5'11", 180 lb. corner with offers from Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Toledo, and Western Michigan.

Jonathan Hilliman - RB - Jersey City (NJ) St. Peter's Prep: I did a scouting report on Hilliman back in December.  Since then he has added offers from Arkansas and Tennessee, among others.  He's a 3-star and the #34 running back to 247 Sports. UPDATE: Hilliman is no longer planning to visit this weekend and plans to reschedule a visit for May.

Jake Johnson - QB - DeWitt (MI) DeWitt: Johnson is a 6'2", 180 lb. prospect from the class of 2015.  He currently has no offers.  As a sophomore in 2012, he had 1,250 yards passing, 16 touchdowns, 400 rushing yards, and 6 rushing touchdowns.

Roderick Johnson - OT - Florissant (MO) Hazelwood Central: Johnson is a 6'7", 310 lb. prospect with offers from Alabama, Florida State, Missouri, Ohio State, and Oklahoma, among others.  He's a 4-star to Rivals and the #183 overall player.

Braden Smith - OT - Olathe (KS) South: Smith is a 6'6", 280 lb. prospect with offers from Alabama, Clemson, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Stanford, along with numerous others.  He's very quiet about the recruiting process, so it's tough to say who his leaders are, but it's obviously a good sign that he's taking the time to visit Ann Arbor.  He's the #1 offensive guard to 247 Sports and the #19 overall player to both Rivals and 247.*

Darius West - S - Lima (OH) Central Catholic: West is a 5'11", 197-pounder with offers from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, Penn State, West Virginia, and several others.  He claims a 4.4 forty and a 275 lb. bench press.  West camped at Michigan last summer.  He's short-ish but thickly built, sort of in the mold of current Michigan safety Thomas Gordon; I would expect West also to play safety if he were to end up getting offered by and committing to Michigan, but he could play cornerback at some other schools.

*Burns and Smith are visiting midweek.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Wolverine Nation: Exit Interview - Ricky Barnum

Erin McNaught
Michael Rothstein interviews outgoing guard Ricky Barnum.

Video: Michigan drill

Attractive Michigan Girl of the Week

If you have any other pictures of girls wearing Michigan gear, drop me an e-mail. Go Blue!

Poll results: Best running back in 2013 class?

Derrick Green
Derrick Green - 78%
My thoughts are pretty clear from these guys' commitment posts and the general attitude toward these players that Green would be my choice as the top running back in the 2013 class.  Green has steadily improved throughout his high school career, going from guard to eventually being one of the top few backs in the class.  He has the size, speed, and attitude to carry that success into college.  I don't think he'll be the greatest back in the history of college football or anything, but I do think he will have a good career in the winged helmet.

DeVeon Smith - 17%
Smith is a guy who's a little smaller than Green, and while he runs with an attitude, he lacks some big-play capability because of a lack of speed.  Big runs out of Smith are going to have to come on the heels of several broken tackles.  Some people like to compare Smith to Mike Hart, but Hart had to break a lot of tackles to become Michigan's all-time leading rusher because of a lack of explosive speed; if Smith lacks some of the vision and toughness that Hart had, he's going to struggle to become the lead guy.

Wyatt Shallman - 3%
Shallman had been insistent that he was recruited to be a tailback, but as time has gone on, it seems more and more clear that he will end up as a fullback or H-back, or maybe somewhere else entirely; after all, he did play defensive end as a high schooler.  Shallman has a chance to be an effective player, but chances are slim that his career will surpass either of the aforementioned backs'.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wolverine Nation: Exit Interview - Paul Gyarmati

Yen Nguyen
Michael Rothstein interviews walk-on fullback Paul Gyarmati.

Video: Devin Gardner spring practice interview

How to Cope with the Disaster of Jake Ryan's ACL Tear

Another year, another debilitating injury to a key player.  Last year it was Blake Countess and, to a lesser extent, Denard Robinson.  In 2010 it was Troy Woolfolk and J.T. Floyd.  This year it's redshirt junior Jake Ryan, who had 88 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks, along with 4 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, and 3 pass breakups from the outside linebacker position last year.  He tore his ACL at practice on Tuesday morning, and with the season less than six months away, chances are slim to none that he will be fully recovered for the beginning of the year, and perhaps not for the entire season.

The effects of Ryan's loss will be significant.  He was the starting SAM linebacker the past two seasons and in 2012, he led the team in tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, and forced fumbles.  On passing downs he often put his hand down as a defensive end and rushed the passer.  He's a whirling dervish with a nose for the football and one of Michigan's lone pass rushing threats; on top of that, he was an emotional leader and one of the guys who could be counted on to make a play or two a game to spark the defense.  Yours truly picked him as the most underrated recruit in the 2010 class, and that was certainly proving to be true prior to the injury.

The question is: What does Michigan do now?

Option #1: Fifth year senior Cameron Gordon would presumably move into the starting role.  When healthy, he's been the backup to Ryan for the past couple seasons.  The 6'3", 233-pounder made 17 tackles and 3 tackles for loss in 2012; as a safety and linebacker in 2010, he was a Second Team Freshman All-American with 77 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, 4 pass breakups, and 2 fumble recoveries.  He's a capable player but without the star quality of Ryan.

Option #2: Move junior Brennen Beyer from weakside end back to SAM.  Beyer played outside linebacker as a true freshman in 2011, making 11 tackles as a backup.  He has recorded just 1/2 a tackle for loss in two seasons and forced just 1 fumble, so he's not much of a playmaker.  But if he could shed a few pounds from his bulked-up, 6'3", 254 lb. frame, he could be serviceable at his old position.  Meanwhile, Michigan has junior Frank Clark and sophomore Mario Ojemudia at weakside end, both of whom played last year and have flashed big-play ability at times.

Option #3: Move sophomore Joe Bolden from middle linebacker to SAM.  Bolden is a 6'3", 222 lb. kid with some playmaking ability who has the height and length to hold his own at SAM, but he would need to add some weight in order to hold the edge.  He had 31 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and 1 sack as a freshman in 2012.  In the meantime, Michigan has a decent selection of players to man the inside linebacker spots, including my presumed starters there (Desmond Morgan and James Ross), fifth year senior Mike Jones, redshirt sophomore Antonio Poole, or redshirt freshman Kaleb Ringer; a couple freshmen will arrive in the summer (Ben Gedeon and Mike McCray).

Option #4: Install a freshman backup.  Gedeon projects as an inside linebacker, but McCray is a bit of a middle linebacker/outside linebacker tweener.  He's listed at 6'3", 225 lbs. on his recruiting profile, but he might be a little bit smaller than that.  Still, Beyer played the position as a freshman, and he too was about 6'3", 225 lbs. at the time.

Option #5: Move sophomore Mario Ojemudia from weakside end to SAM.  Ojemudia is 6'3", 244 lbs. and played a chunk of time in 2012, notching 11 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery.  This would likely be contingent on keeping Beyer at weakside end, since Michigan can't really afford to move two of their three experienced weakside ends to linebacker.

Option #6: Do something wild.  Lightly regarded redshirt junior Jordan Paskorz was an outside linebacker before moving to tight end last spring, but he has played in just one game so far.  Sophomore Royce Jenkins-Stone is just 6'2" and 215 lbs., and he balked at the idea of playing SAM in the hopes of being a middle linebacker, but the coaches could force his hand.  Incoming freshman Wyatt Shallman was recruited as a running back, but he played defensive end in high school and could see a chance for playing time at SAM once he arrives on campus.

Option #7: Just say "F*** it" and run a nickel the whole time.  In Greg Robinson's inaugural defense in 2009, he put converted safety Steve Brown at SAM, and Brown had a decent season despite being around 210 lbs.  Perhaps someone like Marvin Robinson could have success in a similar role.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wolverine Nation: Exit Interview - Nathan Brink

Helen Owen
Michael Rothstein interviews outgoing defensive tackle Nathan Brink in two parts (part 1, part 2).

Video: Brady Hoke press conference

William Campbell, #73

Teric Jones, Thomas Gordon, William Campbell, and Boubacar Cissoko
Campbell played high school ball at Detroit (MI) Cass Tech, and he was a prized recruit.  Rivals ranked him as a 5-star and the #5 defensive tackle, Scout ranked him as a 5-star and the #6 defensive tackle.  As a senior in 2008, he had 55 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and 1 fumble return touchdown.  High school teammates Thomas Gordon (currently a starting safety), Boubacar Cissoko, and Teric Jones (the latter two of whom left the program early) joined him at Michigan as part of the 2009 class.

Despite arriving at Michigan with little attention paid to technique, Campbell played immediately as a freshman; during that 5-7 season, Campbell made 4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 2 pass breakups.  He began his 2010 sophomore season at defensive tackle, but he continued to be a backup and eventually requested a move to the offensive line in an effort to play more; he never saw the field as an offensive lineman, but he played as a goal-line fullback and made 1 tackle and 1 pass breakup throughout the year, along with playing on special teams protection units.  When Brady Hoke was hired prior to the 2011 season, Coach Hoke asked Campbell to move back to defensive tackle; while he didn't start any games, he was an oft-used backup at both nose tackle and 3-tech DT, making 14 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 pass breakup, and 1 fumble recovery.  Campbell finally became a starter as a senior in 2012, earning the nod at 3-tech DT and making 44 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and 1 sack; he was rewarded with All-Big Ten Honorable Mention at the conclusion of his career.

63 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 4 pass breakups, and 1 fumble recovery

All-Big Ten Honorable Mention in 2012

Many people will consider Campbell a bust because of his 5-star recruiting profile; he was a huge guy with good athleticism, and everyone thought he would be a stud.  Unfortunately, it was apparent during high school - and mentioned by numerous scouts, recruiting gurus, etc. - that he struggled to stay low consistently.  That was troublesome for him throughout his career.  He probably should have redshirted in 2009, but he was put on the field before he was ready.  Early returns were not good, and he got frustrated enough to request a change to the offensive line, which really didn't fit his skill set due to Rich Rodriguez's zone blocking scheme.  When Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison were hired after Rodriguez was let go, they moved him back to defense and taught him some of the technique that he had been lacking.  He made some "wow" plays at times by crushing opposing centers and guards into their own backfields, but he still wasn't consistent enough to be greatly productive.  But he did eat up blockers and no longer got blown off the ball very often - like he did in his first two years - which helped other players make more plays.  It makes me wonder what Michigan's defense would look like in 2013 if Campbell had a year of eligibility and good coaching remaining, but now the Wolverines will have to find a somewhat inexperienced replacement at his former position.

. . . dancing during his televised commitment during the 2009 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Campbell measured in at 6'5", 311 lbs. at Michigan's pro day after being passed over for an invitation to the NFL Combine.  He also ran a 5.15 forty, benched 225 lbs. a total of 35 times (which would have made him the #7 strongest player at the Combine), and ran a 4.71 second shuttle time.  His lack of production on the college level is a concern, and he's also a guy with a reputation for an inconsistent work ethic; while he seems to have corrected his early problems with weight and hard work, he still loses focus on staying low and playing hard on every play.  Based on strength and athletic potential, I think Campbell might get drafted toward the tail end of the 2013 NFL Draft; he looks like a guy who might start off as a 3-tech defensive tackle in a 4-3 but might grow into a nose tackle as he packs on some of that weight once again.  I don't think he'll be a star at the next level, but he could carve out a niche as a backup lineman or a mediocre NFL starter for several years.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Rivals: Big Ten's top recruiters

Arianny Celeste
Included in Rivals' list of top recruiters are Michigan's Greg Mattison and Fred Jackson.

Video: Michigan spring practice update

Recruiting Update: March 18, 2013

Phoenix (AZ) Mountain Pointe wide receiver Jalen Brown
Phoenix (AZ) Mountain Pointe wide receiver Jalen Brown was offered by Michigan.  Brown is a 6'2", 170 lb. prospect with offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, among others.  As a junior in 2012, he had 67 receptions for 1,235 yards and 18 touchdowns; on defense he had 26 tackles and 5 interceptions.  He's the #57 overall player to Rivals and the #126 overall player to 247 Sports.  Mountain Pointe is also the home of 2014 offensive guard prospect Natrell Curtis, a big-time recruit, and former offensive line target Kenny Lacy, who signed with UCLA in February.  He's a very good route runner with good body control while the ball is in the air.

Hinsdale (IL) Central tight end Ian Bunting was offered by Michigan.  He's a 6'7", 215 lb. prospect who has been picking up offers at a fast pace recently, including ones from Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon, and Wisconsin, among others.  As a junior in 2012, he had 16 receptions for 412 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Bunting visited Michigan for the Northwestern game last November.

Grand Rapids (MI) Christian wide receiver Drake Harris was offered by Michigan.  Harris is a 6'4", 180 lb. prospect with offers from all over the place, and he has been discussed ad nauseum on this site and others.  One of the top couple prospect in the state and one of the top few wide receivers in the nation, his recruitment has been followed closely by many.  He visited Michigan's campus for three weeks in a row despite being "committed" to Michigan State, but that commitment was due largely to his prowess on the basketball court; he now plans to pursue a football career instead.  He has plans to visit several schools, but Michigan should remain a school of interest throughout the process.

Jenks (OK) Jenks safety Steven Parker was offered by Michigan.  He's a 6'2", 185 lb. prospect with offers from Alabama, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Texas A&M, among others.  As a junior in 2012, he had 52 tackles, 1 sack, and 3 interceptions.  He's the #114 overall player to Rivals and #220 to 247 Sports.

Many (LA) Many offensive tackle Garrett Thomas was offered by Michigan.  He's a 6'6", 295 lb. prospect whose lone current offer comes from Michigan.  Thomas is a very powerful blocker, and he looks like a future right tackle or perhaps an offensive guard.

Here's a list of the visitors from this past weekend.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

National Football Post: Pro Day Review - March 15th

Kym Nguyen
Former NFL scout Russ Lande talks about the potential of Michigan players in the upcoming draft, including William Campbell, Jordan Kovacs, and Denard Robinson.

Average Recruiting Class Rankings: 2002-2013

I decided to try to collect data on recruiting team rankings for Michigan over the last decade or so.  Rivals and Scout are the oldest internet sites and therefore have the deepest set of data.  Meanwhile, Tom Lemming is the oldest recruiting guru, but the info about his rankings is the least accessible.  If you happen to have information to fill in some of the blanks on the chart, I'd be happy to find it.  Thanks ahead of time for any help you can provide.
Average Recruiting Class Rankings for Michigan

ESPN       Lemming    Rivals        Scout        247 Sports  
2002 N/A 9 16 19 N/A
2003 N/A 7 17 8 N/A
2004 N/A 4 5 5 N/A
2005 N/A 4 6 2 N/A
2006 11 8 13 9 N/A
2007  10 11 12 10 N/A
2008  13 12 10 6 N/A
2009  10 10 8 14 N/A
2010  14 N/A 20 12 28
2011  N/A N/A 21 29 30
2012  7 4 7 4 8
2013  6 7 5 2 8
Average  10.1 7.6 11.7 10.0 18.5

Video: First spring practice

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Wolverine Nation: Exit Interview - Jordan Kovacs

Michael Rothstein interviews graduating senior safety Jordan Kovacs.

Visitors: March 15-17, 2013

Woodbridge (VA) Woodbridge defensive end Da'Shawn Hand
Joshua Alabi - DT - Detroit (MI) Cass Tech: Alabi is a 6'4", 245 lb. defensive tackle prospect with an offer from Michigan.  He has visited Michigan numerous times this spring.

Kyle Berger - LB - Cleveland (OH) St. Ignatius: Berger recently picked up an offer from Arkansas, but the battle for his services appears to be between Michigan and Ohio State.  I put together a scouting report on him a few weeks ago.

Tommy Doles - C - Grand Rapids (MI) Christian: Doles is a 6'4", 255 lb. center prospect with offers from Iowa State, Michigan, and Northwestern.  Many analysts believe it's just a matter of time before Doles commits to the Wolverines.

Michael Ferns III - LB - St. Clairsville (OH) St. Clairsville: Ferns committed to Michigan last August.  He has since turned into a recruiting juggernaut for Michigan and has started sending out "Team 135" t-shirts to each of the other commits in the 2014 class.

Da'Shawn Hand - DE - Woodbridge (VA) Woodbridge: You probably know about Hand already - one of the top few football recruits in the nation.  I did a scouting report on him a few weeks ago.

Drake Harris - WR - Grand Rapids (MI) Christian: Harris has offers from all over the country.  He recently de-committed from Michigan State and has plans to visit Florida, Notre Dame, and other schools in the coming months.  This would be four weeks in a row he has made it to Michigan's campus. UPDATE: Harris is no longer planning to visit.

Gary Hosey - LB - Detroit (MI) Cass Tech: Hosey is a 6'0", 225 lb. prospect with offers from Ball State, Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Illinois, and Toledo.  Michigan appears to be looking for just two linebackers in this class - Michael Ferns III is already committed to play middle linebacker, and they need a SAM linebacker.  Hosey appears to be a long shot for a Michigan offer.

Malik McDowell - DE - Detroit (MI) Loyola: McDowell is a 6'7", 290 lb. prospect with offers from all over the country.  The two major players appear to Michigan and Notre Dame.  I have read that McDowell's parents aren't letting him open his recruiting mail until the end of his junior year, so he can concentrate on school and avoid getting wrapped up in the recruiting circus.

Shane Morris - QB - Warren (MI) De La Salle: Morris has already signed with Michigan as part of the 2013 class.  Unable to enroll early, he is finishing out his senior year of high school.

Nic Weishar - TE - Chicago (IL) Marist: Weishar is a 6'5", 225 lb. tight end with offers from Arkansas, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Oklahoma, among others.  Notre Dame is considered to be the leader for his services.  He tore his labrum this past season, but should be fully recovered for his senior year.  I did a scouting report on Weishar a few weeks ago.

Patrick Omameh, #65

Patrick Omameh
Omameh attended Columbus (OH) St. Francis DeSales and picked Michigan over offers from a few MAC schools, Cincinnati, and Michigan State.  He was a 2-star strongside defensive end to Rivals and a 3-star, #87 offensive tackle to Scout.  As a member of the 2008 class, he was not offered by Lloyd Carr but received a late tender from Rich Rodriguez, visiting in late January and then committing on National Signing Day.

Omameh redshirted as a freshman in 2008.  In 2009 he was a backup right guard and right tackle for most of the season before starting the final three games at right guard.  He continued as the starting right guard for the 2010-2012 seasons, starting the last 42 games of his career.  He was named Academic All-Big Ten in both 2010 and 2011, and his play warranted an All-Big Ten First Team selection by the coaches (Second Team by the media) in 2012.

46 games played, 42 starts

Academic All-Big Ten in 2010 and 2011; All-Big Ten and Allstate AFCA Good Works team in 2012

Omameh was a guy who always seemed like a poor fit to me as a guard.  He could run fairly well, but he has somewhat long, spindly legs that make him a little too top-heavy and unwieldy playing the interior positions.  It mattered less in Rich Rodriguez's offense, which was mostly a zone blocking system that requires each of the five linemen to combo block with the guy(s) next to him.  By the time Brady Hoke arrived prior to the 2011 season, it seemed the tackle positions were already determined, so there was nowhere for Omameh to go.  But through two coaching staffs, it always seemed to me that Omameh would have been better off playing offensive tackle.  He played pretty well in pass protection and did a decent job of base blocking, but his pulling left something to be desired at times in Hoke's offense.

. . . doing this against Notre Dame in 2010.

Omameh was not invited to the NFL Combine, so if he wants to play at the next level, he'll have to make an impression at Michigan's pro day.  He probably doesn't have the size and length to play tackle at the next level, and I don't think he's a powerful enough blocker to play guard in the NFL.  I think his best fit would be with a zone blocking team, such as the Houston Texans or Washington Redskins.  If he finds the right system, I think Omameh has the best possible future out of the three senior linemen in this class.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Happy 8,000,000th Pageview!

Amber Day

Christina Halkiopolous

CJ Miles

Erin McNaught

Diana Morales

Jordan Ozuna

Miranda Kerr

Michigan Daily: For Robinson and Kovacs, a final steak dinner before NFL Draft

Jennifer Stano
The Michigan Daily  has a feature on Denard Robinson and Jordan Kovacs preparing for the NFL Draft.

Video: Michigan's Pro Day

Attractive Michigan Girl of the Week: Tomi Tomson

Tomi Tomson
If you have any other pictures of girls wearing Michigan gear, drop me an e-mail. Go Blue!

Video: Brady Hoke spring practice press conference

Ken Wilkins, ex-Wolverine

Defensive tackle Ken Wilkins
Defensive tackle Ken Wilkins has left the team.  Wilkins just finished his redshirt sophomore season, but he had yet to play a single down at Michigan.

Wilkins committed to Michigan in June 2009 as a member of the 2010 class.  Rich Rodriguez recruited him as a "Quick," the OLB/DE hybrid that Craig Roh played at one time.  As you can see from my commitment post (link), I always had doubts about whether Wilkins had the athleticism to pull off that kind of role.  Wilkins redshirted in 2010, and by spring 2011 he was playing strongside end for Brady Hoke.  Wilkins eventually grew into a 6'3", 294 lb. nose tackle, but the weight wasn't good weight.  Reports indicated that he lacked intensity on the field and in the weight room, struggling to stay low; that was evident in the limited practice film and in his spring game performance.  He was not expected to contribute much in 2013, since rising sophomore Ondre Pipkins had already surpassed him, Wilkins' classmate Richard Ash has earned some playing time, and the coaches seemed more excited about redshirt freshman Willie Henry, too.

Wilkins is the 16th member of the 27-man class of 2010 to depart early, joining Cullen Christian, Demar Dorsey, Stephen Hopkins, Carvin Johnson, Conelius Jones, Antonio Kinard, Ricardo Miller, Christian Pace, Jerald Robinson, Davion Rogers, Terrence Talbott, Terry Talbott, Ray Vinopal, Austin White, and D.J. Williamson.  Michigan is still technically above the 85-scholarship limit for the coming season, so Wilkins' departure does not really affect the size of the 2014 recruiting class.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Wolverine Nation: Exit Interview - Elliott Mealer

Michael Rothstein interviews outgoing offensive lineman Elliott Mealer.

Michigan Pro Day Results

Participants in today's pro day included Ricky Barnum, William Campbell, Kenny Demens, J.T. Floyd, Brandin Hawthorne, Jordan Kovacs, Elliott Mealer, Patrick Omameh, Denard Robinson, Craig Roh, Roy Roundtree, and Vincent Smith. These are the results trickling out through Twitter

40 time: Roundtree 4.50, Kovacs 4.58

Three-cone drill: Kovacs 6.62

Shuttle: Kovacs 4.19

Broad jump: Floyd 10'4", Kovacs 10'2", Roundtree 10'1"

Vertical jump: Floyd 36", Kovacs 35", Roundtree 34", Demens 33.5", Roh 33.5"

Bench press (225 lbs.): Campbell 35 reps, Mealer 29 reps, Hawthorne 27 reps, Demens 26 reps, Kovacs 16 reps

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Former Michigan Athletes: Free Agency Update

Larry Foote re-signed with the Steelers
 Jake Long visited St. Louis, took a physical, and entered into contract negations with the Rams, but he left without inking a deal.  Long was reportedly asking for more than $10 million per year, which now appears unlikely to happen.  The five year veteran and four time Pro Bowler is expected to either sign with the Rams or stay in Miami.

The New York Giants ponied up over $2 million to put restricted free agent Stevie Brown on a one year, second-round tender.  That means that the Giants would receive the second-round draft pick from any team that outbids them for Brown's services.  Still, the Giants continue looking for more help at safety and might even strike a deal with Ryan Mundy during his scheduled visit.

Larry Foote re-signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers after flirting with the Arizona Cardinals.  The three-year deal comes on the heels of a season that saw him rack up 113 tackles, four sacks, and two forced fumbles.  Teammate LaMarr Woodley restructured his contract the same day to free up over $4 million in cap space.

49er safety free agent Dashon Goldson landed a big deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and that left the door open for Charles Woodson.  The '97 Heisman winner returned to the Bay Area--where he spent the first eight years of his career as an Oakland Raider--in order to meet with the 49ers. Woodson has expressed a strong desire to play for a Super Bowl contender during his 16th NFL season, and might be available at a discount to the right team.

Steve Breaston's sudden drop in production last year can probably be chalked up to knee inflammation and early arthritic symptoms.  Breaston contemplated a knee procedure, but has decided to forgo the surgery as he tests his value on the free agent market.  Breaston visited the Steelers and Browns this week, but walked away without signing a contract.  While waiting for a new deal, Breaston is staying busy by passing out free iPads to kids at his former high school.

Big Ten Blog: Spring Q&A - Brady Hoke

Brady Hoke answers some questions about who will play where this spring.  I highly recommend checking it out, although things will certainly change between now and opening day.

Spring Practice Preview: Defense

Jake Ryan led the team in tackles as a redshirt sophomore
The strongside end is perhaps the biggest question mark on the team this spring, at least from a fan's perspective.  Craig Roh graduated, and there are backups, potential position-switchers, and redshirt freshmen all vying for the vacated spot.  Will it be last year's primary backup, redshirt freshman Keith Heitzman (7 tackles, 1 tackle for loss)?  Will it be senior Jibreel Black (20 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks), who played 3-tech defensive tackle last year?  Will it be a junior position-switcher from weakside end, Brennen Beyer (19 tackles) or Frank Clark (25 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)?  Will it be one of the redshirt freshmen, Chris Wormley or Tom Strobel?  Heitzman seems like a good fit if Ryan Van Bergen and Roh are the prototypes, but we have yet to see Wormley or Strobel on the field.  The weakside end spot seems a little easier to sort out.  Clark is too much of a playmaker - and not disciplined enough - to be a candidate for SDE, making him likely to stick at weakside end.  Sophomore Mario Ojemudia should be bigger by now, and he made a few nice plays last season.
Others to watch: Redshirt freshman Matt Godin hasn't created much buzz, but he's a big body who has the size to play the SDE spot.  Freshman early enrollee Taco Charlton is tall, long, and pretty lean, but he's also very raw.

One starter is almost certain, and that's fifth year senior Quinton Washington (32 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack).  Other prognostications are murky.  The second-best defensive tackle might be sophomore Ondre Pipkins (7 tackles), but he was overweight last year and seems best suited for Washington's nose tackle spot.  Black and redshirt freshman Willie Henry would both be capable of playing the 3-tech position, and Wormley could end up there, too, if he's not playing strongside end.
Others to watch: Redshirt juniors Richard Ash and Ken Wilkins have been mired on the bench mostly and totally, respectively.  It's tough to see either one garnering a ton of playing time this year, since both were surpassed by an out-of-shape Pipkins.  Heitzman and Godin could also see some reps at 3-tech.

The strongside linebacker position is locked down by redshirt junior Jake Ryan (88 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks), and his backup is pretty solid in the form of fifth year senior Cam Gordon (17 tackles, 3 tackles for loss).  The inside linebacker spots will be filled by two of three guys.  My guess is that junior Desmond Morgan (81 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss) will move from weakside linebacker to the middle, while sophomore James Ross (36 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss) steps in at WILL.  Sophomore Joe Bolden (30 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 sack) is the other viable candidate at MIKE, and he also has the skills to be a backup at SAM.
Others to watch: Fifth year senior Mike Jones has been a backup his entire career, and that probably won't change. Redshirt sophomore Antonio Poole sat out last season with an upper body muscle injury.  Sophomore Royce Jenkins-Stone is behind a couple good ones at MIKE, and redshirt freshman Kaleb Ringer missed the season due to a knee injury.  When the spring roster is released, don't be surprised if some defections from this group are made known.

The biggest question isn't so much about the talent at the position, but about whether redshirt sophomore Blake Countess is healthy after tearing his ACL in the season opener against Alabama.  Countess was good as a freshman in 2011 - with an occasional lapse - and should reach that level again with modern medicinal practices, but it might be too early to go hard for spring practices.  I wouldn't be surprised to see the coaches hold him out of contact drills.  The other outside spot appears to be junior Raymon Taylor's (45 tackles, 2 interceptions) to lose, and the nickel corner position has belonged to senior Courtney Avery (19 tackles, 2 tackles for loss) for the past couple seasons.  All three are returning starters if you count Countess from prior to his injury.
Others to watch: Junior Delonte Hollowell and sophomore Terry Richardson both played sparingly in 2012; both are small-ish and seem destined for nickel corner, field corner, or maybe just special teams play. One of the freshman early enrollees, Ross Douglas, was recruited to play nickel corner, too, but all of these guys may bounce around and play multiple positions because of low numbers.

One of the starting safeties will be fifth year senior Thomas Gordon (81 tackles, 2 interceptions); the question is, Which one?  The departure of Jordan Kovacs leaves a void at strong safety, and Gordon's tackling, size, and speed make him a better fit at that spot than free safety.  Meanwhile, the other safety to earn significant playing time last season was rising sophomore Jarrod Wilson (8 tackles), who had his share of troubles, as young safeties often do.  Wilson is a 6'2" ball hawk and fits better at free safety.  It would seem to make sense that Gordon moves to SS and Wilson gets inserted at the FS spot.  Also in the mix are senior Marvin Robinson and true freshman early enrollee Dymonte Thomas, and I could see a scenario in which Gordon/Wilson are the free safeties and Robinson/Thomas are the strong safeties.
Others to watch: Redshirt junior Josh Furman (8 tackles) hasn't shown much in spring practices past or in limited playing time.  Redshirt freshman Jeremy Clark has the size and speed to be a good one at free safety, and classmate Allen Gant is more of an in-the-box strong safety; both seem to be a little ways down the pecking order right now.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Wolverine Nation: Exit Interview - Brandin Hawthorne

Michael Rothstein interviews outgoing linebacker Brandin Hawthorne.  Hawthorne talks about a lot of different things in a pretty insightful interview.  He says what I said all along - if he had been available for the bowl game against South Carolina, a good special teamer like him might have stopped Ace Sanders from returning that punt for a touchdown.

Spring Practice Preview: Offense

It's time to see what the Inkster product can do leading Michigan's football team.
Redshirt junior Devin Gardner is the clear front-runner for the quarterback job.  After Denard Robinson got hurt against Nebraska, Gardner started the next five games, going 75/126 for 1,219 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions.  Michigan appears to have a "franchise" type quarterback, but what will Michigan's offense look like with him fully entrenched at the position?  Gardner is better from under center than Robinson ever was, so the I-formation stuff should be more prevalent.  He can still run the shotgun passing stuff, but he's not a downhill runner in the same way that allowed Robinson to run for 1,000+ yards the past few seasons.
Others to watch: The only other scholarship quarterback on the roster for the spring is redshirt sophomore Russell Bellomy.

With Fitzgerald Toussaint injured, Vincent Smith off to his post-college career, and Derrick Green not arriving until summer, the pickings will be slim this spring.  This should be Michigan fans' first chance to see redshirt freshman Drake Johnson, who earned some praise from Brady Hoke around bowl time.  He has good size and speed, but that doesn't always translate to success.  Junior Thomas Rawls (57 carries, 242 yards, 4 touchdowns) and redshirt sophomore Justice Hayes (18 carries, 83 yards, 1 touchdown) earned some carries, but neither one did much with his opportunities.
Others to watch: Sophomore Dennis Norfleet has moved back to running back after a short stint at corner for the Outback Bowl.  Sophomore Sione Houma and redshirt sophomore Joey Kerridge will fight for the fullback spot.

In the five games that Gardner started at quarterback, fifth year senior Jeremy Gallon had 31 receptions for 511 yards and 3 touchdowns.  He looks to be the top receiver in 2013, but there's plenty of room for others to emerge.  Two other seniors return in Drew Dileo (22 catches, 331 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Jeremy Jackson (4 catches, 31 yards), the former of which is a jack-of-all-trades, the latter a lumbering possession receiver.  Then there's sophomore Amara Darboh, who played but was never targeted, and redshirt freshman Jehu Chesson.  Since Dileo appears to be nothing more than a complementary receiver, it would be good for Gardner and the Michigan offense to find another reliable target between Darboh and Chesson.
Others to watch: Fifth year senior walk-on Joe Reynolds (3 catches, 22 yards) worked his way into the rotation last season and has decent quickness.

Sophomore Devin Funchess (15 catches, 234 yards, 5 touchdowns) should have playing time locked up at the U-back position.  Fellow sophomore A.J. Williams is a mammoth tight end who's more of a blocker.  The wild card in the mix is freshman Jake Butt, who enrolled early and is physically developed enough to play as a freshman.  Williams isn't much of a target downfield, so if Gardner can work out some chemistry with Butt in the spring (and summer), Michigan should have a nice 1-2 punch of receiving tight ends between Funchess and Butt.
Others to watch: Redshirt junior Jordan Paskorz has played in just one game (on special teams against UMass) during his three seasons, and the rest of the guys on the roster are young-ish walk-ons with little experience; the best of those is redshirt junior Dylan Esterline.

The two sure starters are the bookend, fifth-year senior tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield.  Between those two will be any combination of about a dozen other players, because the three interior starters graduated.  Redshirt freshman all-everything guard Kyle Kalis will probably step in at one guard spot.  That leaves the other two spots up for grabs between redshirt sophomore Jack Miller, redshirt junior walk-on Joey Burzynski, redshirt sophomore Chris Bryant, and redshirt freshman Ben Braden; the former two will probably vie for the center spot, while the latter two will fight for the right guard position.  None of them have played extensively, and if either Bryant or Braden starts the season, it will be his first ever game experience.  In the long term, Braden will probably end up at right tackle, so you could see Schofield and Braden flip if the coaches aren't confident in Braden's ability to pull.
Others to watch: Redshirt freshman Erik Magnuson will have every chance to succeed Lewan at left tackle, and classmate Blake Bars has practiced at both center and guard.  Both appear to be at least a year away from playing significant time.  True freshman Kyle Bosch has apparently impressed people with his size and work in the weight room as an early enrollee, but he's very young; if the coaches wouldn't play Kalis as a freshman, they probably won't play Bosch, either, unless injuries occur.  But it will still be interesting to see how Bosch fares in the glorified practice.