“Thomas Rawls is fine.”
Why was he held out of practice this weekend?
“That’s injury information that’s not my area. Thomas Rawls is fine. That’s all that matters.”
How much are you emphasizing to the rest of the offense that they need to take the pressure off Denard so that the offense can succeed?
“Well, we don’t really put it that way. But that’s kind of the effect of how we approach it, is that when we came here, it became real apparent that he was the centerpiece of the offense, but we didn’t want 90 percent of the offense based on his production for obvious reasons because if you lose him you lose too much. We’ve been sending out the message since we got here is that we have to have other people involved, with our run game, our pass game, all that. I think we did a pretty good job of doing that. I hope like heck we can do the same thing this year. Yet at the end of the day, we don’t want to lose sight of the fact that he is the centerpiece of the offense. When push comes to shove he’s going to play a big part in whether we win or lose.”
It was a marathon opening weekend of high school football; Shane Morris and Warren De La Salle overcame early struggles to soundly defeat Pioneer on Friday night, then Saturday featured four marquee matchups in the Prep Kickoff Classic at Wayne State headlined by a heavyweight tilt between Division I state champs Cass Tech and Division II state champs Brother Rice.
A note before I move along to the scouting portion: Yes, there was a shooting scare on Saturday night. It's remarkably unfortunate that a fight between a couple of idiots—
in which someone threatened to pull a gun and caused a panic, though the police say no gun was present—has marred what was otherwise a stellar event. Kurt Kosmowski, Marty Dobek, and the whole Detroit Sports Commission crew put a ton of effort into pulling together 12 high school teams over two days, giving these young athletes a chance to play at a college stadium in front of nearly 10,000 people. The DSC has announced that they'll once again hold the Prep Kickoff Classic at Wayne State next year; while I hope they beef up security a bit, I'm also confident that they'll once again put together a first-rate football showcase.
[UPDATE: I got clarification of what actually went on from Tim. There was an argument that caused the first rush of people running to avoid the confrontation, and officials stopped the game since people ran onto the field. The fight continued in another area of the concourse soon after, and this unfortunately coincided with fireworks at nearby Comerica Park, which people mistook for gunshots. There was no gun present. Apologies if there was any misunderstanding about the situation.]
With that out of the way, let's get to the recap of all the action after THE JUMP.
Eatin': taken. One of our new MGoShirts is this:
I was sent the usual batch of ideas to thumb up or thumb down and thumbed this one up because I'd either missed or forgotten the fact that Martavious Odoms had put together a charity for a hurting city of Pahokee with a shirt based around the same concept. As the kids who are now about 35 say, my bad.
We've taken the thing down for now and are in the process of reaching out to Hope For Pahokee so we can put it back up and donate the proceeds to them. I'll let you know when we get cleared.
Ufer. A recut version of a Ufer thing I've posted before.
Honor Willis Ward. The Michigan State game marks the 78th anniversary of the Georgia Tech-Michigan game that saw Tech protest the existence of Willis Ward. Gerald Ford had to be talked out of quitting the team after Ward was benched; Michigan won 9-2, defeating racism forever*.
Anyway, the state legislature is making October 20th Willis Ward day and the filmmakers who have been publicizing his story are trying to get something together for the Michigan State game. It seems like this would be one of those things where you talk to someone in the athletic department and he says "of course," but must not be since the guys behind the idea are assembling an online petition to help bolster their case.
*[Probably. I haven't done a whole lot of research on this point.]
Oh my God run around in circles yesss. Sunday Morning QB returns. Matt Hinton's still writing for a couple of other outlets, so its glory may not reach the heights of long long ago but at least now there is a place for Hinton to put the things that are 1) very good and 2) not likely to end up on the Yahoo front page because they're not viral™. See: a comprehensive overview of the have-nots. Bookmark/RSS away.
This is more like it. Indiana just announced a student loyalty program that actually seems worthwhile:
Under the new priority seating system, students earn -and have earned– priority points while they are in school by purchasing men’s basketball and/or football season tickets each year. To reward the most loyal student fans, the 3900 students with the most priority points heading into the 2012-13 school year will be guaranteed the lower bowl seats for the highly anticipated North Carolina game on November 27, 2012.
IU students earn priority points while they are in school by purchasing men’s basketball and football tickets. Students receive 5 points each time they purchase season tickets with a maximum of 10 points per year if they purchase them for both men’s basketball and football season. Also new this year, students will have an additional opportunity to earn loyalty points by attending the games for which they have tickets, or making certain their tickets are used by other students. One point will be given for each game attended or each time an individual ticket is scanned at the gate. Only the original ticket holder can earn loyalty points for the use of their tickets. The more loyalty points a student earns, the better chance they have of obtaining the student tickets allocated for post-season tournaments (NCAA, Big Ten Tournament, etc.). Student point totals for purchased season tickets are automatically transferred to alumni point totals following the student’s graduation from IU.
They also base ticket availability at certain other premium games on their points. No check-ins, a tangible reward that really matters to the students in question (sweet seats and good tickets) and is not a t-shirt.
Oh, man. The MZone makes a thunderous return by rounding up videos of Alabama fans on Youtube.
I'm not sure about anything anymore.
Yes please. The SEC is loosening their rules for in-stadium video replays, but why did they have this one in the first place?
In the past, the SEC had a one real-time replay policy for all plays in all sports.
These companies that suck up digital rights and try to monetize them are all pretty bad—try explaining fair use to one—but XOS is the worst by far. Anyway, the SEC is now going to allow replays from the TV network broadcasting the game (again, why prohibit this?) during reviews. I'm guessing that decision is to prevent biased home-field folks from ramping up outrage by selectively picking favorable angles. It makes sense.
The stated reason for the change is to keep fans coming to games by making the in-stadium experience not worse than sitting at home. Here's hoping Purdue and other schools that have trouble selling out ram this through in the Big Ten.
Um? Brady Hoke has a much different take on the new kickoff rules than any I'd seen before:
On the new kickoff rules: "I think as it plays out, there will be a little more we all learn. You try to use the NFL model from a year ago the best you can. The one thing you learn from the NFL, guys are taking it out of the end zone 8 yards deep. I think you’ll see more of that. Personally, if we can get the ball or give the opponent the ball at the 25, that is something I’ll be happy with."
Why would you run the ball out eight yards deep? Because the kick return guys can't get there in time? I'd be surprised if there was that much of a difference. Certainly not enough to justify a KO attempt where you have to make it 33 yards to break even. Touchbacks ho.
Plead down. MLive's Kyle Meinke just tweeted this out:
Michigan RB Fitz Toussaint, facing operating while intoxicated charge, pleads down to operating while visibly impaired
A quick googling turns up a bunch of sketchy law firms, but the Michigan site has the various penalties for these things and OWVI looks almost identical to OWI. Still assume that Toussaint is suspended for Alabama and Hoke is playing silly fun games with Nick Saban, who is totally fooled.
Chantel Jennings Mike Rothstein on Desmond Morgan.
|Taylor Lewan||Jr.*||Elliott Mealer||Sr.*||Ricky Barnum||Sr.*||Patrick Omameh||Sr.*||Michael Schofield||Jr.*|
|Erik Magnuson||Fr.||Joey Burzynski||So.*||Jack Miller||Fr.*||Kyle Kalis||Fr.||Ben Braden||Fr.|
This again. One year after Michigan's offensive line looked pretty shiny as long as you did not consider the cliff after guy #6, Michigan's offensive line looks really shiny… as long as you don't consider the cliff after guy #5. Or maybe guy #4. In a best case scenario, still guy #6.
Last year, Michigan had Michael Schofield to step into the lineup, and needed him to. This year any injury will see a walk-on or freshman—probably a true freshman—hit the field. Yipes.
But let's not think about that. As long as the starting five stays intact, the line should be quality. Taylor Lewan is projected as a first-round NFL draft pick, Patrick Omameh is in his fourth year as a starter, Michael Schofield started most of last year and moves to a more natural position, and the other two guys are redshirt seniors. Michigan should have a better line this year even without David Molk.
That first step's a doozy, though.
Rating: 5 of 5, not considering depth
Guralnick/Greilick, Detroit News
At this point, "Taylor Lewan is the next Jake Long" is not hope or hype or projection but just a (pretty much) true thing. Lewan may not go first overall in the NFL draft but he's already being projected in the top half of the first round next year, should he choose to depart.
After a promising but penalty-filled freshman year, Lewan cut out the holding calls and stoned opposing pass rushers, snap in, snap out. The primary reason ultra-hyped MSU DE Will Gholston started playing judo chop with various Lewan limbs was that he had no hope of impacting the game in any other fashion:
|AGILITY TO PULL|
|gets outside on p&p|
|another sprint counter|
|donkey some guy|
|nice seal on Worthy|
|stands up Binns|
|gets Toussaint edge|
|fails to cut on screen|
In a game where the Michigan OL was overwhelmed, blitz or not (Mark Huyge got 7 protection minuses), Lewan had a measly +1. Across twelve games of fending off the opposition's best pass rusher he racked up a total of four protection minuses. Two of those were for not cutting a guy on a screen; a third was not getting out on a corner on an attempted double pass. The fourth is somewhere in that video above, and I'm not even sure what that was. Even counting that there was literally one QB hurry going one-on-one with Lewan last year, to say nothing of actual sacks. There is a reason he is getting the NFL hype.
(Note that when blitzes cause confusion not localizable to one or two players that sends in free rushers I file that under "team." Lewan's no doubt responsible for some of those. When he identifies a guy to block, it's over.)
The black lining in our silver cloud was Lewan's lack of impact in the run game. He started off well, with three games around +10 in the UFR run chart and a 7-3-+4 against ND in limited opportunities—Michigan did jack before eviscerating Gary Gray in the fourth quarter. This was noted.
how often have you thought about Taylor Lewan this year? Not often, right? Mostly when he takes some donkey and punches it so hard in the nose shards of cartilage come out the back of its donkeyhelmet, right? (In a non-personal-foul acquiring way, of course.)
After that, he struggled to register on the run chart until late. His Big Ten season:
|5||MINN||5.5||6||-0.5||Yeah, surprised me too: had a couple busts and one bad whiff.|
|6||NW||4.5||2||2.5||Why so low, numbers? Discussion later.|
|7||MSU||6||5||1||Lucky to have both arms in his shoulder sockets.|
|8||PU||7||1||6||Would like to see him more involved somehow.|
|10||Illinois||8||5||3||Had some mistakes in space.|
|11||Nebraska||9||-||9||Finally some productive donkey hatred. Belly helps him produce; also got Toussaint the edge on a play that would have gone badly otherwise.|
|12||OSU||9.5||1||8||Effective against DTs, mostly, also getting to the second level.|
There's a certain amount of busting plays that is part and parcel of being an offensive lineman, especially one learning a new offense. That doesn't bother me. What does is the overall lack of positives until the tail end of the season. Heavily involved linemen will be putting up twice the positives and negatives as the above—Omameh had eight games where his positives were above ten and five where they were 13 or greater. Lewan didn't get there, and I think this was because of Omameh, ironically:
What is with those Lewan numbers?
The system doesn't try to judge blocks that are far away from the play and often declares an easy thing done okay to be a zero, so backside tackles and down-blocking guys a gap away from the play rarely register. Lewan rarely registered and this week's picture pages were examples of Schofield pulling, Schofield pulling, and Schofield pulling. Why is Michigan pulling the converted tackle backup and running away from their donkey-hating first round tackle?
The only conclusion that makes sense is they hate pulling Omameh. When they did pull left, they pulled Molk or Schofield and Molk, only rarely trying Omameh.
We'll talk about that when we get to the right guard, but Omameh came on in those last three games in which Lewan finally got some traction. Once they could pull the right guard, the left tackle got to express his donkey hatred.
With Omameh figuring it out and another year of experience for both, Michigan figures to be more left-handed on the ground; combine that with the pass blocking mentioned above and factor the injuries Lewan dragged around all year and the projections for his 2012 should be sky-high. He should be an All-American, or at least play like one.
[hit THE JUMP to find out about the other starters, but probably not the backups.]
|Roy Roundtree||Sr.*||Devin Gardner||So.*||Jeremy Gallon||Jr.*||Brandon Moore||Sr.*|
|Jeremy Jackson||Jr.||Jerald Robinson||So.*||Drew Dileo||Jr.*||AJ Williams||Fr.|
|Amara Darboh||Fr.||Ricardo Miller||So.*||--||--||Devin Funchess||Fr.|
This bit could be better. Roy Roundtree suffered more than anyone in the transition from the spread 'n' shred to the spread 'n' pasted-on-West-Coast-stuff, plummeting from 72 catches to 19. Notre Dame and Sugar Bowl savior Junior Hemingway is off to NFL practice squads as a seventh-round pick; following him out the door are Martavious Odoms (replaceable) and Kevin Koger (uh…).
In their stead Michigan will field a forest of unproven guys with limited upside, freshmen, their backup quarterback, and Jerald Robinson, the one vague hope for a high quality downfield threat who is not the backup quarterback.
It should be noted that Michigan is running the opposite of the Holgorsen style "you came here an X, you learned it in three days, you repeated it 60 times, you are forever an X" specialization offense. Jeff Hecklinski said as much last year…
"The difference in this offense is there aren't really slot receivers as much as outside receivers — they play everywhere on the field and we move them around," Hecklinski said. "The switch is big because of all the little things asked of them - they have to convert routes, pick up checks and route changes and coverages."
…and the frequent deployment of Junior Hemingway in the slot and Jeremy Gallon outside confirmed that over the course of the year. Therefore "slot" is used to denote the player who is going to get all the wide receiver screens, which will never be bubble screens.
Assertion: Junior Hemingway was the most valuable Michigan wide receiver since Braylon Edwards. Hemingway may not have been as good as Mario Manningham or even Adrian Arrington, but imagining last year without his ability to rise from a thicket of hands to snag "no no no no no no YESSSSSSSS" touchdowns is not a pleasant exercise. He is the undisputed king of yards per target since 2005. He was important.
Unfortunately, Hemingway's gone. Left behind is the mismatched collection of runty Rodriguez slot receivers, Rodriguez leapers who run like hobbled ducks, and… maybe Devin Gardner. Definitely Devin Gardner.
Aw, hell, I should probably start off talking about Roundtree and stuff but everyone wants to know about Gardner.
Yeah, man, he's going to play. Unless Jerald Robinson delivers on the perpetual low-level hype, no one else on the roster comes close to Gardner's combination of size, leaping ability, and speed. At the very least he'll frequently attempt the Terrelle Pryor "oops I'm huge" redzone fade…
…and it's hard to see him not being more than that given the alternatives. Gardner played exclusively at wide receiver at the Mott open practice, and with the first team. I've heard from multiple source since: that's no smokescreen.
While no one knows how this will go, the steady drumbeat of hype from players is encouraging. It took about all of a dozen spring practices for reports like this to reach my ears:
Someone who's seen Gardner at all of Michigan's practices so far says he's "instantly Michigan's best receiver and adds a new dimension to the offense." He's "crazy athletic" with "surprisingly great hands."
Similar reports popped up on the premium sites, and when fall camp started and everyone asked anyone in front of the mic about the possibility, his teammates said "dang." Kovacs:
"He's a great athlete, I feel like he could play anywhere and he could probably take my spot if he tried," Michigan senior safety Jordan Kovacs said. "He's a natural athlete, and if they play him at receiver, I'm sure he'll be pretty good.
"Wherever he plays, he's going to make big plays."
"When he gets out to receiver, you think he's a receiver," Robinson said. "He looks like he's been playing there for years."
And then there's this extremely reliable and not all dated video of Gardner screwing around at WR as a high school kid:
That's the ticket, man. They might have to protect him from getting jammed, but that's not too hard: line him up off the LOS, possibly in those stack formations, and there you go. Then it's about running the routes and catching the ball.
The possibility of a "devin gardner dunked on tacopants" tag and a paucity of options to fill the Junior Hemingway role that bailed the offense out time and again last year will see Gardner on the field. It may be sparingly at first, but if it's crunch time against Alabama do you want him on the bench?
Attempting to predict what happens here is very difficult, but I'm betting Gardner is one of four players approximately level on catches and yards at the end of the year, with no true star player. The upside is tantalizing, though, and your best hope for an offense that scorches both ground and sky. Devin Gardner, you've been X-factor'd.
[hit THE JUMP to read up on Roundtree, Gallon, and company.]
Today's recruiting roundup is football. Football!
After going to five games in two days over the weekend, I can officially declare it to be football season, not that I'm in a position to declare such things. But seriously: football is here, and a bunch of future Wolverines are playing it. This is not quite as exciting as current Wolverines taking the field on Saturday, but it's exciting nonetheless.
I'll have much, more more coming tomorrow, but Shane Morris opened his senior season in the shadow of the Big House at Ann Arbor Pioneer. After struggling early, throwing a pick on his first pass and starting just 2-for-9, he bounced back to finish 14-for-26 for 177 yards and two touchdowns, numbers that could've been better if not for several drops. He'll have to work on starting as strong as he finishes; he still looks like a five-star prospect. My brother and roommate each saw Morris for the first time on Friday, and all it took was one effortless launch of the football in warmups to convince them both that the hype is warranted. Morris makes throwing a football 60 yards look as easy and routine as brushing your teeth.
Cass Tech's tilt with Brother Rice—when not interrupted by shooting scares, again more on which tomorrow—was a classic battle that went down to the wire. The Technicians pulled out a 25-18 victory thanks to two Damon Webb touchdown catches—one on an end-around pass by Jourdan Lewis(!)—and a late 74-yard touchdown run by junior Gary Hosey. Lewis had an uneven performance at corner but had a big punt return on the only time Brother Rice didn't actively avoid him. David Dawson gave his usual stellar effort at left tackle, paving the way for big rushing efforts from Hosey and Deon Drake.
In the other game I saw this weekend featuring a Michigan commit, Khalid Hill caught three passes for 83 yards and a touchdown—coming on an impressive 65-yard catch-and-run—but it wasn't quite enough to lead East Lake Village over Oak Park. Hill looked impressive in the passing game but left a lot to be desired as a run blocker.
[After the jump, more football(!)]