Previously I did the offense, now for the scarier side of the ball. I don’t recommend reading for at least 30 minutes after eating a meal.
To repeat from the earlier post, this Diary is intended to be a “state of the roster” type of summary heading into the final recruiting stretch. It is meant to be a diversion from coaching rumors, general recruiting chatter, or Miss St. preview posts. Obviously all bets are off if a coaching change is made and this summary will change (hopefully for the better) when signing day rolls around. In general, I thought this would generate some good discussion and that’s what this website is all about. Refer to Brian’s Depth Chart By Classfor a list of the relevant players.
Defensive Tackle – C+
This grade avoids being lower thanks to Mike Martin’s awesomeness. He’s by far the best player on the defensive side of the ball and without him this grade would have been an F. The problem is that there are so few people behind him. If Michigan wanted to run a 4-3 they would slide VanBergen over to DT rather than trust the position to anyone else on the depth chart behind Martin. Maybe Washington will turn out to be more than goal-life beef, maybe Ash lives up to some practice hype that’s been out there, or maybe Talbott surpasses low expectations. But there is almost no depth and no one projects as anything close to all-big ten. Since losing two recruits on signing day a couple of years ago and having Will Campbell prove ESPN to be right about his talents, this position has been a horror show. This is the #1 priority in recruiting for years to come.
Defensive End – B-
Craig Roh still projects as an above average Big Ten player once he’s in his natural position and RVB is steady at the other spot (even if I’d rather see him in the middle of a 4-3 base defense). Jibreel Black played a lot as a true-freshman and showed flashes of talent – he could match Roh’s potential. Paskorz, Wilkins, Rock, and Beyer provide adequate depth without much star potential. There is enough talent and depth here to be solid but unspectacular – hence the grade.
Linebacker – C
Sigh…..how long has it been since we had optimism with this position? Demens looks like he will be a solid two-year starter with a chance to be above average. But who else will start? The roster is a weird collection of over-sized safeties and undersized linebackers. Mike Jones and Brandon Herron have played but are still unknowns. Fitzgerald and Leach have never shown the ability to play more than special teams. Isiah Bell and Jake Ryan seem like MLB material, but have been invisible to practice buzz. Kellen Jones and Desmond Morgan are very solid signings in this recruiting class but hopefully get a year of seasoning. I expect Cam Gordon to essentially be a linebacker for this defense and don’t be surprised to see Thomas Gordon, Marvin Robinson, Josh Furman, or even Carvin Johnson play some too. Depth is not an issue – talent and finding the right role for people are the issue.
Corner – C+
Are you surprised this isn’t a lower grade? After a horrific series of events led to this position being a black hole for too long (8 players that would have had eligibility were unable to contribute in 2010 for various reasons), there is light at the end of the tunnel. Floyd was erratic but returns as a veteran. Avery saw extensive time long before he should have and that should help him develop into a solid starter. Talbott got some time and could be a solid bench player. (I’m considering Christian a Free Safety.) Troy Woolfolk’s position for 2011 is unknown, but if it is corner he’ll bring valuable experience to let the young guys develop. The current recruiting class may be “short” on stars but has a lot of depth to bolster the biggest weakness on the D.
Strong Safety – C+
Kovacs is the sort of guy you love having on your team, but not really as a 4-year starter. None the less, he’ll be his reliable but limited self next year. Expect a push from Carvin Johnson or possibly Marvin Robinson or Josh Furman if they stick at this position. Finding the right balance between brains and brawn at this position will be critical, and signing a blue-chip recruit would be spectacular.
Free Safety – D
The good news is that the people on the roster are young and have some experience. The bad news is that there’s almost zero depth, the players on the roster have obvious limitations, and it isn’t clear if help is on the way. I suppose Vinopal is your default starter with Cullen Christian the likely back-up. I would like to see Woolfolk shore up this position for a year, but he might play corner instead. Carvin Johnson might convert to this position, but he seems better suited for Strong Safety. I fully expect one of the incoming recruits to move to this position, probably Brown or Crawford. There is flexibility with some of these players, but this is a position where you want a savvy veteran who knows the position.
Punter – B
Hagerup had some freshman moments, but overall was reliable when rushed into service. Expect him only to improve and perhaps even challenge some of the Space Emperor’s milestones….okay, maybe not – but he’ll be fine.
Punt Returner – D
As with the Kick Return position, there should be plenty of viable candidates who could do well but the results don’t prove that out. Gallon was a mess for much of the year, Hemmingway offers little upside and is too injury prone, and hardly anyone else got a chance. Expect Drew Dileo to get the first chance and he might prove to be valuable.
A note on scheme for a moment….
I have no qualifications that let me comment intelligently on scheme or tactics, but I have common sense and 25 years of watching this team. I think the 3-3-5 is a way to use scheme to confuse the offense when it is run correctly. In that way it can help offset a lack of talent – but it requires the players to know it and run it well. Given that Michigan’s D combines a lack of top talent with a dose of inexperience and a dash of lack-of-depth, this is not a recipe for success as we’ve seen. I would much rather stick to a simple defense and run it well – living with the consequences.
For that reason I would like to see a 4-3 base defense with Black-RVB-Martin-Roh as the line. That seems to be a solid starting unit with a decent number of back-ups. Demens and company can sort out the linebackers. I would put Floyd and Avery at corner (and let the entire depth chart fight it out for those two starting spots), Kovacs at strong safety if he can hold off Johnson and Robinson, and then let Woolfolk be the free safety.
This Diary is intended to be a “state of the roster”-type of summary heading into the final recruiting stretch. It is meant to be a diversion from coaching rumors, general recruiting chatter, or Miss St. preview posts. Obviously all bets are off if a coaching change is made and this summary will change (hopefully for the better) when signing day rolls around. In general, I thought this would generate some good discussion and that’s what this website is all about. Refer to Brian’s Depth Chart By Class for a list of the relevant players.
Offense goes first, defense wil come later.
Quarterback – A+
That’s right, I went there. I struggle to see how this position could be any better. Denard will be a Heisman candidate for the next two years, Tate has proven to be a very good backup quarterback and spot starter, and Devin will now be a freshman next year and one of the highest ranked dual-threat talents of the past three recruiting classes. I guess it would be nice to have a developmental prospect, but fourth string QBs grow on trees.
Running Back – B-
If Dee Hart stays in this class and meets his full potential maybe this grade is harsh. They certainly have depth and variety, which has not always been the case. But until someone steps forward as a homerun back and this group proves they can stay healthy, a higher grade is not warranted.
Outside Wide Receiver – B
Stonum, Hemmingway, and Odoms made for a very above average group of starters this year and all of them have had great games and will be among the best group of outside receivers in the conference for 2011. But they have all had injury issues and inconsistency issues so there isn’t a star here….yet. More concerning is the depth behind the veterans. Jackson and Stokes have played, but mostly on running downs. Robinson, Williamson, and Miller will all have tons of eligibility but are unknown quantities. Another recruit in the 2011 class would be nice.
Slot Receiver – A-
Roy Roundtree is a handful of drops away from being the next wearer of the #1 jersey [Ed-M: because dropsies stopped previous #1s?] and a future star. Kelvin Grady went from a liability to having some of the best hands on the team. Gallon and Robinson provide valuable depth. And Justice Hayes could be a future star at this position.
Tight End – C+
This is perhaps a little harsh because of the role they play in the offense. Webb has proven to be a dynamic blocker and Koger has the potential to be a very good receiver. The problem is that there is no one on the depth chart besides Brandon Moore. You may see Ricardo Miller take on the Koger role and it is expected that there will be another recruit in the 2011 class. But with fullbacks being walk-ons and the jumbo package making some valuable appearances in the playbook this year we’ll need to address this position in the next couple of recruiting classes.
Offensive Line – B+
Two starters will depart after this year and you have to give them credit for their development into solid performers this season. But without knocking their ability, they should be easily replaced. Mark Huyge has already been a starter and can step in right away with Schofield pushing for playing time. Schilling will be missed, but Barnum looks to be a solid replacement with Campbell and Mealer (plus the other centers) providing depth. Lewan and Omameh are still young and future NFL draft picks. Molk will be a senior but now has several viable back-ups in waiting. Signing another guard in this class with a lot of potential would push this to an A- for sure. Another star tackle is needed in the 2012 recruiting class.
Kicker – F
This is the biggest liability on the entire team now that there is at least depth (if not experience or talent) in the secondary. Gibbons looks like a mess with his form and results. Broekhuizen has better form but still lousy results. They don’t even have someone who can just kick it deep for kick-offs! Justin Meram from the soccer team is still wishful thinking for the time being since he has no proven track record and may go pro in his natural sport. I’m one who thinks a scholarship must go to a kicker in this class.
Kick Returner – C
This is a maddening position to grade. With all of the skill players on the roster you would think that this is a strength, but unless Stonum is the one taking the kicks there has been very little in the way of positive performance. Gallon, Robinson, and Odoms were highly underwhelming. Perhaps Dileo, Toussaint, Avery, or another young player could improve this. As great as Stonum is in this spot, his injury shows why you need to find someone else.
As we get closer and closer to signing day, Michigan nabbed two quality commitments this week in instate LB Desmond Morgan and Maryland DB Blake Countess. Michigan is currently at 13 commitments, which leaves anywhere between 5-7 more spots open. A few updates from this week, and a look at what could happen going forward:
6'1", 185 lbs.
I'm sure everyone has noticed that Roderick has an outstanding set of dreadlocks, always key in recruiting. Ryles was committed to Arkansas, but recently decommitted/had his offer pulled from the Razorbacks. He has opened up his recruitment, and Michigan will be part of the process.
I'm not with Arkansas anymore, so it's back open with everybody. I'm definitely interested in Michigan. I just talked to Coach Smith on Thursday (10/9).
Dr. Phillips just lost in the state championship game so Roderick will be focusing on recruiting going forward. He hasn't set up his visit date yet, but is looking to do that soon.
6'1", 275 lbs.
I'm not sure where it originated, but there was a rumor that Michigan was out of it for Darian Cooper. That's not entirely true. This was somewhat discussed in this thread earlier, and this is what Darian had to say about it.
Tony Dews came out on Thursday, and we talked about some things. I asked him about the coaching situation and he said that we'll know on January 1st. They're not out of it yet, I'm just concerned with what's going on with them because I had a friend go through that too.
While Michigan isn't out of it for Cooper, they are slightly behind the likes of Penn State, Georgia Tech, Iowa, and Michigan State. We won't know if Michigan is back in it until we know the fate of the coaching staff.
[Ed.: That's quite a statement from Dews, if second-hand. Not even a "we'll be back." Everybody limbo.]
6'4", 230 lbs.
Red Bank, New Jersey
Jack Tabb and recently offered Glenville prospect Frank Clark are the main tight ends on Michigan's board these days. Tabb has decided that he's ready to announce his decision after visiting Michigan, Arkansas, Iowa, and North Carolina.
I'm announcing either Wednesday or Thursday, I'll find out tomorrow. I'll have hats for Arkansas, Michigan, North Carolina, Rutgers, and Iowa.
The coaching situation at Michigan has also been in Tabb's mind recently. He really liked his visit to Ann Arbor, but I wouldn't get your hopes up with him.
- Commit Demetrius Hart told reporters last night that he will officially visit Florida, and still plans on enrolling early wherever he decides to go. If Rich Rodriguez stays, then I think Dee will too. If Rich Rod goes, then so will Hart.
- Instate DB Raymon Taylor was offered by Michigan this week. He's a lifelong Michigan fan, and barring anything out of the ordinary there's a good chance he'll be a part of this class. Taylor is a Rivals four star who was committed to Indiana before their coaching change; the other sites have him a generic three-star.
- The Army All American game will be played on January 8th, and Michigan fans will have reason to watch. Michigan commits DB Blake Countess and RB Demetrius Hart will be in the game. The two prospects announcing their decisions during the game to keep an eye on are FL S Wayne Lyons and NC ATH Kris Frost.
- There's a dead period that starts today that will run through January 3rd. The next big recruiting visit weekend will be that following weekend of the 7th. We'll have more as it gets closer, but so far WR Devin Lucien, TE Frank Clark, DB Sheldon Royster, DB Dallas Crawford, and DE Deion Barnes are scheduled to be there.
If you were Santa Claus would the Michigan football program be on your Naughty list or your Nice list this year? How about Coach Rich Rodriguez? Do you approve of the behavior of Athletic Director Dave Brandon? Whatever your position, I have a Christmas gift for you. I've created two holiday-themed wallpapers so that you can choose the one that best represents your spirit this football season. If you had Santa's freakish ability to squeeze down chimneys (and his immunity from breaking and entering charges) would you deliver a lump of coal or a tasty gingerbread treat?
Feel free to regift.
The images below are previews only. You can get the widescreen, 4:3, iPad and mobile wallpapers at The Art. The Art. The Art!.
How it was made
The lump of coal for the Naughty image came together rather painlessly but as you can see from the video I really struggled with the Nice image. If you watch closely you'll see several discarded concepts including a gift box with a bow (looked too tacky) and a candy cane (colors were too Ohio State-ish) so I landed on the gingerbread house (which is arguably more tacky than the gift, but you get what you get and you don't get upset). I sped up the footage to condense several life-wastingly long design sessions into a little under 3 minutes of video. If you're looking for an alcohol-free way to numb your emotional distress this holiday season this video is for you.
Bonus Wallpaper (or that one gift I hid behind the tree only to be unveiled after all the other gifts were opened)
In late October I stumbled across a fantastic high resolution Tron Legacy publicity image showing off the new light cycles. The combination of colors (blue and gold) and the futuristic protective gear made me think of Michigan's modern, high speed offense and Denard Robinson at the controls. After his record setting season, Denard Robinson has laid the foundation for a Michigan football legacy sure to last. Man, this is super nerdy but I like it.
All of the 2010 Wallpapers
(Sorry for the double whammy, I've been working on these for a couple weeks and now they're done.)
Part two of the double feature. This should be a little more positive than the defense UFR, if only because the offense doesn’t consist of Martin, Roh, and RVB, then true freshman, walk-ons, and duct tape. I planned to get all philosophical about the defense, and ended up talking about coaching change and scheme. Why? Because I just love watching Michigan football. I watched the 2009 Michigan/Illinois game on Big Ten Classics before the season started. I told my wife “I must be crazy, because I know they’re going to lose this game and I’m watching anyway.” So call me crazy, but I want to watch this group of kids work their butts off and do crazy stuff on offense and hopefully win some games.
Onto the festivities.
Mercy. Tate comes back in, manages one more good drive, but Michigan has 2 TODs and a punt.
So, big-picture, waxing philosophical stuff yet?
The first two drives Michigan rolled down the field. Michigan did stuff like this:
Dear OSU, you are about to get 0wn3d.
Everybody got somebody? Good.
Bye Michael! Let us know if there’s anyone out there.
Stiff arm? Stiff arm.
The only reason they didn’t get points was because of FG kicking (or lack thereof). Then a bad punt, and they still scored a TD. Then OSU returned a kick for a TD, Roundtree never got the butter off his gloves and Denard hurt his hand. They had to play a perfect game and didn’t. I still don’t care. If OSU and Wisconsin are road-graders, this team is fireworks. And I’d rather watch fireworks than road construction any day.
Speaking of fireworks, how about some dilithium?
Damn, I wish that had been the TD. I also wish ABC hadn’t missed the start of that play.
Honestly, no. Whatever I say will be spun into a constant “Fire the coach/keep the coach” argument, so I’ll just shut up. We saw some new plays, they moved the ball well against an established defense, lots of great individual effort, and lots of hope for next year. Yes, they stalled out in the second half, with an injured Denard or non-Superman Tate. Yes, Denard was 8/18 for 87 yards. Pick your stat, it wasn’t the greatest game of the year. I still say “Great job, kids” and proudly applaud my team for leaving it all on the field. Hail to the victors valiant, hail to the conquering heroes, hail, hail, to Michigan, the leaders and best!
(Misopogon, if you can fix my tables, I'd appreciate it)
Alright class, I’m going to be your substitute teacher for the day, since Mr. Cook is taking some well-needed R & R. Consider this my Christmas present to you all, as I jump on the grenade that was the Ohio State game for the second year running.
Reviewing this game is like being Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse Five looked at life, or like the plot of Lost ended up: the end is pre-determined because you’ve lived through it, and you are powerless to change it. You know what’s coming, but you have to sit through it anyway. I honestly didn’t really go into this game with a realistic expectation of victory. The team is/was too young, too small, too slow. Greater upsets have happened, but when I heard that Hagerup would be out, I just put my feet up to cheer for good plays and progress. Were there any? Let’s see. Michigan kicks off.
Mercy. OSU runs out the clock and punts twice. I don't think there's anything more to be gained by charting the rest of this.
Great, I’ve got to do Brian’s internal monologue now?
Yes, now make with the chart
There will be no chart for the following reasons: 1. Just doing the play chart is hard enough. Give Brian more money for doing this. 2. Since the chart is subjective, my opinion on people’s performance is largely worthless to compare to anything. I think it was net positive for tackling, probably slightly negative for coverage, RPS slightly negative, with Demens, Kovacs, Avery, Roh and Gordon being mentioned most often.
Alright then, do you have any opinion on coaches, scheme, players or anything?
I think that except for the OSU drive in the second quarter where OSU went hurry-up and the defense seemed to scramble around, they really played pretty solid. I mean, one kickoff for touchdown, one touchdown from a shanked punt, and maybe two blown coverages are the majority of the points. Comparing OSU’s defense to Michigan’s has some validity. I got to the point that I was typing in 3-4 before even starting to watch the play. Aside from goalline, there were only a few instances where OSU played anything other than base 3-4, with one LB standing on the line strongside, and one LB lined up over the slot receiver. That, compared to what Michigan did/does, says a lot. While I won’t go so far as to say that the 3-3-5 can’t work in the Big Ten, I will say that there seems to be a lot to learn to run it, and that would be hard for young players to pick up. Now, I don’t know if a simple 4-3 cover 2 would be effective, simply because you have to have the players to put into positions. I’ll give the coaching staff the benefit of the doubt and assume that they looked at the talent on the roster, the available spots for the defense, and decided that trying to keep the opposing offense guessing is/was a key to victory.
Wow, that was long. So, fire GERG or what?
I may have an opinion on that, but ultimately it’s pointless to argue about it, since I don’t have a vote. The defense held OSU to 3-and-outs to start the game and ended three drives with field goals. Look, it’s not world-beating, but it’s a far cry from the Illinois game already. I’m maybe not excited, but maybe cautiously optimistic?
+1’s for everyone!