So I wrote an article last summer previewing each position for the football team for some of my friends. Since I had fun writing it and apparently some of actually enjoyed it, I decided to write another for this season. Actually I wasn’t until my friend Montana got me excited to do it, simply by asking if I was going to do one. So if this article (can I call it that?) was sex, my conversation with Montana was foreplay. And yes, that is about all it takes for me to get excited. Since this is also for some of my friends who don’t follow the team religiously, I will try to make it readable to the casual fan. If you do follow the team religiously, read it anyway. It will give you my side of things and its always fun to read previews to get you excited for the upcoming season. Anyway, on to the preview. Hope you enjoy and thanks for reading.
To give better perspective to my position ratings, here is the grading scale:
A: Obviously the best rating. Players at this position should compete for all Big Ten or be among the top players at their position in the nation.
B: Good players, but not good enough to carry or lead the team.
C: Average. Position will not likely make very many big plays and should be expected to give up a few/make mistakes.
D: Should be a significant liability to the team.
F: We are fucked.
With the graduation of a four-year starter in Sir Chad(wick) Henne, Ryan Mallet is going to be the starting QB. I wish that was true, but its not. Unfortunately, Ryan Mallet decided to be a bitch ass and transfer to Arkansas because he thought his skills were ill suited for the spread offense. Other than depriving me of the joy of continuously say “Texarkana, Texas” and the misery of watching him continuously fumble, he leaves Michigan without a QB with any real in game experience. While this is often overrated for many positions, it is not for QBs. Left on the roster are Steven Threet, Nick Sheridan, and incoming freshman Justin Feagin (at least in terms of the players who matter). Threet should be the starter come the first game of the season. He is a former 4-star recruit so he definitely has talent, but has yet to play in a game as he redshirted last season (Side note: I will bring up most players recruiting rating as an indicator of his talent level. Although a high rating does not guarantee success (i.e. there are many other mitigating factors), it is has generally proven to be a good indicator of what is the player’s potential.) He is also a poor fit for the offense. However, as long as he is not expected to run much, he should be serviceable. During the spring game, he showed some promise, although he supposedly struggled with throwing the ball deep, something that’s not too much of a concern in this offense and something that will improve with more practice time with his receivers. While the offense works at his best with a running QB, the coaches can adapt the offense to the players ability; I see no reason why the Michigan coaches wouldn’t do that this season unless they suck as coaches. Past evidence proves they do not.
With that said, I do think Justin Feagin will begin to see some playing time this year as the season progresses. He is more of an athlete than a QB so I see them using him in limited packages when the team could take advantage of his running skills (like Florida did with Tim Tebow his freshman year. I hate how everyone always brings up this example, but I am because it’s an excuse for me to spread the word that Tim Tebow touches little boys’ penises. Seriously. I often joke, but this is not one. He spent his last spring break helping circumcise little boys in some impoverished country. I guess its commendable, but funny nonetheless.) Many Michigan fans discussed the possibility of Feagin seeing extended playing time and possibly even starting towards the end of the year since he is a better fit, but I think this is unlikely as he is a true freshman, was only a 3-star recruit, and the fact that Rich Rodriguez has recruited two top QBs for next year. He likely wouldn’t do this if he was convinced he had a long-term starter on the team.
Nick Sheridan is the other QB of note. He is currently competing for the starting job, but should be relegated to third string once Feagin learns the offense. He is a former walk-on and Michigan would be in deep shit if he has to start, even though he fits the offense better than Threet.
This is probably the position with the most depth on the team; I don’t think there will be one player getting the majority of the carries a la Mike Hart. Instead we will likely employ some variation of a running back by committee. The candidates:
One is Kevin Grady (remember him). He came to Michigan as a 5 star, all-world recruit and was expected to take over many of Hart’s carries due to his size and speed. That never happened; he gave a few glimpses of why he was so highly sought after, but fumbled often all the time. He tore his ACL last year and has since recovered, but it takes most players another year to get back to their full potential. Regardless, he recently got a DUI where he was over three times the legal limit. Most people struggle to function in that range, but somehow he was able to drive, albeit not very well. Anyway, he is expected to be punished by the team and maybe sit out a short amount of gametime. This should hurt his chances to compete because . . .
The last year Grady did play, he lost the back up spot to Brandon Minor, who now a junior, has gotten fairly good reviews from the new coaching staff. Coupled with Grady’s legal situation, he is likely to take away some carries from Grady as the power back in the offense. My opinion of Minor is that he runs too upright and dances too much before he hits the line, resulting in lost yardage. If he finds the hole which is not frequent enough (this is not meant to sound sexual), he has break away speed and showed he could break tackles if he was running straight ahead (which again was not frequent enough last year). In all fairness, the line was not very good last year (not that it is this year). With another year of improvement, additional carries, and no Mike Hart, he might be poised to lead the team in yardage.
If Minor doesn’t get the most carries, Carlos Brown will. He was a highly regarded recruit who has struggled to stay healthy. This year he got injured in the weight room and last year he broke his hand. He is faster than both previous guys and hits the hole quick which is well suited for this offense. He needs to have more patience to let the holes develop and pick the best hole. When he doesn’t, he often just runs into the line for a yard or two gain, although if you give him space which this offense ideally creates, he probably can do more with it than Minor can. Also, he does not lose as many yards as Minor does since he doesn’t do much dancing in the backfield. If it wasn’t for the lost time due to injury, I think he is the better, more versatile back.
Lastly, there are a few freshman who could get some playing time as a RB. The most exciting one of the group is Sam McGuffie. He is a small guy who is really fast and jumps over people (watch his video on youtube). Besides being really tiny, he has one major flaw that might be too much to overcome which I will preface by saying I am not a racist- he is a white. I spent 15 minutes trying to think back over the last 20 years and could not think of a single good white RB- not a promising sign. However, I do think McGuffie looks to be a good receiver for screens and such (based on my limited knowledge of him).
FB: Who cares? (aka I don’t know what to rate it)
The two competing for playing time here are Vince Helmuth and Mark Moundros. Helmuth, the player I hope will gain the starting spot, was highly regarded for a fullback and played more as the season progressed last year as a true freshamn. I don’t think Moundros should be a starter in the Big Ten, seeing him more of a backup and career special teams type. I don’t think there is much else to say here since this is probably the least important position on offense and is not used as frequently as it once was. Furthermore, I think we will see many instances where we see two running backs in the backfield, one a power back (Minor, Grady) and one a speed back (Brown, McGuffie) to best take advantage of our depth at the position.
Although none of the WRs were seniors last year, this went from a position of potential strength to one that took a big hit with both Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington leaving early for the draft. Michigan is left with little playing experience and ill-suited personnel for the slot positions outside of true freshmen.
The team’s best receiver is likely Greg Matthews. He should be able to build off a solid last season where he was the third receiver, but was essentially a starter with how much 3 wide we played. Although I think he is a good player, I think he is a year away from being an elite WR (i.e. worthy of being named to the All Big Ten teams). Overall, he is a well rounded receiver with good size and speed and some ability to block. I think Matthews has a ceiling of being a very good college WR and a mid to late round NFL pick (think Jason Avant).
Starting on the opposite side will probably be sophomore Junior Hemmingway (I like the sound of that for some reason and already can’t wait till next year where I can call him junior Junior Hemmingway). He received limited playing time last year and would ideally be better suited with another year of seasoning before becoming a starter. However, Hemmingway was highly touted according to most rankings coming out of high school. I like him a lot and in very limited time, he showed the ability to eventually become a leading receiver who can adjust to the ball in the air and make some moves on short passes.
This position, which is generally filled by shorter, shifty, fast players, didn’t really exist in the old offense; it is also somewhat interchangeable with the smaller, speed RBs. While we have a few incoming freshman who fit the mold that will see playing time, Tony Clemons will be the starter initially, although he looks the part of an outside receiver. He received limited playing time last year, generally coming in as the token young receiver that signals a running play; hence, only one catch. He will be utilized in space and expected to make plays on short passes. He came to Michigan as a high 4-star type so hopefully he can still succeed playing somewhat out of position.
For the outside receivers, the leading backup will be a highly-touted freshman, Darryl Stonum, who enrolled early. He has gotten great reviews since he came on campus. Expect him to see the field quite a bit (similar to Manningham and Matthews their freshman seasons) as the spread offense uses many receivers at one time. I think he could become a great player down the line. Another backup WR is LaTerryal Savoy. He has consistently impressed during spring practice since he came to Michigan as a highly recruited WR, but has yet to live up to the hype during the season. I don’t think this is likely to change. More likely to me would be Clemons sliding to the outside and some of the freshmen, who are better suited for the slot, see the field at slot receiver. The three players likely competing for playing time there are Terrence Robinson, Michael Shaw, and Martavious Odoms. I know little else about these guys other than they are fast little fucks who should be able to best use their skills in the spread.
TE: B/B+ (with good depth)
Carson Butler, he of the alleged “St. Patrick’s Day Nerd Massacre” where a couple football players beat the shit out of some kid in West Quad, will be the starting TE. He is a pretty good pass catcher, especially off play action, but was the definition of a terrible blocker. In the new offense, he will be flexed out most the time (as opposed to lining up next to the OT) which is better suited for him since it will take advantage of his pass catching abilities and should simplify his blocking assignments. Mike Massey is recovering from an injury and is the backup. He sucks and hopefully will not play much because he sucks. He is not as terrible at blocking as Butler is though. Behind these two, we are pretty deep with four former 4-star recruits (1 soph, 1 rs fresh, 2 fresh). Martell Webb is the most likely of the bunch to see playing time this year, hopefully passing up Massey in the depth chart. At least one of the freshman will/should be redshirted.
Although this group performed well at the spring game against a very good DL, this is a position with maybe the most uncertainty. All but one starter is returning which is not a good sign since he played horribly last year. We lost players to graduation (Long, Kraus), to transfer (since he couldn't deal with the new staff's intensity, Justin Boren also decided to be a bitch ass and transferred to OSU), and to general fatness and laziness (Mitchell, Ciulla). As such, there will be redshirt upperclassmen starting who lack much experience and freshmen as backups due to the mass exodus of linemen.
Mark Ortman will be starting at LT and there will obviously be a large drop off from the all-world tackle Jake Long. Ortman was only a 3-star recruit coming out of high school, which is not a good sign for the most important position on the OL. However, he has some experience as he was the first off the bench last year and started a game or two at RT. He did not really do anything to stand out, which means he was not dominant, but at the same time did not consistently get beat by the defense. The kid wears pads that make him look like an unauthentic hunchback.
On the right side, the line returns its only starter from last year, Steve Schilling. He had a terrible season in both run and pass blocking. I can come up with two (biased?) justifications for his failure besides the fact he was a RS freshman starter. First, he had injuries and mono his redshirt year and consequently he was not able to get big/strong enough for last season. Second, he switched between RG and RT which stunted his learning curve. He has since apparently stayed STD-free and has likely gotten into better shape like the rest of the team. With a year of starting experience, strength training, and focusing on one position, he should be able to begin to develop like was originally projected coming out of high school (like a “can’t miss prospect”). I think if he performs well, Schilling will eventually be moved to the left side unless . . .
Dan O’Neill takes over as LT in the near future. Regardless, expect O’Neil, a true freshman and one of the top tackles in his class, to be the first back up for the tackle spots. Nearly all lineman redshirt, but he may need to play out of necessity and might be better than the options we currently have on the team and more physically prepared than the other freshmen. Sophomore Perry Dorrestein is also an option here, but I expect O’Neill to beat him out, at the very latest by mid-season, for the backup role.
It looks like the starting LG will be Tim McAvoy. He got some playing time last year in the RG rotation. So many players rotated in and out of that spot that I can’t honestly recall how well he played. However, he is another redshirt junior without much experience who is a former 3-star recruit, so don’t expect too much.
The RG position should be manned by Cory Zirbel. He is yet another member of the recruiting class of 2005 that has yet to play much, if at all. Unlike McAvoy and Ortman, he was actually very highly regarded coming into college. For reasons unknown to me, he has not gotten on the field ahead some very questionable competition. It is very possible he sucks or was just in Carr’s doghouse for one reason or another. Offensive line is a position where players sometimes take time to develop and bulk up, so it is still possible that someone highly rated like Zirbel could succeed (or maybe I’m just too biased to admit otherwise).
Michigan has some options on who the backups will be here. One option is to move one of the centers, Moosman or Molk, into one of the guard spots. Mark Huyge and whoever the most prepared of the freshman interior linemen will also be in the mix here. Never a good sign when you have a true freshman in the two-deep.
There is still supposedly some competition at this position, but the leader as of now is David Moosman. He is the fourth redshirt junior expected to start on the OL. While not as highly ranked as Zirbel coming out of college, he still was a 4-star recruit. He has not played much so I don’t really have an opinion to offer. (Side note: Moosman looks like what you would imagine a Moosman to look like. If he and Ortman start, we might have the most deformed looking line in college.) The other player still vying for the starting spot is David Molk. He was out most the spring (I think with mono. This is not a ringing endorsement of the cleanliness of women at Michigan or at least the players’ taste in women.) This time off should set him back in the competition and make it difficult to remove Moosman from the starting spot. He is only a redshirt freshman, but was ranked the #1 center in his class by some (most saw him as a 3-star type though).
The offense should be hit hard by all the talent that left the team which will make transitioning to a new offense even more difficult. Michigan is still Michigan and does have some talented players, especially at the skill positions. Will this matter if the line can’t block or the quarterback isn’t able to make the throws to get it to them? No, but I don’t think the situation is as dire as many fans think. The offense will struggle to start the season, but as the line jells and Threet becomes more comfortable with the offense, we should have a good enough offense to keep us in games considering our defense.
I will have the preview for the defense up by the end of the week.
Forgive me if I'm doing this wrong. Hobos don't normally keep diaries.
Anyway, I was poking around the athletic department begging for change and looking for some Gatorade to help the Wild Irish Rose go down easier and I learned Rich Rod is making Kevin Grady wear a new uniform as a condition of staying on the team.
I think predicting wins and losses over specific teams is slightly insane. Obviously nobody knows or they'd be making money hand over fist in Vegas. But what does make sense to me is predicting the liklihood of beating a particular team. That said, I probably woud've assessed our chances in The Horror at 99%, so take everything here with a grain of salt.
Here are my percent chances of winning each game this season:
- 45% - Utah - I don't like the 1st game thing, and I really don't like the O-line in the first game. Call me crazy. But still, seems like our D could be better, maybe much better, than their offense.
- 90% - Miami (OH) - Could be more, but I'm not more than 90% confident of any game on this schedule.
- 55% - Notre Dame - Obviously more if their first game looks Yakety Sax. That said, I can't help but think they'll be much improved until I see differently. My Dad is an ND fan, so I'm genetically predisposed to fear the worst from them.
- 30% - Wisconsin - Damn them.
- 40% - Illinois - Damn them too.
- 90% - Toledo - Again, I'm not going higher than 90%. We should have far superior talent.
- 66% - Penn State - This could be the year the Zombie busts out, but probably not.
- 30% - MSU - I have a bad feeling this IS the year Little Brother busts out.
- 80% - Purdue - They aren't predicted to do great things, and we have kinda had their number. Like Germany has kinda had Poland's.
- 85% - Minny - They're likely near the bottom of the Big Ten this season. Before anyone asks "why not 90%??", consider that anything 80% or above is a whole lot, and we're just splitting hairs.
- 90% - Northwestern - And here's the other side of the split hair. I don't see Coach Rod losing to another spread offense with superior talent on his side. Threet has more innate ability than any of their QB's, period.
- 10% - Ohio State - Oh how it pains me to admit that percentage. We're a year away, IMHO.
Expected value of wins? Just over 7. Let me know what you think.
Two games down. Now it's a trip to South Bend to take on the Irish, where Notre Dame does it's talking on the field, without excuses of course.
@ Notre Dame -- Sept. 13, 3:30 PM
Utah is a quality opponent, I don't think many people would say otherwise. Notre Dame, however, is UM's first "big" game. In my opinion, Utah is better, but this is Notre Dame - Michigan, at South Bend, when the Irish should be 1-0. You have the winning percentage battle, Notre Dame trying to bounce back from its horrible season, Michigan trying to avoid a similar fall from grace under a new coach, and Weis's "to hell with Michigan" comments to boot.
It's hard to tell what the progression of Michigan's new offense will be, but with a couple tough defenses to start the year, it could just be in South Bend that they start to click. Notre Dame's rush defense was awful last year, and won't be helped by the departure of Trevor Laws. The secondary is supposed to be good, but without Darrin Walls, and after losing Zbikowski (DYK he is a boxer?!) I'm not sold. Notre Dame was second in the nation in pass defense last year, but I'm not sure how tough it is to defend the pass when most teams only have to throw the ball for the first half to build a big lead, and the rest of the teams are service academies that don't throw the ball. Ever.
Even if Michigan hasn't fallen into rhythm offensively, they should be able to move the ball on the ground. Crum is a good linebacker, but he is the only returning starter at LB and one of only two returning starters in the front seven. The young guys, however, are part of some of these highly touted Weis recruiting classes, so we'll see how they develop.
The offense shouldn't need to put up a whole lot of points to win this game. Last season, the Irish offensive line was just plain horrible, giving up 58 sacks, to lead the nation, and win our hearts. At least they can keep Michigan honest with the run, right? Nah, not so much. 2.1 yards per carry and a cloud of dust was their policy last season, which actually may not be all that bad after 58 sacks.
Perennial Heisman hopeful Jimmah Clausen is back at the helm this year. Expect to see him on his back. A lot. And possibly crying. Again, there is plenty of young talent on the offense, but it will come down to giving Clausen some time, and with the blitzing linebackers, combined with the matadors on the O-line, it just isn't going to happen.
One of these young talents to keep an eye on is wideout Duval Kamara. At 6'5" about 210 lbs, he creates a matchup concern with Trent (6'1") and Warren (6') and could be the prime target for some quick passes from Clausen.
Special teams have not been good to Notre Dame recently, and if this thing comes down to the kicking game, Michigan gets a distinct advantage, as Irish kicker Brandon Walker was 1-7 from 30+ yards out last season. I don't see this one coming down to kicking though, as 21 points will probably be enough to win it.
I was lucky enough to be in South Bend two years ago for Michigan's huge win (I even got a picture with Jarrett Irons!!!) and hope to be back again to watch the Wolverines improve to 3-0!
COACH RODRIGUEZ, I AM THE GREAT AND POWERFUL AND ANGRY MICHIGAN SAFETY-HATING GOD (named as such by Brian Cook at MGoBlog, which you should read every day there is new content.)
COACH RODRIGUEZ, YOU SHALL OBEY THESE COMMANDMENTS, CONVENIENTLY WRITTEN IN DESCENDING ORDER OF IMPORTANCE. IF YOU DO SO, I SHALL MELLOW OUT A BIT AND NOT REDUCE YOUR SAFETIES’ KNEES TO WARM RICOTTA CHEESE.
- THOU SHALT RUN A CLEAN PROGRAM. My people do not like NCAA sanctions one bit. For My sakes, we aren’t Alabama. Thou shalt keep it clean, or thou will be smote down with extreme prejudice, including any Ed Martin-types standing in your smoting radius. My people like to think of our program as being honorable, except in recruiting when My people secretly like to see Wilford Brimley frothing.
- THOU SHALT WIN FOOTBALL GAMES. That is thine calling. Get to it.
- THOU SHALT BE A POSITIVE FORCE IN THE PLAYERS’ LIVES. My players should be better off in life having been through thine program. Though that doesn’t always mean getting a degree, it often does. My people want their heroes to be prosperous and successful. Thou shouldst not even consider winning a Fulmer Cup.
- THOU SHALT KEEP TRADITIONS AND STREAKS ALIVE. My people love streaks and traditions of all kinds. Appearances in bowl games, beating Indiana and Penn State, the #1 jersey, record home crowds, the Go Blue banner, non-losing seasons, the Winged Helmet, thou nameth the streak or tradition and My people loveth it.
- THOU SHALT PREVAIL OVER RIVALS. This means over half the time defeating the hated Buckeyes, two out of three against the current Irish regime, and four out of five against Little Brother.
- THOU SHALT NOT BLOW 4TH QUARTER LEADS. My people liketh safety and security, and are not constitutionally equipped to handle late blown leads well. Play good solid defense, and be better conditioned than thine enemy. Scoring early and often also helps.
- THOU SHALT NEVER COACH WITH ARROGANCE. Arrogance is the job of My people, particularly when bossing around their Spartan brethren at work. Understanding that, no sitting starters against a spunky FCS team. No pretending you have talent that meets what thoust wisheth the gameplan to be. No telling the other team exactly what thoust is going to do, then being shocked when they adapt and it doesn’t work. No assuming that all will be OK if you recruit better than the other guy. Take nothing for granted, or incur my wrathful wrath cupcake, covered with little wrath sprinkles!
- THOU SHALT NEVER INTRODUCE MAIZE JERSEYS IN A GAME. This is an abomination against all that is holy, and a bullshit gimmick to boot. Let Notre Dame keep getting beatdowns while wearing a goofy-colored jersey. My people like to win, but prefer to win with class. A bright yellow jersey does not have class.
- THOU SHALT NOT HAVE ANY FORM OF MASCOT. A live Wolverine mascot would be acceptable if it could be trained to rip up stuffed animals in the likeness of the opposing team’s mascot, but that’s not very likely. Then again, maybe Barwis can work that miracle. Did you know he raised wolves?
- THOU SHALT RECRUIT PLAYERS WITH FUNNY NAMES. Shavodrick Beaver is an excellent start. Thoust has a standard to live up to, with Elvis Grbac, Zoltan Mesko, Tshimanga Biakabutuka, and the Sword/Irons/Payne/Steele grouping, among many others. “Dingle/Berry” having consecutive jersey numbers so they would be in proper order in a numerical roster leads me to believe thoust understands this Commandment well.
SO LET IT BE WRITTEN, SO LET IT BE DONE.
(Also, shouldst thou ever run across Reggie Ho in thy travels, please kindly let me know so that I can smite his puppies.)