"He's a hard worker, and he watched me and Tim (Hardaway Jr.) and Nik (Stauksas) put work in to become (first-round picks), and I'm just happy he's getting better," Burke said. "It's great for the program, too. It shows what type of program the University of Michigan is and the direction it continues to go in."
With a HT to YOST
Most of us are hoping for at least a winning record this season, getting Michigan into its 5,000th straight bowl game and giving us hope for great things to come as the Rodriguez Era progresses. Well, my first shot at a diary entry will be a Notre Dame fan-esque outlook for the Utah game, with a similar entry to follow for each game leading up to our trip to the rural Mississippi of the north, the Horseshoe. Do I think this will be how it plays out? No, but I'll be trying to convince myself for the next month that UM can start 11-0...and convince you too, one game at a time.
Utah -- August 30, 3:30
Even after that game from last year, the Big House remains an intimidating force for visitors to deal with. Especially since none of these Utes have played in Michigan Stadium (2002 was the only meeting between the teams). Utah's current players have played tough road games against BCS conference teams at UCLA (L) and at Louisville (W). Michigan Stadium on Saturday August 30th has potential to be mentioned with some of the loudest games that we've been reading about on MGoBoard, and if Michigan grabs the lead, or makes a few plays defensively, the crowd will be an even bigger advantage.
It is also hard to imagine this team coming out as flat emotionally as it did last year. Barwis may actually eat a live Mormon child in the locker room before the game. Notwithstanding that display, these kids are going to be fired up. There will be a level of passion out there that we have rarely seen the past few years, and I mean from everyone, not just one or two guys trying to fire the rest up. Don't be surprised if Brandon Graham "aggravates" Brian Johnson's shoulder injury.
Speaking of the injury to the quarterback's throwing arm, we all remember the last time a QB tried playing through a shoulder injury at the Big House. Even if Johnson's injury is a non-factor by late August, Trent and Warren form one of the best cover duos in the country and it will be tough to pass on them. Utah seems to have a load of running backs led by Darrell Mack, a bruiser who ran for over 1,200 yards last year. With four returning O-linemen, the Utes will rely on the run to set up the pass. If Taylor really has bought into the new staff, he should be ready to start game one, rounding out (but not in the same sense as last year) our D-line. I think the line gives Utah's O-line fits and lets our young LBs run around and make plays.
Defensively, from the early scouting reports I've seen it looks like Utah is weak at DT and lost three linebackers from last season. The LB inexperience is bad news for them against UM's offense. Bite on a play fake and a slot WR will have one man to beat for six. The Utah defense was pretty good statistically last year, but it did give up 32 to Navy in one of the more exciting bowl games of the season. I'm not sure how athletic these new LBs are for Utah, and I'm no expert on defending the spread (God knows I haven't seen it done well recently), but I would think you need speed and good instincts as a LB against the spread. I don't think they'll have enough of either.
Overall, the defense will win the day against Utah. UM will make enough plays to keep the crowd going and this thing will be about a 10 point win, maybe a lot more if we catch some breaks early.
I know it's way early to get a good idea of how the game will shake out, but those are my thoughts as of today. Mr. Steele obviously disagrees with any rosy predictions I may have as he has Utah ranked 14th preseason. Wow.
They messed up the grades!
So I am bored off my ass at work and stumbled to espn.com to see what the "blue ribbon review" said about everyone's favorite football team! Here is the link:
I like the article (but the grades for the O and D should be Swaped. I was impressed that all of these guys are looking good and getting some positive comments from Rich Rod. I believe we go 9-3 this year... i believe that Rich Rod will get the best out of these guys... some of whom were his type of player in HS but then came to M and were molded in the old ways.
My take on what to look for this year (very, very general):
- we will be much faster at all positions, leaving the opposition in the big ten scratching their collective arsses
- a lot of the guys that were over looked under the last regime will really start to show their skill now that they are all on a level playing field
- terrance taylor being the lineman of the year now that he is svelt (sp?)
- the defense will be damn good - we all know this - but I feel that they will look just as overwhelming as the 06 d
- rich rod shutting up his critics... and showing the experts that M has more skill than what is being said
- Mike Barwis submitting a grizzly bear at Half Time with an arm bar at the 15:05 mark, this is after a few elbows and knees to the head (he tries a guiliteen hold that fails - it is a grizzley bear after all)...
Pretty general but hey just because I am bored does not mean I do not have work to do!
Look Brian I used the bulletts! (and some bold!)
After losing so many starters and back-ups, it is an obvious area of worry.
How bad is the situation? I'll look at the bad, the good, and then the questions. Many facts taken from Phil Steele and other previews.
- Long, Kraus, Boren, Mitchell (5 starts), Ciulla (5 starts) lost.
- Number of returning career starts for the whole offensive line is 118th in the NCAA (16: 13 for Schilling, 2 for Ortmann, 1 for McAvoy).
- Learning a new offense.
- Only 8-9 scholarship players, not counting true freshmen (of which, maybe only one or two have the size/skill to play immediately).
- Some of the projected starters are the kind of disappearing late-career players that would be the like of Doug Dutch acting as a starting CB or Anton Campbell starting at RB last year.
- The 4 new starters are all 4th year juniors. They are not 260 pound true freshmen.
- The 5 projected starters (Moosman-McAvoy-Zirbel-Schilling-Ortmann) were all highly rated coming out of high school. In Phil Steele parlance, VHTs. Let's compare their recruiting rankings, using the Phil Steele composite, to projected starters from schools like Texas and Ohio State. All are as OL unless noted.
Michigan: #39, #44, #20, #4, #33TE
Ohio State: #24, #25, #46, #6 (Adams, #39 [Browning] if not), #2
Texas: #35, #10, #55, #28, #23
As you can see, there is no significant difference.
- 6 true frosh are coming in, 4 of whom were very highly touted (4-5 star). At the very least, one would think Dann O'Neill has the size and skill and experience (played in a similar offense) to be a solid 2nd string and perhaps supplant another starter towards the end of the season. An OL starting as a true frosh is quite rare, but becoming less rare as HS programs become more sophisticated.
- Are these four new junior starters talented players who were just waiting their turn, or talented players overlooked by the previous coaching staff.... or, talented HS players who just don't have the skills to become real Big 10 starters?
- Will the new staff develop OL talent better? Others have pointed out the decline in Michigan OL quality and NFL draft picks recently, despite high quality recruiting.
- Injuries... the starters might be decent, but if a couple go down with injuries, who takes their place? There are a bunch of MAC-quality walk-ons/scholarship players (Huyge #275 OL in his class, Nowicki #233), plus 282 pound redshirt frosh Molk, plus the true frosh, plus Dorrestein on the outside. If you Molk and O'Neill have to see playing time on the inside and outside, respectively, this would probably be okay. But Nowicki, Huyge and Dorrestein?
- How will the freshmen develop?
- Does the new offense put less emphasis on high-quality pass-blocking skills (hard for a young player or MAC-level player to handle to handle) and more emphasis on Ninja Football trickery that an average OL can handle?
I look forward to comments from those who know football better and those who can correct any factual errors.
After reading the mgo.licio.us article about Penn State and their supposed "Spread HD", there was an inset link to this article: http://www.altoonamirror.com/page/content.detail/id/509133.html?nav=5017
If you replaced "Joe Paterno" with "Lloyd Carr" and each corresponding PSU person with its Michigan equivalent, it would still sound just about right. (even the part about not throwing passes over the middle).
My opinion of why Michigan has always been successful against PSU was that it was looking at a mirror-image of itself. While Michigan typically struggled against teams that didn't employ their Pro-Style offense, Penn State's straightforward "conservative" playcalling played right into Michigan's hands. Of course, while we as Michigan fans could grumble about it from our own perspectives, it's always interesting to hear the same words being said about another team with similar deficiencies (hence, the Altoona Mirror Article linked above). Here's an excerpt of how it could have read if it were written about Lloyd Carr-era Michigan Football:
ANN ARBOR - Michigan can have all the offensive weapons in the world, but it won't matter if Lloyd Carr insists on being conservative.
Carr needs to do several things for the intriguing new Run, Run, Pass, Punt offense to be most effective:
* He needs to let his playmakers make plays.
* He needs to give Mike DeBord freedom to call plays that actually surprise defenses.
* He needs to allow his offense to take some chances on the road rather than constantly trying to win defensive battles.
If Carr refuses to take full advantage of his offensive weapons, Michigan will have another mediocre season. (And yes, 9-4 should be considered mediocre at UM.)