this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Here are some thoughts about Michigan after this past weeks game against Iowa.
* Forcier needs to calm down, and listen to Bagger Vance's Advice, "See the field."
* Forcier needs to make it look easy except when he can't.
* Surprized that UofM offensive and defensive lines out played Iowa's lines. Iowa's strength through this year was line play.
* Bigger surprize is that Michigan won in the trenches but lost on the scoreboard.
* Would like to see Shoelace play a couple of series in both halves.
* Brandon Graham is a stud
* Donovan Warren is "the man".
* It is time to readopt preseason hopes; make a decent bowl game.
Lost in all the furore (classy) about the loss today (what? we lost to the 12th ranked team by two in the country on the road; rable, rable, rable...) was the play of Brandon Graham.
Ok, not lost. Everyone knows Graham was a beast. He played as such.
Let's play a game. Let's describe how awesome BG's play was on this day.
Example: Brandon Graham was [insert superlative here] today!!!
Brandon Graham will eat your babies, bitch!
GERG did well with this adjustment. Troy played shut down ball. This allowed us to rush more (the TD on the blitz was a gamble on Mich's part...Williams was not going to cover Moeaki regardless).
Break out game by BG - I think in part because of the firmer secondary.
Yes Williams should have helped Warren on that bomb. But Woolfolk is the new CB. Please no injuries vs. Delaware State!!
The tailgate I am a part of is right along the service road in the East parking lot near where the busses drop the players off for the Victors Walk. A decent number of players also walk past our tailgate post-game. Brandon Graham and his family walked past after the ND game. Brandon shook hands and gave hugs to everyone. Biggest smile on his face and seemed truly happy and willing to stop and say hello to fans. He is easily one of the nicest people I have ever seen when interacting with fans (saw him at Fan Day and after the Western game as well. Our tailgate is in an awesome player spotting location). His parents also stopped and spoke with us for a few minutes. Needless to say they are proud of their son. But when we congratulated them after the game, their response was along the lines of, "No, thank you and all of the fans. This is why he stayed." Talk about a way to cap off the day.
Good to see Brandon Graham checking in at number 25 on Mel Kiper's first Big Board of the season. While the helmet is losing ground and his touch to Todd McShay at ESPN, his research and analysis can be worth something right.
His blurb about Graham is "Awesome athlete and force off the edge."
Link for the whole list (Insider's only)
So here is my attempt to be more analytical about the 2009 season. I am, like everyone else here, very excited to see what this year will bring for the Wolverines. I am fully behind Rich Rod and his staff and believe that they will turn the ship around. Looking at the roster gives me hope as well. It seems to me that most positions will see an upgrade through better players, more experience, and fewer nagging injuries. To really have a breakthrough season though, we will need to see several players step their game up.
Here are the top five players I expect to have a season shaping impact:
- Brandon Graham - An obvious choice when considering impact players, Graham has already reached this level of play. He is probably the only bonafied star on the team (not counting Space Emperors) and will be the player opposing offenses must account for. He plays a position that can cover for our biggest apparent weakness (safeties) by putting consistent pressure on the quarterback, allowing less time for pass plays to develop. The team will feed off of his drive-killing sacks and forced turnovers. His impact alone possibly accounts for an extra win or two.
- Tate Forcier - Again, this is an obvious choice. (Really, I'm not trying to bore you.) Watching the quarterback play last year was mostly depressing, but I really enjoyed the moments where Threet managed to get free for a surprising run. With Tate we can reasonably expect this to occur much more often which will have a huge positive impact on our offensive efficiency. I am not really expecting much more than natural talent shining through here, at least at first, but that should be enough to keep defenses guessing a whole lot more then last year. The fact that he understands the offense from High School and the spring will certainly help speed his development. So even taking into account freshman jitters, Tate should make a huge impact and account for another one or two game improvement in the win column.
- Jonas Mouton - I have been stoked about this guy's potential since his recruitment, and especially since he move to linebacker. These days, with spread offenses of all sorts getting fast little buggers the ball with enough space to run around fools, every defense needs quick linebackers that can cover someone. My memories of the last decade of Michigan Football are littered with big plays for opponents that stem from the short passing game. As a superior athlete and a converted safety, Mouton may be just the defensive answer we have been missing.
- Brandon Minor - So the fumbles and injuries are in the past right? After the way Minor finished the 2008 season, I believe so and that he may have more of an impact than any other single player on the roster. Minor should punish defenders with his hard hitting running style, while grinding out the tough first downs. He might be most effective with carries focused towards the middle of the line, maybe even lining up at fullback. Opposing defenses would be forced to pick their poison, either bringing extra defenders into the box or allowing Minor to gut them up the middle. With all of the hype about "Spread n' Shred," Minor could be the perfect counter. Not to mention this is his last go-round to impress pro scouts.
- Zoltan Mesko - Really? A Punter? Arguably no other player has the chance to impact each and every game as much as Our Venerable Space Emperor (of Space). Without his ability to put footballs into orbit, last year could have been much uglier for the Maize and Blue. Heck, if half of the turnovers on our end were instead booming Zoltan bombs, our defense would have appeared light years better and we probably would have won at least another game or two. I expect that he will average career highs across all punting statistics (except number kicked, hopefully) and suprise many when he fakes several for first downs (and at least one touchdown, you heard it here first!)
Five others I considered:
- Greg Mathews: Probably the most important player for Tate's development, Mathews has already established his ability to run crisp routes and catch tough passes. Will he be the steady target a freshman QB needs?
- Donovan Warren: I still believe that Warren has the tools to be a shutdown corner at this level. Maybe not a Woodson, but possibly a Ty Law sort.
- Martavious Odoms: We all saw how rediculously open Odoms got last year. Now he has someone that can actually hit him, even while scrambling.
- Mike Martin: Can be the disruptive force in the middle to take some of the focus away from Graham. Can have a large impact by consistently blowing up the opponents backfield.
- Steve Shilling: After a second year with Barwis and a third starting on the O-line, Shilling is ready to shine. The move to the interior of the line could help Brandon Minor by allowing him to truck some safeties instead of linebackers.