My first highlight tapes from the two games worth revisiting from last season. Be sure to click the videos to head to YouTube, and then click the 'HD' button in the lower left hand corner.
Looking forward to doing more games this Fall
2008 Wisconsin at Michigan
2008 Michigan at Minnesota
Has anyone heard an explanation for this? I was under the impression he told the coaches last year "you switch me to WR I'm gone." If I had to guess I'd say he could never get the QB-RB exchange right on the PA Read, or maybe it has something to do with the fact that he can't get his weight up. He's only 3 pounds bigger than Roy Roundtwig.
At the start of the season I was nervous about our lack of experience at the skill positions, but at the same time excited to see what the new guys could do, especially because many of them were highly touted recruits. In particular I wanted to see McGuffie and Shaw because they are the kind of backs (smallish and lightning quick)that we do not often see at Michigan playing in an offense that we've never seen at Michigan. I've seen enough of McGuffie now to pass judgement and remain optimistic for the future: he's as quick and fast as we thought, has good vision that will only improve, good ball security, but needs to work on his strength in general so he can better shed tackles and pass protect. However, I do not feel I can do the same with Shaw. He's been an afterthought. We just haven't seen him play that much. (It's not good for him or Stonum that the AA News mislabeled his picture as the latter). This is of course due to injury and fumbling troubles that have buried him on the depth chart, but there is reason to believe that he will not remain there. From everything that we've heard about him he is just to talented. The few instances that he has gotten in the game his speed and quickness have been evident from his very first steps. But how much will we get to see him in the future? Certainly that depends on his own performance on and off the field, but the competition at the running back spot is only going to get tougher (which is ofcourse lovely for all the fans). We already have Minor, McGuffie, Brown, Grady, Cox (the random guy from CT who almost transfered), Mike Milano (just kidding). Next year we'll bring in three more, four if you count Gallon as an RB. So my question remains: how much will Shaw play going forward and to what degree will he maximize his enormous potential?
Just like every Michigan fan, I sat dumbfounded for the first four minutes of the game against Notre Dame on Saturday. Throughout the offseason, Michigan fans were so adamant that Notre Dame is a horrible team. And they were right, to an extent. But none of us thought Michigan would be horrible-er. Michigan dominated every single statistical category on Saturday, except for the two most important ones: turnovers and the scoreboard. Based on this game, a few position battles are finally becoming clear:
QB: Steven Threet vs. Nick Sheridan
Threet started the game this week, and Rodriguez had said that Sheridan would probably get some snaps, too. It turns out that Threet played so well that Sheridan didn't get any snaps until late in the fourth quarter, when the game was already decided and Threet was hobble by a leg injury. In fact, not only did Threet outplay anything Sheridan has done so far this year - he outplayed Notre Dame's 5-star, all-everything golden boy, sophomore quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Threet was 16-for-23 for 179 yards and a touchdown with zero interceptions. Several of those incompletions weren't his fault, either. A couple were straight-out drops by Martavious Odoms and Greg Mathews in the rain; one incompletion should have been a long TD pass to Mathews, but the referee erroneously said Mathews didn't control the ball before it touched the ground. Nick Sheridan entered the game in the fourth quarter and threw two interceptions. One wasn't his fault - it was almost directly at tight end Carson Butler's head, but Butler didn't turn around fast enough - but the other was a floater thrown into double or triple coverage.
Verdict: Threet will be the starter unless his injury causes him to miss significant time.
RB: Sam McGuffie vs. Brandon Minor/Carlos Brown/Kevin Grady/Michael Shaw
If any questions remained after last week's game against Miami (OH), McGuffie answered them this week. McGuffie broke tackles repeatedly on the way to his first career 100 yard game. He had a couple electrifying plays, including a quick screen pass on which he weaved through traffic and bounced off a downfield Perry Dorrestein block to score a 40-yard TD. He also didn't fumble, which was key on a day when Michigan's other players fumbled a ridiculous seven times. Brandon Minor continues to run the ball well - he had a tough 9-yard run - but he also continues to turn the ball over, even though his turnovers might not be his fault. In the Utah game, his "fumble" happened because his forearm hit the ground, which should have ruled him down. In the Notre Dame game, "his" fumble was a quick swing pass that Threet might have thrown too soon; as soon as Minor turned his head around, the ball was almost in his facemask. Minor probably should have caught it, but I think that was a combo effort. Carlos Brown continues to be nagged by small injuries and he's done zilch with his two carries this season. Kevin Grady produces more fumbles than a 16-year-old trying to unclasp a bra for the first time; even though he carried a Notre Dame linebacker on his back for five yards to score a TD, his ball security has been a career-long issue. Shaw has the best pure speed of any of the running backs, but he's currently fighting a groin pull.
Verdict: It's McGuffie's job to lose, but I expect everyone to continue getting an occasional carry.
FS: Steve Brown vs. ANYBODY
I'm not the world's biggest Steve Brown hater. I won't jump on the pile, because he seems like a decent kid and he obviously doesn't mean to make these mistakes (unlike Carson Butler, who ought to be kicked off the team for throwing a punch in the Notre Dame game). But I have a hard time believing that he is far and away the best option at free safety for this Wolverines team. He is probably the best physical specimen that Michigan has had at the position. He's 6' and around 205 lbs. and he has pretty darn good speed. However, anyone can see that he's uncomfortable playing in space. He misses way too many tackles in the open field, and that's exactly what you don't need in a free safety. He should probably move to strong safety and let Brandon Harrison have the free safety spot, because Brown is more effective as a tackler when he's playing downhill and attacking the line of scrimmage. If that can't happen, then the coaches should give fifth year senior Charles Stewart or redshirt freshman Michael Williams or sophomore Artis Chambers a shot. Brown has been neither a ballhawk or a solid tackler, so I see no significant reason to keep him on the field full-time week after week.
Verdict: I would not be surprised to see a switch or a schematic change for the Wisconsin game in two weeks. The coaching staff should know by now that Brown's slip-ups are habits, not flukes.
Amidst all the hype for Mike Barwis in the 2007-08 offseason, one of the most interesting Barwis qualities I heard was this: By doing "prehab" (workouts normally used by physical therapy patients) Barwis and his staff didn't have a serious long-term injury in 2007 at West Virginia. Having spent considerable time in physical therapy for various injuries, I thought this was interesting because I still do exercises I learned in therapy, and I feel much healthier because of them.
I was hoping for a relatively injury-free season, but that has not been the case. Saturday's game against Miami (OH) saw starting left tackle Mark Ortmann go down with a possible dislocated elbow (he was in a cast and a sling after the game) and starting running back Michael Shaw miss most of the game with a pulled groin. These injuries come on the heels of Brandon Minor (hamstring), Carlos Brown (finger, hip, shouler), Greg Mathews (ankle), Junior Hemingway (shoulder, hamstring), and Mark Huyge (ankle) suffering bumps and bruises that have limited their playing time as well.
So far none of these injuries has been crippling. Michigan's stars have stayed healthy, and nobody other than Ortmann seems to be out for an extended period of time. Still, on a team seriously lacking depth, an injury or two to starters could be devastating. Bryant Nowicki, a walk-on, ended the game protecting the blind side of quarterback Nick Sheridan, formerly a walk-on himself. That didn't cause any problems against Miami, but it may if Nowicki plays against more talented teams. I would not be surprised to see right tackle Steve Schilling slide to left tackle for the Notre Dame game next week. And while Sam McGuffie ran the ball fairly well against Miami, it's pretty clear that Michael Shaw is the most dangerous running back Michigan has seen since Tyrone Wheatley.
This is not to say that Mike Barwis is at fault. No matter how strong players get, there will always be injuries. (Just ask that Lithuanian power lifter who became famous for dislocating his elbow during the Olympics.) The team does look faster, stronger, and better conditioned in 2008. But if Michigan continues to suffer even minor injuries for the rest of the season, it's going to be an even longer year than we all thought.
Looking at some of the video from practice, seeing Carlos Brown pitching the ball, and considering things I've seen RichRod run elsewhere, I wonder if there's a "quad option" in the playbook (this is probably a poor name for it).
What I'm envisioning this this: Sheridan in the shotgun with split backs, Minor to his left, Brown to this right. WR split to each side, with Shaw (for example) in the slot to the right.
On the snap, Brown crosses in front of Sheridan in the traditional zone read scheme. If Sheridan hands to Brown, Brown heads off tackle left, with Minor in position to take a pitch. This essentially greats a speed option left.
On the other hand, if Sheridan keeps it, Shaw stutters into a slot option position. So now you have a slot option right. With the right WR on a curl, slant, or other hot route, you also have a quick pass option for Sheridan should need or opportunity arise.
Maybe I need to get more sleep or play less Xbox, but I think this could be coachable and fundamentally sound. When you think about, the QB has no more reads than he would on a typical zone-read triple option, and Brown only has a simple read - keep or pitch.