and... i like them? I think I like them.
darryl stonum is in run dmc
DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE.
Molk, Huyge, Koger
- C David Molk. Rimington winner, four year starter, epic team glue guy, man whose body does not narrow in its transition from shoulders to neck.
- RT Mark Huyge. Not great but consistently unkillable long-term starter who graded out well as a senior and must be replaced by exactly one person.
- TE Kevin Koger. Did not see production increase significantly from RR years; capable of circus catches and routine drops; decent but not spectacular blocker; zero depth behind him.
[serious worry stops here]
- WR Junior Hemingway. Fairly ponderous leaper with inexplicable YAC knack; decent hands; should be replaceable if Darryl Stonum makes it back. Given the lack of swift action to boot after Stonum got pulled over, I assume that is the case. In the event Stonum is dismissed Hemingway moves up to #2.
- WR Martavious Odoms. The very first slot ninja; missed big chunks of the season due to injury and lack of trust from the coaching staff but came on late; mountain goat with arms; Jeremy Gallon is basically Odoms except quicker.
- TE Steve Watson. Used mostly as a blocker. Was okay at it.
[slight worry stops here]
- RB Michael Shaw. BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE
- WR Kelvin Grady. Infrequently targeted slot receiver will be ably replaced by an expanded role for Drew Dileo.
- FB John McColgan. Lost his job to Hopkins mid-year.
- WR Terrance Robinson (maybe). Has a fifth year available but will have to earn it as a gunner on punts.
- RB Michael Cox (in all probability). Fifth year available, but highly unlikely to get it since he can't remember which endzone to run at.
Robinson, Lewan, Fitzgerald
- QB Denard Robinson. Oh my gawd.
- LT Taylor Lewan. Should be the first of two first-team All Big Ten years.
- RB Fitzgerald Toussaint. Will put himself in the conversation for best back in the league.
- RT (presumably) Michael Schofield. Established himself a quality Big Ten OL despite playing out of position at guard. Will likely shift over to tackle, his natural position, because there ain't no one else to play it.
- WR Roy Roundtree. Converted to outside WR and saw production collapse as Worst Waldo plays on which he acquired free 50 yard touchdowns evaporated; still managed some deep balls; should be reliable B+ option as a senior.
- WR Jeremy Gallon. Diminutive guy with extensive quicks; throwback screen merchant; seemingly good hands; cloaking device available.
- OG Patrick Omameh. Struggled early and still too light for Michigan's long term desires; improved his ability to pull by the end of the year.
- OG(?) Ricky Barnum. Won the left guard job over Schofield, who proved an able contributor once Barnum went down with injury; graded out decently before that; may move to center.
- RB Vincent Smith. Uninspiring runner; fantastic pass blocker; also a throwback screen merchant. Third down back.
- FB Stephen Hopkins. Fumble issues threatened to bury him on the bench before midseason shift to FB; tailback-ish agility serves him well; quality option; may have extensive role next year thanks to lack of TEs.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
One Of Three Guys On The Interior Line. The world assumes Schofield is the heir apparent at right tackle. This is a good assumption since the list of scholarship non-freshman, non-Lewan tackles on the roster reads "Michael Schofield." That paves the way for one and a half new starters on the interior.
The half is all but certainly Barnum, who had a few starts early in the season before ankle issues took him out of the lineup. He will start at center or guard, in all likelihood. Candidates for the one include:
- Redshirt freshman Chris Bryant, a 350-pound mauler who needs to trim down if he's going to get on the field.
- Redshirt freshman Jack Miller, a 260-pound dancer who needs to bulk up if he's going to get on the field.
- True freshman Kyle Kalis, a five star reputed to be college-ready like a mofo. Moved to guard at the Army game and seems to acknowledge his long term future is on the inside.
- Redshirt senior Rocko Khoury, the long-presumed replacement for Molk who snapped some balls not so well when suddenly pressed into service against VT. Khoury has a start against Iowa in 2010 to his credit but the buzz is he is not a preferable option.
- Redshirt senior Elliot Mealer. Mealer was a utility guy deployed after Barnum's exit whenever Taylor Lewan needed a limb reattached. He is useful depth but seems likely to be passed by one of the above on the depth chart.
Losing Molk is brutal but finding a serviceable replacement from one of the above three seems likely.
Someone at tight end. With two departures and a bad gamble in last year's recruiting class the only tight ends on the roster are redshirt senior Brandon Moore and redshirt sophomore Ricardo Miller. Moore supposedly has stone hands; his main contribution to last year was blowing his assignment on Michigan's ill-fated fourth and one attempt versus Michigan State. Miller is a converted WR who needs to add 20 pounds if he's going to press for playing time.
Reinforcements will come from two or three freshmen; 280 pound AJ Williams is probably the most pret a porter. He's big, you see, and Devin Funchess is not. Williams spent his senior year of high school impressing people at tackle and is likely to be more of a sixth offensive lineman than a dynamic receiver.
Stonum being indie
Sort of Darryl Stonum, maybe. The WR corps gets a one for one replacement on both of its departed slots and may/should/could return Darryl Stonum, who was suspended for the 2011 season after his second DUI. His latest legal trouble consists of driving to a probation meeting, which may or may not move Hoke's needle.
If he's back, Michigan gets its most physically gifted WR, someone who can beat you over the top and could have an explosive final season on the end of Al Borges's copious deep balls. Or he could be another version of what he's been most of his career: an athlete who doesn't really know how to play WR. Stonum's availability and play is the biggest wildcard on the 2012 offense.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 1972
Senior Denard, you'd think. Robinson panicked and reverted against the swarming VT defense; before that he'd put together a solid second half as he began to understand the offense and maybe possibly got healthy. With another year in the system he should improve on his throwing numbers.
Tailback, probably. Fitzgerald Toussaint is for real as long as he's healthy and Vincent Smith is a quality third down back. Depth still looks hairy.
The starting tackles. Lewan was impenetrable this year and Schofield had a strong debut at guard. Dollars to donuts they're the best bookends in the conference.
Going from year one to year two with the same coaches. Everyone was a freshman last year. Now they've got some sophomores.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 2012
Tight end. After a couple years playing with Koger and Martell Webb it appeared that Rodriguez had come around on the idea of tight ends, as he recruited a half-dozen over the course of his last year at Michigan. Unfortunately, he struck out on all of them. When Hoke came in he grabbed Arkansas decommit Chris Barnett without checking into the guy; he was gone before his first fall camp ended.
With Koger and Watson out the door, this leaves very little at a position Borges loves. Fifth-year-senior-to-be Brandon Moore's most significant contribution to the 2011 season was busting his assignment on Michigan's ill-fated fourth and one against Michigan State; he's the only tight end on the roster now. To bolster that depth Michigan will bring in two or three in the fall and I bet you a dollar a defensive lineman with a Z in his last name finds himself on the other side of the ball this spring.
This does not mean things can be expected to go well here.
Offensive line depth. Rodriguez's 0-fer on the OL two years ago really begins to squeeze in 2012. The interior will probably be fine, with three of Khoury/Mealer/Bryant/Miller available to spot any starters that go out. Five-star freshman Kyle Kalis turns out to be 6'4" and is talking about how much he likes guard; plugging him in there will probably not be a disaster.
It's at tackle where there is a terrifying cliff after the starters. Past a couple of guys who could end up bookending the All Big Ten OL there is nothing but walk-ons and true freshmen. Michigan's best bet in the event of an injury to Lewan or Schofield is probably flipping Barnum or Omameh outside.
Gamebreakers at WR. Stonum, Roundtree, and Gallon isn't the worst unit Michigan's run out at WR in the past decade or so but it's no Edwards, Avant, and Breaston. Stonum's breakout junior year was only a breakout relative to his underclass performance: 49 catches for 633 yards.
WHAT'S HEISENBERG ROD STEWART UNCERTAINTY
Will Borges go with the flow? This blog spent most of the summer demanding a shotgun-exclusive offense that incorporated Borges's passing trees with some of the power blocking Hoke could not stop talking about. By the end of the year that's basically what we got en route to what was probably Michigan's best-ever offensive performance against the Indianapolis-Fort Wayne Mad Antz. The numbers, helpfully recompiled by Seth* after that game, are stark:
|Formation||Pass YPA||Run YPA||Total YPA|
The Ace numbers are a small sample and are heavily dependent on Fitzgerald Toussaint's long jet in the Purdue game, FWIW.
When Michigan runs from the shotgun, holy pants. Downshifting into the I-Form may be appropriate for short yardage situations and as a change of pace, but that's all it's good for, especially when you consider that Michigan's ripped their tough closing slate for 5.5, 4.5**, and 6.4 yards a carry without dropping into the I for much more than goal line duty. As I said in the OSU game recap, by the end of the year it kind of seemed like the transition costs of moving from Rodriguez to Borges were zero.
So that worked better than anyone expected it to after Michigan learned a couple of harsh lessons. Q: will they accept that verdict in 2012 or try to change it? Despite the clear advantages of running from the shotgun in 2011, it's clear where Borges wants to take the offense long-term. With a lot more BEEFCAKE on the interior line it could work better… but…
[thousand word rant about removing Denard's legs from the equation]
…in the EYE with a FORKING FORK.
How much will Denard progress? It became less about accuracy late in the year and more about just knowing where to go with the ball. His default action when he doesn't know what to do should be take off; instead it's unleashing the deep-ball dragon. Michigan has to find a way to not completely bog down against elite defenses, because a quick glance on the schedule shows quite a few that promise to approach that level.
Will the real Toussaint injury vulnerability please stand up? Brionte Dunn has cast his lot with Test Drive U, leaving Michigan with a non-obvious answer to "what happens if Toussaint is injured?" It could be Vincent Smith but Toussaint's emergence has reminded us all of what a nice bonus it is to have a playmaker at tailback. Thomas Rawls comes Fred Jackson approved, for what that's worth. Justice Hayes is coming off a redshirt year with a lot of recruiting hype… that said he was a great fit for a spread.
MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS
Static yardage-wise, more under center stuff I'll loathe, significantly reduced interceptions from Denard, about the same with less tendency to get totally shut down by top tier Ds. A slight upgrade overall.
*[Is it as much of a relief to everyone else that you no longer have to figure out how to pronounce "Misopogon"?]
**[Nebraska; these totals were depressed by a lot of predictable Michigan plods into the line in the fourth Q. Seth's numbers only include the first three quarters in games closer than 18 points, FWIW, which slashes out big chunks of Minnesota.]
The Darryl Stonum fashion show marches on.
Long drives speak to the team's preparation in practice to execute. "It becomes clockwork, and I think that's what we do - we execute very well and that just goes to how well-coached we are... Wherever we are on the field, we feel like we can execute at any time." The offense is explosive. "I think it's 'no limits' when we execute."
Kelvin Grady has been working hard on the field and in the weightroom. He's catching and blocking well. "He's a lot more comfortable - as well as all of us."
This offense is fun because there are so many options. "You never know who's going to be the one having a big game."
The collapse last year is motivation to keep working hard this year. "We can't get our heads big right now. Like Coach Rod said - we can't swallow the poison."
"I think we're just together as a team... it's a family atmosphere in the locker room." Everyone is comfortable with each other, and they're able to have fun out there.
"Troy's happy... He wants to get back out there with us so bad." He'll be on the sidelines as soon as he can.
Haven't watched any Indiana film. "I'm pretty sure Indiana's a great team, and they're gonna be a great team for us to play this week."
Grady will graduate in December and start working on a Master's.
"I actually smiled" when he saw the penalty flag calling back his touchdown. "It's one of those things where - it happens." Felt good to score, even if it didn't end up counting.
Feels comfortable in the system. Has had the opportunity to play three different positions. Understanding the other positions had made him more comfortable at slot.
"I'm blessed to be able to get to different positions and learn other positions." Now he has the experience to help younger guys out.
"We're gonna go in this week and we're gonna work hard." Playing Indiana is no different than another opponent.
Avoiding team's recent struggles in Big Ten play? More guys are interested in their individual role on the team. Some guys have stepped up. "Darry Stonum has really stepped up this year for us." Mike Martin has stepped up on D, and the DB corps is getting better all the time.
Is Denard at 75% healthy faster than most QBs? "I'd take 25% Shoelace as faster than most quarterbacks." He's worked hard to step up. Devin and Tate came in and showed the depth at the position. "It's very key" to have the quality of backups Michigan has. "This game is more about patience. Obviously we have Denard that's stepped up and is doing very well for this team. But we've also got a 12-game starter as his backup." There are plenty of guys to step up.
Success on the ground: "I feel like we have weapons all over the place." It helps to have a fast QB.
"Being 1-7 is something obviously we don't want to look back on." Use it as motivation for this season.
"Denard is really humble. A really humble kid. Sometimes, I think we actually - I don't think he recognizes or knows the accolades." They tease him that he doesn't even know he's on TV every 10 minutes. "A great person, a great teammate. Humble, has great faith. It's all positive." He's not selfish - wants to see the other QBs play well.
"Did you see those glasses? They were awesome."
Starting "was the goal as a redshirt freshman." It's been a blessing to get the opportunity, glad to be out there. "You're just way more into the game." It was frustrating against Penn State last year, because there was nothing he could do. "The biggest thing is I can help change."
Working out with Barwis helped Lewan - "really just fueled the fire." Worked on strength, speed, quickness, using everything he has to his advantage.
Jersey number - "When I actually committed, one of the things was, 'I want #77.'" Didn't know much about Jake Long until after he started wearing the number in high school. Watched Long play for the Dolphins last night: "He does it all, and that's awesome." Saw Long once last year on the sidelines. "That's a very large individual."
Favorite thing about Ann Arbor is all the different people. See all sorts of interesting people.
Balancing mean streak with avoiding penalties. In high school, got probably three penalties a game. Need to be nasty, but also smart. "When I go out there, I'm trying to be as mean as possible, and make sure nobody's having a good time when they're playing against us."
Lewan's dad gives him constructive criticism after every game.
"We were 4-0 last year at this time. We've gotta keep out head down, keep playing."
The QBs are playing like seniors. "They're playing like champions, and that's awesome."
Zac Ciullo has probably never played a snap [Ed: Got in at left guard during CONESTRAVAGANZA '09], but he's a huge leader out there. He has great work ethic. "He works harder than every other person on this team."
The OL blocks equally hard for all three QBs. "I'm gonna do what I can to protect them no matter what."
At first, Lewan was bitter to lose the LT competition in camp. "It just made me work harder."
Likes left tackle because they get all the attention of the offensive linemen.
"I feel like I just turn off my head and play football" to get the mean streak going.
Ryan Van Bergen
"I think it's a more mature 4-0 team. I think it's a hungry 4-0 team. A lot of guys on this team have been 4-0 before and didn't accomplish a lot of things they wanted to ."
Chappell is an experienced QB. Have to account for him on every play, they protect him well.
Young guys on D. "I think that the play of Thomas Gordon" has been a pleasant surprise. When Carvin went down, he stepped up. They'll compete when Carvin returns.
Lewan: "He's a pretty physical guy. I'll give him credit." Joked with him a lot that he'd never get big enough to play, but that motivated him. They've exchanged blows in practice, but are still friends after. "The ceiling for him is really high. I think he's got a lot of potential."
Facing Denard in practice is helpful, because you're never going to see a guy like that in the opposition. Helps learn pursuit angles, but it's frustrating to chase him on D.
"I think it's a common misconception that if you play to your assignment, you can get to Denard. That's why we have him out there, because he breaks your assignment."
Martin - "Since he's playing in that 0 head-up on the center..." people are doubling him up, but they don't get there in time because he can get rid of the center before the guard can get over. Credits his quickness to wrestling.
RVB's role on the D is to help break down the Xs and Os for the younger guys.
RVB's mom is telling him to keep it up. "She's happy with the way we've been playing."
Lewan competes on each and every play, he shows the nasty streak in practices.
The D knew they had to come out aggressive to improve from the UMass game. Worked on tackling, but still need more improvement. "A lot better energy going into the game, and I just think we were a lot more focused."
The defense is versatile, they have a lot of different schemes, and can put guys in many positions to make plays. Can disguise things, etc.
"We definitely remember what it was like 4-0 last year. We know this year we can't get our heads big." Need to continue to progress.
"Playing at Notre Dame was a great experience." It gave the young guys a chance to get ready for a hostile atmosphere.
Indiana is a Big Ten team, the Wolverines can't look ahead to MSU. "No chance. We look at each game like it's the most important game of the season."
IU's receivers are another challenge to step up to. "They're definitely a talented bunch."