This list is completely arbitrary and not a genuine analysis of the relative merits of state fossils.
Photo from Media Day 2010 by Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com.
LtoR: Phil Monolo, Stephen Hopkins, Michael Shaw, Fred Jackson, Fitgerald Toussaint, John McColgan, Vincent Smith. Not pictured: Cox.
Scheduling note: I'm gonna start separating the Dear Diary and rambling musings/studies/logorrhea stuff into two separate weekly posts. DD is moving to Friday to service your weekend reading demands, with the other stuff (name suggestions?) on Tuesdays. Also I'm going to try to make these ramblings less wordy, starting…uh, next time.
By now you know the meme: Fred Jackson likes to hyperbolize his running backs. This being the most active position battle, I figured a review of Jackson's current stud stable of studly running studs, half-studs and tail-studs might be in order.
Close your eyes, think of your favorite Michigan back of all time, and then imagine he's FASTER:
Mike Hart/Jamie Morris, Except Faster and More Agile!
Alias: #2 Vincent Smith (Jr/Jr)
Video evidence of reincarnation:
This is not the greatest song in the world; this is just a tribute.
Omameh and Molk do the hard stuff but watch Smith do a Hart-y shoulder thing then almost get caught by a Hoosier DB.
Style: Pahokeean scat-back who can catch. Vincent is small, like Hart, and plays with ♥, like Hart, but when Smith tries to burrow the pile forward like Hart he looks like a 6-year-old trying with all his might to batter 10-year-olds, ie he ends up earning more respect than yards. And there's this:
* Yeah right.
Darren Sproles would be more accurate. I just can't think of another jackrabbit, and honestly I think he's more Hart than Jamie, except Hart is more like Jamie than Smith. Before his injury Smith was a vintage spread scatty RB who could also be a devastating receiver in the flat. He can jump out of a run into a big lateral juke and accelerate faster than any other back from a dead stop.
Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: It's 3rd and 8, and that nickel back needs some strong incentive to keep him from blitzing or dropping back to help cover the slant.
Is he THE ONE? Smith's nominally the returning starter and also the leader in rushes, career yards, and receptions/rec yards among the RBs. But probably not, since he's leeeetle, and physics. If the Spring Game is any evidence I-form man-ball means sending the RB into the 2nd level with Force, which is acceleration times something Smith lacks. Jackson says he's chosen a 3rd down back and inference leads to obviously Smith, therefore Smith's not the every-down back.
Mike Hart, Except Faster, and Bigger, and like Chris Perry…
Or Lawrence Ricks. Except Faster.
Alias: #28 Fitzgerald Toussaint (So/Jr)
Video evidence of reincarnation:
Just a freshman…
Having trouble with time stamps. There's a good one of Ricks at 38 seconds, but the whole day's basically Ricks rushes broken up by great defense and AC highlights so deal.
FWIW that BG defensive back is actually pretty fast.
"Michael Hart ability with speed. The kind of guy that can do Michael's cuts, he can sit down, sink his hips and explode by making steps. He's faster than Mike and a very, very tough guy, like Mike was. He's very similar to Mike. He's not the type of inside runner Mike was -- but he's going to get there."
"He's got great feet, acceleration, strength, power," Jackson said. "I can compare him to somebody -- he's like a fast Chris Perry. He's going to be very good."
Style: I keep hearing people say Hart and I see it in that Fitz has those same thick, powerful legs that put his center of gravity lower than Pat Massey can bend. But Hart was sly with subtle plants that threw off tackle attempts. Fitz's highlight reel is full of knee-poppers and sideways slides he used to make lower-division Ohio high schoolers look like fools the way Barry Sanders made NFL players look like fools. Makes great moves and great cuts. Vision is unknown – he ran and reacted in high school. Then he goes to plaid.
Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: The practice hype (it started swelling last year at this time as well) turns into Fitz Toussaint atop the roster.
Is he THE ONE? The shift to I-formations and man blocking seems to favor him over Brown or Smith, but he's still a guy made for picking through zone, not taking on linebackers with his face.
Carlos Brown, Except Faster
Alias: #20 Michael Shaw (Sr/Sr)
Video evidence of reincarnation:
Style: Glider who runs upright and a little leaned back, waiting to unleash a ridiculous gashing move from which he accelerates like an overused metaphor at the Woodward Dream Cruise. The move can be used to clear traffic or cutback, but with Shaw, like Brown, you only get to press the juke button once, and then you're mashing speed boost. Track star speed plus that move make him murder on bad teams.
Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: The playside hole is blocked perfectly and the backside DE for whatever reason (out of position, MACrificial) might not get there in time to fill before it's open green to the end zone.
Is he THE ONE? Probably not, but when you say "change of pace" back, Shaw is exactly what you're talking about. The kill-shot or bust nature of the slasher means they usually come paired with a softening agent: Carlos Brown & Brandon Minor, Tony Boles & Leroy Hoard (& Morris), Butch Woolfolk & Stan Edwards, Woody Allen & Bette Midler. Shaw will push a pile a bit and isn't as shoelace trippy as Brown was, but other guys can do much more with less. My sense is he's best deployed when the defense is way overmatched against Michigan's blocking, either because they're exhausted from chasing Smith/Toussaint and being battered by Hopkins, or because they aren't so good to begin with.
Jerome Bettis/Leroy Hoard, Except Faster
Alias: #33 Stephen Hopkins (So/So)
Video evidence of reincarnation:
FF to 1:28 for Hoard. Optional: stand out in the middle of U.S. 23.
Where's Keith Jackson with his rising"He's a HOSS!" when you need him?
Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when:
Also when the offensive line has done its job, but so has the defense, and that means there's a linebacker headed for the same, only hole the running back can go through, and physics takes over.
Is he THE ONE? Well he might not be available early, and in a crowd that could hurt. Hopkins earned more carries as his freshman season went on. The offense seems to 'liek mudkipz' (I have no idea if I got this reference right). Count me among those holding back on visions of Wheatley (who was a bona fide track star as well as bruiser) or A-Train, who ran high and fell forward for those extra yards. Hoard but faster could be accurate, and not at all a bad thing.
Tshimanga Biakabutuka & Chris Perry, Except Faster & Stronger
Alias: #15 Michael Cox (Jr/Sr)
Video evidence of reincarnation:
You knew this was coming.
Just flip to a random spot, it's probably Perry running for 8 yards.
Somebody's been messing with the sliders on Junior Varsity mode.
Style: Like Shaw/Brown he waits for the opponent to make a mistake he can exploit before hitting the gas pedal (Perry would just go). But Cox is built much thicker than the pure speed guys, and while he can burn in his way, he can also use his thick build for power. His main asset is great balance, which makes him hard to take down without crazy moves, and that's where the Biakabutuka reference comes in. Plus I wanted to link that video of him tearing apart Ohio State again because I was 15 when that happened and not yet sure if it's okay to develop strong feelings for people who dismantle Ohio State. I am pretty sure it's not okay to do so for people who dismantle Delaware State.
Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: You're drafting your 3-on-3 basketball team.
Is he THE ONE? Practice word since freshman year is he's the most naturally gifted, but practice hype from teammates et al. is refuted by observer reports mentioning Cox running the wrong direction, and missing his lanes. Latest is he's learning the playbook and might challenge later on. OTOH the guy does have ridiculous balance, and has broken a long one in every game he's appeared. On the other-other hand, most of his career yards were gained with Cone in at QB making DO throws to LaTerryal Savoy and Anthony Reyes. Unless he makes his move this year, this former camp offer from nowhere likely ends up a running back Notorious C.O.N.E.
Mark Ingram, Except Faster
Alias: #38 Thomas Rawls (Fr/Fr)
Video evidence of reincarnation:
Look how slow highlight reels were before high school coaches learned about 1.2x playback.
Hurray for "Higlights!"
Style: He's 5'10 and almost 230 lbs. as a freshman. That means lots of mass relatively low to the ground. He makes that lower, giving Rawls the same P.J. Hill-ishness that makes guys bounce off him.
Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: This guy was born to run between the tackles.
Is he THE ONE? Thickly built backs like him tend to be early-playable since their game is pretty straightforward. Watch Ingram's highlight reel – or Clarett's – as underclassmen. Such men are immune to arm tackling. To anyone not from Flint or with the last name Jackson, Rawls is almost certainly a lite version of those guys. How lite will determine how useful he is this year, and down the line.
Bobby 'Bomber' Nussbaumer, Except Faster
Alias: #5 Justice Hayes (Fr/Fr)
Evidence of reincarnation:
Actually in Nussbaumer's day bloggers got our video feeds from buying packs of chewing gum with cardboard prints of badly-colored newspaper clippings. Then we swished the cards around so it looked like their subjects were moving…
Reverse from 1948 card:
Halfback – Washington Redskins
Weight—170 lbs. Age—24
…Set all-time Redskin pass-catching record, finishing 2nd in league play to Bud Keane of Bears with 47 passes good for 597 yards. Named All-Big Ten halfback in 1945 while starring for Michigan. Is all-around athlete. Plays baseball, basketball and participates in track.
Style: Kind of like a less hyped McGuffie, no? And like McGuff, he hurdled some fool, and lost most of his senior year to injury.
Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: It's January 2014, Heisman-winning QB Devin Gardner takes the snap and suddenly Tennesse's defense is through the line and coming toward him – but WAIT, it's a screen to Michigan's playmaker Justice Mercury Willie Mays Hayes. He's loose in the open field with just one man – 7'2 safety JAWS – to beat…Hayes leaps OVER him. Touchdown Michigan! Michigan has put this game out of reach and barring a miracle Gardner and Hayes and the Wolverines are going to be your 2013 season National Champions! Hi dad!
Is he THE ONE? As in can he lead us to victory over the machines and free us from the Matrix? Yes. As in will he claim the job in 2011? No. But next year Shaw's gone and then Smith's gone, and Hayes should be a more filled out sophomore.
The smart money says all of these guys except Hayes will probably touch the ball this year. So if you really want to know what Michigan's backs will look like this year, put this on fast forward..
…or watch lots of games from 1980:
Michigan had their first scrimmage over the weekend, and the internet was alive with reports. I've gotten a couple emails and the board had a few things I'm attempting to follow up on to determine if they're independent reports or just regurgitation. For now, a few items that seem to be reliable across the spectrum.
Will Campbell is not happening. The Nathan Brink hype was an early indication of that and reports from the scrimmage talk about him more than Campbell. It seems highly likely Ryan Van Bergen starts the year at three tech with Brink the starting SDE. According to one source Campbell is "barely playing with the twos." Maybe Rodriguez and company weren't wrong to move Campbell to offensive line last year.
Obviously, that's bad. The DL was paper thin even when Campbell was supposed to start. Now you've got a walk-on in the starting lineup and Campbell may not even be a plausible backup. At least Van Bergen is somewhere around 290—just fine for three-tech—and Brink is a redshirt sophomore. At 265 he's light for a strongside DE and as a walk-on he's probably not going to do much, but for now we can close our eyes real tight and imagine JJ Watt in a winged helmet.
Yeah… that's the stuff.
Brink appears to have beaten out a healthy, senior Will Heininger, so he's got that going for him. Van Bergen, meanwhile, often spent entire games on the field last year. He's going to have to play ironman again this year.
Fitzgerald Toussaint might be happening. The constant refrain from all practices until the Saturday scrimmage was "there is no running back, Shaw by default, Smith on third downs." Saturday the internet lit up with Toussaint-related exclamation marks.
Could this be a real thing? I think so. Toussaint had a pretty good recruiting rep and his struggles so far have been injury-related. It would be one thing if he was just buried on the depth chart behind meh competition. It's not. Even skeptics have to admit Tousssaint's high school highlights are pretty sweet:
Though his competition level was not good he has the track chops to prove that speed you see is not an illusion. He was the 60M Ohio state champ as senior in high school and put up a 10.59 100 meter. The guy can go.
He's more of a slashing zone runner than a horse to run power with, but I don't see any horses to run power with who aren't conspicuously omitted from all reports except dark mutterings about being in the doghouse and missing the WMU game via suspension. If Toussaint is the guy Borges might shrug and run a crapton of zone—it's not like the media will notice.
Roh skepticism ominous. I hope Craig Roh's sickness is the main reason he's come in for a round of "is that all there is?" from the internet, because Michigan needs him. There was one weird report that Roh was playing a three-tech in certain situations—passing downs, I'd hope. That might have been a bit garbled—possibly a three-man front with a very technical linebacker for deployment against the spread.
That's something I am 100% in favor of, BTW. Michigan never got a handle on spread teams under Herrmann and it might be a little worrying if Mattison wasn't reacting to the great trend in college football lo these many years.
Hype magnets. Freshman and new faces getting buzz include:
- WDE Frank Clark, who has been getting some first-team snaps in the passing down package. Seems like he'll be deployed as a situational rusher this year.
- WLBs Brandin Hawthorne and Desmond Morgan(?!). Hawthorne's been running with the ones in practice glimpses and there are scattered reports Morgan is also getting time there. If those are accurate, just moving Morgan to WLB when he seems much better suited for the middle is an indication neither Mike Jones or Brandon Herron is impressing and they are scrambling to fill the spot with someone, anyone. Aaigh Kellen Jones.
- WR Jeremy Gallon has made a move. I'm not sure how much room there is for him at WR since there are already two 5'9" guys ahead of him on the depth chart, though. And putting him back to return punts seems like asking for it after whatever that was last year.
- More Kenny Demens.
- Michigan's using Steve Watson as an H-back.
- Thomas Rawls has a shoulder injury.
- Courtney Avery seems to be maintaining his lead in the race to start opposite Woolfolk.
- I haven't been able to confirm this so no names, but a linebacker is reportedly not in camp and hasn't been all fall. That might be a prelude to a departure
Insider scuttlebutt espectacular scheduled Saturday. They'll have another one this weekend. This one is open to Motts donors and premium seat holders, which I'm sure Hoke loathes but sometimes dollah dollah bill y'all works in the fan's favor.
If last year is any indication there will be a flood of often-contradictory reports here and elsewhere; I'll pick through them and add impressions from the email.
Notes from Brady Hoke's final press conference before the Spring Game. Photo from file.
Spring game - not enough depth to have a draft "and that would be what we'd wanna do, have the seniors draft." 1s will go against 1s, 2s against 2s. "We'll keep a score of some sort, but there's no scoreboard anyway." Winners get steaks, loser get hot dogs. The teams tied last Saturday. Scrimmage - "It will go until I think we've done enough plays."
Offense and defense will both be on the field the whole time. Al will coach the offense, Greg defense. "So that they can get the mechanics of gameday and getting the plays and personnel in and all that," Borges has been away from the field in the last couple practices.
Alumni returning - "It's great to have all these guys back. I think they've got close to 85 for the flag game they're gonna play. We've got over 300 coming in Friday night for a team meeting."
Team meeting: "We're gonna have a conversation. You know. We're just gonna talk about Michigan football." Introduce the new staff to the former players, and talk about how they're accountable. Current players will not be present.
Held out Saturday - Woolfolk, Floyd, Lewan, Demens, that's about it. Shaw and Molk are both back. Woolfolk has done very little. "He's done some individual drills and stuff like that. He maybe has taken a few snaps in 1-on-1 and a few snaps in 7-on-7." Floyd is behind in his recovery compared to where Woolfolk is.
Hoke always participates in hands-on coaching "I couldn't just walk around and watch stuff."
"We're heading down the home stretch of spring, obviously. We've got two days left to keep evaluating." Mindset, mentality, etc. will still be evaluated in the final two days. "We've made some progress in some of those areas but we're a long way from being the football team we want to be in the fall."
Koger, Herron, RVB leaders. Hard for Molk to assert himself since he's been out so much. "Your definition of a leader can vary. It doesn't have to be a vocal guy."
There's better communication, especially on defense, at this point than there was at the beginning of spring. It starts with communicating changed fronts. "I think that there's a pride that those guys are starting to feel as a defense." Defensive communication - "I think Ryan [Van Bergen] has done a really good job. I think he gets it." Cam Gordon and JB Fitzgerald, Kovacs, Carvin Johnson have been vocal out there.
Defensive coaching chemistry: "It's great. It's like they've coached together forever... As soon as recruiting was over, we started those meetings, how you wanna coach it, how you coach it."
"I think we're OK" with how much they've gotten done this spring. Really depends on how the next two practice days go. "I usually like to compete in 2 minute offense/defense] 3 or 4 times throughout the spring." They'll work that in earlier in fall camp to make sure they get it done.
Individual evaluations with every player, with Hoke and their coordinator and their position coach. "Expectations, where they're at, what they need to do. Where their weight needs to be when they report. What their role right now will be in the fall... The evaluations at the end, believe me, they'll be very specific."
Freshmen contributing this fall: "Really haven't thought about it much yet." Depth concern at OL and DL might provide some opportunities, but it's too early to say. Corner? "Maybe. We'll see. Greg Brown's really, in the last week and a half he's really stepped up." Courtney Avery has stepped up as well.
Lloyd Carr - "He's been over. Hasn't been to a practice, but he's been in and we've talked a little bit. Coach Moeller has been around a little bit, and Coach Hanlon is here every day [laughing]."
Denard and Devin: "I think Devin is a very talented guy and I think he's learned the offense well. I think he's got a good handle on it. There's some consistency we've gotta coach better with." QBs will organize 7-on-7s in the summer. What will Denard take into the summer to work on? Footwork issues, ball mechanics, play action game. He needs to settle his feet on dropbacks. "The mental aspect of getting you in the right plays" based on safety alingment, defensive fronts, etc.
Running back - "I think Hop's had a pretty good spring... Toussaint's been pretty steady." Mike Cox hasn't practiced as much because he has a class during Tuesday practice time "so that doesn't help him." Smith has played well. Incoming freshmen will have a chance to step in. "Hopkins is a guy right now who has been probably the most consistent." He can also line up at FB and do some things there.
Tight ends - they have the guys to run what they want. Koger was out early in spring "but he didn't miss much." He's been good on the line, Ricardo's more of a "move guy" right now. "I think the 4 guys you mentioned [Moore and Watson] all have done a good job in the offense, and that will be an important part of what we do offensively."
Molk - "He's been doing some individual, and then yesterday he did more of some of the team stuff." With Lewan out, Huyge has played both tackle positions, Schofield has been good, Ricky Barnum has been kicked out to tackle a few times. "You have 7 or 8 guys who will form kinda the nucleus of the group."
Rocko Khoury has gotten a lot of good snaps. Omameh has taken most RG snaps, played a little bit at RT. "A guy like David who's played a lot of football, sometimes you need to give snaps to more of those other guys."
Barnum: "I tell ya, Ricky's a good football player. He's a tough kid, he's a smart kid, he plays with good technique. That's why he's a good football player." He's been as consistent as any player up front this spring.
Defensive Linemen: Mike Martin - "He's done a good job. We're doing a couple different things with him." "I think think Will Campbell has made strides, but the consistency has to be there. You know Quinton, I think he's going to be a good football payer here at Michigan."Jibreel Black "Jibreel is a guy that, as his body composition changes a little bit, he's gonna be a good football player. I think him and Craig at the rush have had pretty good springs." Roh has progressed better than they thought this spring.
Linebackers - "Marell's done a pretty good job. We moved Brandon Herron back to a Mike." Mike Jones and Brandin Hawthorne at Will. "Cam Gordon's getting better, and I think Cam will have a very good summer." Jake Ryan also at Sam. Those six plus JB Fitzgerlad who "has started to come along a little bit."
Safety situation is fluid. "Carvin Jonhson, I would say of anybody, and Kovacs" know the defense best. Marvin Robinson has also come in and made plays, along with Thomas Gordon.
Kicking game: "I think it's a work in progress." Everything from snapping, to punting, etc. needs to continue improving. Long snappers are competing. Placekicking is a "huge competition with 4 guys in there." Seth Broekhuizen, Kris Pauloski, Jeremy Ross, and Brendan Gibbons. They kicked 14 or 15 times during last week's competition at the stadium. "They haven't been there probably as much as we'd like for them to." The field is the same indoors, the elements are the only difference. "We've got a lot of work to do in that area of it." Wile will get a chance to compete when he comes in. [Author's note: those two statements weren't said back-to-back, so don't read too much into it. Hoke said every freshman has a chance to compete for playing time].
Nothing will ever bring home how bizarrely intense people get about spring football than Orson's annual in-depth review of Florida's spring game. It's the closest he gets to being a conventional team blogger, a straightforward piece of analysis long enough to be a Marky Mark Mangino post livened up by Orson's tendency to call things a "boiled bag of rat innards". Orson is writing about defensive tackles. It is April and college football is bored.
Michigan's got one of those this weekend and these are the things I'll be extrapolating answers from the tiniest filaments of evidence about:
Is Can Have Tailback
Michigan's tailback last year was Denard Robinson and when it wasn't Denard Robinson it was people being enraged that Vincent Smith wasn't really fast or falling down past the line of scrimmage. This year some variety of pro-style offense will be deployed; having a tailback becomes significantly less optional.
- Vincent Smith, the 5'6" Pahokeean who was the leading non-Robinson rusher last year with 601 yards. He took 136 carries to get those—4.4 per—and struggled badly against anything approximating a good defense.
- Michael Shaw. Carlos Brown 2.0 averaged a full yard per carry more than Smith mostly because he got hurt after the Bowling Green game.
- Michael Cox. The Loch Ness Monster is reputed to be a stallion of a man capable of great feats. Unfortunately he is 50-50 to run towards the correct endzone on any given play.
- Stephen Hopkins. Hopkins had some fumbling issues and only ended up with 37 carries last year but his size made him an effective lead blocker for Robinson and his rushes promised a Minor-like downhill moose down the road. We're a bit further down the road and Hopkins's new head coach loves him some moose.
- Fitzgerald Toussaint. Toussaint has been vaporware in his first two years. Maybe he can stay healthy for the next twenty seconds.
There is also The Greatest Player In The History Of The World According To Two Jacksons. Thomas Rawls enters with the sort of hype you can only get by being a generic late-rising three star coached by Fred Jackson's son and recruited by Fred Jackson. Since he didn't enroll early we won't get to test the Jacksons' theory that Thomas Rawls encompasses the power of the sun and gently warms the earth each morning.
Looking for: A somewhat lighter, faster Hopkins with a grasp of what he should do. He's probably going to be the best back on the roster and he's now in a system that loves/needs a guy like him.
Fearing: Vincent Smith looks pretty much the same and still has a lock on the top TB spot. It's plausible that Smith's injury lingered into last season—remember he tore that ACL during the OSU game, so he had well under a year to get ready—and that he'll display a lot more speed and agility two years removed from it. If that's the case then maybe he can be a decent Big Ten starter. If he's still the same guy he was last year and he's still at the top of the depth chart and he's getting a lot of carries from the I when Denard could be doing something, guh.
Will only believe three games into the season: Cox as Herschel Walker. That guy is never going to play. He's a redshirt junior and couldn't get a carry last year even when half the tailback corps was injured and the rest was Smith and freshman Hopkins. And this is at tailback, the position where you can leap into the starting lineup on day one if, say, you're a human battering ram who runs like a gazelle. The only RB in recent Michigan history to get noticeably better late in his career was Chris Perry. Everyone else was the same guy they always were.
The Roundtree Question
What do you do with the Big Ten's second leading receiver when his production was predicated on the threat of Denard Robinson running and his position only sort of exists in the platonic ideal of a MANBALL offense?
The answer to this is probably "nothing." Borges said something about running a ton of three and four wide this season. Even if that's forced it sounds like Borges is going to roll with it, especially because his best wideout seems most comfortable in the slot—kinda need to have three WRs to have a slot—and the tight ends are sparse and stone-handed. Late-era Carr teams based out of three wide even after Steve Breaston had moved on to the NFL. Borges is more of a bomber than Carrbord and just spent a couple years running one of those "West Coast" offenses that throws damn near everything out there. So… yeah, expect three wideouts.
Okay, then, but the further question is: what will Borges do with the guy? Roundtree went nuts last year when the threat of Denard Robinson sucked safeties up and saw him stunningly wide open against Notre Dame and Indiana and Illinois and several other times besides. Can Borges run what he wants to run and surround Roundtree with nothing but grass?
Looking for: Michigan safeties to fail spectacularly because they can't decide whether to take Denard or stay back. If you can't do it to Michigan safeties you can't do it to anyone.
Fearing: Borges can't evolve the system to keep ahead of defenses and get those almost free touchdowns. I'm sure he can emulate QB Lead Oh Noes but Michigan had to keep re-arranging it to prevent safeties from showing up in the wrong place at the critical moment. Borges is a smart guy but his knowledge is in another arena. I'm not sure he'll be able to create as many opportunities with Denard's legs.
Will only believe three games into the season: Jeremy Gallon on the field.
Okay, You Run Power, But How?
Michigan ran POWER last year. They didn't run it much, but they did use it as a counter to the constant stretch action. It was fairly successful as a changeup. That move was part of the shift in Michigan's offense away from a true zone read to an odd QB-as-TB thing people called "QB iso" and didn't know what to do with—the AP put him on their All-America team as a "back." Like Rodriguez coming into DeBord's already extant stretch offense, Hoke is walking into a situation where his guys have some clue about what the new stuff is.
Unfortunately, we've seen bits and pieces of power plays run from under center in the practice videos that have invariably been stuffed. This is rock hard evidence it is not a good idea. So, like, what I'm saying is that if you've got Denard Robinson and you want to run power you might as well line up in the shotgun and run it with Denard Robinson, right?
A secondary question: how serious is Hoke about his distaste for zone running? He seems like a pretty hands-off guy when it comes to the offense, but if there's one thing he's stressed on that side of the ball it's that the team "will run power" and fullbacks will have their spine compressed and whatnot. This is something of a problem because Michigan has just completed the transition away from hampeople. Mike DeBord installed a zone stretch running game in 2006 and Michigan started recruiting to it. That first class was David Molk and Mark Huyge, now redshirt seniors.
Everyone recruited since has been either a relatively light and mobile spread OL or a prototypical left tackle. The prototype will be fine in any system; guys like Molk and Omameh and Ricky Barnum might not be. If Michigan spends the offseason putting beef on the interior line it might work out… or it might give them a bunch of tweeners not particularly good at anything.
Looking for: QB power.
Fearing: RB power.
Will only believe three games into the season: Michigan guards as effective drive blockers.
It was at last year's spring game that Robinson went from a freak show who should be moved to tailback to a freak show who should be in the Heisman running. He can't improve that much again without melting anyone who watches him, Ark of the Covenant style, but he was still pretty raw last year. He had bouts of drive- and game-crippling inaccuracy; he occasionally joined the Rex Grossman "f*** it, I'm going deep" club; he was restricted to a set of limited routes that teams adapted to as the leaves turned. He should progress. How much?
Looking for: Incremental improvement.
Fearing: Uncomfortable on drops and still prone to chucking slants well behind his receivers.
Will only believe three games into the season: hopefully that Denard Robinson can do anything.
Via UM Media Relations:
OUT (0% PLAY)
Jones, Mike Leg
Shaw, Michael Knee
Toussaint, Fitzgerald Shoulder
Van Slyke, Jared Clavicle
Williams, Mike Head
Woolfolk, Troy Ankle
QUESTIONABLE (50% PLAY)
Ferrara, John Hand
PROBABLE (75% PLAY)
Herron, Brandon Ankle
Johnson, Carvin Knee
Robinson, Denard Knee
As for the gentlemen who are out, we already know Jones, Van Slyke, and Woolfolk are out for the whole year, and Mike Williams may have serious enough concussion issues to be at the end of his football career. Shaw being ruled completely out for the game is a huge setback, and though we don't have tons of information on Toussaint, the coaches certainly would have liked to have him available.
Ferrara is updated to questionable after spending the past few weeks inactive, which is good for him, but he's still down on the depth chart and unlikely to play.
As for the "Probable" contingent, Rodriguez (and OC Calvin Magee) have been saying all week that Shoelace hasn't missed practice all week, and is 100% outside of a bit of soreness. If Herron and/or Johnson can indeed play, that's a boost for the defense, giving Greg Robinson the flexibility with Craig Roh that he really likes.
OUT (0% PLAY)
Ferrara, John Hand
Johnson, Carvin Knee
Van Slyke, Jared Clavicle
Toussaint, Fitzgerald Knee
Woolfolk, Troy Ankle
DOUBTFUL (25% PLAY)
Hemingway, Junior Hamstring
PROBABLE (75% PLAY)
Van Slyke and Woolfolk are out for the year, so no surprises there, and Ferrara was unlikely to contribute. We had a pretty good idea Carvin Johnson was going to be out for 3-6 weeks, so that's not a surprise, though he may be more valuable to the defense than his -4 in this week's UFR might indicate. Toussaint was a "maybe" earlier in the week, so hopefully he'll be back to get a few touches against UMass and Bowling Green before the Big Ten schedule gets going.
As for the two guys who are varying degrees of "maybe," this is a reversal from Rodriguez's statements earlier in the week. If either can go, they'd be good additions to the receiving corps, but there is enough depth at the position (at least with Odoms on the outside and maybe a couple more 2-TE sets) that they'll only go if they're really needed.