"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
I didn't even feel tempted to put offense in sarcastic quote marks!
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||2|
|Another of those gap-blocked plays with a puller; this time it's the LT Ortmann. Ferrara(-1) gets shoved back into the path of the pull, which delays Ortmann and allows the linebacker to approach the LOS and tackle relatively unfettered. I don't understand what Moundros is doing on this play; he's lined up as the other FB and goes outside to take on the DE that Ortmann left to pull. Shouldn't he just shoot up into the hole?|
|M22||2||8||I-Form 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Scramble||Threet||5|
|I have to think Odoms runs the wrong route here, because this is a rollout pass on which he runs a circle route to the other side of the field. So there's one guy deep covered and Moundros covered short without anyone between them. Threet has some room and scrambles for a few. (TA, 0, protection NA)|
|M27||3||3||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Hitch||Rogers||Inc|
|Threet wings this wide on what's about an eight-yard hitch. I wouldn't be surprised if Rogers didn't run the route precisely enough, though. This might not be his fault. (IN, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 13 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O45||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||45|
|Key to the play is Schilling's excellent cut block on the backside DT. With the frontside DT crashing hard to the playside, Minor has a major opening between the two. McAvoy (at RG)(+1) gets an excellent cut on one LB; Ferrara comes off the frontside double to block the other LB; Purdue's safety has run himself too far to the stretch side and is in no position to clean up. Touchdown.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 12 min 1st Q. Martavious Odoms returns the ensuing punt for a touchdown.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M25||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Triple option pitch||Shaw||12 (Pen -3)|
|Corner lined up over Odoms blitzes and crashes down on the dive fake as the linebacker to the playside keeps contain on Threet; Threet pitches. Savoy clocks the safety who came up on Odoms, opening up the outside; Shaw heads for a first down; Odoms(-1) gets called for holding. Pretty dumb penalty.|
|M22||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Pass||Wheel||Shaw||Inc|
|Same triple option play action; this time Threet hangs in the pocket. Ortmann(-1) is beaten to the outside by the DE and should probably get called for holding, so Threet has to get rid of the ball. He fails to read the linebacker and chucks it to Shaw, currently exiting the backfield; the linebacker has a pick-six and drops it. Threet could have lofted it over the LB and Shaw would have had twenty or so. (BR, 0, protection 1/2, Ortmann -1)|
|M22||2||13||Shotgun trips||Base 4-3||Penalty||False Start||Molk||-5|
|I think Molk is back in, and actually I wonder if the starting lineups the BTN gave were wrong, with the only change on the line being Ferrara for McAvoy. Anyway, Molk(-1) fails to snap the ball, causing the entire rest of the line to jump.|
|M17||2||18||Shotgun trips||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble screen||Clemons||-2|
|Koger(-1) completely whiffs his block, blowing the play up. (CA, 3, screen)|
|M15||3||20||Shotgun diamond||Base 4-3||Run||QB draw||Threet||5|
|Four receivers bunched in a diamond formation to one side; we saw this from time to time under Carr but not from the shotgun. Threet fakes a screen and runs a QB draw, getting tracked down by the DE after a few yards.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-7, 4 min 1st Q. Well, that was a comedown. Purdue punts, Odoms fumbles it, and Purdue punches it in again. Cissoko gets a good return.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O42||1||10||Shotgun 2-back trips||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||3|
|Our covered receiver formation. The playside DT slants playside, removing the gap Michigan usually attacks, and an attempted scoop by Moosman and Schilling doesn't seal the backside DT. Schilling does push the guy backwards a bit, giving Minor the opportunity to cut it back; the backside DE comes down to tackle. This was "bad scoop" this morning.|
|O39||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||17|
|Exact some thing from the previous play out of a different formation; this time Moosman(+1) blasts the backside DT back and when he disengages Schilling(+1) cuts him to the ground, opening up a major hole. This was "good scoop" this morning.|
|O22||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble screen||Odoms||6|
|No one lined up over Odoms; they're begging for this and get it. Savoy's cut block is only marginally effective and Odoms has to spin past that guy and into the waiting arms of a safety flying up to meet him. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O16||2||4||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||1|
|Slightly different scheme here with Ferrara just cutting the DT and Ortmann pulling around him into the gap to block the LB. Ortmann can't get out there fast enough, causing Minor to try to bounce it to the frontside, where the DE peels back to tackle. Threet should consider keeping it here.|
|O15||3||3||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Shaw||7|
|Same play as the last one; this time Ortmann(+1) does get out on the LB and clobber him, opening up a lane for Shaw; Threet again needs to think about keeping to delay backside pursuit.|
|O8||1||G||Ace||Base 4-3||Run||Zone stretch||Shaw||-6|
|This is not blocked well and should be a no gain or a yard or two as Shaw cuts it up... except he doesn't, instead running up and around to the outside of the penetrating DE and losing six yards.|
|O14||2||G||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Pass||Rollout – Out||Odoms||3|
|The play where we fake the zone stretch and run a rollout to the backside; I think the Purdue linebacker on this actually decides to cut-block Moundros in a desperate attempt to prevent him from getting to the flat. Is that legal? Moundros is behind the LOS. In any case, Threet throws an out to Odoms that's well covered; he throws it crappily, forcing Odoms to slide down to catch it. In doing so he prevents Odoms from getting lit up, as Purdue was in a zone and ready to deliver one of those “I hope he ain't dead” hits. (MA, 2, protection NA)|
|Purdue sends seven(!) and Michigan picks it up as well as they can, getting a great pickup from Minor(+1) on the guy up the middle. Threet stands in and throws a slant to Savoy for the touchdown. (DO, 3, protection 3/3)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-14, 12 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M31||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Pass||Scramble?||Threet||4|
|Threet pulls up like he's going to throw the bubble screen, then takes off for a few yards. I don't know if this was called or what, so I'm not charting it.|
|M35||2||6||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||ISQD||Minor||7|
|The Rabid Wolverine or whatever with Minor as the QB. They run the QB sweep they've used with actual QBs; Purdue again strings it out but leaves a cutback lane as Ferrara sort of gets in the way of the DT who's trying to go around him the wrong way and Ortmann(+1) gets just enough of a cut on the backside LB to delay him and open up a crease.|
|M42||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||0|
|Hard to tell what's going on because BTN again fails to show us the snap, but either Moosman or Molk slipped to the ground or tried to cut a guy and this did not work, leaving a big Purdue guy unblocked in the middle of the line. Minor tries to bounce it outside... not so much.|
|M42||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||In||Koger||Inc|
|The one-hopper fielded by Koger... on replay I'm pretty sure a DE brushed this with his arm and can detect a change in trajectory, so this isn't as goofy a pass as it looked. Good protection. (BA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Threet throws it late, IMO, which means he's got to throw it well inside of Mathews to keep it away from the safety. Mathews attempts a difficult spinning catch and can't dig it out. It was there for a moment. (MA, 1, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-14, 7 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M49||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Pass||PA Fly||Stonum||51|
|Threet gives the bubble screen pump fake and then goes deep to Stonum for a touchdown. Complete, yes, but this was way short and required Stonum to run through the tackle of a safety; an accurate pass makes this an easy six. Still, I'll be kind. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-14, 5 min 2nd Q. Next drive starts with 28 seconds left in the half.|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||1|
|The backside DT leaps over an attempted cut from Ferrara—came in too low—and induces Minor to miss his cut, which was the gaping hole up the middle of the field that he still had despite the DT, IMO. Slowed by the pop outside, the DT tracks him down.|
|Schilling(-1) beaten around the outside and the DE bats the ball out of Threet's hands as he attempts to throw (PR, 0, Schilling 0/2). Fumble is recovered by M; Michigan says that's enough.|
|Drive Notes: EOH, 28-21.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M14||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||21|
|This is a counter to the zone with Moundros shooting backside to block the normally unblocked DE; the idea is for the play to go between the tackle and Moundros; this it does. Purdue bites, running the LB and the DT to where the stretch would go; Moundros cuts the DE and Minor runs through an arm tackle into the secondary. This would also work as a keeper, wouldn't it?|
|M35||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||2|
|Playside DT beats Molk's attempted reach block as he gets little/no help from Ferrara; Minor cuts back and is set upon by the backside defensive end, crashing down after maintaining contain on the QB.|
|M37||2||8||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Pass||PA Post||Rogers||Inc|
|Moundros is blocking on this one, so Michigan's trying to go deep. Good block from him, plenty of time for Threet to set and throw... a duck that's yards away from a couple of receivers covered by three guys. IN or BR? (IN, 0, protection 1/1)|
|M37||3||8||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Pass||Flare Screen||Minor||Inc|
|Looks like M has Purdue here for at least several yards and maybe the first down; Threet chucks it hard and low and Minor drops it. (IN, 2, screen)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 28-28, 9 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|I really don't understand not having Moundros as a lead blocker; as it is the DT lined up inside Ferrara slants past him and Minor has to cut behind him; he's fortunate to get a yard.|
|M2||2||9||I-Form 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Dive||Minor||3|
|I think this is another missed cut by Minor, as it's similar to the dive that went for 21 earlier with Moundros cutting the backside DE to the ground; Minor should cut up hard between the DE and the OL but instead bounces it, where a safety tackles.|
|M5||3||6||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||-1|
|Backside DT owns Moosman and is into the backfield immediately, screwing up the play.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 28-28, 4 min 3rd Q. Purdue scores; another excellent KO return, this from Odoms, sets up the next drive.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O42||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||ISQD||Minor||0|
|Minor the QB; same play as earlier with the QB sweep going on; Purdue all over this one, Schilling(-1) discarded and thrown to the ground; Minor lucky to get back to the LOS.|
|O42||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read counter||Minor||9|
|We ran this play earlier with Moundros chopping the backside DE as the backside DT flies to the other side of the field, expecting a stretch. Purdue's linebacker—the same one who screwed up in Picture Pages earlier today—takes a much better angle on this one, forcing Minor into the other linebacker, who makes a shoe-string tackle to prevent Minor from hitting the secondary.|
|O33||3||1||I-form twins||Base 4-3||Run||Pitch sweep||Minor||10|
|Unbalanced formation with Koger covered up; Michigan shuffles Moundros just before the snap and he(+1) clocks the blitzing corner. That blitz also means the DE to that side has slanted inside, removing him from the play, and Koger takes out the LB to that side; the corner is wide open.|
|O23||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Shaw||3|
|Rare instance in which the playside DT doesn't slant hard to the playside, probably because he assumes Minor will get the ball and he is going playside. This opens up a pretty sizable gap between Ortmann and Molk; unfortunately, Ferrara's second-level block on the LB is weak and Minor doesn't attempt to pick off the OLB and that slows Shaw as he reaches the mess.|
|O20||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Triple option pitch||Clemons||7|
|Dive fake into an option with slot receiver Clemons the pitchman. The DE sells out on Minor (like he's been doing all day) and Ortmann gets a downfield block on the LB to that side. Threet gets past the LOS and decides to pitch too early, which just redirects the safety to Clemons. Probably would have been better off keeping.|
|O13||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||13|
|See, they're slanting playside again, which makes Molk's job really tough; he can't pull it off and is basically escorting the DT to Minor. Minor runs through the tackle, though, and Moundros and Ferrara have gotten second-level blocks good enough to spring him for the touchdown.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 35-35, 12 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M28||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Penalty||False Start||Ferrara||-5|
|M23||1||15||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read counter||Minor||8|
|Moundros into the backside DE again and Minor through the line; a safety is rolled up the LOS and manages to shoulder-block him down after a moderate gain. He breaks this iffy tackle and he runs a long way.|
|M31||2||8||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble screen||Shaw||Inc|
|Shaw in the slot and Purdue blitzes the corner to that side; Threet throws it high and hard and Shaw can't haul it in. Opportunity missed. (IN, 1, screen)|
|M31||3||8||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Hitch||Stonum||Inc|
|Good protection; Threet throws it low and inside; Stonum can't make a diving grab. (IN, 1, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 35-35, 7 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M32||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble screen||Odoms||13|
|Hey, remember that Picture Pages from the Illinois game? In that game Illinois was jumping all over the bubble screens to the outside, but leaving the inside open. On this play Michigan exploits that tendency by having Odoms run a bubble-screen-like route but shorter; he comes to a full stop before the ball arrives; Purdue's shooting outside because that's what you do, and Odoms takes it directly upfield for good yardage. (CA, 3, screen)|
|M45||1||10||Shotgun trips||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble screen||Odoms||4|
|Exact same play to the other side of the field. (CA, 3, screen)|
|M49||2||6||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read counter||Minor||1|
|Purdue is reacting to this play by having the unblocked DE shoot inside of Moundros before he can get out on him, which means Threet has to keep the ball. He doesn't, he hands it off, and Minor has nowhere to go. Threet keeps and he's into the secondary.|
|I have to believe this is batted. (BA, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Tough, tough catch from Stonum here as he's getting bumped by the defensive back and falling as the ball arrives. (CA+, 2, protection 1/1)|
|O40||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||4|
|Again: no one is respecting the Threet keeper at all. This is just a run directly at the gap between the backside DE and DT with no attempted block on the WLB; Molk's attempt to block the MLB doesn't go so well and Minor picks up a few. Again, Threet keeper = cash yards homie.|
|Purdue rushes five and gets there due to a protection screwup where Ortmann(-1) takes an outside guy; Threet had Minor on a flare route but was hesitant to throw it because of the near interception earlier in the game, IMO. He looked at it, it was open, I'm calling it (BR, 0, protection 0/2, Ortmann -1, Team -1)|
|O45||3||15||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Rollout – throwaway||--||Inc (Pen +15)|
|Threet rolls out, finds no one, and chucks it OOB. Purdue then hits him helmet-to-helmet late, garnering a 15-yarder... and a loss to Minnesota since he can't play. (TA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|O30||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||QB draw||Threet||14|
|Is this a busted play? It sort of looks like it with Threet holding the ball out to a RB who isn't there, but once he takes off there's plenty of room with Minor jetting off to clock a linebacker. I think this is actually the called play: the line blocks it like it's a zone stretch, Threet fakes handing off like it's a zone stretch, and by the time anyone notices Minor flying downfield it's too late.|
|O16||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||0|
|Playside DT times the snap, I think, and shoots in between Ferrara and Molk; Minor needs to cut back immediately and does not. This leads to delay, bodies, etc. Minor does do a good job of getting back to the LOS.|
|Purdue sends eight(!!!) guys at the snap before backing off a couple of them into short zones, but not quick enough to get out and cover a wide open Shaw on a wheel route out of the backfield; easy touchdown if Threet doesn't wildly overthrow it. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|O16||3||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-2-6 Dime||Pass||Flag||Mathews||Inc|
|This is open; Threet overthrows it again. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|O16||4||10||Shotgun empty||3-2-6 Dime||Pass||Cross||Mathews||Inc (Pen +10)|
|Purdue sends six, with only five blockers Threet has to chuck it. He finds Mathews marginally open; ball knocked down; flag. (CA, 1, protection NA) On replay... bad call. Purdue got screwed.|
|O8||1||G||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||7|
|Scoop block on the backside DT and this one's going right between the two of them. Decent hole but Schilling just gets pushed down the line enough to impact Minor as he cuts into the LOS. He bounces off, gets hit by a Purdue guy, and stumbles forward, bulling for extra yards.|
|O1||2||G||I-form twins||Goal line||Run||Iso||Minor||0|
|Schilling just sets up wrong on his guy, forcing Minor to leap early; he doesn't get there.|
|O1||3||G||I-form twins||Goal line||Run||Delay||Minor||1|
|Molk rides the playside DT out of the play and Moosman blocks his guy out of the hole, eventually falling, and the crease is enough for Minor to take into the endzone.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 42-42, 1 min 4th Q.|
Woo 42 points what hey!
I don't know, man.
What? 42 points what hey.
Well, actually 35, and that's not shabby by any means, but that last one was a gift provided by one dumb Purdue defensive lineman and one bad pass interference call and I'm not sure they can keep up the pace of big plays. Plus, Michigan finally got some good kick returns and had favorable field position much of the day.
Man, you're a downer.
Well, check out the…
As always, the Threetsheridammit chart legend.
That is freakin' terrible, man. When IN = CA everything = DEATH. I really hope Threet's elbow is suppurating. Hope it's all green and oozing and revolting to look at. Because if he's totally healthy he's going in the wrong direction.
One caveat: I noticed a number of routes that seemed weird or wrong and some of Threet's issues probably have to do with a wide array of receivers, all of whom save the gimpy Greg Mathews are seeing their first extensive playing time.
Still, I'm losing faith in the ability of Threet to be a long term solution; if you asked me now who would be the starter in 2009 I would give the tentative nod to Tate Forcier.
Anyway, this is not a recipe for long term success against teams that aren't 2-6. Michigan's long drives contained almost no downfield passing, and with rare exceptions, didn't use the quarterback as a runner.
But MINOR RAGE was pretty good, eh?
Yeah, actually; as you saw this morning Michigan macheted its way to a productive day on the ground. I particularly like that new wrinkles keep getting added as the offense gains experience. This week we saw Mark Moundros shoot into the backside DE several times, which picked up good yardage every attempt but the last. There were also a few gap-blocked plays dressed up as zone stretches.
Ferrara did all right, I guess, and since McAvoy isn't going to be around when the team ceases operating at a level of suck I'd prefer to see him in the rest of the year. McAvoy is clearly Frey's least favorite starter—he's been replaced like four times now—and there's not much point in running him out there if you have younger, higher-potential options.
There's still the issue of whether Michigan can sustain this performance against teams better than Purdue (or… uh… Penn State?); I'd like to see the run game function for two consecutive games before I start raining praise on it.
One thing I noticed was Purdue putting a linebacker safety type over Odoms to cut down on the screens and whatever and then also leaving two safeties back. When you can man up on the outside and keep a cover-two, you've only got six guys in the box, and that had something to do with Michigan's success on the ground. Against teams more inclined to stack the box I expect they'll continue to struggle.
What about the other…?
Oh, yeah. PROTECTION METRIC: 20/25, Schilling –2, Ortmann –2, Team –1.
That might be generous, as I was handing out 1/1 and 2/2 on a lot of passes that were three-step drops. I am leery of both tackles these days, BTW, and wouldn't be surprised to see some sort of reconfiguration that sees Schilling slide inside to guard next year. At least they'll have some options other than "you appear to be healthy and were not a defensive tackle two weeks ago."
(remember: 0 is uncatchable, 1 is a circus catch, 2 is a somewhat difficult one, and 3 is a routine one)
Mostly fine, with no routine drops. Not many opportunities.
Minor was excellent, running through tackles and fighting for yards. Odoms' contributions were mostly on special teams but deserve mention; I thought the interior line had a good day opening up the holes for Minor.
Threet, man, was pretty ugly.
What does it mean for 2009?
If Ferrara can emerge into a potential contributor next year that gives the line another option, and at this point they need all the options they can get.
Minor will be the starting running back next year unless he cruising Ann Arbor with Carlos Brown, seeking out black cats and walking under ladders and breaking mirrors.
Threet increasingly looks like a guy who will struggle to keep his job next year.
The last time Michigan's quarterback situation appeared so dire it was 1995, Lloyd Carr's first year, and the quarterbacks were true freshman Scott Dreisbach and walk-on Brian Griese. Michigan was playing in the "Kickoff Classic" that year against Virginia. Michigan Stadium baked, Dreisbach started, and the team sucked. Down 17-0 at the half, Michigan looked lifeless.
One of the weirdly vivid memories of my life is listening to an affable Virginia fan tell us Michigan was not going to win the game if they kept letting that freshman throw the ball. We nodded in rueful agreement.
He would turn out to be wrong by one Mercury Hayes toe. Dreisbach finished with 374 yards on 52 attempts,* Michigan won, and all that quarterback stuff was quickly forgotten until the next week and the week after and especially when Dreisbach got injured and Brian Griese was called forth from obscurity and inserted into the starting lineup. This was good in the long term. In the short term, it was brutal:
Michigan quarterbacks combined for 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, completed about 53% of their passes, and struggled to crack seven yards per attempt with an All-Star cast of future NFL receivers: Amani Toomer, Jay Reimersma, Mercury Hayes.
So none of that was particularly good but the team didn’t exactly implode. Tim Biakabutuka ran and ran and ran and then ran some more in a 31-23 win over Ohio State and Michigan went 9-4. Not a nuclear waste site by any stretch of the imagination. So… there’s a chance.
This year, your nominal starter is the walk-on and the freshmen appear set to wait in line. Nick Sheridan (left) is the walk-on. He’s the son of Bill Sheridan, currently the linebackers coach for the Giants and for three years a defensive position coach under Lloyd Carr. He was honorable mention all conference in high school. He’s about six foot, maybe six one, supposedly more mobile than the competition but more limited in terms of arm strength. And that’s all anyone knows about him.
What limited intelligence we have from practice reports indicates Sheridan is a typical Northwestern quarterback, noodle-armed but bright and mobile-ish. He’s been more consistent than the competition, throws well on the run, and contrary to rumor can heave the ball farther than five yards, as this video of the “Beanie Bowl” indicates. He could be a non-liability who successfully keeps the heat off the other skill position players, and how’s that for Backhanded Compliment Of The Year?
Sheridan’s main competitor is redshirt freshman Steven Threet (right), who enrolled early at Georgia Tech only to bolt for Michigan when Jason Forcier saw the writing on the wall and transferred. In January the writing reformed itself to read “please come back Jason,” but what can you do? Hypothetical newspaper-bearing time travel guy should stop screwing with Michigan fans and tell Forcier to stick it out.
Threet is a classic dropback artillery piece in the Navarre/Mallett/Grbac mold, 6’5” and ponderous. He was a well-respected recruit, getting four stars from the gurus and landing in the top ten pro-style quarterbacks, but reports from practice have him tentative, erratic, and slow both mentally and physically. In the winter he was lauded as an emerging leader who the team actually liked, unlike that Mallett guy; this has not translated to the field. Sheridan’s likely to struggle at some point and Rodriguez keeps saying he wants “two guys he can win with,” so Threet will see the field at some point. He’s reputed to have a bigger arm and more big-play potential… for both teams.
Freshman Justin Feagin talks a great game. He’s got the meaningless puff quote down cold. See this on Pryor:
"What if he does go to Michigan? Shame on me if I sit back and think he's better than me. If he wants to play quarterback, we'll have to fight each other for the job. If I win the job, then I'll know I beat out the No. 1 quarterback in the nation."
He’s also a heck of an athlete, the small-school player of the year in Florida last year and third in their Mr. Football voting. LSU and Miami offered him as a WR/DB.
Unfortunately, he does not appear to be much of a quarterback at this point. Rodriguez claimed Feagin would “have to make an impression in the first two weeks” if he was going to be a serious candidate for playing time; a recent curtailment of his snaps indicates this impression has not been made. A week or so ago, Rodriguez made it clear he was not an option early: “He's not close to being ready.”
I do have some inside baseball indicating that the coaching staff expects to work him in at some point during the season just to see what he can do; the most likely outcome is a few drives here and there that end poorly and a position swap once Beaver and Newsome hit campus in January.
If David Cone sees the field something has gone very wrong.
Running Back & Fullback
|Brandon Minor||Jr.||Mark Moundros||Jr.*|
|Carlos Brown||Jr.||Vince Helmuth||So.|
|Sam McGuffie||Fr.||Kevin Grady||Jr.*|
Like quarterback, Michigan loses a four-year starter and program icon here. Unlike quarterback, there are six options of at least moderate viability and chances are some player or combination of players emerges into a strong Big Ten starter. Four players were listed as co-starters on the first depth chart; they’re discussed here.
|State's too easy|
|Zone during The Horror|
|ND’s too easy|
|MN is too easy|
Brandon Minor is your nominal starter. After a few exciting glimpses his freshman year, Minor proved to be just okay in the more extended audition granted by Hart's ankle problems. Minor was healthy during the spring while Brown was not and is reputed by all to be a demonic worker, so he is the first back in practice. For whatever reason, though, I remain skeptical of his ability. I went back and scoured the UFRs, finding these comments:
Minor is an obvious step down [from Mike Hart].
Brandon Minor missed an obvious read on one of the carries I charted above; I think the running back job is going to be wide open next year. Minor runs really upright and seems perpetually on the verge of getting his clock cleaned; he also clearly lacks Hart's ability to pick through traffic. The spin move on Zbikowski was sweet, though.
Both Brown and Minor showed some indication they will be decent to good Big Ten runners next year.
Minor, I thought, was the better of the backs, consistently running with power and picking up YAC.
That's not entirely helpful when I'm trying to make the case for someone else to start.
Numbers might be: he averaged 4.3 yards a carry, eight tenths of a yard off both Hart and Carlos Brown's 5.1. Even if you hack Brown's 85 yard touchdown against Minnesota down to Minor's long of 46 yards (also picked up against Minnesota), Brown holds a significant edge in YPC.
Minor runs too upright and stiff for my tastes. He's clearly slower than Brown and the fleet freshmen, has little wiggle, and tends to plow over and through defenders instead of trying to avoid them. Sometimes this ends with Minor spectacularly trucking someone; sometimes it ends with Minor taking a wicked shot from a headhunting linebacker or safety.
In the best case, Barwis gives Minor the half-step he needs to get the corner and he’s a poor man’s version of Darren McFadden. In the worst case he’s David Underwood. He must be physically dominant to be effective because he's not going to make people miss much and he doesn't have Hart's remarkable balance. IMO, he gets his fair share of carries throughout the year but is clearly less effective than at least one other tailback and possibly two.
|Loping vs Purdue|
|Tripping over Leman|
|Nice first down|
Carlos Brown has a knack for picking up annoying hand injuries. Last year Brown busted his hand in fall practice and missed the early portion of the season; in spring he cut or broke his finger or something in a “freak weightlifting accident.” I suspect Barwis bit it off and spent the summer growing a replacement in a jar.
He was also the more impressive non-Hart tailback in 2007, deploying his speed to good effect and, as noted, coming out of last season with a Hart-matching 5.1 YPC thanks to the exceptional generosity of Minnesota’s defense.
After his first extended action I summarized him like so:
He seems like the exact opposite of Hart: a guy with questionable vision and little in the way of moves who has the speed to jet into the endzone if you give him a crease (and he sees it). The questionable vision could be due to inexperience -- he spent the spring at defensive back, then broke his hand -- and might develop in the future; Hart-like moves are not likely to. His two slashing touchdown runs were encouraging and he seems much less likely to get decapitated by a charging safety than Minor; he'll have a shot at the job next year. We're likely to see a four- or even five-headed rotation early.
Brown's been moonlighting at quarterback in what must feel like a reprise of his high school career, when he was a quarterback in name only tasked with using his extraordinary athleticism to take Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draws further than they had any right to go. If Brown does take live snaps at QB, it will be part of a Wildcat (or wild mustelidae) package; he's little threat to throw the ball except as a diversion.
Brown was a big recruit and has the sort of outside speed that Steve Slaton did; I think he’ll end up with the slight edge.
Sam McGuffie needs no introduction. Mixtape ho:
He flips over people for fun. People leap over him for fun. When he leaps over people for fun and there is no fun because people tackle him they post it on Youtube like it’s a big deal. He is an internet phenomenon. If you try to bring any of these things up to him he will scowl at you. His teammates call him “Vanilla Ice,” which no doubt also draws scowls.
I’m on record expecting McGuffie to kick ass:
I'm not one of those who scoffs at recruiting rankings, but their [Rivals’] continued skepticism about McGuffie is puzzling. He has the offers (Michigan, Florida, USC amongst a host of others), the stats at perhaps the highest level of competition available in high school football, and reel after reel of jaw-dropping highlights. He has the fourth-highest SPARQ rating in the history of whatever the hell a SPARQ rating is because he showed up at a combine before his junior year of high school and ripped off a 4.32 40, a 3.83 shuttle -- I'm not exactly sure if my calculations are correct, but I believe this means he finished the shuttle before he started it -- and a 41' vertical leap.
He's a little small, and his his disappointing senior season was injury-wracked to the point where his nationally televised showcase game saw him spinning 180 degrees before contacting tacklers and driving meekly at the feet of oncoming blitzers, but even the skeptical Rivals named him last year's best running back in space and publicly wondered why he was heading for Michigan instead of a school that would spread him all over the field like Wes Welker—white guy, natch—and take advantage of his crazy speed and cutting ability.
Uh, check. He’s nominally first on the depth chart already, and will see time all over the field. It begins.
A second freshman, Ohioan Michael Shaw (video), was listed as a wide receiver on the fall roster but features as a tailback on the depth chart. He was a running back in high school; he figures to spend quite a bit of time motioning to and from the slot.
The hype is building on Shaw because he chose the right time to juke a couple defenders and plow slot-sized freshman cornerback Boubacar Cissoko. The media was there doling out oohs and aahs as appropriate and a practice legend is born.
There’s more to Shaw than proficiency in the “Michigan drill,” though. He hovered just outside the recruiting sites’ top 100 lists and spent the spring tearing up the track until he was banned for transfer-related shenanigans. He is fast. And he is fast. And he is fast. At the Penn Relays, Shaw won the 200 meters and anchored his team’s winning 4x100 and 4x200 relays, causing his coach to break down in tears:
“I’ve been coaching since the ‘60’s,” Coach Waggoner said of his 46.4 anchor, Mike Shaw, “and I’ve coached a lot of guys, but he’s one of the best.”
He is fast.
He is also other things. McGuffie's not the only guy drawing superlative praise from Fred Jackson. Jackson on the nagging injuries picked up by the starters:
"Those two guys right there, I PROMISE you that you stay nicked up too long, it's going to hurt you tremendously,'' Jackson said.
Because Shaw and McGuffie can play right now, he said.
Shaw and McGuffie are two of the most exciting freshmen he has ever coached at Michigan, he continued.
They're Justin Fargas fast, but can cut better.
Fargas-who-can-cut is this program’s Loch Ness monster.
Avery Horn is fast as hell but redshirted last year because he wasn't ready to play in college. He ripped off a couple impressive runs in what passed for the spring game but has received little mention in the fall and seems far down the depth chart. Michigan picked freshman Mike Cox over top-100 instate back Jonas Gray when both attended the Michigan camp; he was a middling recruit with offers from Maryland and BC and will probably redshirt.
Both players who saw time return, but the position has changed significantly. Under Lloyd Carr the fullback was a thick-necked ogre tasked with smashing his face into linebackers. He was the target of maybe three or four passes a year and never, ever got to take a handoff (no, BJ Askew doesn’t count).
At West Virginia, Rodriguez deployed a thick-necked ogre who ripped off a 50-some yard touchdown against Oklahoma. Owen Schmitt was the hammer on option dives and an important outlet in the passing game; he touched the ball 59 times last year. Michigan fullbacks, as a unit, had three catches for eleven yards, all of them no doubt on third and long. This is why Rodriguez doesn’t actually have a “fullback.” Rather, he’s got an “MX” back, and he’s got to block and catch and run.
This is a projection based on some practice reports and common sense, but once Kevin Grady manages to process the copious amounts of alcohol no doubt still flowing through his veins, he might be the guy here. Grady doesn’t really fit in with the new offense except as a downhill runner and blocker and now that the "fullback" is a guy who is actually an important cog in the offense he might be amenable to a move, especially if/when it becomes clear that players quicker than he have a death grip on all the tailback carries.
Mark Moundros and Vince Helmuth are the more traditional options. You can find reasons either has an advantage over the other: Moundros is older and was the starter last year; Helmuth was more highly rated, should improve more quickly, and operated as a battering ram tailback at Saline High. I lean towards Helmuth.
Wide Receivers & Tight Ends
|Greg Mathews||Jr.||Toney Clemons||So.||Martavious Odoms||Fr.||Carson Butler||Jr.*|
|Junior Hemingway||So.||Darryl Stonum||Fr.||Terrence Robinson||Fr.||Mike Massey||Sr.*|
|James Rogers||So.||LaTerryal Savoy||Jr.*||Mike Shaw||Fr.||Kevin Koger||Fr.|
Despite the early departures of Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington to the NFL, Michigan has stockpiled a considerable amount of talent at wide receiver and tight end and the dropoff shouldn’t be severe. There will be a dropoff, though, as no one on the roster save maybe Darryl Stonum can hope to replicate Manningham’s explosive deep routes, and Stonum is just a freshman.
|Easy ND score|
|Pride comes before the fall|
Junior Greg Mathews is the most experienced returning player. As a sophomore he was Michigan’s third receiver, catching 39 passes for 366 yards. A YPC under 10 always signals possession receiver and that’s Mathews’ rep going into his first year as Michigan’s primary target. The upside here is Jason Avant, a reliable guy on a variety of short routes with outstanding hands and the strength to get off a jam. (We haven't actually seen the outstanding hands, yet, as Mathews has been reliable but unspectacular in the catching-stuff category, but Avant's reliability was only a theory before Braylon left.)
Mathews is unlikely to be much of a vertical threat, however, and a credible deep threat will be important when it comes to keeping safeties from breathing down Sheridan's neck.
Past Mathews things are uncertain. Four or five players vie for one and a half spots. Sophomore Toney Clemons spent the spring working out of the slot because the only other alternative was walk-on Jim Potempa, a player so obscure that the Michigan Stadium public address announcer messed up his name more than once during his half-dozen garbage time carries last year. With the arrival of the impressive, tiny duo of Martavious Odoms and Terrence Robinson, Clemons is likely to move back to the outside where he belongs... eventually. Robinson's "tweaked" knee, about which more later, leaves Michigan with one credible slot option and that's a true freshman. Expect Clemons to move inside and out regularly; his long term home should be on the outside.
Junior Hemingway suffered a severe ankle sprain in the fall and remained limited by it throughout fall camp. Though recruiting guru opinions on him varied wildly, Hemingway had a ton of early offers from national powers and turned in a productive senior year. He seemed ahead of Clemons when the two were freshmen, but the new coaching staff hasn't seen him healthy. He may not make a contribution until midseason. The impression I got from the limited time he saw last year and all the recruiting info I gathered is that Hemingway was a version of Marquise Walker, a spectacular leaper and potential jump-ball threat that lacked something in top-end speed.
One player not lacking in top end speed, Darryl Stonum, was Michigan’s highest-rated recruit in the 2008 class. An NFL prototype wide receiver out of Houston, Stonum picked Michigan over USC, Florida, and everyone else. He’s a candidate for immediate playing time after enrolling early and participating in spring practices, and has a top-end ceiling on par with any of Michigan’s terror wide receivers from years past.
Normally the most optimistic projection for Stonum’s freshman year would be something similar to that turned in by Mario Manningham—27 catches, 433 yards, 6 touchdowns—but the early enrollment should help him see the field earlier and more frequently. Forty or even fifty catches is not out of the question.
Stonum’s listed as a co-starter at one outside receiver position with surprise LaTerryal Savoy, who’s seen almost no time in his three years in the program to date. Savoy was a sleeper out of Louisiana with no other major offers and seemed destined for a career of total obscurity until the moment the depth chart came out with his name atop the list. It’s doubtful Savoy’s suddenly become a much better receiver, so the bet here is that once Hemingway’s injury and Stonum’s inexperience subside so will Savoy’s prominence on the depth chart. He could be a Tyrece Butler sort who hauls in 10-12 catches.
Those five will be your main targets on the outside. If there is a severe need Michigan could strip the redshirt off freshman Roy Roundtree, the kid who decommitted from Purdue and set off the whole snake oil brouhaha. He’s gotten a few approving mentions from Rodriguez during his hourly press conferences, but Roundtree is about 6’3” and weighs as much as slot ninjas a half-foot shorter than him. A redshirt seems advisable.
Zion Babb and James Rogers are in hot competition for the title of most egregiously wasted redshirt of 2007; both bounced to and from the secondary, seeing meaningless snaps that did little to prepare them for roles they’re not going to have this year anyway. Neither was big recruit. Rogers was a high school running back plucked from obscurity at Michigan’s camp; Babb was a middling recruit out of California. Rodriguez hasn’t mentioned either of them this fall and playing time is likely to be sparing. Rogers is reputed to be ahead of Babb.
The arrival of Rich Rodriguez brings with it a smurfy new position: slot receiver. In the spread ‘n shred these guys are the targets of all manner of different things that aim to get a little electron-sized bastard in open space against a linebacker or safety: option pitches, bubble screens, reverses, etc. This is all terribly exciting, as Michigan now threatens to have four or five Steve Breastons on the roster at all times. This should be a great boon in the return game; in the context of the offense it provides a ton of YAC opportunities that reduce the burden placed on the quarterbacks.
Michigan had none of these guys on the roster, or even in the recruiting class, until Rodriguez came aboard, but in the brief time allotted him he filled the position with authority. Martavious Odoms is from small-school Florida powerhouse Pahokee. His recruitment was extremely strange. He picked up an early offer from Notre Dame, and some months later he had a truly impressive collection for a 5’8” guy: Iowa, Rutgers, South Carolina, LSU, Oregon, Alabama, Tennessee, Auburn, and Rodriguez’s then-home of West Virginia.
Odoms’ reaction to all this was to sit around doing nothing in particular as most of those schools filled up their classes. There was a cursory visit to Auburn, some discussion of USF and a grayshirt offer from Miami—by then so jammed with players they were trying to get Odoms to campus as a track athlete—and then signing day came and Odoms... did nothing. He ended up signing a few days later, and Michigan fans scrambled to find out just who the heck this kid was.
He's small to the point where he only exists on alternate Tuesdays but he's been playing on Pahokee's varsity since he was 14 (he was an eighth grader at the time) and was smoking guys in the state championship game by the time he was a sophomore. Unlike many guys Odoms' size, he's always been a receiver, and few players can claim to have the extensive in-game experience he has. Practice reports have been universally positive, praising his hands, toughness, silky-smooth moves and ability to make the first tackler miss. I go back to what a Floridian high school football veteran and Friend of Blog told me unprompted when Odoms committed:
He's a tough SOB. Small cat, really tough, will remind you of Steve Smith. Very, very fast. I'm a huge Martavious Odoms fan, you'll love him.
Watch out for him; this is one of those guys you see named “Moss” playing for Miami and think to yourself "goddamn why can't we ever have kids like that?" Practice reports are very encouraging; he sounds like a Steve Breaston if Breaston had been a natural-born receiver. He’s listed as the starter in the slot for Utah. You will see plenty of him.
Meanwhile, Terrence Robinson’s recruitment got off to a slow start because a junior-year transfer forced him to sit out 2006; when he saw the field for Klein Oak in 2007 he outrushed, outplayed, and outshone top-100 Texas commit DeShaun Hales. He also did this:
Odoms spent five years at Pahokee smoking opponents and winning state championships while Robinson sat out with a transfer and played quarterback and running back and such; even if Robinson hadn’t “tweaked” his knee Odoms would be the odds on favorite to start in the slot. Robinson will be out for a few weeks and then work his way into the lineup.
|Iowa cross #2|
|Very bad block|
Rich Rodriguez is going to have to use his tight ends a lot more than he did at West Virginia, because he’s got six of them and one has the potential to be ridiculously good as long as he’s not asked to block anyone ever. That fellow is Carson Butler, who came back from Lloyd Carr purgatory to claim the starting tight end spot after Mike Massey’s season-ending knee injury against Northwestern. Butler is the combination of freakish athletic gifts and frustrating mental errors that always gets dubbed “enigmatic” and this preview will be no exception: Carson Butler is one enigmatic mofo.
His promise is obvious. In the Citrus Bowl, he took a tight end screen and loped 65 yards downfield (skip to 2:00) with the bulk of the Florida secondary in pursuit; no one on the Florida team could make up ground and it took a safety with an angle to force him out inside the ten. That is a very fast man in an improperly large body. Properly deployed, he could be an All-American.
Butler’s drawbacks were equally severe, though. He false-starts with frustrating regularity. Asking him to block a pass rusher is asking for a helmet in your quarterback’s ribs. This outing against Michigan State was a typical performance:
Ugly, ugly, ugly, especially on the part of Butler, not only complete fail in pass protection but also the culprit on several run plays that went nowhere and the recipient of two critical penalties, one a stupid personal foul and the other a comically inept holding call on Michigan's final drive.
Is it much of a mismatch when your super-athletic tight end blocks like a 180 pound wide receiver? Not really. Evidently Rodriguez agrees since Butler is listed as an OR with not only Mike Massey but freshman Kevin Koger.
I have no idea what to expect out of Butler this year. He could be an All-American caliber performer (he’s unlikely to get enough catches to be an actual All-American) in a contract year for him. He could lose his job in week two.
Mike Massey, meanwhile, returns from that knee injury. In three years of sporadic onfield action, Massey hasn’t done much except almost make a couple of spectacular catches. He was the tentative starter last year until the injury in the Northwestern game. He seems totally average, a guy who will catch the balls he should and make most of the blocks he should but excel in no way whatsoever.
Freshman Kevin Koger picked Michigan over Ohio State and has been mentioned as someone who could see playing time this fall; he is the third co-starter on the depth chart. The most likely outcome is a smattering of snaps in preparation for a starting job next year.
Martell Webb was Butler’s backup once Massey went down and sometimes the temporary starter when Butler had seriously pissed off the coaching staff; he made no catches and drew no notice in UFRs. He did have an excellent block against Minnesota, for whatever that’s worth. Webb was a nobody recruit when he committed to Michigan, but ended up a four-star to both Scout and Rivals; he’s also that 6’5” basketball player that’s all the rage at TE. He could be pretty good if given the opportunity. Given the surfeit of tight ends on the roster and some reported issues with drops in practice he probably won’t get that opportunity until 2009.
Steve Watson redshirted last year and seems to be way down the depth chart. Sparing playing time at best for him; watch for a potential move to the OL. Brandon Moore has an imposing frame at 6’6” and had been offered by a who’s who of college football programs by the time he committed to Michigan, but has gone totally unremarked upon this fall and seems a likely redshirt. If he fills out like whoah a move to tackle might be a possibility, but in high school he was regarded as a no-block TE with excellent hands.
|Mark Ortmann||Jr.*||Tim McAvoy||Jr.*||David Molk||Fr.*||David Moosman||So.*||Steve Schilling||So.*|
|Perry Dorrestein||So.*||Ricky Barnum||Fr.*||Rocko Khoury||Fr.||John Ferrara||So.*||Dann O'Neill||Fr.|
Perhaps the saddest indicator of the potential looming tragedy that is the Michigan offensive line is this: last year this depth chart went three deep. There’s no one but freshmen unlisted this year and, uh… four freshmen in the actual two-deep as hypothesized above.
The line took a hit it could not afford to sustain when certain starter and once upon a time touted recruit Cory Zirbel went down with a knee injury, forcing either David Molk or hastily converted defensive lineman John Ferrara into the starting lineup. Michigan is now one injury away from serious issues indeed.
Steve Schilling is the only returning starter on the line. Unfortunately for Michigan, last year he was frankly bad. There are a ton of mitigating factors—a freshman-year bout with mononucleosis was followed by a shoulder injury that spring, so he was basically being thrown on the field as a true freshman—but bad is bad. Vernon Gholston shattered him into little bits in the OSU game, which saw Shilling rack up a record –12 in pass protection. After the Illinois game he came in for a bit of criticism:
The problems in pass protection have been matched with frequent issues in the run game. One sack and a dangerously batted pass were on him as he failed to contain Illinois DE Doug Pilcher. At the moment, the great hope of the 2007 offensive line, that Schilling and Boren would turn out to be better than the departed Bihl/Riley combo, has not come to fruition. It looks highly unlikely to get there any time this year.
There is the potential for massive improvement here. Practice observers have indicated that Schilling now looks like a bonafide collegiate lineman after being far too small last year. As a freshman starter and former five-star recruit the expectation is he takes a major leap forward. He’d better.
Mark Ortmann draws the unenviable task of attempting to replace the #1 pick in the NFL draft. This is his fourth year in the program and practice reports had him on the verge of starting for the last two seasons, but there was presumably a reason he was stuck behind the uninspiring Schilling last year. This year he’s Michigan’s starting left tackle virtually by default, as there is one other non-freshman tackle on the roster. He could be okay. He could be really bad. We have no indicators either way.
David Moosman slides into Zirbel’s spot at right guard. He’s not from Wisconsin despite this blog’s repeated insistence that he is. He’s from Illinois, and I have inside info that he’s very nice to his GSIs. Moosman was a four-star recruit who picked Michigan over Wisconsin and is entering his third year in a college program, so he could be good.
Dave Molk is a feisty, undersized center from Illinois who was one of only two offensive line recruits in Lloyd Carr’s final Michigan class. He fits much better in this system than Carr’s, as it emphasizes his mobility and places a much smaller premium on size, but Rodriguez made it clear he was battling John Ferrara for a starting job. Two weeks ago Ferrara was a defensive lineman. Crap.
Tim McAvoy saw sporadic time last year at both guard spots due to injury and general lethargy on the part of others. Like Ortmann, he nas stuck behind an extremely uninspiring starter (Alex Mitchell) and doesn’t have much in the way of recruiting hype to fall back on. He’s been a defacto starter since the departure of Mr. Plow; lord knows if he’s going to be any good.
There are virtually no backups as long as Cory Zirbel's knee injury persists, and the word from Rodriguez is that could be the entire season. Mark Huyge exists, I guess, but he’s a redshirt freshman Michigan snatched away from the MAC. He’s unlikely to be ready. He’s also got a high ankle sprain and will miss a chunk of the season. As mentioned, John Ferrara was whiling his time away at defensive tackle until the Zirbel injury forced a position switch. Ferrara’s never blocked in his life. He may start.
At tackle, Perry Dorrestein is most famous for having his one-point-something GPA outed by the Ann Arbor News; insider buzz has been totally silent on him. He was a decent recruit.
It’s down to true freshmen, then. Rodriguez has specifically said these guys are not ready to play but the situation might demand it of them. Guard Ricky Barnum is the least unprepared. He was a highly-rated Florida commit until Rodriguez wandered by with his snake oil cart and has gotten some public praise; he’s probably the second guy off the bench in the event of issues with the interior line. Rocko Khoury has been garnering praise as a center and will start the season in the two deep.
God willing, four other freshmen will redshirt. Tackle Dann O’Neill was a top-100 recruit and has great upside but is not prepared to play this year. Kurt Wermers and Patrick Omameh would never, ever see the field in a normal year but this is not a normal year and they could wander onto the field if things get dire. Elliot Mealer is out with a shoulder injury suffered in the tragic Christmas Eve crash that killed his father and girlfriend.
They are coming. If you ordered a Bo shirt and are wondering where the hell it is, 1) sorry about the delay—Rich Robots recently switched print shops—and 2) the shirts should start shipping either today or early next week, so you should have them shortly.
Sweet. The new hockey jerseys are pretty cool:
The Hoover Street Rag points out that the white home jersey is a virtual replica of Michigan’s uniforms when Red Berenson was skating for the team instead of coaching it. Michigan Hockey Net confirms that Michigan plans to have small numbers under the school name, much like Red.
Lame. Awful Announcing has your ABC/ESPN coverage teams for 2008. One bleah development:
- Jesse Palmer is in the booth instead of Doug Flutie on Thursday nights along with Chris Fowler, Craig James and Erin Andrews.
- Flutie will still be on the ABC Studio show with John Saunders and James.
Flutie was really good last year. I don’t think The Bachelor will live up to that high standard. Everything else is basically the same as it was last year—Paul Maguire continues to pollute the Nessler-Griese duo.
One potential change: did Ron Franklin get swanky games last year? He’s doing prime-time ABC games this year.
Also lame but in a more literal sense. The exact words that came from Rodriguez’s mouth about Zirbel:
“It is a knee injury. It is pretty significant. We are not even hopeful that he will be able to return this year. We are just waiting to see how he responds to surgery and when they get in there and do an arthroscopic surgery, then we will have more answers on that.”
And hey, John Ferrara could start!
“I think it is a good move and he is going to be battling for a starting job at guard by maybe by the first game.”
What does Ferrara think about that?
The move caught Ferrara a bit by surprise because he had no offensive line background aside from playing a bit of tight end in high school.
"I'm getting used to it now and working on my technique," said the 6-foot-4, 280-pound Ferrara. "I'm just trying to memorize everything I can. The one thing I think is I'm very coachable."
Carty suggests there is “panic in the streets” because of this; I suggest that if the panic is only in the streets gazebos, playgrounds, and all variety of enclosed spaces have a lot of catching up to do; the WLA notes previous unlikely triumphs of the will.
Some guys are back. Brown and Minor resumed practicing; Donovan Warren was held out of practice but that was only precautionary, and Marcus Witherspoon should be back on campus shortly:
The Courier-Post Defensive Player of the Year, Witherspoon confirmed Thursday afternoon that he did return home to Atlantic City and missed a week of workouts. The freshman linebacker was scheduled to return to the Ann Arbor campus today and continue with football-related activities, also stating that his leave was excused by the Michigan football staff.
Oddly, Witherspoon says not to believe the “rumors” his departure was related to academics. Source of those rumors: Rich Rodriguez directly stating Witherspoon had a Clearinghouse issue.
As far as a potential redshirt:
"There's no harm in redshirting," Witherspoon said. "It would just give me an extra year and I really don't mind."
So there you go.
The children! Notre Dame’s Jon Tenuta is unsparing with the swearing:
I await 400 newspaper columns decrying this. (Via EDSBS.)
Etc.: Matt Hinton, nee Sunday Morning Quarterback, has been redubbed “Dr. Saturday” and unleashed on the unsuspecting public by Yahoo; if you have Time Warner cable OSU’s AD suggests you flee screaming.