In HTTV last year we made a strange assertion: that given the relative drop-off to their replacements, Kovacs would probably be missed more than Denard Robinson. I thought I'd pose the question now concerning this year's seniors, except there's one guy who could have gone 1st overall in the NFL draft LAST YEAR, and he's being replaced by either a member of the worst interior offensive line in Michigan memory or a guy who couldn't beat out one of those guys for playing time.
|Actually, #2 Taylor Lewan's twosie and #3 Taylor Lewan's pet pig are also out of the running. [Upchurch]
So, OTHER than that guy,
Which senior will Michigan miss most next season?
Ace: I'll leave a couple very strong candidates aside—namely, Jeremy Gallon and Thomas Gordon—and go to the other bookend of the offensive line, Michael Schofield. Michigan already needs to get much (much) better play out of the interior of the line next year, not to mention a major step up in blocking from the backs and tight ends. Losing not just one, but two NFL-quality tackles means the Wolverines once again head into a new season with major uncertainty up front.
I expect the interior line to be better, especially since some of the true freshmen who weren't viable options this season—especially Patrick Kugler and David Dawson—should at least be ready to compete for a spot on the two-deep. Losing Schofield along with Lewan, however, means that there's almost no margin for error with the new tackles; Michigan needs to find two decent starters out of Ben Braden, Erik Magnuson, and... that's about it.
I guess Dawson could play right tackle, as could Kyle Kalis, but both are more natural fits inside. Chris Fox, coming off a major knee injury that delayed his freshman progress, and Logan Tuley-Tillman, a raw-upside prospect with a heavy emphasis on raw, probably won't be ready to step in and be very effective.
Losing Lewan hurts the most, of course; that's compounded by the absence of Schofield—who really came into his own this year—leaving Michigan with, at best, four relatively unproven players competing for two open tackle spots while the interior of the line is still very much a question mark.
[After the jump: Pining for (Scho)fields]
Mathlete: My ranking of which seniors will be missed the most in 2014 (as ranked by projected drop off from position due to their loss, accounting for replacement).
- Taylor Lewan. Not much to add here, All American tackles don't grow on trees, even at Michigan.
- Jeremy Gallon. My research continually points to wide receiver experience as the most underrated predictor of offensive success. I think a big case could be made to have him at the top of this list.
|Michigan must replace the most ninja holder ever as well as the guy who kicked it. [Upchurch]
- Quinton Washington. A quietly strong season and with Pipkins injury, no backups with quality experience
- Michael Schofield. Losing a pair of NFL tackles is bad, but it can't be as bad as this year, right? Please tell me it can't be worse.
- Thomas Gordon. Can Jordan Kovacs come back and pretend to be a 20 year old walk-on again?
- Jibreel Black. A solid piece of a solid defense. Not impossible to replace but will be missed.
- Drew Dileo. Do we know if Norfleet can slide into holder's position on the fire drill field goal, or does he just teleport? That's a silly question, of course he teleports.
- Brendan Gibbons The kicker you know is always better than the kicker you don't. Unless you're Alabama.
- Fitzgerald Toussaint. This isn't a knock of Poor Damn Toussaint or a total vote of confidence in Derrick Green, but all but the best of running backs are virtually interchangeable.
- Cam Gordon. I always liked watching him play and was glad to see him stay on the field after Jake Ryan's return.
- Courtney Avery. It's weird having a captain this low, but never was able to generate much in the way of on-field production.
- Jeremy Jackson. Wanted: Blocking wide receiver for running plays, I mean any play, it could be run or pass, you'll never know which one it is until it's too late
Brian: I'm with Ace: Schofield. Doubly lost in the shuffle because everyone goes eeee about Lewan and oooo about the offensive line as a whole, Schofield quietly rounded into an All Big Ten caliber tackle his senior year. I didn't have a minus for him in the wasteland that was the Michigan State game--think about that. And when's the last time some dude ran past Schofield for a pressure that wasn't caused by miscommunication on a protection? It's honestly hard to think of one. Yeah, Mel Kiper's hair but most of what he talks about now he's getting from NFL scouts and teams and he's now talking up Schofield as a second or third round pick. That would not surprise me; at the very least he will go in the middle rounds.
Meanwhile, Michigan's offensive line recruiting has been good but is short on sure things at tackle. Assume Magnuson plugs in at left tackle and your battle is between redshirt sophomore Ben Braden and a trio of redshirt freshmen: David Dawson, who is short for a tackle, Logan Tuley-Tillman, who is raw raw raw, and Chris Fox, who was listed at 338 on the roster and was coming of a catastrophic knee injury.
|The book on Ben Braden is he's not a guard, is why you didn't see much of him this year. That leaves hope that he's still ahead of the rest of the young OL. [Upchurch]
There are going to be a lot more times that you miss Schofield next year than anyone departing on the defense, and with Funchess around the sting from losing Gallon will be mitigated by the receivers playing very well.
Ace: Just to add to this from a recruiting perspective, the 2014 class is very strong at receiver: Drake Harris, Moe Ways, and Freddy Canteen all have the ability to step in and play early, and they each bring something different. Harris has great speed and jump-ball skills on the outside, Canteen is a lethal route-runner who could turn into an oversized slot ninja, and Ways is an all-around possession receiver—I strongly urge you to check out his senior highlights, which are way better than his junior film. With Amara Darboh returning from injury and the emergence of Funchess, the wide receiver corps should be strong next year even without Gallon, especially if one or two of the 2013 freshmen—Jaron Dukes, Da'Mario Jones, and Csont'e York—can contribute.
At safety, Gordon's absence should be mitigated by a healthy Jarrod Wilson, and then Michigan just needs one more safety to emerge from a talented group that includes Dymonte Thomas, Jeremy Clark, Delano Hill, and Josh Furman—plus potentially Jabrill Peppers if the coaches decide he'll contribute the most from that spot. Hopefully one of Hurst/Poggi/Wormley/Ash will emerge alongside Henry—that's four bullets in the chamber before we get to a potentially healthy Pipkins and incoming freshman Bryan Mone, who's certainly got the size to see the field early.
|Yeah, Jarrod Wilson will be fine at one safety position, but Furman immediately reminded us how bad safety had been until Gordon took the starting job in 2011. Dymonte Thomas's hype: please come to the realization aisle. [Upchurch]
While Michigan has a pair of solid offensive linemen in the fold for 2014 in Mason Cole and Juwann Bushell-Beatty, we all know that true freshmen competing on the offensive line is a bad, bad sign.
BiSB: Since everyone else took my actual answer (Schofield), I'll say Thomas Gordon. Gordon wasn't spectacular, but he was solid and reliable at position that (a) has limited depth, and (b) has a sizable learning curve. Beyond Jarrod Wilson and (presumably) Dymonte Thomas, depth gets dicey in a hurry. Jeremy Clark has shown flashes, but against weak competition. Delano Hill is a freshman and Jabrill Peppers will only have a couple of months on campus by the time Appalachian State rolls into town (editorial note: /vomits). At this point Josh Furman is what he is, and the thing that he is doesn't fill me with great confidence. Maybe Blake Countess pulls a Marlin Jackson and plays some safety? I dunno. It's scary. Never Forget, ya know?
But seriously, Schofield. Lost in the shuffle of the interior line's... uh... shuffling, the tackles were remarkably consistent in both production and health. Excluding the Penn State game in which Lewan went down for a half, AJ Williams probably had the third-most snaps at tackle because REMEMBER TACKLE OVER? Even if Magnuson and Braden win their respective spots and are really really good, assuming they'll stay healthy for 12 games is begging to be kicked in the dangly bits, especially when redshirt freshmen are on the two-deep. An injury at tackle might even screw up the interior if they have to bump Bosch or Dawson outside.
Seth: Stribling is another 'oh shit' candidate at safety. My hope is Dymonte Thomas is ready to play strong by next fall, and that's not a hard hope. Both he and Hill are burned redshirts I think we'll be upset about down the road; I never saw much from Jeremy Clark except he's Shazor-sized.
Anyway, I wrote the question with Schofield in mind. Reading your answers I've kinda started to wonder something else: Who do we miss most from last year? I'm sure I would have said Jordan Kovacs, and today I'd feel stupid because as much as I love Gardner, obviously Denard. Or maybe...Patrick Omameh?
So I'm going to be the guy who says Gallon will be missed more. To whit:
1. He may be the best blocker of anyone with receiver eligibility. The bubble screen game was just about the only vanilla thing Michigan's been able to do on offense this year, and it works because Gallon has been excellent at that pick block. When the best part of the offense was that inverted veer, a secret reason it was so effective at generating long Gardner lopes was Gallon consistently burying himself under the cornerback who should have been out harassing it.
|Attempt at Gallon praise 314: greatest player in the history of Michigan football to resemble a character in a cop drama since that guy who looks like NCIS's Mark Harmon.
2. He keeps Funchess clean. Michigan had Gallon--size be damned--lining up as the X receiver, i.e. the one on the line. His ability to consistently fight off press coverage is uncanny, and I think it's the reason Borges never feared to use stack formations so often, since you can trust Gallon will get into his route cleanly and not slow up the other guys' routes. Who's on the line now? Funchess has a size advantage but he tends to get jammed. Chesson probably.
3. He can get open many ways. Funchess's game is pretty straightforward: that good ol' fashioned size and speed combo that allows you to play above defenders' heads (needs to not drop so many balls). But Gallon is Inspector Gadget. He's got the little bugger's quicks to beat coverage on underneath routes--why he's open so often on hitches and out routes--but he can also go up and get a fade or catch a fly route or go across the middle. The ability to turn himself invisible against teams from Indiana has been especially useful. There is one corner I've ever seen do a fair job of covering all the things Gallon can do to you, and that's Bradley Roby last year.
4. He's a running threat while still being a deep threat. The motion stuff with him works where it might not with, say, Norfleet.
5. Nobody else has played except Funchess and Chesson. A massive difference between your receiver's talent and that of the guy covering him is one of those things college offenses can exploit like a well. But if you don' t have that talent gap, the learned skills become paramount, and Michigan is graduating four out of the six receivers who've seen snaps. Dileo leaves, and while they weren't very effective receivers it's well to note that Joe Reynolds and Jeremy Jackson were the 5th and 4th receivers this year.
|Given how bad the depth chart was in 2010 they probably needed to burn Black's redshirt even if they didn't make Roh a linebacker, since Heininger was lost to injury and LaLota transferred, and the rest of the 2nd deep was Patterson and Banks and Sagesse. But how I wish we had redshirted him! [Upchurch]
Drake Harris is the closest to a freak of the incoming/redshirting crowd; he's not going to out-talent MSU though. Darboh will need some time to get comfortable. The other guys I wouldn't expect to be better than Jackson was this year. But somebody other than Funchess will have to be a mismatch or else the defense will be able to key on him. In an offense predicated on winning 1-on-1 talent matchups at the skill positions, Michigan's offense is going to be short one we've had for awhile.
Nothing against Schofield, and not underplaying how much he'll be missed (though some coach types think the UFR's have been a bit confirmation-biased in not knocking Schofield for communication issues). But Gallon is easily one of the greatest football players we've had at Michigan in the last few decades, and losing a player that far ahead of regular Big Ten competition is a big deal.
P.S. Defensively I'm saying Jibreel Black. He, not Q, was Michigan's most productive defensive lineman. We said playing a 280 guy at 3-tech wouldn't go very well unless that dude was getting into the backfield with freakish regularity. Well, he was doing so enough that he played a bunch at nose once Willie Henry was ready.