Rumors are flying about the potential transfers of three more players at the end of this 2008 season. This comes on the heels of two of the most notorious transfers in recent memory, Ryan Mallett and Justin Boren.
Sam McGuffie, RB. McGuffie sent his letter of intent late on signing day 2008. He was a strong Michigan commit during his senior year, but that faded as time passed. He was apparently enamored with the Cal Bears on signing day and unsure of whether to go ahead with his Michigan commitment or sign with Cal. He stuck with the Wolverines. Even before signing day, Michigan fans touted him as the Wolverines' next great running back. Many guessed that he would be the starting running back at the beginning of his freshman season, leaping in front of returning players like Carlos Brown, Brandon Minor, and Kevin Grady. Indeed, he started the year as the #1 running back, taking advantage of untimely injuries to Minor and Brown. In the second game of the year, he gained 178 yards against Notre Dame in the rain and garnered even more support from fans. However, due to a lack of power, the improving health of Minor, and a concussion against MSU, the majority of the touches were given to Minor, who seized the opportunity. I expected Minor to start from the beginning and was disappointed when he lost what I thought should have been his job. Minor's fumbles were a drawback, but he also had big-play potential. As the season has progressed, though, it is interesting to see the blind fervor with which Michigan fans have rooted for McGuffie. In my mind, he will undoubtedly be a good college running back...someday. But entering the Ohio State game, he sits fourth in yards per carry with 4.1; he is behind Michael Shaw (5.8 ypc), Minor (5.2), and Brown (4.6). Perhaps that is due to the poor offensive line play early in the season, but it is an interesting stat nonetheless. I have an uneasy feeling that a significant portion of McGuffie's following is due to his race. His high school stats and highlight videos are truly remarkable, but other gifted running backs in recent memory (Darrell Scott and Noel Devine come to mind) haven't received the same level of national acclaim coming out of high school. I also find it interesting that Michigan message boards have reflected panic in the fan base even though McGuffie might not even be the best back in his class (I'm talking about you, Michael Shaw). McGuffie had late doubts about coming to Michigan but stayed; Shaw had been committed to Penn State but realized Michigan was the better place. Would we be hearing the same uproar if Shaw were transferring instead of McGuffie? According to a reliable source on this board, McGuffie had asked to switch positions to slot receiver, which I found interesting because I had suggested that he move to slot receiver in my post-Toledo diary. Maybe he's homesick, maybe he's upset about his playing time, maybe he doesn't think he can cut it as a Big Ten running back. Regardless, I doubt Michigan's team will suffer greatly due to his loss. There is plenty of talent left, either currently on the team (Minor, Brown, Shaw) or in the class of 2009 (Teric Jones, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Jeremy Gallon, Vincent Smith).
Zion Babb, WR. Depth is somewhat of a concern at wide receiver, but Babb's 3-star pedigree didn't exactly excite the fanbase. Babb is a player with good speed and athleticism; there have also been rumors that he doesn't work very hard and dogs it at practice. If those rumors are true, it's no wonder Babb found himself behind players like James Rogers and perennial benchwarmer Laterryal Savoy. With young, emerging players like Junior Hemingway, Darryl Stonum, Martavious Odoms, and Toney Clemons, it's not a surprise that Babb wants to take his talents elsewhere. His athleticism might serve him well with different coaches and with more opportunities to make plays in game situations. I would not be surprised to see him have a successful career elsewhere.
Artis Chambers, S. Chambers entered Michigan in the class of 2007 and earned immediate playing time on special teams. Unfortunately, a record keeping error was made that negated his eligibility for the remainder of his freshman year. The Rodriguez regime seemed less excited about Chambers's abilities and relegated him to the bench for most of the 2008 season. Chambers was ineffective early in the season as a strong safety/weakside linebacker hybrid and hadn't played much since that experiment failed. This is a blow to the safety depth chart for Michigan, which loses two safeties this year (Brandon Harrison and Charles Stewart). As it currently stands, the 2009 Michigan team will have junior Steve Brown, redshirt sophomore Michael Williams, redshirt freshman Brandon Smith, redshirt freshman JT Floyd (who may be a corner instead), and an influx of true freshman safeties (Isaiah Bell, Mike Jones, Justin Turner, perhaps Vlad Emilien, some of whom may be destined for corner or linebacker). Even though Chambers probably would have been buried on the depth chart by Mouton at WILL, Brown at SS, and Williams at FS, he could have provided depth in case of injury or underperformance. I doubt Chambers will be a star anywhere, although I wish him luck. He stuck through the transition and has obviously decided he doesn't fit with these coaches. That's much more than I can say for...
Justin Boren, G. The son of former Michigan linebacker Mike Boren, Justin came in and played sparingly as a true freshman in 2006. He started at left guard and blocked a Minnesota defender out of the back of the end zone in 2007, one of the coolest plays I've seen. Rumors flew about why he decided to transfer to Ohio State in the spring of 2008. His reasoning was that the Rodriguez staff represented a loss of family values. Some said that the coaches cussed too much. Others suggested that he didn't like the Barwis workouts. The most feasible rumor I heard - although I have no assurance of its voracity - was that Lloyd Carr had promised to offer a scholarship to Justin's younger brother Zach, a fullback/linebacker/defensive end type, who would be graduating high school in 2009. Rodriguez and his staff deemed the younger Boren unworthy of a scholarship offer, which upset the Borens. This could explain the "lack of family values" that Boren mentioned to the press. Justin Boren subsequently became a Buckeye and Zach is an OSU commit as well. In Justin's stead, Michigan plays a guy who was a defensive tackle at the beginning of the season.
Ryan Mallett, QB. Mallett came to U of M from Texarkana High School as the quarterback savior, a 6'7" gunslinger with a supersonic rocket attached to his right shoulder. He played fairly well as a true freshman in 2007 when senior Chad Henne got hurt; everyone in Wolverineland expected Mallett to be the next great QB. It was a match made in Heaven. Except Lloyd Carr decided to retire, Michigan hired a read option coach, and Mallett didn't think NFL scouts were big fans of the read option. He headed off to Arkansas as soon as Rodriguez was hired. Meanwhile, Michigan's passing game has been anemic with redshirt freshman Steve Threet and walk-on sophomore Nick Sheridan. Mallett would have had a couple reliable targets in Greg Mathews and Martavious Odoms, plus a couple big-play guys in Stonum and Hemingway. But the two best receiver options for 2008 - Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington - headed off to the NFL. I'm guessing Michigan's passing game would be more efficient and more dangerous with Mallett at the helm, but considering he only completed 49% of his passes as a freshman and he is probably less mobile than either Threet or Sheridan, I doubt his presence would have made much of an impact on Michigan's current 3-8 record in 2008. Still, if my plans for the future entailed playing in the NFL, I would probably also shy away from a guy whose biggest quarterback success story was Shaun King; then again, Arkansas's best QB in recent memory is a cokehead wide receiver for the Jaguars, so maybe Mallett figured, "If I'm going to be a failure, I might as well fail close to home."