WolverineNation had a discussion on who they felt was the biggest surprise through the first 5 games. Their picks were : Elliott Mealer, Quinton Washington, and Devin Funchess. I'm curious to hear who you guys feel is the biggest surprise so far this year? My pick is Funchess, I think he has the makings to be Michigans best receiving TE ever. My second pick is Devin Gardner. We all knew he had the size to be a great WR, but he has definitely surpassed my expectations.
Biggest surprise through first 5 games?
Positive Surprise: Quinton Washington
Negative Surprise: Fitz Toussaint (still hoping he can have a productive 2nd half of the season though)
I haven't really been surprised by Fitz. Every game, the opponent's defense seems to be keying on the RB instead of Denard. I make it a habit to try to make the reads with Denard and they always take contain so on inverted veer, Denard gets to keep and on read option, Fitz gets sent into a line that isn't opening holes for him.
I think that Fitz will have a break out game this weekend or next. MSU, if not Illinois first, will kill on Denard and that will get Fitz open. I fully expect Fitz to have 100 yards rushing against MSU.
I'm not sure you understand the idea behind this exercise. If I told you before the season started that Fitz would only have 169 yards of rushing through 4 games of action without being injured, would you really not have been surprised???
Obviously now that we have the data from actually watching the game, we can explain why that number is so low, but it doesn't change the fact that Fitz's numbers to this point have been surprisingly disappointing from a pre-season prediction perspective.
When you put it like that, sure, but I'd be looking for an explanation like Denard having all of the rushing yards. If you also gave me context in that Denard would have 676 yards of rushing and no one else on the roster would have more than 100 yards of rushing, I'd say, "Oh, that explains it." I also wouldn't have been surprised if one of the younger backs had started in front of him and taken his yards.
I think joeyb is saying that yes, it is surprising that Fitz has so few yards on the ground so far, but it's not Fitz's ability itself that's surprising to him. more like the way the offense (& opposing defense) is operating in regards to Fitz.
so ... semantics, I guess. everybody is right once again.
This. Both that he's playing and that he's playing well.
Everyone thought that Avery would be slotted in if there was an injury at CB. I can't remember hearing anything about Taylor before the season. Yet Avery's remained at nickle corner and Taylor has looked very competent.
This really bodes well for next year having Taylor a year of experience when JT Floyd is gone. With Countess and Taylor in the secondary, the only real step back will be not having Kovacs. Man, we're gonna miss that guy.
The loss of Kovacs will hurt, but between Gordon, Wilson, Robinson, Furman, Clark, Gant and Dymonte, we should be able to find two quality starters. It's one of the stronger areas on the team. Maybe McQuay will also be in the mix.
The depth at corner will be interesting. Countess, Taylor and Avery will start when were in the nickel. Who's next off the bench? Will it be Hollowell, Richardson or one of the true freshman?
He looked like he was going to be phased out by Bolden, and he came back strong to put a lock on the MLB spot.
I'd say Morgan doing the same thing to Ross is equally impressive
Morgan is an intelligent football player. He was a quarterback in high school and his dad was a head coach so I'm not surprised. I think Morgan is going to be an all B1G linebacker before he graduates.
I like to think that in two years when they name the First Team Big Ten Players, for Defense they will just say, "Michigan".
I think Raymon Taylor is holding up really well for us, and seems to have a nose for the ball.
Edit: Beaten to the punch but glad to see others agree.
Raymon Taylor does not look timid at all, and that his HUGE for a corner with minimal experience....Cheers to him, honestly.
I figured Avery would get thrown out there, and ehhh.... he's much better at nickel.
Hagerup has all been a very pleasant surprise.
he goes a whole season without getting suspended.
Honestly, I'm pretty shocked that Tom Gohlston doesn't have 6.022e23 sacks yet.
Just finished my first Chemistry Exam last week. Avogadro's Number was on there. This made me laugh :D
Good: Raymon Taylor, Devin Funchess, Dennis Nortfleet, & Devin Gardner
Bad: Fitzgerald Toussaint & the RBs sans Rawls
Can't wait for them to let him return punts, too
You just know it's coming
Everyone saying this is jinxing it. And everyone - including Beckmann and I think even Musburger in the opener - is saying it. This has to stop and be reversed.
I don't think he's going to return one this year.
Yeah, I'm with you on this one. I don't know what everyone is talking about. I don't ever think he'll bring one to the house. Not in a million years!
Maybe after he leaves Michigan he'll return one. I mean, eventually he'll probably get there. But yeah, no way in hell he returns one while wearing a winged helmet. Certainly there's no chance he returns one at a critical point in a big game.
Opening kickoff against State. We lead stem to stern.
I CANNOT wait until they start giving him more touches not only in the return game, but on offense as well. Just get the ball in that dudes hands, and he's going to make some shit happen.
Elliot Mealer's beard
Schofield not being a complete and total liability has been awesome for my blood pressure, and a pleasant surprise
last year he was at guard between lewan and molk so holding his own out at right tackle, while expected, is nice to see
I think the emergence of the Devins has been great. The passing game has been inconsistent to say the least, but the Devins have done a nice job replacing Hemingway, and give Denard a tall, sure handed target to through to. I also agree that Funchess might be our best TE ever, stats and excitement wise, when all is said and done.
The only thing that worries me a little is, if we become to dependent on Gardner as a WR, is there no chance he will be our QB next year? I mean, the dude was a 5-star talent at the position. Seems like it could be a waste, unless Bellomy can handle the job.
I'm not sure they have much choice to play him at anything other than QB. Bellomy and a true freshman are all we got, and while Morris is dripping with talent, he's hardly a polished product ready to play immediately.
I wonder how the walk-on QB, Brian Clearly, is looking? Maybe he's a capable back-up for next year. That would be huge for QB depth.
I have been thinking the same thing about next year's QB. With Shane coming, it's tempting to say "Let's leave Gardner at WR." But then you think about our offense minus Denard, and you realize that we really have to have the best playmaker possible back there. Surely that will be Gardner next year. So we need Darboh and Chesson to get ready for next year. Maybe Laquon, too, although I think we are all tiring of counting on him.
I feel like the biggest surprise, albeit in a negative light, is Roy Roundtree. Coming off a pretty abysmal year, I thought that the coaches would make it a point of emphasis to get him more involved in the game. I thought that the departure of Junior Hemingway would free up some looks for Roy. Also, R-tree had an exceptional 2010 campaign. I thought this season would mirror the 2010 season more than it would the 2011 season. I guess I was wrong....
I was hoping for 5-0 but was expecting 4-1.
We were all thinking that if BWC didn't have an amazing year, our DL was toast. I've been very pleased with how Q has performed, and I think he's the biggest reason for the vast improvement in our D Line play over the last few weeks.
The lack of throws that have been "purposefully" thrown behind a receiver for jump ball plays. I like Denard hitting receivers pretty much in stride so YAC is a possibility.
The biggest surprise was Countess out for the year, not exactly what they're looking for, but probably my biggest surprise.
Anyways pleasant surprises, Funchess & Kwiatkowski (TE's in general), Gardner's ability to play WR, defensive improvement from the first three games (especially the linebackers), James Ross is gonna be sick, and Norfleet.
Surprises that I thought would be better than they are, the O-line, Fitz, Denard's interceptions (only because I thought they'd go down and they didn't, yet), DE lack of sacks, and Roundtree's production.
I said before the season started I could live with 8 ints all year for Denard. He just can't throw another.
Additionally, I didnt even think Mealer would find a way to start at Guard... Now he is playing Center, and he honestly hasn't been that bad...
Raymon Taylor and Mealer get my nod
Double post... So I'll also add that Desmond Morgan has been very consistent the past few games... SO THATS HOW YOU BEAT A DOUBLE POST
the whole defensive line
Gardner and the receiving group
Norfleet- guy reminds me of Steve Breaston
Ryan was good last year, but he wasn't this good. Positive direction is happy surprise.
I'm sure Brian is not yelling, "Ryan Nooo" that much this year.
By far he's the most surpising. Was not expecting a freshman TE to come in and be an instant impact player. Matter of fact, as much as I like Moore, I wasn't expecting our TE's to be more than a blockers for us this year.
However, the bigger surprise for me with Funchess is how under-utilized he is already. After Air Force, it was clear he's a force on this offense. TE size, but WR hands and almost WR speed. Really hard for any LB or safety to cover/keep an eye on that type of guy. Yet, we haven't utilized him as much as his talent demands. We dial up maybe a couple plays a game where he's clearly the primary target, and the rest of the time, he's a forgotten check down route that Denard ignores. This guy is our next Joppru, lets use him as such.
Honorable mention to John Amos, Jr. (aka Devin), Rawls, Ryan, and Avery (but he's there as a surprising dissapointment).
Sorry, I don't see it. In my view Avery is solid and dependable.
Granted, losing Blake forced this to happen a lot earlier than any of us expected, but I was hoping and assuming that if we did have to plug Avery into corner, he'd make it so we didn't miss a beat. We have. A few deep ones have got past him and then ended up losing his job to Ramon (which may indeed be more a testament to Taylor than a knock on Avery). Ever since his freshman year, Avery's been forced into the fire to play corner and he hasn't really ever made the full adjustment to it. He's a a darn good nickel, but yet again, a bit of a dissapointment (to me atleast) at corner this year.
Devin's pretty amazing, but I don't know if he will surpass Bennie Joppru.
Mealer. I didn't have any idea he would go to center. Not only is he passable, he is doing a good job, which is pretty cool, being this is his first year in the position. People forget too quickly what a disaster the beginning of the VT game was when Molk was out. I think that Mealer and Lewan are doing a fine job. If the rest of the OL improves, this will help in many ways. Having a solid pocket allows Denard to pass (think, Funchess pass last game) and getting some push will open lanes for Fitz. All of these things start with Mealer.
The receivers have been much better than I expected, especially the Devins.
The RB's have done worse than expected, especially Fitz.
Denard being so close to breaking the all-time rushing record for a QB. I didn't realize before the season started that it was within striking distance. If he is able to pass Pat White, it will be an amazing accomplishment and one that has been fun to watch, notwithstanding all of the sh-t the past 3 years.
Seeing Mealer at C and Barnum at G ... and it's working
Ash and Black not being able to crack an already thin DL rotation.
Ross and Bolden getting legit P.T. with proven veterans in front of them.
Burning RJS's redshirt; and to a slightly less extent, Richardson's.
Gardner's relatively smooth, and effective, transition to WR, even so, not getting snaps at QB
isnt ash hurt? and black has been getting some playing time, not a lot granted but seems like he gets out there for a few every game.
they won 11 games last year. waiting for the bubble to burst, might not burst.
Aside from Taylor, I think QWash is the most surprising. In the preseason, folks were freaking out about the d-line, calling it the major question mark on the team, and QWash was entirely an afterthought. People were surprised and worried to hear that he was starting in the week before the Alabama game, shocked when they saw him getting significant penetration against ND, and now places in the Michigan blogosphere have posts titled "Quinton Washington for President."
I was really concerned given the opener but they seem to be giving denard enough time. I know that we haven't gotten the backs going and part of that is on the OL but Denard is doing just fine on the ground. This makes me think that defenses are forcing Denard to handoff.
This is my first double post, I swear.
We thought WR was a weakness, and it's actually pretty good.
We thought RB was a strength, and it's actually been quite weak.
those who list Funchess as the biggest single player surprise. The biggest game surprises for me were the extent of Alabama's complete dominance, and the turnover fest at ND. I still believe ND is so over-rated, and yet we marched on them and gave it away, over and over. sigh
Others have mentioned it, but the transition for Gardner to WR has been one of more pleasant surprises for me as well. If you had asked me in August if he would be the guy behind about 25% of our receiving yards almost halfway through the season, I don't know that I might have said "yes". That's been fun to watch.
There has also been the massive improvements in rush defense over the past couple games - between ND and Purdue, we've held opponents to an average of 2.6 yards per rush, compared to 4.4 yards for the first three games. With as many doubts about certain areas of the defense as there seemed to be at the start of the year, being 19th in the nation (last time I looked at the NCAA site) in total defense and giving up under five yards per play is really good. In some respects, we have at least held the line compared to last year, at least statistically.
Like others, the rushing game has been a surprise of a different variety. Toussaint had 46 carries for 311 yards at the five-game mark last season, good for 6.8 yards per carry. He currently has 53 carries for 169 yards, which is 3.2 yards per carry. It seems to me that this is a combination of defenses playing Michigan differently, the offensive line play and the playcalls that involve Toussaint being very different this year, but Fitz also seems a bit tentative sometimes.
After doing not much of anything in his first few years, I at least thought he was one of those Position Switch Starters = Doom types, but he's actually been really solid this year. Like way way better than I thought he'd be.
Funchess doesn't surprise me as much (possibly thanks to MGoBlog). We all knew there was opportunity to catch the ball. I just don't think I expected him to have such good hands. That behind the shoulder catch against Purdue was nasty
He might not be the biggest surprise, but Kwiatkowski is really helping at TE. Great to see a walk-on work for all those years and then finish his career starting. Nice story.
Kwiatkowski... getting it done...one play at a time.
the sheer horridness of denard's play in the nd game. for a guy who has caused unending nightmares for that team the last 2 years, he handed them the game in an atrocious fashion. maybe its karma, but that was easily the worst game of denard's career thus far.
also, the devins have exceeded all my expectations.
Losing Countess early in the first game was a shock. I really thought he'd have a great season.
You knew it was coming, but I'm surprised by how well Gardner has played at reciever. Even with all the hype, I never really expected him to adapt to the position so well, he's getting noticeably better every game.
Q Washington holding down the nose tackle position is great too. I was really worried about the lines and it looks like we will be ok if not good.
I've been surprised at times at how inflexible Borgess' play-calling has been. He showed that tendency last year at times, so I'm surprised he didn't learn from it.
And agree with the surprise both at Funchess' talent, and the lack of utilization. But I'm hoping they are saving him up for a big game like MSU where he will go off.
Taylor Lewan has as many TDs as Thomas Rawls (1). Didn't expect a TD for Lewan, expected more for Rawls.
Gardner has 4x as many TDs as Roundtree. (4 vs 1) Thought they would be about even.
Gibbons has attempted 27 kicks and made 25 of them. (2 missed FGs including one doink on the crossbar). We haz kicker.
Not trying to take anything away from Lewan, but he fell on a goal line fumble. It's not like he scooped up a loose ball at the 40 and rumbled into the endzone a la LaMarr Woodley against ND in '06.
Rawls has 16 carries for 84 yds and 1 td... Those are pretty good stats if you ask me. He just hasn't had as many opportunities as I thought (and still think) he would/should have.
It's not butter.
Single biggest surprise
• Devin Funchess. He looks like a prototypical NFL receiving TE in the making. Rarely does a 3-star recruit become an immediate impact player as a true freshman.
• Mike Kwiatkowski. Coming into the season, TE was thought to be one of the biggest areas of concern for the offense. Those concerns have not just been alleviated, but obliterated.
• Ricky Barnum and Elliot Mealer. Starting Mealer at C and switching Barnum to G was thought to be a bad sign. Turns out both have been pretty solid at their respective positions.
• Raymon Taylor. The kid is making the most of the opportunity.
• Jake Ryan. I knew he would be good. I didn't know he would turn into an emerging star.
• Quinton Washington. No one expected him to be Mike Martin after switching from the O-line, but he's playing the best football of his career right now. I think he'll finish with 3-5 sacks.
• Devin Gardner's emergence as a dependable WR shouldn't be surprising, since there was plenty of buzz about his receiving skills throughout the offseason (along with that infamous video).
• Fitz. Because obviously.
• Will Cambpell. Yes, he's improved and has emerged as a dependable DT, but it looks like he'll never live up to the massive hype that he came in with.
• Roy Roundtree. It's probably not fair since Funchess and Gardner are better suited for the offense that Borges is transitioning to, but it is what it is. I hope the coaches can find a way to get him more involved without decreasing the production from Funchess and Gardner.
I was surprised at the utter lack of ability to stop Alabama's running game. Even late in the game when they had a comfortable lead. The Defense has recovered, but that was a surprise at the time. Even with our questions on the DL.
I'm harkening back to Tim Sullivan's Friday nights lights thing. I remember an Inkster vs Highland Park game, where Tim was scouting Devin Gardner. I recall posters or Tim or both talking about a kid on Highland Park who was very athletic and why wasn't M looking at him. Lo and behold a few years later those two, Devin Gardner and Highland Park's own, Raymon Taylor, are two of M surprises of the 2012 season. Good work Tim
Does it surprise anyone that Taylor now seems to be a more highly regarded player than Hollowell? When the 2011 recruiting class came in I thought it was Countess and Hollowell. I am surprised coming into the season that Taylor has replaced Avery, although after seeing Taylor against Bama in the first game, I immediately thought he just looked quicker, more physical, and more athletic...not a knock on Avery, just a compliment on Taylor. But, looking at recruiting class I thought Hollowell was the higher regarded recruit and am surprised now he seems to be burried on the depth chart as a guy that doesn't look like he'll ever be a starter.
I guess by this point, it's clear that he is who he is. The kid is tailor-made for the spread offense, and he should be admired just as much for having stayed and sticking it out in Borges' scheme as he should be for the spectacular, ankle-breaking runs and that million-dollar smile.
Norfleet has definitely has suprised me the most.
I thought he would be a massive flop (yes, I can be a negative Nancy sometimes). But he has held his own. I'm impressed.
Gallon - dude comes up with the ball - for his size he's amazing.
Devin's - I'll take two Devin's on the field any day of the week.
Fitz - maybe he is a second half of the season kind of player
Kick return future looks promising
But I guess that Q's emergence as a solid NT has been the reason.
Several surprises this year - Funchess playing as well as he has, Taylor stepping in and doing a good-enough job, Norfleet's ability in open space (hopefully they use him more). But the biggest surprise, IMO, is the apparent emergence of Jeremy Gallon's skill set. He is incredibly good at using his (limited) size to go up and get the ball, he runs very hard after the catch, and just seems to have that ability to make people miss in the open field. I think it is imperative that he gets more touches, in some fashion, moving forward.