Hokepoints: The 2012 Season, in Photos

Hokepoints: The 2012 Season, in Photos

Submitted by Seth on February 19th, 2013 at 9:46 AM

Two photos by Upchurch made into one.

I've been spending much of the last week going through last year's photos by Eric Upchuch (ChewerD on the site) to find the good stuff for this year's HTTV. Ninety-five percent just gets deleted, several hundred make it to folders I can access for various players and stuff. Then there's the shots and sequences that I can't, for whatever reason, use in the book but can't in good conscious throw out. So here you go.

NOTRE DAME:

jakeclose

You know those guys who stick their heads in lions' mouths? We've got a cameraman who'll stick his lens inches from Jake Ryan. Peer into the soul of the Viking.

[The rest after THE JUMP]

2012 Draft-o-Snark Performance Review, with Schrute

2012 Draft-o-Snark Performance Review, with Schrute

Submitted by Seth on January 8th, 2013 at 9:01 AM

Dwight-dwight-schrute-16214468-595-324

PREVIOUSLY in this vehicle where we draft Big Ten players and make fun of each other:

Rounds 1-3: We are summoned by Brian and duly take all the quarterbacks before he can draft one.

Rounds 4-7: Suddenly Heiko goes full Millen with the receivers

Rounds 8-12: Seth nabs Kovacs, Brian gets revenge.

Rounds 13-17: We all start reaching for Wolverines HARD.

Rounds 18-22: Doctor Vorax is revealed.

The teams are defended, readers vote, pre-season All Big Ten Team is chosen, receivers are lamented, Googledoc spreadsheet of handiness is created, offense/defense at the midpoint.

Your bloggers are rejoined at the conclusion of the 2012-'13 season in the conference room of a fictional paper company in Scranton, Pa., the "Electric City." A man in a brown suit enters, smelling of beets…

-----------------------

Good morning, [makes quote fingers] M-Go [/fingers] Editorial Team,

It's a new year, which means it's time for your annual performance reviews. Since your office manager is not here at this moment, I Dwight Schrute, have taken it upon myself to uphold and undertake this most sacred of office rites.

Who am I? Well I'm the assistant manager of MGoBlog. I've been Brian's #2 man since 2005. We’re like one of those classic famous teams. He’s like a cross between Mozart and Greg Mattison. And I’m like…um…Mattison's friend. No. I’m like Butch Cassidy and gregdavisBrian is like Wolfgang Amadeus Greg Mattison Beilein Iron Man Schembechler. You try and hurt Brian? You’re gonna get a bullet in your head courtesy of Butch Cassidy.

Unfortunately you bloggers were too incompetent to keep any records, thus I was sadly left with only one comparative metric by which to base any raises or bonuses. You see it seems earlier this year you all picked fantasy teams of Big Ten players as a way of getting out of writing a real pre-season all-conference article. You called it the "Draft-o-Snark," and thought it was pretty funny. Well who's. laughing. now?

Oohh didn't take it seriously? Greg Davis was coaching some of your players? A med student ran off with all the other quarterbacks before you thought take one? Boo. Frickin. Hoo. FACT: if a bear is attacking you and the only way you can defeat it is by driving 80 yards for a touchdown, the bear doesn't care if your only QB was turned into a tailback by an ulnar nerve compression. Because he's a bear.

THE TEAMS:

Pos The Aceconsin Cheesebenders:
AceG
Brian Cook's Flyin' Zooks:
Briang
Dr Heiko and the mad fitzmillens:
HeikoG
Seth's Smurfy Spread n smurfs: SethG
QB J. Vandenberg, IA N Scheelhaase, ILL B. Miller, OSU D. Robinson*, M
RB Montee Ball, WIS† LeVeon Bell, MSU† T. Martinez*, NEB R. Burkhead, NEB
Swing James White, WIS Fitz Toussaint, M James Morris*, IA J. Gallon, M†
WR Devin Smith, OSU J Abbrederis, WIS Kyle Prater, NW Kenny Bell, NEB†
Kain Colter, NW Martin-Manley, IA D. Gardner*, M R. Roundtree, M
Keenan Davis, IA M. Gray, MIN D. Arnett, MSU Kofi Hughes, IND
TE Stoneburner, OSU C. Fiedorowicz, IA Dion Sims, MSU J. Pedersen, WIS
OT R. Wagner, WIS Taylor Lewan, M Fou Fonoti, MSU M. Schofield, M
Havenstein, WIS J. Mewhort, OSU Ben Cotton*, NEB J. Sirles, NEB
C T. Frederick, WIS Stankiewich, PSU B. Vitabile, NW James Ferentz, IA
OG S. Long, NEB Ryan Groy, WIS Patrick Ward, NW Graham Pocic, ILL
Brian Mulroe, NW C. McDonald, MSU P. Omameh, M Ricky Barnum, M
DT Ondre Pipkins, M Beau Allen, WIS Jordan Hill, PSU J. Hankins, OSU
Will Campbell, M A. Spence, ILL Steinkuhler, NEB K. Short, PUR
DE C. Meredith, NEB R. Hageman, MIN Craig Roh, M Marcus Rush, MSU
W. Gholston, MSU John Simon, OSU M. Buchanan, ILL L.Thomas*, MSU
LB M. Mauti, PSU D. Morgan, M M. Bullough, MSU W. Compton, NEB
Mike Taylor, WIS D. Allen, MSU K. Demens, M G. Hodges, PSU†
C. Borland, WIS Jake Ryan, M R. Shazier, OSU† J. Brown, ILL
S Supo Sanni, ILL D. Stafford, NEB C.J. Barnett, OSU Jordan Kovacs, M
I. Campbell, NW C. Bryant, OSU Isaiah Lewis, MSU T. Gordon, M
CB J. Adams, MSU B. Roby, OSU J.T. Floyd, M J. Johnson, PUR
R. Allen, PUR T. Hawthorne, ILL D. Dennard, MSU Micah Hyde, IA
C. Avery, M B. Countess, M C. Norman*, MSU Stoudermire, MIN
K Dan Conroy, MSU Mitch Ewald, IND Brett Maher, NEB Drew Basil, OSU
P C. Webster, PUR A. Maxwell*, MSU D. O'Brien*, WIS B. Buchanan, OSU

* Player out of position (e.g. half of Heiko's team). Bolded dudes = consensus All Big Ten picks from us. † = All-B1G tie.

-----------------------

Question number…the first. Pick a player nobody drafted whom you should have. Any Wolverines? [we split these up so we don't all shout "ROBINSON…NOT THAT ROBINSON!"]

HeikoG: You mean Allen Robinson of Penn State who led the conference in like every receiving category whom nobody thought to take despite like 13 receivers being drafted?

Never heard of him.

Briang: I would have made up a rule to prevent Heiko from taking Taylor Martinez with his second pick. And... um. Oh God. I would take Matt McGloin instead of Scheelaase. BIG TENNN. Penn State's Kyle Carter was instantly the best TE in the league, though I blame Greg Davis for assassinating Iowa's passing game for part of that, and Venric Mark was both an All-American punt returner and an incredibly dangerous plain ol' running back.

AceG: We also managed to overlook an impact defensive lineman from an unlikely source—Minnesota's D.L. Wilhite, who tallied 8.5 sacks this year, just 0.5 off the conference lead. Quinton Washington is the clear candidate for overlooked Wolverine.

SethG: We probably dipped too far into the Michigan well to be honest, though Roundtree is 100% worth it if the only catch he made all year was the Northwestern one.

I made Heiko cover Allen Robinson so he could stew over all the useless receivers he drafted early. Also so I could cover Nebraska's senior DE Eric Martin, whom his teammates call "Caveman" because he burrows under offensive like he does bloggers' metaphorical radars. The senior had 56 tackles, 16 for loss, and 8.5 sacks and an additional 14 hurries, not to mention batting down a bunch of passes (amazing since he's only 6'2) and once hitting Russell Bellomy so hard it crushed my soul. I wish to Denard I'd decided to draft him instead of...

Now you jump, when I say.

dwight-schrute-celebration-jump

Punt-Counterpunt: Iowa 2012

Punt-Counterpunt: Iowa 2012

Submitted by Brian on November 17th, 2012 at 1:58 AM

michigan-football-schedule-wallpaper-2010-iowa-widescreen[1]

monumental; pay no attention to the dates plz

Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one… something like Punt-Counterpunt.

Ken_thumb7_thumb1PUNT

By Ken “Sky” Walker
11/17/2012

As I sit at my desk, I have to admit “Punt” is one tired puppy. Week after week of nonstop work is grinding me down. I don’t take time off—arranging coverage is more trouble than it’s worth. I’m not earning any vacation time because I’ve maxed out on what I’m allowed to accrue. This is a problem that needs a solution. It’s time to train an apprentice.

Making the pitch to my boss went well. He gives me the green light and the proverbial pat-on-the-back for all my efforts. I’m feeling good, looking forward to have someone that can step in for me when needed and not screw everything up. No more feeling guilty over taking a day off. No more dreading what awaits me upon my return. Having things done the way I want and need it to be. This is great! Then it hits me—did I just volunteer to train my eventual replacement?

While I contemplate the pros and cons of my decision, it seems the Michigan football team is facing a similar situation. We have a record setting quarterback who is observing what amounts to a medical leave. We’re missing him, his talent and hope for a speedy return, but a total recovery is first and foremost. Then there is the apprentice. There have been some instances where his lack of experience is evident, but there have also been several “Wow!” moments. He’s stepped up and done an admirable job.

All of this has to have many Michigan fans wondering “What if?” What if our late receiver had spent more practice time being an apprentice? What if the other “legends jersey” wearing receiver had rounded into his expected form a bit sooner? What if Denard’s injury improves enough for him to play? Give Robinson the nod early to try and shake off the rust? Or stick with Gardener and get him as much experience as possible prior to the show down in Columbus?

Something that doesn’t seem to be in question is the outcome of this Saturday’s game. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz brings another ho hum Hawkeye team to the Big House. This seems to be the new normal for the Big Ten’s second highest paid coach. I guess Coach Ferentz feels he owes the Wolverines one – their interest in him a few years ago has paid off handsomely. How no current Michigan senior has had a victory over Iowa is beyond belief.

Now don’t hold it against Counterpunt when he picks Iowa to surprise us. He’s just mistaken the Hawkeyes for his beloved “Stillers”. You can take the boy out of Pittsburgh, but you can’t take the Pittsburgh out of the boy.

Michigan 35 - Iowa 17

DSC00045_thumb6_thumb1

COUNTERPUNT

By Nick RoUMel
11/15/12

My co-worker Alex Dieck is dating her high school sweetheart, Michigan cornerback Steve Wilson. Steve starred at QB at Lakeland High School (White Lake, Michigan), and has since switched to cornerback and special teams. He is also majoring in cellular and molecular biology. Brady Hoke told him he was going to cure cancer someday.

Last week in practice, Hoke let Steve mimic Northwestern QB Kain Colter. Steve performed it to perfection, enabling the Wolverine defense to increasingly contain Colter as the game progressed—and ultimately stuff him in overtime to seal the thrilling victory.

I will look for Steve (#20) on the opening kickoff. However, his special teams play has resulted in Alex's growing concern over Steve’s well being. Football is played by players growing bigger and faster every year. A recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette analysis of All-State high school rosters over the last 70 years, found that the average offensive lineman grew from 178 lbs. in 1940 to 273 in 2008. On the defensive side of the ball, linemen grew almost as much.

Steve is 5’11”, 179 lbs. according to the official roster. He plays on kickoffs, deemed to be the most violent play in football. ESPN says, “Take two large, fast men and give them long running starts at each other, and their collisions won't be far from car wrecks. Kickoffs are particularly hard on brains. In college football, for instance, 1 in 5 injuries during kickoffs is a concussion; during other phases of play, it's 1 out of 14.”

Alex can’t get over the assortment of injuries that Steve and his football roommates have compiled over the course of the season’s first ten games. But football players love to hit. I remember a story about pro football Hall of Famer Jack Lambert, when he was a skinny but fierce linebacker for Kent State being scouted by the Steelers’ Tim Rooney. The fields were muddy, so the team practiced in the parking lot. Rooney watched in amazement as Lambert went flying after his teammates, tackling them on the gravel, oblivious to the damage to his own body.

Today’s opponent, Iowa, famously painted its visiting locker room pink during the Hayden Fry era. Fry believed pink would have a calming effect, and make opponents less violent on the field. It may have worked. Until Fry arrived in 1979, Michigan had won every game at Iowa since 1962; after the paint job, they won only 1 out of the next 4.

Michigan has had trouble with Iowa lately no matter where the game is played, dropping the last three. But today is different, because Steve Wilson didn’t play last year. With no heed to his injuries and worried girlfriend, Steve – along with the rest of our banged-up Wolverines – will dominate today’s game physically on both sides of the ball.

Just be sure to keep your helmet securely fastened, Steve. We still need a cure for cancer.

MICHIGAN 21, IOWA 17

Michigan Museday If the Dudes Get Dinged: D-Line

Michigan Museday If the Dudes Get Dinged: D-Line

Submitted by Seth on July 18th, 2012 at 7:46 AM

BWCNebraska-Heiko2  BarnumRoundtreeRohSpringGame-Heiko
Heiko|MGoBlog

♪ Well a whole season played with the first string guy is usually quite lucky.
And a squad who plays with the second team out can be anything but fussy.
But a team whose seen an important guy down—head concussed, knee on the ground!
If they ain't got depth around, then
all goes to poopie.
To poopie, to poopie, to poopie, but depth is hard to get!
To poopie, to poopie, to poopie, but we can get there yet! /♫

--------------------------------------

This is a continuation from last week when I went through the expected offensive depth chart and tried to predict what would happen—what's the dropoff? how do we react?—if each starter is injured for an extended time. Now, I'm not here trying to roll into town and stir up trouble, see? I'm a purveyor of portents and hedger of predictions only. What I seek to do is prepare us for any one of these dings, so that if one occurs we can say something intelligent like "it hurts to lose Roh but Black is probably the less replaceable!"

Why not all defense? Things slow down from here because the defense has a lot of intermeshing parts, and because there actually is depth in places to speak of. Mattison's er Michigan's defense has been characterized by interchangeable positions but really each spot is more of a sliding scale from NT to field corner where each one overlaps the things on either side of it. The listed spring/recruiting weights play this out (click e-bigitates):

Roster for HTTV

saturn-puntingzoltanQuickly again. Photos are all by Upchurch unless otherwise noted. Ratings are given in Saturn-punting Zoltans. Think of them like stars except more heavenly. Five is an all-conference-type player (Denard to Kovacs); four is a guy you'd call "solid" (RVB to Demens); three is an average B1G player (Morgan to Hawthorne); two is a guy with a big hole in his game (freshman Kovacs); one is trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Poole.

Nose Tackle (Avengers)

thor_385F717860141950
Geeks / O. Ryan Hussain|TheWolverine / 247 Sports

Starter: Will Campbell 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5 ???

Backups: Ondre Pipkins 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o ???, Richard Ash 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5 ???

In case of emergency: I'll be honest; this one is impossible to call straight. The 4-3 under is like the 3-4 in that it leans on the nose to suck up double teams and create mismatches elsewhere. The ideal is a superhero, and for the last few years we've had one of the best (by Ghost of Bo).

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Hulk is gone but the franchise must go on, and for now that means we are 100% committed to making Thor work.

thorcampbell

If the old 5-star takes up the hammer he's the pivot point of a great defense. If he doesn't then one of two mystery men could be anything from serviceable to disasters, and most things in between.

The upside on all three of Michigan's nose tackles is mighty. Weirdly, we think we know more about the true freshman, Ondre Pipkins, than the redshirt sophomore. Pipkins was a 4 or 5 star whose huge, squat, Tongan frame and jovial, Hoke-impersonating character made him and Michigan's need for nose tackle a cosmic destiny. If he's got the goods we'll see Pipkins early in spells of Campbell. True freshmen (Martin, Gabe Watson) of his caliber have fared well enough in rotational duty. The later this season goes, the more comfortable you can feel about Pipkins when he's called upon. Caveat: until he's called upon you have no idea if he can hack it, and for every huge dude you can name who could play right away (Marcus Thomas, Suh, Ngata, [sigh] Johnathan Hankins, DeQuinta Jones) there's 30 who need to spend a year as Ben Grimm before being The Thing. /metaphor used up.

In case of dire emergency: …break glass on Richard Ash. Nobody knows on this guy, who was recruited by Rodriguez as the last Pahokeeian project for Barwis to tear down and rebuild. The tear-down went unnoticed through 2010 and '11 and we caught a glimpse of possible rebuild when, 20 lbs. svelter, he made a few plays nice in the backfield. Ash could be anything from ahead of Pipkins to Adam Patterson. If that's where we are I could see Quinton Washington sliding down.

Rush Tackle (3-Tech)

6932489716_dcc6100ca6_oIMG_5048 - CopyKenny Wilkins
Right: Dell Callihan|
UMGoBlog

Starter: Jibreel Black 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

Backups: Quinton Washington 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, Ken Wilkins 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Matt Godin ???, Willie Henry ???, plus nose tackles

In case of emergency: The coaches have made it clear that Jibreel Black can play, and moving him two slots down the size/speed slide chart of defensive positions means they want him on the field, and that they want 5-tech-ish skills at the 3-tech. This being a swing position means the backups could be different things.

Quinton Washington is a big dude who was an offensive guard until he and Will Campbell were swapped for each other in that experiment. He still looks like a guard, and has yet show much at tackle besides easily dismissible coach hokum right after the move in 2010 so it wouldn't look like Rodriguez was throwing substances at surfaces to see what sticks.

Q stuck although the OL he left is now about as leaky as the DL he came to save. That the coaches moved Roh and Black down the line tells you something about their faith that Washington is ready, and going into his redshirt junior year that might mean he'll never be. He's seen time on goal line situations and is likely to again. Early in the year I wouldn't be surprised if he or Ash—whichever wins—is backing up both interior line spots, and that later on we see some Pipkins and Campbell together time.

In case of dire emergency: Ken Wilkins has been absent enough from chatter that people email me asking if he's still on team. Yes he is on the damn team, and he's still just a RS sophomore, but yeah, there's room for true freshmen on the three deep. Those two seem to be Godin and Henry, the lesser heralded of the heralded class, both of whom would benefit from redshirts. Henry is the larger. Chris Wormley, whom I rate at 5-tech, seems a more likely backup.

Strongside End (5-Tech)

IMG_0886-- Chris Wormley

Starter: Craig Roh 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

Backups: Nate Brink 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Keith Heitzman 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Chris Wormley ???, Tom Strobel ???, plus 3-techs.

In case of emergency: Craig Roh has to be the hardest four-year starter to project in history, thanks to many different careers as too-small WDE in a 4-3, a miscast OLB in the 3-3-5, then as the edge rushing WDE in Mattison's 4-3 under. Now he moves to RVB's old spot.

The backup here is almost assuredly Nate Brink, whom the coaches love but the fans hardly know because he's been hurt (he missed Spring because of it). When the coaches talk about the one-time walk-on they make sure to hit all of the Ecksteinian points: "coachable", "hard worker", "toughness", "great technique", "great motor." To that I might add he's 6'5 and 263, which is normal for the position. He's not Heininger (who as a sophomore backed up Brandon Graham), except in that he's some of the things you wrongly thought about Heininger. Then again I remember Brady Hoke making all sorts of guys into effect tech linemen.

If you'd rather see stars, Keith Heitzman is your guy. The beneficiary of the spring time Brink missed, the redshirt fresham was rated higher at tight end out of high school yet apparently good enough at SDE that the coaches moved Jordan Paskorz instead of him. Either this was a promise made at the time of his last-minute recruitment—likely since Tim reacted strongly when I say him and the TE depth chart together—or an endorsement by Hoke that he can play, or both. Best guess is it's both.

In case of dire emergency: Any of the freshmen linemen but Pipkins and Ojemudia are ready built for 5-tech. Of these Chris Wormley was a longtime high school star, which tells me he is probably physically ahead of the other guys right now. Tom Strobel is the other proto-RVB here. One day I expect we'll see the two of them playing next to each other at 3- and 5- respectively.

Weakside End

DEsojemudia

Starter: Brennan Beyer 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, or Frank Clark 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

Backups: Mario Ojemudia ???, plus 5-techs

In case of emergency: Well if one goes down the other starts. Following a trend, both Clark and Beyer were OLBs last season, while this spot was rotated between Black and Roh. Though technically a unit change, the job they did last year—outside rusher—and what they'll be called on to do this year are not all that dissimilar. It speaks well to both that they played as true freshmen ahead of once-touted Cam Gordon. Read less into that, since Gordon was hurt to give them the opening and their skillsets are different from his.

They're also different from each other. Beyer was the more highly regarded and will get called "solid" more often because he's less eventful than Clark. Clark has the greater athleticism (see: interception in Sugar Bowl) though has been convicted of multiple accounts of giving up the edge, a freshman mistake repeated in spring. The rest of the D-line by design is meant to free these guys up for sacks, thus I see both rotating. If one goes down we lose the rotation.

The only other designated WDE is freshman Ojemudia, who is about 200 lbs. right now and would be 2009 Craig Roh'ed by most of the OTs and TEs on our schedule. Far more likely, in the event we lose one of the sophomores, we'll see one of the 5-techs or SLBs move in before the shirt is lifted from Mario. Craig Roh has played WDE more than any other spot, and Brink has the coaches' trust to fill in at 5-tech.

In case of dire emergency: Packaging still covers but there's Ojemudia if you need him. Packaging means in pass situations you just put Jake Ryan here and have Cam Gordon or Brandin Hawthorne or a nickel corner come in; otherwise go "big" (for a certain definition of such) with Roh back to wide and whichever backup DT/SDE in the game instead.

Michigan Museday If the Dudes Get Dinged: Offense

Michigan Museday If the Dudes Get Dinged: Offense

Submitted by Seth on July 11th, 2012 at 7:37 AM

Michigan-line-to-be-tested

Hobbled Lewan would be very bad: Andy Morrison|Toledo Blade

Any team that remains relatively healthy for an entire season is going to be doggone good, and doggoner lucky. Until the Sugar Bowl, when Heininger went out and Molk would have been sidelined if he was anybody but David Molk in his last game at Michigan, Team 132's most significant injury losses were Odoms, the sum total of various dings that kept Woolfolk from being as T-Wolf-ian as he used to be, and Barnum missing extensive time. All were replaced by more than competent backups, respectively Gallon, T.Gordon, and Schofield. Depth at the positions of ding-itude (and relative health elsewhere) was an understated but important part of the strong second half and thin margin by which Hoke's first team ended up winning a BCS bowl.

If 2012 proves an underwhelming sequel, the most likely culprit will be injuries at certain positions where they can be ill afforded. Since so much of this year's ultimate preview is bound to be extraordinarily rah-rah, here I'll try to temper those expectations a bit by predicting what the drop-off might be if we lose any given starter. If negative hypotheticals tend to make rain clouds appear over your head, well, either you're closing your eyes to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated by the presence of a pool table in your community.

saturn-puntingzoltanQuickly. Photos are all by Upchurch unless otherwise noted. Ratings are given in Saturn-punting Zoltans. Think of them like stars except more heavenly. Five is an all-conference-type player (Denard to Kovacs); four is a guy you'd call "solid" (RVB to Demens); three is an average B1G player (Morgan to Hawthorne); two is a guy with a big hole in his game (freshman Kovacs); one is trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Poole.

Quarterback

DEVINGARDNER1thumb280x49451461IMG_4880-croppedIMG_4687

Starter (1): Denard Robinson 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

Backups: Devin Gardner 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, Russell Bellomy 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

In case of emergency: Devin Gardner was a 5-star recruit at the most important and most scouted position in football, has played relatively extensively for a backup, and has athletic powers not quite Denard-level but still far beyond mortal Division I signal callers. The drop-off from Denard to the Devin from practice chatter is measurable but not dire; the fall from Denard to the Devin we've seen in limited action so far is precipitous.

If the inconceivable is conceived, the offense could be simplified and lean far more on Toussaint, both to make things easier on Gardner and because if he gets hurt we're down to Bellomy and walk-ons. How unready Gardner is can be overstated; he's either a redshirt sophomore or a junior depending on how recently Gordon Gee bought your NCAA contact a beer, and this is plenty old enough to have a feel for the offense. Then again, when he's been in… Ultimately Michigan can win 8 games with Gardner; with Denard the upside on the season is roses.

In case of dire emergency: Bellomy looked cool in the Spring Game, but I wouldn't expect more than 2008 Threet out of him at this point in his career. Spread outfits like Northwestern and Purdue have made it work with such guys before, so it's not DEATH. It's hard to see him beating the tougher parts of the schedule.

Running Back

IMG_6112IMG_5240-croppedIMG_6950

Starter (1): Fitzgerald Toussaint 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

Backups: Vincent Smith 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o (as "the guy"), Thomas Rawls 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, or
Justice Hayes 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

In case of emergency: The emergence of Fitz last year finally broke Michigan out of a three-year period of carries by broken bits of Minor or guys who could do one thing very well and all other things okay well. Previous the-guys like Hart/Perry/A-Train could get more yards than the defense's execution gave them by having multiple strengths. In Fitz's case those X-factors are Perry-like vision, Carlos Brown-level breakaway speed, plus the Hart-like quality Brian historically refers to as "juking a guy in a phone booth." If he could truck he'd a Heisman candidate. As it is he gives defenses another guy they have to "cheat" around by scheme/alignment/personnel at the cost of weakening something else.

Losing Fitz means going back to a committee of guys who do one or two things well. A passing spread could be just fine with Smith, who's the best blocker among the backs, is dangerous as a screen/catching target, and has some of those Pahokee jackrabbit genes that magnify his effectiveness as space increases. So long as Borges can resist the urge to ISOs with him the offense can still be the best in the conference, if not Oregon-good. Remember 2009 with Brown and Minor? That plus a senior QB. And that wasn't so terrible. Since Smith will get in anyway, the primary beneficiary of an injury to Toussaint is Justice Hayes. Hayes (right) has already outgrown his Breaston-skinny recruiting profile and flashed Toussaint-like skills. In high school he was a good enough receiver that people thought his future was at slot. If he can block too Michigan might have something here.

The Minor in this equation is either Rawls or Hopkins. Rawls we've seen in spring and limited carries last year and seems as advertised: a trunk-legged trucker. All said, the drop from The Guy™ to the guys is a star-and-a-half but the committee is strong enough that the sum difference will probably be one or two of Purdue-Illinois-Northwestern-Iowa getting closer than they would have.

In case of dire emergency: We have two freshmen. If Norfleet isn't returning this year I'd like to see him get the Breaston redshirt to put on some muscle; Drake Johnson could rotate into garbage time now. Hopkins can be dragooned from fullback if we lose Rawls.

Fullback

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Houma: KSL.com

Starter (1): Stephen Hopkins 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

Backups: Joe Kerridge 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Sione Houma 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

In case of emergency: Hopkins seems to have fallen out of the RB conversation since moving to fullback—equal parts Rawls' emergence and fumblitis—but when I look at him I see a young Leroy Hoard, and when I look at the TE depth chart I see plenty of two-RB sets no matter who the feature back is; with Toussaint hurt Hopkins could get Hoard-like usage. There isn't another guy on the roster like Hopkins, but Kerridge is by accounts a decent fullbackian fullback, and if he isn't there's 5th year senior Paul Gyarmati and 3-star fullbackian recruit Sione Houma's redshirt to burn before we run out of noses to stuff into linebackers. I do believe the position will be featured more than in recent memory, but I think if Hopkins goes down it will be less so since he's the only real running threat among the group. So far as I know none of them are the Aaron Shea/Brian Thompson kind of receiving threat; for that Michigan will probably use a U-back, currently Ricardo Miller and Jordan Paskorz.

Tight End

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Starter (1-2): Brandon Moore 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, Ricardo Miller 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

Backups: AJ Williams 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Mike Kwiatkowski 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Chris Eddins 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, or Jordan Paskorz 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, or The Funchess ???

In case of emergency: The good news: the fall from Michigan's 5th year returning starter to his backups doesn't look too bad. The bad news: the drop-off from the 2nd team to random walk-ons is barely different. Of the group Moore had a good TE's recruiting profile though he's flashed neither Martell Webb's blocking ability nor Koger's receiving skills. In a typical Hoke year you'll see two TE starters but we're not there yet.

Ricardo Miller is the next guy in, but is a vastly different guy. As a junior in high school Miller was one of the top recruits in Florida, the star of power program Dr. Phillips, a National Honor Society member, and an early commit who gave us dreams of the next #1. His senior year he moved to Ann Arbor and ended up a stiff TE in Pioneer's option offense, pushing his rating to MSU-ish 3-star. There's still three years of eligibility for him to turn into Tim Massaquoi, and that seems like the path he's on, though the dearth of practice hype to that effect and equal reps for so many other guys makes the murmurs deafening. The opposite side of the coin from Miller is A.J. Williams, a true freshman who played OT and can therefore block a defensive end, which makes him useful now at the Y, especially when Michigan goes to (it's not dead yet) tight formations. Anything happens to Moore and Williams/Miller are probably trading off based on situation.

A few more common Spring tea leaves for a position in trouble are a sudden burst of hype for a senior walk-on, and position switchers climbing the depth chart. We have that in Mike Kwiatkowski and Jordan Paskorz. All told my guess is Michigan will play one tight end some of the time, two tight ends rarely, and if injury strikes Moore we'll see Miller and a lot more fullback sets.

Receiver

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Starters (2-3): Roy Roundtree 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Jeremy Gallon 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, and

Jerald Robinson 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5 ?

Backups: Drew Dileo 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Jeremy Jackson 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, Jehu Chesson ???, Amarah Darboh ???

In case of emergency: Like tight end, the backups here are not a huge drop-off but there's simply not enough dudes with experience to fill the depth chart. Unlike tight end there's a lot of talent and reason for hope. While Tree and Gallon are established as what they are, and Jeremy Jackson is probably not much more than a possession change-of-pace, there's some wideout wild cards in Jerald Robinson and two good freshmen, either of whom could be a starter by the start of the conference season.

Borges does prefer to have a prototype split end and flanker (and a slot), but both guys at the top of the depth chart are spread slots. Gallon is best in the slot, and more so than fullback the tight end situation benefits the existence of a third receiver most plays. Roundtree is now at Hemingway's old position, the flanker, which starts in the backfield and gets to run plays designed to get him open. Who wins the split end position out of J-Rob and the freshmen will mean much for how the unit develops. Since there's seven guys for what should be three positions, nobody is really out of the rotation unless one freshman is significantly ahead of the other.

If Gallon gets hurt, Dileo is a similar type of player and can be used in the same role—he should rotate in plenty as it is. If Roundtree is lost for an extensive time, you may get a long look at Jerome Jackson in that role, something that would signify the corps as a whole will have limitations. The hope here is that the receivers won't have to face super-tough coverage while defenses react to Denard and Fitz, but it's hard to call the difference because the starters and the depth are largely different types of players.

In case of dire emergency: A scenario that sees Roundtree and Gallon hurt (and/or somebody getting very serious about damage to parking gates) probably sees Michigan go "big" (think 2001 with Walker) with routes designed to get whoever Denard feels the most comfort with mismatched against smaller DBs.

Center

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Heiko took these. The one at right was accidentally not credited in HTTV.

Starter (1): Ricky Barnum 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

Backup: Jack Miller 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

In case of emergency: It's Jack Miller, who has some Molkian qualities about him but is a redshirt freshman, still gaining muscle, and liable to be thrown around like a ragdoll by the Ogbu's of the world as Molk was. The non-feasibility of Miller starting was underlined when Barnum was announced early in Spring as the center. This depleted the guards but at least there's a live body to snap it if Barnum gets hurt.

Spring proved that gap is wider than we thought, as Barnum established himself as clearly the best interior offensive lineman and tailor-made center for the transitional year's offense. Meanwhile we've heard little from Miller. He wasn't highly recruited but centers rarely are, especially spread centers. The caveat for this is until you see them play you have little else to go on. If Barnum gets hurt, the interior line is probably a team weakness, and teams with immobile DTs will probably bog Michigan's offense down by making it tough to run to the interior. But then if he can reach block like Molk it won't matter so much who's taking up space behind the play.

Offensive Tackles

 IMG_1645IMG_4809Kyle-Kalis

Starters (2): Taylor Lewan 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, and Michael Schofield 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

Backups: Kyle Kalis 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, Erik Gunderson 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Kristian Mateus 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Ben Braden 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, Eric Magnuson 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

In case of emergency: By "emergency" you mean anything happening to the starters, which would almost certainly see a true freshman drawn in. The true freshman in question is a 5-star and the most college-ready linemen we've recruited since that's been something we can qualify, but a freshman nonetheless, and one whose brightest future is probably at guard, possibly immediately since Elliot Mealer and a walk-on seem to be the competition for the left guard spot. Mealer was beaten rather badly by Minnesota on a day Minnesota was doing half of the blocking on Minnesota in his one garbage time moonlight on the outside, and I'd rather never see that happen again. So even if the true freshman wins a starting job this fall, an injury to Lewan or Schofield sees Mealer slide back to guard and Kalis is the guy, despite the fact he probably hasn't even figured out the Tisch-to-Mason cut through yet.

We'll get a tiny feel for just how much of a drop-off this is when the squishy part of the schedule yields opportunity to rotate the starters out and let Kalis get some seasoning, but such situations are doubtful to yield much in the way of passing plays against blitzes and hell-bent rush ends. If the unthinkable happens, however, you'll see an appreciable difference in Michigan's passing game, especially early, as they try to lean on whichever RS junior is left standing. Rollouts, runs to the other side, shorter routes, that sort of thing. One thing he'll have going for him is ends don't want to risk losing contain on Denard, so Kalis would not be forced to block a full-on pass rush very often.

Even as he settles in, this is making a position of strength into a weakness, in the case of Lewan like going from Verlander right now to Jacob Turner (for you baseball fans). I would also guess Schofield slides to left to cover Denard's backside.

In case of dire emergency: If any two of the above-mentioned go down I think Ben Braden is the next of the freshmen closest to being ready to play, even if Magnuson probably has a higher ceiling. It's possible Omameh could shift outside too—he's not big but he's quick enough to be a spread tackle and played there before—if one of the existing interior options proves to be a better option.

In case of really dire emergency: It's Gunderson, who looked exactly awful in the Spring Game even when the defense went to playing soft so that Gardner could do something other than get chased by the guy Gunderson was blocking. Or Magnuson. Or Chaucer. Rabelais. Balzac!

Offensive Guard

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Starters (2): Patrick Omameh 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, and Elliott Mealer 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

Backups: Joey Burzynski 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, Chris Bryant 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, Recycling Bin 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Beer Pong Table We Stole Off East William 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Blake Bars ???

In case of emergency: Burzynski got the start in the Spring Game and looked good for a guy not much bigger than my brother. This bodes unwell for nominal starter Elliott Mealer, the last man standing from Carrs 2008 offensive line recruits now that Khoury has moved on. That Bryant is behind both of them says he still hasn't gotten into playing shape, although the redshirt freshman may be closer to that by fall. Anyway if he's not needed as the only breathing tackle Kyle Kalis has as good a shot as anyone at starting left guard this fall.

Omameh is the O-line's longest tenured starter and was brilliant as a spread guard who gets to the 2nd level, something he didn't get to do much of last year. His upside as Destroyer of Teo's makes the relative value of losing him a variable, but large any way you calculate it. Any of the freshmen named earlier, plus Blake Bars, might be cast into a guard role this year. Fortunately there's a lot of O-line recruits on their way in case we burn a lot of redhsirts in 2012, but a quick glance at the depth chart by class reveals a fist-shaking inattention to the O-line.

I imagine by later this year Bryant is closer to being ready to contribute. He was a planetary object brought into to be stripped apart and rebuilt; enough pieces have been reattached at this point that he managed to show some life in Spring. He's a year away from being a ready asset.

In case of dire emergency: Q-Wash might be moved back in a pinch. Anyway, two injuries anywhere on the O-line and I'm writing a Decimated Offense article. Spoiler: it will say Rodriguez expected to recruit a huge O-line class in 2011 in order to have lots of RS freshmen ready to stand behind the 2012 upperclassmen, but because linemen commit early and prefer stability (remember: usually three years before they see the field) and with much of 2010 was poisoned this plan backfired. None of this will be solace to you if the O-line falls apart this year. I'm more worried now than I was before, and I was really worried before.

All told, this is a thinner offense than it was a year ago. The difference between the starters and their backups is two stars Saturn-Punting Zoltans or more at five positions, six if you think Fitz Toussaint is All Big Ten. Nowhere on the offense is there a ready guy like 2011 Schofield or T.Gordon burning a hole in the depth chart, unless one of the freshman tight ends or receivers move into open starting roles.