Senior Day Haiku 2012

Senior Day Haiku 2012

Submitted by Brian on November 16th, 2012 at 12:44 PM

20090912231722_26-umvnd[1]Craig Roh

A leaf blows in fall
Tasting each position once
Time to duck, Martinez

Will Campbell

These days people who
are not Thomas Gordon say
"Get off of me, please"

Jordan Kovacs Michigan v Notre Dame hcY6ms5iF8jl[1]Jordan Kovacs

A man from nowhere
is the safety blanket for
a hundred thousand

Kenny Demens

As Northwestern died
they must have thought "ouch" and
"my god, sweet mustache"

JT Floyd

UM-Floyd-ND-Floyd[1]Sorry about things said
two years ago, low and mean
Mattison saves all

Brandin Hawthorne

We'll always have that
Purdue hash to hash zone drop
and a kickoff hold

Brandon Moore

Must be a good guy
to get Kramer's eighty-seven
imagetime to make stories

Vincent Smith

Meet mini-Gandalf:
finger-gun Balrog LB,
state YOU SHALL NOT PASS

Elliott Mealer

tumblr_m9s369BwSH1rfy8h4o1_1280[1]The measure of man:
how many squirrels can live
in your face, repos'd

Ricky Barnum

Stayed through some things
that would have made most depart
and we needed him to

Patrick Omameh

386277_10150394019912616_648717615_8625136_973392225_n[1]This dance goes one way
two hearts meet at Notre Dame
Te'o's goes backwards

Mike Kwiatkowski

Not a walk-on, no
A scientist of brains, yes
And blocker of sweeps

[UPDATE: so I forgot Roy Roundtree.

Roy Roundtree

Joe Tiller quivers
in walrus rage as Roundtree
waves an arm, alone

]

Denard Robinson

I had been in the desert for some time, lost and directionless. The sun was relentless. A deadly thirst stalked me. I had not accepted the grisly fate which awaited me but was powerless to change it.

On the fifth night—possibly the sixth—a breeze arose. It was cool and dewy. I savored it for a time, then step by step it led me home.

7958859750_26230aebbe_z[1]

Upchurch

Wednesday Presser Transcript 10-10-12: Brady Hoke

Wednesday Presser Transcript 10-10-12: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on October 10th, 2012 at 3:27 PM

News bullets and other important items:

  • Brandon Moore and Stephen Hopkins still have unclear injury status. They may or may not play Saturday.
  • The staff is wearing the Chuckstrong t-shirts on the way to the stadium. 

Brady Hoke

file

Opening remarks:

“Uh, thanks for coming. Good practice yesterday. Liked how we’re preparing right now. I think the intensity level hopefully will be the same today from an offensive standpoint. I think talking to Al, they got a lot of good work done yesterday. Defensively, I’d say the same thing. I think both coordinators were pleased. I mean, not happy, but pleased with the preparation that we have.”

Were the practices as good as they were last week?

“Uh, I think it was comparable. I think coming off the bye week and not playing for a week, I think you always have a little more intensity it seems like. I think they’re comparable.”

Wednesday Presser Transcript 9-19-12: Brady Hoke

Wednesday Presser Transcript 9-19-12: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on September 19th, 2012 at 2:10 PM

News bullets and other important items:

  • Desmond Morgan will play on Saturday and will start.
  • Richard Ash and Stephen Hopkins are likely to play.
  • Brandon Moore and Brennen Beyer are out. 

Brady Hoke

file

“You ready?”

Yessir.

“Thank you for showing up. I think we had a very good practice yesterday. The tempo was good. The learning was good. I think we played fast and we competed well against each other, so that’s a good sign. I think we’re excited, obviously, to play in a great venue and play great rivalry game. It started in 1887 and [we’ll] continue it and go from there.”

Does the intensity ebb and flow with the varying strength of opponents over the past few weeks or is it consistent?

“You’d like to have it consistent. I can’t say it’s always been consistent, but you’d like the consistency be there every week so you can improve.”

Has it been consistent?

“It’s been decent. I think it was very -- a little more intense, but we’ve been talking about that a lot. The intensity and your focus and your concentration is at a higher level. Your speed of playing the game’s at a higher level. So I think that part of it has been good.”

Monday Presser Transcript 9-17-12: Brady Hoke

Monday Presser Transcript 9-17-12: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on September 17th, 2012 at 2:39 PM

Brady Hoke

News bullets and other important things:

  • Desmond Morgan and Richard Ash should return this week. Stephen Hopkins seems probable, Brennen Beyer is questionable, and Brandon Moore will be out.

Televised presser

This filter is called "file."

Opening remarks:

“Thanks for coming. It was good to win on Saturday, obviously. We have a lot that we need to keep doing better. I think we did some things better than we did a week before, but we’re still growing as a team in a lot of ways. We have to improve every week if we want to be the team that we want to be. So we just have to keep making progress from fundamentals, from techniques, everywhere across the board, do a better job up front on both sides of the ball. You’ve heard that many many times before, and you’ll probably continue to hear it. That’s where the game is played, and that’s where it starts, and for us going on the road playing a Notre Dame that’s 3-0 and has played very well -- they’ve been in tight games. They played in East Lansing well, they had a tight game with Purdue, won the football game at the end, so you look at them as a team and their front seven on defense is playing real well together. Disruptive. And offensively I think Everett Golson has done a nice job running the offense, managing it, a lot of tight ends involved, and they’re a good football team. We’re going to have our hands full, and we need to get a lot better as a football team.”

Monday Presser Transcript 9-3-12: Brady Hoke

Monday Presser Transcript 9-3-12: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on September 3rd, 2012 at 2:35 PM

Brady Hoke

News bullets and other important items:

  • Blake Countess is out with an ACL tear. You are totally surprised.
  • Brandon Moore is out this week with an MCL strain. Taylor Lewan is "fine" and good to go for Air Force. 
  • Both Fitz Toussaint and Frank Clark will play this week.
  • Bennie Oosterbaan's number will be unretired this week during the game vs. Air Force.
  • Courtney Avery is starting at field corner.
  • Alabama did stuff with their safeties and linebackers to keep Denard from running, for what it's worth.
  • Gardner wants to compete for starting QB job next season (not transcribed).

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

Televised Presser

file

Opening remarks:

“Good afternoon. You know, we looked at the film and the good news is we have 11 more opportunities to play Michigan football. We didn’t play the way we needed to play to win the football game in a lot of different areas, from a tackling standpoint to blocking at the line of scrimmage. Those are two of the biggest factors. Didn’t run the ball as we liked to and didn’t stop the run, and that is two things that as a defense and offensive unit you have to do. We’ll learn from the mistakes. We’re going to practice today. We gave the guys off yesterday because of getting in at 5 a.m. Sunday morning, so we’ll start fixing the mistkaes, talking about the mistakes, coaching them better. That’s probably the number one issue. We have to do a better job as coaches. The other part of it is making sure that the execution is the way we would like it to be to play Michigan football.”

Preview 2012: Receivers of All Varieties

Preview 2012: Receivers of All Varieties

Submitted by Brian on August 28th, 2012 at 9:59 AM

Previously: Podcast 4.0, the story, quarterback, running back.

 

Depth Chart

WR Yr. WR Yr. Slot Yr. TE Yr.
Roy Roundtree Sr.* Devin Gardner So.* Jeremy Gallon Jr.* Brandon Moore Sr.*
Jeremy Jackson Jr. Jerald Robinson So.* Drew Dileo Jr.* AJ Williams Fr.
Amara Darboh Fr. Ricardo Miller So.* -- -- Devin Funchess Fr.

This bit could be better. Roy Roundtree suffered more than anyone in the transition from the spread 'n' shred to the spread 'n' pasted-on-West-Coast-stuff, plummeting from 72 catches to 19. Notre Dame and Sugar Bowl savior Junior Hemingway is off to NFL practice squads as a seventh-round pick; following him out the door are Martavious Odoms (replaceable) and Kevin Koger (uh…).

In their stead Michigan will field a forest of unproven guys with limited upside, freshmen, their backup quarterback, and Jerald Robinson, the one vague hope for a high quality downfield threat who is not the backup quarterback.

It should be noted that Michigan is running the opposite of the Holgorsen style "you came here an X, you learned it in three days, you repeated it 60 times, you are forever an X" specialization offense. Jeff Hecklinski said as much last year

"The difference in this offense is there aren't really slot receivers as much as outside receivers — they play everywhere on the field and we move them around," Hecklinski said. "The switch is big because of all the little things asked of them - they have to convert routes, pick up checks and route changes and coverages."

…and the frequent deployment of Junior Hemingway in the slot and Jeremy Gallon outside confirmed that over the course of the year. Therefore "slot" is used to denote the player who is going to get all the wide receiver screens, which will never be bubble screens.

Outside Receiver

imageRating: 2, with upside.

Assertion: Junior Hemingway was the most valuable Michigan wide receiver since Braylon Edwards. Hemingway may not have been as good as Mario Manningham or even Adrian Arrington, but imagining last year without his ability to rise from a thicket of hands to snag "no no no no no no YESSSSSSSS" touchdowns is not a pleasant exercise. He is the undisputed king of yards per target since 2005. He was important.

Unfortunately, Hemingway's gone. Left behind is the mismatched collection of runty Rodriguez slot receivers, Rodriguez leapers who run like hobbled ducks, and… maybe Devin Gardner. Definitely Devin Gardner.

Aw, hell, I should probably start off talking about Roundtree and stuff but everyone wants to know about Gardner.

Yeah, man, he's going to play. Unless Jerald Robinson delivers on the perpetual low-level hype, no one else on the roster comes close to Gardner's combination of size, leaping ability, and speed. At the very least he'll frequently attempt the Terrelle Pryor "oops I'm huge" redzone fade…

…and it's hard to see him not being more than that given the alternatives. Gardner played exclusively at wide receiver at the Mott open practice, and with the first team. I've heard from multiple source since: that's no smokescreen. 

While no one knows how this will go, the steady drumbeat of hype from players is encouraging. It took about all of a dozen spring practices for reports like this to reach my ears:

Someone who's seen Gardner at all of Michigan's practices so far says he's "instantly Michigan's best receiver and adds a new dimension to the offense." He's "crazy athletic" with "surprisingly great hands."

Similar reports popped up on the premium sites, and when fall camp started and everyone asked anyone in front of the mic about the possibility, his teammates said "dang." Kovacs:

"He's a great athlete, I feel like he could play anywhere and he could probably take my spot if he tried," Michigan senior safety Jordan Kovacs said. "He's a natural athlete, and if they play him at receiver, I'm sure he'll be pretty good.

"Wherever he plays, he's going to make big plays."

Denard:

"When he gets out to receiver, you think he's a receiver," Robinson said. "He looks like he's been playing there for years."

And then there's this extremely reliable and not all dated video of Gardner screwing around at WR as a high school kid:

That's the ticket, man. They might have to protect him from getting jammed, but that's not too hard: line him up off the LOS, possibly in those stack formations, and there you go. Then it's about running the routes and catching the ball. 

The possibility of a "devin gardner dunked on tacopants" tag and a paucity of options to fill the Junior Hemingway role that bailed the offense out time and again last year will see Gardner on the field. It may be sparingly at first, but if it's crunch time against Alabama do you want him on the bench?

Attempting to predict what happens here is very difficult, but I'm betting Gardner is one of four players approximately level on catches and yards at the end of the year, with no true star player. The upside is tantalizing, though, and your best hope for an offense that scorches both ground and sky. Devin Gardner, you've been X-factor'd.

[hit THE JUMP to read up on Roundtree, Gallon, and company.]

Recruits In Retrospect: 2008 Offense

Recruits In Retrospect: 2008 Offense

Submitted by Ace on May 31st, 2012 at 9:18 AM


David Guralnick/The Detroit News

Continuing my theme of getting super-meta this offseason, I decided to take a look back at the MGoBlog recruiting recaps from the class of 2008—hello, blogspot!—and see how they stand up now that those players have either moved on from the program or are fifth-year seniors. 2008, of course, was the franken-class of Lloyd Carr and Rich Rodriguez recruits, a bizarre blend of pro-style plodders and size-challenged spread speedsters. While it boasted 17 four-stars among 24 commits, finishing a very respectable tenth in the Rivals team rankings, the class would prove to be an unmitigated disaster, ravaged by attrition and marked with disappointment.

So, let's go back to a time when Michigan fans still held out hope for landing Terrelle Pryor—when these were written, still holding out for a better contract mulling his decision a month after signing day—to spearhead this newfangled spread offense. Today, I'll take a look at Brian's offensive evaluations, and the defense will be covered next week. For reference, links to the original posts: Quarterback and Running Back, Receivers, Tight Ends, Offensive Line. If you're anything like me, perusing those is a remarkably fun way to waste time.

Easy Joke Is Easy

With a major change in offensive scheme, Michigan was in desperate need of a dual-threat quarterback. Pryor was the ultimate prize, and Rodriguez was forced to hedge his bets with Justin Feagin, an under-the-radar athlete from Florida whose best offers were to play wide receiver at LSU or defensive back at Miami (YTM).

Projection: Someone's going to play Tebow to Threet's Chris Leak this fall; unless Carlos Brown locks that down, it'll be Feagin. I have no idea what to expect, but think his future is probably somewhere other than quarterback.

Namely, the inside of a courtroom. ZING! (Really, when it comes to the 2008 quarterback situation, dark humor is the only option lest you want to break down in tears.)

Ironically, it was his off-field actions that made Feagin one of the recruits Brian was "baselessly excited about in defiance of recruiting rankings and reason," due to late-night workouts and multiple quotes expressing no concern about potentially having to compete with Pryor for the starting job. It was noted that Feagin required "a ton of developing to be a legitimate quarterback," which was readily apparent during his brief appearances as a freshman. Then came the cocaine stuff and subsequent boot, so we'll never know whether Feagin could've turned into a passable receiver.

NEVER FORGET

I started following recruiting seriously when a friend showed me Noel Devine's highlight tape during my senior year of high school. Since I had little understanding at the time about how recruiting actually worked, I was bitterly disappointed when Devine seemingly had zero interest in Michigan (and vice versa), eventually ending up at West Virginia. I swore never to get my hopes up about highlight tape heroes again.

So the next year, when another atom-sized running back took the YouTubes by storm, I had little hope that this Texan doing heel-clicks on the backs of linebackers would even consider donning the Maize and Blue. Even so, I'd watch his tape on repeat, sharing it with friends whenever the opportunity arose; seeing their eyes bug while asking what in the hell they just watched never got old. This is what they saw [NSFW audio warning]:

Then, of course, the impossible occurred: Sam McGuffie signed with Michigan, though not before nearly shattering our dreams during a signing day flirtation with Cal. Brian, however, was nonplussed, proferring this muted reaction to McGuffie's inclusion in the class:

General Excitement Level: AAAAIIEEEE! Man... this offense is McGuffie's jam, man, and the Church Of Barwis will excommunicate anyone who doubts his his's ability to get up to 200-some pounds without compromising his lightning quicks. Steve Slaton says what.
Projection: He's the man, man. Will battle Brown and Grady for carries at first; probably a Noel Devine role his first year.

Oh. Unfortunately, you all know how this one went. McGuffie showed flashes of brilliance as a freshman in 2008, but also the durability of a paper bag. After finishing the season as the team's second-leading rusher, he decided to transfer closer to home, ending up at Rice, where he'll be a redshirt senior in 2012. Not exactly what we'd all envisioned when the guy who frontflipped over J.B. Shugarts at the Army Game hit campus.

McGuffie wasn't the only back in the class, however, as he was joined by two other intriguing prospects. Rich Rodriguez earned the "snake-oil salesman" moniker for snatching Roy Roundtree from Purdue (more on him later), but his other signing day surprise was pulling Trotwood-Madison RB Michael Shaw away from Penn State. You'll never guess what Brian noticed on his film [emphasis mine]:

I am not a scout, but in the Shaw video at Scouting Ohio I saw a guy with a knack for catching the flare, good speed, and exactly one move: an upfield cut followed by a bounce-out that got him outside high school defenders with regularity.

And thus we find the origins of bouncebouncebouncebounce.

The final back in the class was a relative unknown from the football hotbed of Avon, Connecticut. Mike Cox's name required a disclaimer in the notes section of his profile—"Degree of difficulty applies on all jokes about his name. (IE: please no "Mike Cox is huge" jokes.)"—while his school's sporting pedigree invited a healthy dose of skepticism:

There's almost zero reliable data on Cox. His high school conference is well known for hockey -- read full of rich white guys named "Higginbotham" (no, literally) -- and is awful at football.

Until reading the profile, I had completely forgotten that Michigan took Cox over four-star Detroit Country Day product and eventual Notre Dame commit Jonas Gray. In retrospect, I think it's safe to say that was a mistake, even though Gray wasn't a major contributor until his senior season. At least we got four years of stale dick jokes, though.

NEVER FORGET, Part Deux

Rodriguez's hire brought to Michigan the era of the waterbug slot guy, which promised to be great fun for a fanbase used to watching tiny track-star guys tear it up only for opponents. The recruit expected to come in and make a big splash early was four-star Terrence Robinson out of Klein, Texas, and all it took was one physics-defying play to see why:

Commits pulling Hakeem Olajuwon post moves at warp speed during a football game understandably cause a fair amount of excitement. Brian busted out the obligatory Breaston comparison and projected him to be in the mix at both returner and slot receiver. Robinson finished his Michigan career with one catch, two kickoff returns, and one punt return for a grand total of 94 all-purpose yards.

Michigan's other slot ninja was Pahokee's Martavious Odoms, whose profile contains endless testimonials about his rabbit-chasing speed. Brian's comparison is Devin Hester and also a version of Steve Breaston that actually catches the bombs:

General Excitement Level: Moderate++. He's never going to be Braylon Edwards but if he's as fast as his reputation he could be a dynamite returner and even a deep threat: remember Steve Breaston's ill-fated career as the target of bombs? Well, he was open by yards time and again because opposing players got smoked by his moves and always dropped the ball. Odoms looks like he's pretty good at hauling in deep balls.
Projection: Will press for time as a returner immediately and is 50-50 to be the designated bubble screen guy, with Terrance Robinson the other option. Starts off with an advantage on Robinson because he's spent the last four years as a receiver.

Evaluation severely lacking in mountain goat blocking praise.

Despite the excitement over the tiny slot guys, the biggest expectations were reserved for consensus top-100 receiver Darryl Stonum, who chose Michigan over Florida, Alabama, USC, and Florida State. Breathless hype part one:

Natural change of direction? Fluid hips? Comes down with jump balls? A mix of Braylon Edwards and Mario Manningham... which, like, dude.

And part two:

General Excitement Level: Maximal. The second most likely kid in the class to have a long, productive career at Michigan, IMO, behind Dann O'Neill.

Stonum's production disappointed, even after it was discovered that he'd been playing half-blind and needed contacts, and his career came to an untimely end after a string of alcohol- and driving-related arrests.

The last of the four receiver recruits was Roy Roundtree, another Trotwood-Madison star whose projection was the closest to the eventual reality:

General Excitement Level: Moderate. Never going to be a gamebreaker, but a likely contributor. Has to add a lot of weight to be an effective player.
Projection: Redshirts, plays sparingly his second year, and is 50-50 to emerge into Michigan's #2 WR.

Roundtree redshirted, then led the team in catches in each of the next two seasons, though this was more the product of the offense—Roundtree was the main beneficiary of QB Oh Noes—than him being a true #1 receiver, though he may be forced into that role this season.

Caveats Apply

The 2008 class also featured two four-star tight end recruits, though both came with significant question marks. For Brandon Moore, the third of the Trotwood trio, the question was whether he was the future star who earned top-100 rankings and big-time offers after a standout junior season or the potential bust whose stock slipped significantly during a disappointing senior year. Scout actually started out with Moore as their #98 overall prospect before dropping him all the way to three stars and the #43(!) tight end. The verdict:

General Excitement Level: High, with caveats. Moore is a boom-or-bust guy with much potential but a long way to go.
Projection: Great success, great failure, or somewhere in between. Specific cat is specific.

Barring an out-of-nowhere breakout season in 2012, bust it is.

Meanwhile, Michigan took a head-to-head battle with Ohio State for Toledo Whitmer's Kevin Koger, but it was unclear whether he'd stick at tight end or eventually make a move to defensive end:

It must be said: Koger is widely regarded a prospect of equal or greater merit at defensive end, and with Nick Perry's escape to Southern Cal Michigan finds themselves with one defensive end recruit across two classes. Though it's possible one of the linebackers -- most likely Marcus Witherspoon -- could end up with his hand down, Michigan is critically short there.

A down-the-line move was projected, but that was largely based on the assumption that Moore would pan out. Instead, it was Koger who'd get the lion's share of the snaps at tight end for the next four years.

Brian's O-line Knowledge Has Come A Long Way

One of the staples of the recruiting recaps is the "YMRMFSPA" section, in which Brian compares the recruit's style of play to a notable former player (usually a Wolverine, but not always, as evidenced by the Hester comparison for Odoms). With Michigan pulling in six offensive linemen in 2008, coming up with the proper approximation got a little difficult:

Dann O'Neill: YMRMFSPA Jake Long. No pressure.
Kurt Wermers: YMRMFSPA Matt Lentz?
Elliott Mealer: YMRMFSPA Matt Stenavich(?)
Rocko Khoury: YMRMFSPA Uh, that other un-touted guard person.
Ricky Barnum: YMRMFSPA Rod Payne?
Patrick Omameh: YMRMFSPA ????

Dave Petruziello and Leo Henige feel very neglected, man.

As you can see above, before Taylor Lewan was the Next Jake Long, that distinction went to Dann O'Neill, a top 100 recruit from Grand Haven. Not only was O'Neill quite a talent, his services were desperately needed along a thin offensive line:

Dann O'Neill might be Michigan's most critical recruit. The only tackles in the last two recruiting classes are incumbent RT Steve Schilling, three-star Perry Dorrestein, and two-star sleeper (as in "only had offers from MAC schools" sleeper) Mark Huyge. Finding two starting tackles from that group once the Zirbel-Ortmann class graduates in two years was looking very risky.

Brian projected O'Neill to start "at some point, hopefully later (say, as a redshirt sophomore) rather than sooner (say, this fall)." Instead, he never played a down as a Wolverine, transferring to Western Michigan after his freshman year. He would eventually earn a start at Michigan Stadium in 2011, but as a member of the Broncos.

The other future washout on the line was Indiana guard Kurt Wermers, whose off-field hobbies were not exactly typical of a football player [emphasis Brian's]:

Wermers was also named to the stupidly named "Offense-Defense Bowl" in Miami. The OD bowl appears to be a sort of second-tier all star game. Big whoop, except for the press release announcing the selection:

"Wermers, a veritable renaissance man whose hobbies include weightlifting, playing guitar, singing, and reading, also enjoys spending time on the virtual field of battle in the wildly popular massively multiplayer role-playing game World of Warcraft when not battling in the trenches on the football field."

This dovetails with information from May about Wermer's participation in... an a capella group:

"I love it," Wermers said of singing. "It gives me a chance to get away from big jocky athletic guys and hang out with a different group of people."

I don't think we'll be having any discipline issues with young Mr. Wermers. It's just a feeling.

Wermers left the team before the 2009 season, saying he decided to transfer because Rodriguez was "bringing in a lot of different kids that were not my kind of crowd," and running the team like a business (Wermers signed when Carr was the coach, but obviously never played under him). It was later revealed that Wermers was academically ineligible when he announced his transfer, probably because he was playing WoW instead of going to class. Discipline issues: check.

The player who's actually panned out was the lowest-ranked among the six, Patrick Omameh, a two-star DE to Rivals and the #87 OT to Scout. There wasn't much comment on Omameh beyond addressing his sleeper status; speculation about his future position turned out to go 0-for-2:

There are conflicting reports as to whether Omameh was recruited as a center (where his intelligence would help with the line calls) or tackle; that will get sorted out somewhere down the line.

As you know, Omameh is entering his third year as the full-time starter at... right guard.

Finally, Ricky Barnum peered into the future and got a serious head start on his future team's biggest rivalry:

Various people are probably irritated with Ricky Barnum: Urban Meyer, for one. Also OH OL Zebrie Sanders, who tried to commit to Florida but was told to talk to the hand because Barnum and another player had filled Florida's OL quotient for the year. Sanders, also rejected by Georgia for the same reason, ended up at Florida State and Urban ended up short one highly recruited interior lineman. Not that anyone will ever shed a tear for Urban Meyer.

Well done, Ricky.

Spring Game Primer: Offense

Spring Game Primer: Offense

Submitted by Ace on April 12th, 2012 at 12:32 PM


Sophomore Thomas Rawls is making a push for more carries this fall.

This Saturday marks the Spring Game, when we all watch a glorified scrimmage and make snap judgments like "Mark Moundros is going to start at middle linebacker," and "Tate Forcier has the Heisman in his future." (Okay, I admit, I said both of those things, but luckily the evidence has been wiped from the internet.) Nevertheless, it's the only semi-competitive football we'll see until the fall, providing us our lone peek into the progress of the team and the various position battles.

Here's what I'll be hoping to see from the offense on Saturday:

Mediocrity. I know, right? This is actually more of a defensive point, but I want to put this here: in the spring, the defense should be ahead of the offense in terms of installing their schemes and playing cohesively. It's no coincidence that we saw the offense absolutely wreck the defense in the 2009 and 2010 games, then look downright ugly at times in last year's edition. I don't need to tell you how those respective seasons turned out. After just two weeks of practice, the offensive line won't have gelled like they will in the fall, the timing between quarterback and receiver is often a little off, and the playbook is still very much in the installation phase. This plea may fall on deaf ears, but don't freak out if the offense isn't marching up and down the field; in fact, feel free to be a bit encouraged.

Gardner Gardner Gardner. All eyes will be on Devin Gardner, though the odds of the coaches trotting him out at receiver for a nationally-televised scrimmage are somewhere between zero and zero. He will be playing quarterback, however, and it's time to see a big step forward from him in the passing game. Practice accounts have been positive in that regard and it sounds like he's the clear-cut #2 QB ahead of Russell Bellomy, though we'll see how big of a gap there is between those two. If Bellomy looks like a passable second-stringer, you can keep hope alive for some Denard-to-Devin connections in the fall. If not, the coaches may find it too risky to split Gardner out wide.

Bowling Ball Rawls. I was pretty high on Thomas Rawls when he came out of high school, and after a freshman year spent mostly on the bench, he's impressed practice observers with his power as a running back and is making a strong push for the backup job. Vincent Smith will inevitably see snaps on third down, but there's still room for a back to spell Fitzgerald Toussaint on occasion and provide a different look in the backfield. Though Rawls won't make many people miss, he can knock them over, and if he shows that against the first team defense we can start thinking of him as a change-of-pace/short-yardage back. Redshirt freshman Justice Hayes has also drawn praise in the spring, though he'll have to prove he's either a more effective runner than Rawls or a more explosive receiving option than Smith to carve out a role; neither is out of the question given his athleticism.

Number One Target? The general assumption is that Roy Roundtree will be the top receiver this year, but I'm not sold on that. His production dropped dramatically last season as he played more on the outside and was no longer the beneficiary of numerous QB OH NOES as a RichRod slot receiver. Jeremy Gallon flashed a lot of talent last season, and I think he'll be a very capable second option, but he's 5'8". Hope may come in the form of redshirt sophomore Jerald Robinson, who's been lauded as a potential go-to guy this spring despite never recording a collegiate catch. This may be your standard Johnny Sears-type spring hype, but let's withhold judgment until we see him on the field. If nobody looks like a solid #1 option, there's going to be a lot of pressure on Amara Darboh come fall.

My Kingdom for a Tight End. This is the scariest position group on the roster, and that's taking into account the fact that the offensive line has almost no depth. Redshirt senior Brandon Moore is the starter by default; he's had issues with drops in the past, so hope he holds onto the ball if it comes his way. Converted wideout Ricardo Miller will get time as an H-back (the "U" tight end in this offense), and he must prove he can hold up as a blocker if he wants to see much time. Behind them are redshirt senior walk-on Mike Kwiatkowski and converted DE Jordan Paskorz. If this unit isn't a total liability, I'll take it, especially with A.J. Williams and Devin Funchess providing reinforcements in the fall. If they are, Al Borges is going to have to get very creative with his schemes.

O-line Depth: Do We Have Any? The first-team offensive line should be just fine, with projected left guard starter Elliott Mealer the only unknown quantity. Mealer is a redshirt senior who's currently beating out a highly-touted (and massive) redshirt freshman in Chris Bryant, so I'm not too concerned about his ability to fit in. Ricky Barnum has reportedly adjusted well to his new role as starting center; again, I'm optimistic about the first team's ability. PANIC! will set in, however, if a starting lineman goes down, especially a tackle. The second-team line this spring features three(!) walk-ons, and while redshirt sophomore guard Joey Burzynski has impressed practice observers, color me skeptical of any 6'1", 284-pound walk-on being anything but a frightening liability in a game situation. The backup tackles are all walk-ons, at least until Kyle Kalis hits campus for the fall, so expect Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield to be encased in bubble wrap until September.

Kickers. Make your field goals, please and thank you. That is all.

Spring Practice Presser Transcript 4-3-12: Fitz Toussaint and Brandon Moore

Spring Practice Presser Transcript 4-3-12: Fitz Toussaint and Brandon Moore

Submitted by Heiko on April 5th, 2012 at 10:20 AM

(Audio for transcription courtesy of WolverineNation)

Fitz Toussaint

vs. EMU / I don't think this was a very good day for Fitz.

How is the spring going, and how are the running backs competing?

“It’s just like last year. We’re all trying to get the No. 1 spot. We all do a pretty good job of learning things equally, and I think the coaches are doing a good job teaching it.”

Have you approached it differently this spring considering all the experience you got last year?

“A little more aggressive in doing what I have to do and everything.”

What did last year teach you about competing for that No. 1 job?

“Just to keep competing because somebody could be right behind you trying to take your spot.”

Have you been able to see any of the young guys a little more since the coaches have said they’re going to give them more snaps?

“Yeah, those guys are doing good. I feed off them and they feed off me. I think that’s really where the competition comes from, and we’re able to work off that.”

Which of them has impressed you the most?

“They’re all different, but equal. They all have different styles. Rawls is a little speedster, and Hayes has a little power. It’s kind of like the opposite.”

Opposite of what we think of them?

“Yeah. Rawls has a little more power, but I think both of them are equal.”

What did Saturday show about yourself personally and your team?

“That I’m willing to do anything for my team. I can be put in any position and handle it well.”

What do you mean by that?

“Just in terms of pressure things like that. Able to work out, just play my position, play my role.”

Borges said that you needed to work on certain things to stay on the field for every down. What have you done to work towards that goal?

“Just off the field things -- working on blocking right, proper techniques. Coach J does a good job of teaching us that.”

What are you doing to work on your blocking?

“Just things like bags, blocking with the other fellas, just working on proper technique. Sometimes we look at the linemen and see how they do it and try to translate that and do our thing with it.”

Do you watch film on Vincent Smith at all?

“Oh definitely Vincent. I think Michael Shaw did a pretty good job of picking [up] stuff like that, so I kind of watch film from last year and see how those guys [did] it.”

Can you explain why an effective and experienced offensive line is key?

“They’re feeding off what those guys did last year, and the expectation for the position -- I think those guys can handle it well.”

Where do you think you have made the most improvement?

“I’d say my blocking skills. Working on that -- I think that’s really heavy in this offense. You really have to pick up pass protection. I think that’s key.”

We saw a bunch of big runs from you on the Saturday scrimmage highlights. Can you describe some of those plays?

“It’s more the offensive line doing their job. I was able to go off of that and make big plays.”

Have you been making more of those plays this spring than last spring?

“I think it’s kind of the same.”

Borges talks about your vision having improved over last season. Do you feel like it’s still improving?

“Definitely. I think it’s just coming off of being more comfortable, not trying to hold pressure on myself. Just comfortoable, laid back, and doing my job.”

Do you feel yourself recognizing the play and anticipating where to go much quicker?

“Definitely. I can analyze more and just be patient.”

How much are you working on catching balls out of the backfield?

“I think I work on that equally as I do with anything else.”

How’s that going?
“Pretty good. I think I have pretty good hands and catch the ball well.”

Have you noticed that being a greater emphasis in the offense this spring, i.e. running backs catching ball out of backfield?

“I think that’s pretty important. We have to come out of the backfield and catch the ball pretty [fluid? fluent?]. I think coach really put the emphasis on that this spring, and we work with that well.”

You’re getting fewer reps this spring. Do you have to do anything to stay sharp?

“Just take advantage of the plays I do have … just do my job.”

Would you rather have more reps?

“I think that’s good for the young guys to be able to get in and do what they have to do to show the coaches something.”

Is it hard for you, though?

“Not really, because I can coach those guys up. I feel that my experience will go higher with that.”

Have any of the young linebackers impressed you?

“Desmond Morgan. But I mean we saw that last year.”

-----

Brandon Moore

No. 89

How has it been different this spring vs. previous springs when you had veterans ahead of you?

“It’s a lot different, but of course just like every spring, we’re working towards that goal, working towards getting better in every aspect of the game, so in a way it’s different because I’m expected to step up in my position. It’s also just the same because I’m just working towards getting better each and every day.”

How much further along do you feel compared with a year ago? Do you feel more responsibility on your shoulders?

“Of course there’s more responsibilty on my shoulders because I’m a veteran. I’m a senior, and this is our team, so of course there’s pressure right there. As far as my development, I feel like I’m getting a lot better and playing with a lot more speed because I’m more used to the offense. It’s not so much thinking within the offense. It’s just playing rather than thinking about what my assignments are.”

What part of your game has grown the most in spring camp so far?

“I would have to say my blocking. I’m thinking a lot less now, and I’m able to go out and make the blocks rather than thinking [I have to] make sure this guy doesn’t get over me and stuff like that. Definitely my blocking and thinking less and just playing.”

What do you feel like you need to improve most September 1st?

“Every part. I want to get better at catching the ball, I want to get better at blocking, I want to get better at running routes. There’s not a part that I don’t want to get better at.”

What do you mean when you say you’re thinking less?

“As far as just knowing how the offense works. Knowing where the play’s going. Knowing where the running back’s going. Not really worrying about the defensive lineman’s getting inside of me or outside of me. Just worry about knowing where I have to block.”

Borges emphasizes the tight end position. How confident are you that the current personnel on the roster can get the job done?

“I’m definitely confident with [the guys in] our room. We have a lot of great players in there. We have Ricardo Miller, Mike Kwiatkowski, and we have a couple freshmen coming in. I’m really excited about our offense and the tight ends. All of us are making progress every day.”

Last year there was open competition at running back. Do you see the tight end position similar to that situation?

“Of course, there’s competition at every position. There’s no position that’s set with a player. I don’t really see a difference between my position and any other position on the field.”

Do you feel more comfortable at the U or the Y position?

“I feel I can play either. Anywhere I can help the team out.”

What have Miller and Kwiatkowski done so far in spring practice? What kind of personality do they bring on the field?

“Ricardo, he’s a really good athlete. He moved from wide receiver, so he has the wide reciever skills at the tight end position. He runs fast. He runs really great routes. He has great hands. There’s a lot of things Ricardo brings. Mike is a big, strong guy, and he moves guys on the line of scrimmage, so he does a great job blocking, and he does a great job running routes, also.”

How hard has it been to wait your whole career to have this chance?

“Um, man … how difficult has it been … I want to say it’s been difficult because I’ve been working to this chance my entire career. Of course it’s been difficult to be behind great players like Kevin Koger and Martell Webb and Steve Watson, but I’m ready to have my chance.”

Can you talk about some of the guys who have switched to tight end recently, like Jordan Paskorz and Chris Eddins?

“They’re definitely adjusting to the position. They’re trying to learn the plays, understand the playbook and things such as that. Of course there’s a little learning curve as far as learning the position, but they’re working hard to get better each and every day.”

How is the chemistry between the tight ends and the quarterbacks?

“We have great chemistry. We’ve been coming in here on our own like throwing passes with the quarterbacks. There’s a good chemistry. He knows where we’re going to be at when we’re in our position, and stuff like that.”

What did you learn from guys like Kevin Koger?

“I was behind Kevin my entire career, and he’s a great player, but he’s an even better person. He’s a great leader, he knows how to get the team motivated. He kept a set of the playbook year round, and what I learned from him was just play like a professional. Just going out there each and every day and get better each and every day. Just doing everything to your greatest abilities.”

Kevin had to wait to be featured, too. Does some of his patience rub off on you, too?

“Oh yeah. Of course it did. Just being with him -- we’ve been together a long time. I knew him before we got here. Our personalities rubbed off on each other a little bit.”

He’s kind of a loud guy, right?

“Yeah, he’s a loud guy. I’m more of a quiet guy. I’m probably one of the more quiet guys on the team.”

As the team comes to understand the offense more, has the tight end role been changing at all?

“Yes, of course, because once everyone learns the offense they can play multiple positions. A tight end can move out to wide receiver, or a wide receiver can move to tight end. Just learning the playbook and knowing what everyone does on the field, you have a chance to play different positions.”

Does it help to have someone on the team that you went to high school with?

“Yes, of course. Coming here with Roy and Shaw, those were my two best friends. Those were my brothers. Having them here as support was one of the best things that could happen for me.”

Has Roy walked you through anything this spring now that you’re in this elevated role?

“I don’t want to say he really walked me through, but we’ve been going through this together for a long time. It’s not necessarily him walking me through it or me walking him through it. We’re just walking through this together.”

Do you think this offense will be more explosive than a year ago, and why?

“More explosive? Well yeah, we can be more explosive. Of course we want to be more explosive, and we have a chance of doing that because we understand the offense a lot better and we’ve been in this offense for another year now.

Preview 2011: Receivers Of All Varieties

Preview 2011: Receivers Of All Varieties

Submitted by Brian on August 31st, 2011 at 5:13 PM

Previously: The story, the secondary, the linebackers, the defensive line, and the offensive line.

Depth Chart

WR Yr. WR Yr. Slot Yr. TE Yr.
Junior Hemingway Sr.* Martavious Odoms Sr. Roy Roundtree Jr.* Kevin Koger Sr.
Jeremy Jackson So. Jeremy Gallon So.* Kelvin Grady Sr.* Brandon Moore Jr.*
Drew Dileo So. Jerald Robinson Fr.* Terrance Robinson Jr.* Steve Watson Sr.*

Yeah, I know the depth chart lists a fullback and crams the wideouts into two spots, but Al Borges keeps saying shotgun and wideouts and even Lloyd Carr rocked three-wide for much of his later period. The slot lives here, for at least another year or two. The slot lives on like whoah, actually: six of the nine guys on that depth chart can't get on the rides at Cedar Point, and one of the exceptions is the returning starter in the… slot.

So they're going to be short. And you should take the above depth chart with as much of a grain of salt as I did the official one and its lack of a slot and placement of Martavious Odoms on the third string. Any of these guys could pop up anywhere save Hemingway, Jackson, and Robinson, who are outside guys exclusively. It sounds like everyone is an outside guy now:

"The difference in this offense is there aren't really slot receivers as much as outside receivers — they play everywhere on the field and we move them around," Hecklinski said. "The switch is big because of all the little things asked of them - they have to convert routes, pick up checks and route changes and coverages."

That is a lot more complicated than what they did last year when the entire passing game was a constraint play. This is necessary to move the offensive forward. I'll discuss it more in the quarterback section, but when Denard's legs were removed from the equation on passing downs YPC dropped to an ugly 5.7—not much better than the 2008 disaster.

There are downsides to this. For example, in the two minute drill stuff after the punting demo Jeremy Gallon twice broke off option routes only to see the quarterbacks chuck it deep. There's going to be an adjustment period here. Roundtree:

“You have to have the timing down in this offense because if the timing is off, then the quarterback is off,” junior receiver Roy Roundtree said. “Our receivers want the ball, so we got to get open and keep the timing good for Denard.

Where is that timing at now?

“We’re getting there,” he said. “We still have two more weeks to get ready.”

Timing's always important and in the long term this passing offense will be more robust. I just hope we get plenty of last year's stuff in appropriate situations.

Outside Receiver

Rating: 3.

junior-hemingway-back-shoulderjunior-hemingway-illinois-houdnii

JUNIOR HEMINGWAY
like Marquise Walker
we totally planned this
drags a toe
also totally planned this
adjusts well
a back-shoulder leap
little high, no problem
underneath stuff
BGSU slant
cover zero in the alps
inexplicable yac knack
Purdue orbit step
Illinois Houdini act TD
rumblin' stumblin'
tough to tackle
yac knack attack
not a replay of YKA

Over the summer Junior Hemingway ventured into the heart of a South American jungle to perform an arcane rite that would free him of the injury jinx that's plagued him since his arrival Ann Arbor. It worked. It wrought a price on Martavious Odoms, but it worked. Hemingway hasn't been laid up with mono, an ankle sprain, a shoulder problem, or the Black Death in quite a long while.

If he can manage that through the season he's going to end the year with a ton of catches. Even if the Michigan offense doesn't go full MANBALL right away continued development from Denard Robinson will make difficult pro-style throws that frequently target outside wide receivers more feasible; Borges's offense will make them more frequent. Combine that with Hemingway's main skill and there will be jump balls for the taking.

That's convenient. That main skill is being enormous and jumpy. As the table says, he's like Marquise Walker. He's not a guy who's going to blaze past the secondary. There's going to be a corner in the vicinity. If it's going well they're going to watch Hemingway make the catch anyway. What you see at right emphasizes that theme: there's always a guy around, but he's often six inches too short to do anything about it.

A number of the catches are back-shoulder throws that don't necessarily seem intentional. If they aren't they might become so as Borges emphasizes a more sophisticated, they-tried-to-man-up-Crab passing offense.

The canonical example follows.

It might be a mirage conjured by playing next to Darryl Stonum for the last three years, but Hemingway does adjust to the ball in the air pretty well. He doesn't get a ton of separation, but his leaping/box-out ability is top shelf. He does do a good job of finding the ball and bringing it in.

He's also got this strange knack for picking up yards after the catch. He's a 230 pound monster who should get tackled on the catch every time, but this fails to happen with some consistency. There was that ridiculous touchdown against Illinois, for one. The highlights above have a few more examples.

Put the inexplicable YAC knack with his ability to snag downfield jump balls and good enough hands (he had four routine drops on 27 opportunities last year—not good—but snagged 3/5 circus attempts—very good) and you've got a solid Big Ten receiver. He'll see his production increase significantly. If he can maintain his 18.5 YPC he'll challenge Roundtree for the most receiving yards on the team. Expect a bit under 1,000 yards from him.

martavious-odomsmartavious-odoms-nd

MARTAVIOUS ODOMS
kinda slippery
quicks way past safety
jailbreak screen
will headbutt you
extended screen block
opens the corner
reliable option
comes back to ball
wide open downfield
settles down
guy on his back no problem

Martavious Odoms showed up way down the depth chart a few days ago. I'm not buying that. Hoke wants experience, toughness and blocking, and Odoms provides that. He's going to have to put a third wideout on the field, and Odoms is going to be #3 in snaps after Hemingway and Roundtree. So he's a quasi-starter.

He's probably way down the depth chart because his injury thing is becoming a problem. He missed the second half of last year with a broken foot, spent a big chunk of fall camp sporting a cast, showed up with his shoulder in a sling in a CTK episode, and apparently has another cast on now. In context it seems like his depth chart demotion is a health issue and he'll bubble up (HA!) when and if that gets resolved.

When on the field Odoms has been a reliable, unthrilling option. Odoms is from Pahokee, so he's small and would headbutt a goat if he thought it would get him two yards. His elusiveness is just okay—Roundtree and Hemingway probably have better YAC stats. His hands are good. Over the past two years he's 26/27 on routine catches, 7/10 on somewhat difficult ones, and 2/4 on very difficult ones. On the downside, his lack of height makes him a tougher target. Sometimes balls that Hemingway would grab zing way over his head.

The total package is a useful player but not one that's going to show up in the opposing team's gameplan. If healthy he'll at least double his 16 catches from last year; 45 is the guess here.

Backups

jeremy-jackson-osujerald-robinson-camp

Jackson; Robinson (not that Robinson, or that one, or that one)

Since we've shuffled Roundtree off to his old position, there's only two guys bigger than a breadbox left. Jeremy Jackson is the one you've seen. The son of running backs coach and hyperbole enthusiast Fred, Jackson is a lanky, "lumbering" possession receiver who seems like the cream of the four-person WR recruiting class of two years ago. That's not a big hill to climb since DJ Williamson transferred, Ricardo Miller moved to tight end, and Jerald Robinson can't get on the depth chart.

He only managed four catches last year but at least they were all against Wisconsin and Ohio State. He'll see his involvement rise as Michigan spreads Stonum's catches around; 15 catches is as good a guess as any. Hope for reliable hands and an ability to get open thanks to his sizeable frame—a poor man's Avant is the goal.

Jerald Robinson also exists, but not on the depth chart. His recruiting profile makes him out to be a rangy leaper with good hands and some upside on deep balls. His omission from the depth chart was a surprise after the coaches and teammates had spent time talking him up:

“I feel like he’s going to get time,” Roundtree said. “I talked to him the other day, like, ‘Look man, this camp, you got to stay focused, don’t get down because your legs are sore. That’s supposed to happen.’ Jerald’s been having a great camp because he wants to learn and he wants to get better. He can play.” …

“Jerald doesn’t know how good Jerald can be,” wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski said. “There’s a lot of times where he’s really, really come along. It goes back to this is just a process.

“There’s some things he looks really, really good at, and there’s some things that we’re going to continue to work with him on.”

There were reports that Robinson did not Get It and may be in the process of doing so, FWIW. Hecklinski evidently thinks he has not fully acquired It and will wait to put him on the field until he has safely done so. He's a guy to look at for next year. Borges says "he seems like he has a future here," which is not a present here. He's just a redshirt freshman, after all.

Though the short guys are probably going to play outside as much as they do inside I'll cover them in the slot section.

Slot Receiver

Rating: 4.

roy-roundtree-indiana-2010

Roy Roundtree is an eventful dude whether he's hand-wavingly wide open for a touchdown or dooming Michigan to turn the ball over by dropping the ball. Thanks to a massive game in the insane triple-OT Illinois thriller he finished as the Big Ten's second-leading receiver.

A large chunk of that is thanks to Denard's legs. There's a certain theme running through many of Roundtree's long receptions: desolation. When Denard catches the safety the resulting throw looks like post-apocalyptic football. Where is everyone? They're dead. Let's run through this tumbleweed-infested secondary.

That did not take a ton of skill on Roundtree's part.

But there is a reason he leapt off the bench during the 2009 Michigan State game and has been the favorite target of whoever's at QB since. For one, he's more slippery than you'd think. Michigan's recruited a horde of 5'9" YAC guys but it's Roundtree who gets targeted on bubbles. It's easy to see why:

ROY ROUNDTREE
the worst waldo
blindingly wide open
Indiana oh noes
breaks wide open
safety just barely gets him
fourth down TD
toughish catches
gets crushed; hangs on
20 against UW
guy on his back
over the shoulder
YAC snacks
jukes two different guys
smokes him on a juke
shakes CB for TD

Odoms doesn't have much like that on his resume and Gallon is just a rumor. Roundtree's only competition is Hemingway's inexplicable YAC knack.

And his hands are pretty good despite the drops—four in 41 opportunities in the first 11 games last year. He gets targeted a lot. They could be better, sure, but I think everyone remembers them more because instead of converting a first down after Roundtree drops a ball Michigan immediately turned the ball over on three separate occasions. Those tend to burn themselves into your head. Hemingway had the same number of drops in 27 opportunities last year but you only hear about Roundtree's fumblefingers moments. Not that they don't rankle. It's just that I think our subjective memories are not 100% reliable in this matter.

If they move him outside he'll lose his spot as the designated hand-wavingly-open dude jetting past safeties. I think that would be a mistake since he's an easier target to hit than any the other options. When things opened up for the slot last year they often opened so wide that the only things that mattered were 1) how easy is it for Denard to hit him and 2) being faster than a tight end so no one catches him. Roundtree fit on both counts.

Meanwhile, moving outside may make him vulnerable to getting jammed at the line. As a slight guy who hasn't had to deal with that much in his career I can see that going poorly. A corner can get into him—under him—and disrupt his business. He's probably still the second best option out there in those circumstances; he's just not going to be as effective.

Roundtree's production will drop this year as Michigan tries to get Hemingway and Koger more involved. He can't expect set the single-game receiving record every year. He'll still run neck and neck with Hemingway fro the most receiving yards on the team.

Backups

If there's one thing that is a must-recycle from last year's preview it's this stunning Kelvin Grady wallpaper:

kelvin_grady-wallpaper

DOWNLOAD NOW INSTALL NOW KEEP FOREVERRRR

KELVIN GRADY
tough snags
four-verts sit
over the shoulder
gets nailed but hangs on
a bullet he snags
spins to catch it
lit up and hangs on
designated reverse guy
an alley outside
just outruns dudes

I have no memory where that came from, unfortunately. I would like to find this person and see if they have excessively dramatic wallpapers for Nate Brink yet. I bet the text reads "on the BRINK of a REVOLUTION."

Anyway: Grady. He moved over from the basketball team and dropped a lot of balls two years ago, whereupon he was dropped from the lineup when Roy Roundtree burst onto the scene. When Odoms moved outside last year he got another shot and did surprisingly well with it. The hands issues disappeared—while he did have one routine drop on nine attempts he was six of six on more difficult stuff—as he became the designated reverse guy. By the end of the year it was a litte disappointing they hadn't used him more.

Entering his final season Grady's best shot at extensive playing time is based on 1) a lot of three wide and 2) Roundtree playing mostly on the outside. In that situation he's the established veteran. He'd get a crack at screens and seams and whatnot en route to a breakout mini-'Tree year. More likely is a moderately increased role as Roundtree bounces inside and out with around 30 catches.

It could go sour for Grady if Jeremy Gallon translates chatter into playing time. Gallon came to Michigan with a ton of hype and a stunning resemblance to The Wire's Snoop…

jeremy-gallon-mug snoop-the-wire
annual reminder

…and then failed to do much other than not field the punts he should, field the punts he shouldn't, and fumble kickoffs. He had the occasional nice screen last year.

Normally this would spell another year on the bench making people wonder what the big deal was all about. Stonum's suspension and the injury curse migrating to Odoms gives him an opening. If you listen to the coaches he seems to be taking advantage of the opportunity.

As a result he passed Odoms on the official depth chart, though this preview assumes that's because of injury. Perhaps more interesting is surging ahead of Jackson and Robinson, who are closer to the strapping downfield leapers the pro-style offense generally prefers. Gallon had seemingly fallen behind Jackson in particular late last year.

(Gallon's special teams contributions are covered in a separate section.)

Sophomore Drew Dileo is basically Wes Welker, of course. He had one catch for three yards a year ago and will probably have to wait another year for some of the small guy logjam to clear before he gets significant time. I can't understand why he's not returning punts since that's supposedly what he was recruited to do and Gallon has been maddening, but there are now two coaching staffs who have come to the same conclusion about the depth chart there.

Finally, Terrance Robinson's still around. He's been conspicuously absent from both press conference chatter and the depth chart. He's been passed by younger guys in Dileo, Gallon, and Jackson. He's probably not going to see time. Here's this catch he had last year, though.

Tight End

Rating: 4.

kevin-koger-dropkevin-koger-wow

Kevin Koger can't go twenty minutes without someone asking him if he's excited for an increased role in the offense as if he or Martell Webb weren't on the field for 80% of Michigan's snaps last year. The conventional wisdom holds that blocking ain't playin', apparently.

Koger did a lot of that last year and was effective but not stellar. Webb was clearly a superior blocker and was the preferred choice when Michigan got close to the goal line and things got hairy. While Koger was preferred in the passing game, it wasn't by much. His 14 catches were nine more than Webb's five.

Is that going to change this year? If they run the I-form a lot, maybe. That takes the slot off the field and makes the tight end the natural target in the seam areas that are so deliciously open because of Denard's running. I'm not sure how you get opponents to vacate those when you're under center (fake QB draws?), but if anyone can do it it's Denard. When Michigan's in the shotgun he'll have competition from Roundtree, et al., in those zones and it's clear Denard's comfort level is higher with 'Tree.

Koger's lack of participation in the passing game may be his own doing. Two years ago he started the season by making a series of ridiculous catches, then blew all that goodwill and more by catching just 7 of 11 routine opportunities. He was 9/9 last year on those, which helps but still gets him to 16 of 20 all-time— still worse than anyone on the team last year. If he's dropping stuff in practice the lack of attention is not related to the spread. I know there was that one year that Tim Massaqoui broke his hand and Mike DeBord kept throwing to him, but I choose to believe that little wrinkle was unique to The Avalanche. 

Koger's role will be up to him. He'll be somewhere between a B- and B+ blocker and will have opportunities to establish himself a major part of the passing game. Our sample size on his hands is still very small and the bad part is now two years removed and he's quite an athlete—his upside is high. I can't help but think he's been held back by things other than Rich Rodriguez's preferences, though. I'm betting on a good but unmemorable senior year.

Backups

Brandon Moore 2steve-watson

Moore; weird guy with weird hat and Watson

There are a couple scholarship options behind Koger but they're not particularly encouraging. Despite being a big time recruit, redshirt junior Brandon Moore has hardly been seen on the field outside of baby seal clubbings. Even if he did have a couple of quality options ahead of him on the depth chart, the third tight end should see snaps here and there if he's quality.

More ominous yet has been the total lack of buzz surrounding him in fall. Borges's only mention of the guys behind Koger was when he was directly asked about TEs other than the starter. The result:

I think Brandon Moore has done a nice job. He is still climbing if you know what I mean. He is getting better every single day and Steve Watson is a solid player. I think we’re pretty deep there. I think we’re pretty deep. Because Kog got hurt in the spring, those other guys got a lot of reps.

That seems to be something to file under coachspeak. We'll see; given Moore's physical talents he could surprise.

And then there's Steve Watson, who came in as a tight end, got moved to DE, linebacker, TE again, and then started playing FB—he appears on both depth charts. I imagine he'll get some time near the goal line as a threat out of the backfield and out of necessity when Borges feels the need for a big set. At this point it's hard to think he'll do much with it.

Ricardo Miller's the lone other TE on the roster. After moving from WR he's up to 234 pounds, which is far too little to see the field unless the roof caves in.