Recruits In Retrospect: 2009 Offense

Recruits In Retrospect: 2009 Offense Comment Count

Ace June 24th, 2014 at 3:06 PM

Gallon's levitation skills translated to the college game just fine.

Previously: 2008 Offense2008 Defense2009 Defense, 2009 Quarterbacks

Finishing out the series looking back on the 2009 recruiting class, here's a look at the non-quarterback offensive players, as described in Brian's recruiting posts of yore. But first...

My Bad, Cam

While I remembered to include then-OL, future-NT Quinton Washington on the defensive side of the ball, I forgot to do the same for Cam Gordon, the future defensive positional nomad who came to Michigan with most recruiting services considering him a wide receiver. As Gordon's recruitment wore on, it became more clear that his best spot may actually be in the defensive back seven, and thus we got one of the odder player comps I've seen:

Jason Avant, or maybe Prescott Burgess

Why Avant or Burgess? Bulky 6'2" wide receiver who will push 215 and lacks deep speed == Avant. Rangy linebacker who needs to put on 20 pounds, switch positions (sort of) and probably struggle with the mental part of being a college linebacker for a while == Burgess.

Free safety wasn't mentioned, because only an insane, desperate person would put a player matching that profile on the last line of defen--AAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIGGGGHHHHHH. (Thank you, Denard, forever and always.)

Gordon ended his career as a backup outside linebacker and situational defensive end. Fire Tony Gibson again, just in case.

The Blue Darter

As for prospects who actually ended up at receiver, Michigan had two: consensus top-200 prospect Je'Ron Stokes, and a high school single-wing quarterback who—despite being an Army All-American—earned four-star status on just one site due to his diminutive stature.


Though everyone pegged Jeremy Gallon as a pure slot ninja—he'd prove to be much more, obviously—the eye-opening highlights and strong Army week performance earned him plenty of hype:

Gallon is a Swiss Army knife of a player: pocket-sized, versatile, capable of surprising feats, and… uh… hard to tackle. (If you've ever tried to tackle a Swiss Army knife you know what I'm talking about. They're pointy.) It's hard to envision a scenario in which one of his diverse and sundry talents doesn't find him on the field, if not this fall than next.

Brian, I'd like to hear more about your past attempts to ... tackle ... pocket knives.

As for Stokes...

When Je'Ron Stokes committed to Michigan I was in an airport about to board a plane for Egypt by way of Germany, and as soon as he did I logged off and forgot all about him. Ever since when something reminds me of that commitment, it's like a weird bonus: oh, yeah, that universally-praised wide receiver in the class I never remember. He's like a ghost recruit.

Yeah, that was for the best.

Oh Damn, Fitz

From 2008-09, I worked as an intern at The Wolverine, and one of my primary tasks during football season was posting the stats of Michigan's commits each week. A back from Ohio's Division V Youngstown Liberty by the name of Fitzgerald Toussaint committed a few months before I got that job, so week after week that fall I'd look up his stats, bug out my eyes, and get incrementally more excited for him to see the field at U-M:

Fitzgerald Toussaint, Youngstown Liberty: Senior RB and Michigan recruit went over 250 yards for the seventh week in a row in a 33-28 win over Hubbard. After generating 16 yards on four carries in the first half, Toussaint erupted for 235 yards in the second half and scored two TDs. He has 1,950 yards in eight games.

He'd finish the season with over 2,200 yards and 28 touchdowns. Between those numbers and his excellently soundtracked highlights, I thought he'd be the next great Michigan running back:

That wasn't to be, at least in large part for reasons outside his control, but when remembering where Toussaint came from...

It wasn't all flowers and 90-yard touchdowns for Toussaint, though. His dad—also named Fitzgerald Toussaint—ended up in jail after stabbing his ex-wife's boyfriend… at a football scrimmage. Nasty business.

...I'd say 32 career starts, graduating from U-M, and getting a shot to make an NFL roster constitutes a very successful college career.

Vincent Smith's profile started out with similar recounting of a tough upbringing in Pahokee, then mostly waffled between excitement about his highlights/fit in the scheme and trepidation about his size, which was the subject of an awkwardly written ESPN scouting report:

ESPN says Smith lacks size "on paper"—which uh what about real life too—and says he runs "low to the ground," as if he has a choice.

Sadly, no mention of fingerguns or being a heat-seeking, defender-destroying missile.

Michigan rounded out a three-man running back class with Cass Tech product Teric Jones, who recorded the fastest time at the Army combine after his junior year but didn't receive much at all in the way of recruiting hype. By the time he got to campus the coaches were already considering a position switch:

In fact, Michigan might be shooting Jones into lots of space as a slot receiver. Rodriguez said Jones was a slot receiver who "may also get reps at running back" at the signing day press conference, and Jones did have some nice receiving numbers as a junior: 24 catches for 306 yards.

Jones ended up playing special teams as a true freshman, bounced between running back and cornerback as the thin roster dictated need, then left the team and went on medical scholarship before the 2011 season after a sophomore-year knee injury.

If You Just Take Two Linemen... might as well make them NFL linemen, and that's exactly what happened with U-M's 2009 O-line class of Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. Lewan, especially, was quite the steal; he was a total unknown until moving from defensive line to offensive line before his senior season, then vaulted into the top 300 recruits on all three recruiting services and played in the Under Armour AA Game in his first year playing the position. Michigan had a nice in with Lewan—his teammate at Chaparral High, Craig Roh, had been committed to U-M for months when Lewan decided to also head to Ann Arbor. 

While this usually doesn't happen, Lewan's high school coach ended up giving the most accurate forecast of his player's potential:

“Michigan is getting, in my opinion, the steal of this year's recruiting class in the country,” Ragle said. “I know that's a bold statement to make, (but) this kid’s ability on the field won't be questioned. He's as good an athlete on the offensive line as I've ever seen.


"He's as good athletically as any guy I have ever coached," Ragle said. "The thing that makes him so special is his upside when you think he's only been coached at the position for about eight months. But the one intangible that's most impressive is his nastiness --Taylor wants to burry [sic] someone on every play, and you can't coach that."

On point, Coach Ragle.

Schofield's rankings were in a similar range as Lewan's after a strong senior season. What stood out about him most was his athleticism—which translated to the college game, as he seamlessly transition from being Michigan's best pulling guard to a nimble pass-protector at tackle—and considering he's now 6'7" and 300+ pounds this is rather astounding:

In his first two years at Sandburg, Schofield ran the 110 high hurdles for the Eagles’ track team, winning a conference title his freshman year and finishing second his sophomore season. He also moved up to the varsity team for the state tournament during his sophomore year, finishing sixth in sectionals.

Unfortunately, there's no video of this, as the age of someone-on-a-smartphone-will-film-literally-anything hadn't hit yet.

So, with that exercise out of the way, who's ready to go over the 2010 class?


On second thought, let's save that for next summer. Or perhaps never. Leaning towards never.


Mailbag: NCAA Reform #1, DL Moves, Coaching Evaluation, Bo Pelini's Secret Twin

Mailbag: NCAA Reform #1, DL Moves, Coaching Evaluation, Bo Pelini's Secret Twin Comment Count

Brian September 24th, 2013 at 10:55 AM



How to resolve the NCAA being terrible thing.


My friend and I were having a discussion about the best way to compensate college players, and he came up with the idea of paying players based on performance, sort of how incentive laden contracts work in the NFL, with the stipulation that the players will not receive the money until they graduate or go pro. I thought his idea was awful and unrealistic, because the “student athletes” would now become paid employees of the university and we essentially would have a semi-pro league on our hands. BUT, that got me thinking about a possible solution…

The issue we have here is the balance of compensation between stars and bench-warmers, large schools and small schools, men’s sports and women’s sports (which could also very well be a legal issue), revenue-generating and non-revenue-generating sports, etc. Instead of trying to figure out that mess, let’s take the decision of compensation out of the universities’ hands.

The solution: allow the student athletes to sign endorsement deals. If a corporation is willing to pay for a player’s likeness, he deserves that money. However, the stipulation here is that all money earned by a student athlete through endorsements would have to be held in an escrow account, and the release of the money would be contingent upon the completion of the player’s eligibility or his/her declaration to go pro, whichever comes first. Now if a player is caught accepting benefits beforehand, the NCAA would not look hypocritical when laying down punishments. Student athletes get compensated, legal issues are avoided, and you won't have a bunch of teenagers running around campus with millions of dollars to blow/get into mischief with.  What do you think? So crazy it just might work?

Go Blue,
Stephen Y

That's fine. It's a little paternalistic to tell the kids they can't have money until they get their degree, and that will be less effective at legitimizing the stuff under the table, because poor college kids will still want walking-around money. It's still fine.

I'm not sure why there's this widespread opposition to giving people money in exchange for services, but whatever middle ground you want to stake out that gives the kids their image rights and avoids Title IX issues is fine by me. Sign whatever you want, get whatever money you can acquire, and everything will be the same except compliance folk will have to find less mindlessly pedantic jobs. Worries about booster involvement are naïve—they're already involved.

The other major thing that the NCAA could do is get rid of their inane opposition to agents. If you're a legit agent with X number of current pro clients you can sign players regarded as prospects, and give them some advance on whatever they're going to make in the pros. (If you don't make the pros, that's just tough luck for the agent.) The NCAA doesn't even have to redirect any of the buckets of cash they're currently making to make the system

  • less impossible to manage
  • a more even playing field
  • fairer to the players
    Yeah: a more even playing field. Right now no one is going to MAC schools over major offers, but schools willing to do under the table stuff—or just not stop it—have an advantage over schools that don't. And it's tough to figure out what the more moral position is there these days.
    DL moves?

Hey Brian,

Sometimes in football, it seems that you just want to get the best guys on the field right?  Do you think we might see a DL consisting of Beyer, Henry, Qwash, Black?

I would think Black could flip back out to SDE pretty easily and could fold back in to 3 tech occasionally depending on the substitution patterns.  To me that gets your best pass rushers on the field more regularly and is the most likely combo to soak up OL in the run game too.

You mentioned that you expect Beyer to take Clark's job when Ryan comes back, but why not just make that switch now?  Wouldn't you rather get Gordon out there with Beyer than Clark at this point?


(This was sent before Clark played well against UConn.)

If Michigan was going to put out its best line for one particular play against an I-formation that might well be it, but with opponents running out all kinds of spread packages and Michigan responding by lifting their nose tackle, Black's snaps are mostly going to be spent as an interior rush-type against shotgun formations. It's probably not worth moving him midseason to get a marginal improvement. While I like what I've seen from Henry so far, there was a play against UConn where he got obliterated. (Michigan was fortunate that UConn didn't block the second level well and held the gain down.) He's a work in progress.

Meanwhile on Cam Gordon: for whatever reason they're not playing him, and it's to the point that his lack of playing time speaks to a lack of performance. Beyer's been good, but mostly as a guy with his hand in the dirt. When Beyer's been put in coverage he's shown some flaws. Gordon's not getting more time is probably just his fate at this point.

I don't get it, either. They've been giving him seemingly genuine praise for years now and when it comes down to it they just don't put him on the field.

[After THE JUMP: evaluating Michigan's coaching staff, plus Bo Pelini axe murder.]


Upon Further Review 2013: Defense vs CMU

Upon Further Review 2013: Defense vs CMU Comment Count

Brian September 5th, 2013 at 3:09 PM

FORMATION NOTES: Michigan played this one vanilla, opting for either their traditional 4-3 under…


…or a 4-2-5 nickel package…


Furman is offscreen on the right hash.

…with the occasional insertion of a 3-3-5 on passing downs. There was no okie stuff with seven guys at the line of scrimmage, and it was very rare to see a safety walk down. With the line ripping through Central's pass protection there was little need to do anything else. If Michigan could manage that against a tough opponent that would be nice.


Right. Seth has already covered this in exacting detail. In brief: the secondary was consistent, with Furman and Wilson at safety and Taylor and Countess the starting corners. When Michigan went to the nickel, Stribling and Hollowell were about even, with Stribling getting the first at-bats.

Inside linebacker was split almost evenly between Morgan, Ross, and Bolden, with Gedeon getting some reps later and RJS right at the end. SAM was about 50/50 Beyer/Gordon, except that a lot of that was at DE in nickel packages.

Okay. The line. Okay. Your nominal starters were Heitzman, Washington, Black, and Clark, except there was so much nickel that the nose was lifted half the time. Wormley, Pipkins, Glasgow, and Ojemudia got a large amount of time backing up the starters. Godin, Ash, Henry, and Charlton got in later. Godin actually split snaps almost equally with the other two SDEs; at the other three spots the third guy was definitively third.

[After THE JUMP: rotation, rotation, rotation. Pass rush! Safety assessments!]


Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-3-13: Greg Mattison

Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-3-13: Greg Mattison Comment Count

Heiko September 3rd, 2013 at 6:05 PM

Opening remarks:

"All right, here we go. It's a big one. This has always been a big game. I probably know this game better than most people, having been on both sides of it. This is a rivalry game. This is a big game. We're looking forward to it."

Does it mean more to you since you've been on both sides of it?

"Every game means a lot to me. Any time you go out on the field and represent the University of Michigan is big. I've always looked at this. I think everybody looks at this. There are some big games, and Michigan-Notre Dame in my eyes has always been a big rivalry game."

In what ways will this be a litmus test for this defense?

"Well, you're playing against a very talented opponent. Notre Dame has a lot of talent. They're a very good football team. Now it's the next step. In the second game, did you correct the mistakes? Do you play harder or do you improve? Every time you're a young team, you must improve every game. If you don't, then you're taking a step back. We're looking forward to improving."


Rows Of Teeth

Rows Of Teeth Comment Count

Brian September 2nd, 2013 at 12:43 PM

8/31/2013 – Michigan 59, Central Michigan 9 – 1-0


oh yeah Kalis and Magnuson beardin' it up yo [Upchurch]

You may not remember this because of the recent history of Michigan football, but often after one-sided blowouts not against Notre Dame this space will throw up its hands at the idea of crafting an actual column and skip straight to bullets and highlights and whatnot. It's tough to narrate the emotional tenor of a humid August day against a team that never had a chance.


It was kind of boring, but on the other hand it was nice not to be terrified. It was hot and Dave Brandon smells like pee.


But, you know, at some point in the third quarter Michigan threw a second team offense out there, and it was thrilling. I know this is basically me saying "hello, I am freak. Freak talk now. Freak talk." But there it is. I actually felt excited when the second-team OL came out, possibly more excited than I had been for anything that was not Dennis Norfleet all day. Ben Braden was out there. Chris Bryant. Blake Bars. Erik Magnuson. Joey Burzynski. One walk-on (not four); no upperclassmen. The future. Magnuson even got in on the goal line and did well for himself.

Michigan loses Lewan and Schofield; they also get six more bullets in their chamber as the 2013 OL class comes off redshirts, chomping at the bit. The days when Michigan's depth chart reads "three to five guys, then a bottomless pit" are close to over. Might already be over.

On the other side of the ball the equivalent moment came too soon to even think about it: the second drive. Michigan threw four guys out there who hadn't played on the first drive, and switched up some linebackers, and I'm not sure fans who don't obsessively track the numbers of everyone in the game would even notice. They'd go three deep at many spots by halftime.

They'll graduate three of the 20 players in the front seven who saw the field, and nobody from the secondary. Because of suspension and injury in the safety corps, yeah. But still.

Take this depth chart. Stack the 2014 depth chart behind it. Put 2015 behind that. You can even go to 2016, probably, what with Michigan's 2015 class approaching halfway done already. What do you get?


An infinite conveyor belt of shark teeth. It's coming. Might be here already.


Via Parkinggod:

There's also a shorter BTN reel.


Eric and Bryan posted their galleries on Sunday. A season-opening reminder: all photos on the mgoblog photostream are Creative Commons licensed and can be used on your blog or twitter or facebook or whatever (just not sold). We just ask for a link back.

Meanwhile Roy Roundtree is pretty great y'all:





Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. Difficult to pick any one person here since no one had more than four catches or 14 rushing attempts and Gardner threw two ugly picks in 15 attempts. Meanwhile on defense, the heavy rotation meant no one except Desmond Morgan had more than five tackles.

But… Cam Gordon looked good and his two sacks are the most statistically impressive achievement on the day. And Brennen Beyer only got credited for one sack but really had two, a sack/strip and then a plain ol' sack, both of which appear in the highlights above. On both he beat blockers. Gordon got his on (well timed, effective, finished) blitzes. Since everyone is feeling much, much better about Not Jake Ryan, Not Jake Ryan gets the nod.

Honorable Mention. Jarrod Wilson (for a guy who supposedly lost his job to Courtney Avery he was lights out); Jeremy Gallon (a couple tough catches amongst his four, and two touchdowns); Devin Gardner (okay, yeah, but Vince Young); Fitz Toussaint (looked goooood despite lack of stats); AJ Williams (provisional based on possibility he was caving in the outside of the CMU defense.)

Epic Double Point Standings.

0.5: Cam Gordon (CMU), Brennen Beyer (CMU)

Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. The blocked punt touchdown set the tone, showed us the crazy explosiveness of Dymonte Thomas (Heiko and Ace point out that he blocked it before it even hit the punter's foot), gave us some faith that special teams might be a real asset this season, and was a Heartwarming Moment when former walk-on Joe Reynolds scored his first touchdown. So that.

Honorable mention: Desmond Morgan embodies his description in the season preview with a textbook stick of Zurlon Tipton; Cam Gordon invades the backfield to make us all feel better about Not Jake Ryan; ditto Beyer; Derrick Green rips off a 30-yarder; Reynolds brings in a tough 50-yard catch.

Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.


Burned redshirt watch

A first-game thing to do.

On offense: De'Veon Smith, Derrick Green, Csont'e York, Jake Butt, and Shane Morris.

All of these make sense to me. Playing one of the freshmen wideouts makes sense, one or both running backs could help Michigan win a game this year, ditto Butt, and Morris needs blooding.

On defense: Delano Hill, Jourdan Lewis, Channing Stribling, Dymonte Thomas, Taco Charlton, Ben Gedeon.

Despite previous complaints about burning either LB redshirt, if Gedeon is the backup WLB I'm fine with it. He appears to be. Everyone else is obvious save Jourdan Lewis, and even if that's a debatable decision M is still redshirting two corners this year and brings in Jabrill Peppers next year. I don't think they'll be moaning about a lack of a fifth year for Lewis.

Probably redshirting: All OL, Wyatt Shallman, Jaron Dukes, Khalid Hill, Da'Mario Jones, Reon Dawson, Ross Douglas,  Henry Poggi, Maurice Hurst,  Mike McCray. McCray is a bit of a surprise after the number change seemingly designed to get him on special teams with Dileo. I'm very much in favor of a redshirt to get some separation here. Everyone else is obvious save maybe Hill.

[Rest after the jump]


Central Michigan Postgame Presser: Brady Hoke

Central Michigan Postgame Presser: Brady Hoke Comment Count

Heiko September 1st, 2013 at 3:16 PM

Talking points:

  • Three boo boos. Devin Funchess's injury seems to be just an unfortunately located cramp. He'll be okay. We'll have to wait for further news on Drake Johnson and Joe Reynolds. [Update: Johnson out for season].
  • Thomas Gordon will definitely be back next week. Hoke seems to have forgiven him for whatever his trespass might have been, though no details about whoaterenowhy.
  • The blocked punt was something they game planned for. The whole team knew about it, so when it worked it was pretty exciting.
  • Michigan planned to play up tempo the first few drives with their Nascar offense. 


Opening remarks:

"One thing I really want to do is thank our students and our fans. It was really neat to see that student section in the maize and all that stuff when we went out for our warmups and it just kept building. I want to thank our students because it's fun when they're there. They make the atmosphere and the game fun."

Cam Gordon had a really good game. Talk about his play?

"Well Cam is a guy who has matured in a lot of ways in his time at Michigan. At receiver and then coming in and going to safety. The work ethic he has showed during the offseason, his leadership and his teammates. The motor that he plays the game with. He's a better technician. He's bigger, he's stronger. It's a credit to him and what Aaron Wellman does in the weight room. He's also an intelligent football player and can handle a lot of things well."



Photos from Michigan vs. CMU

Photos from Michigan vs. CMU Comment Count

Eric September 1st, 2013 at 9:18 AM

It was great to be back on the sidelines yesterday! Here are some photos from the game. 



Cam Gordon (Upchurch)


Jarrod Wilson

Jarrod Wilson (Fuller)




Devin Funchess (Upchurch)



Devin Gardner (Fuller)


Photo Galleries



Here are links to our individual galleries if you'd like to see all of the photos. 

Bryan Fuller - Eric Upchurch


Michigan 59, Central Michigan 9

Michigan 59, Central Michigan 9 Comment Count

Ace August 31st, 2013 at 8:16 PM

Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog

The feeling was boredom, interspersed with brief moments of Norfleet-related anticipation that ended an ankle-tackle away from being actual excitement.

Boredom, in this case, was a great feeling—a pleasant return to normalcy for Michigan. A home opener against a directional Michigan school, a 50-point lead heading into the third quarter, a fourth quarter spent looking up numbers of various freshmen and walk-ons while fretting about burned redshirts; this is how it's supposed to go, fergodsakes.

The Wolverines got on the board before the Big House crowd even got a chance to see the much-anticipated new offense, as freshman defensive back Dymonte Thomas screamed off the edge to block a Central Michigan punt on the opening drive of the game; senior receiver Joe Reynolds scooped up the loose ball and took it 30 yards to give Michigan a 7-0 lead.

A muffed punt by Dennis Norfleet, recovered by Delano Hill at Michigan's seven-yard line, led to an inauspicious start for Devin Gardner; after his first pass of the season was dropped by Devin Funchess, he telegraphed a quick out to Drew Dileo, and CMU's Jarret Chapman jumped the route for an easy interception.

Michigan's defense held strong, though, forcing the Chippewas to settle for a field goal. Gardner was in fine form on the subsequent drive, picking up a first down with his legs, then buying time for Drew Dileo to find a wide open hole in the Central defense on a 3rd-and-4 for a 36-yard catch-and-run. On the very next play, Gardner stood tall in the pocket, couldn't find an open receiver, and waltzed untouched into the end zone for a 22-yard score (right, Upchurch).

From there, the Wolverines didn't look back. A 38-yard run on a Dennis Norfleet reverse set up a one-yard touchdown run for Fitz Toussaint, who looked back to his old self—aside from missing a couple open cutback lanes—in rushing for 57 yards on 14 carries. After another Gardner hiccup—an overthrow to Gallon that resulted in his second interception—led to a second Jason Wilson field goal, cutting the lead to 21-6, the redshirt junior quarterback roared back with an 11-play, 76-yard drive capped by a 16-yard touchdown pass to his favorite target, Jeremy Gallon. After Raymon Taylor jumped an Alex Niznak throw to the perimeter, nearly taking the interception back for a touchdown, Gardner finished the first half with a four-yard scoring run, again making his trip to the end zone look downright easy. Despite the pair of turnovers—and a punt block for a touchdown that didn't count towards the yardage numbers—Michigan held a 243-139 edge in total offense and a 35-6 halftime lead.

The onslaught didn't stop there. Michigan's opening drive of the second half featured a 45-yard play-action pass from Gardner to Reynolds; two plays later, Toussaint tallied his second score of the day from two yards out. After another quick defensive stop, freshman running backs Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith combined to run on each of Michigan's ten plays, including a 30-yard Green scamper on a zone stretch and the five-star's first career touchdown on a goal-line scrum.

Sacks by Brennen Beyer and Mario Ojemudia forced another three-and-out, and from there the backups took over. Freshman quarterback Shane Morris quarterbacked the next drive, completing a 36-yard pass to Devin Funchess before Thomas Rawls rumbled into the end zone from five yards out, giving the Wolverines a 56-6 lead as the third quarter expired.

The rest, as they say, was academic. The fourth-quarter monotony was broken briefly by a 36-yard punt return by Norfleet, who was one man away from scoring; a Morris interception on a tipped pass; and a forced fumble by freshman cornerback Channing Stribling just two plays later, recovered by Delonte Hollowell. That third play led to a 30-yard Gibbons field goal—his 14th consecutive make, tying a school record held by Remy Hamilton*—that gave the game its final margin: 59-9, Michigan.

Funchess sporting his new Ron Kramer Legacy jersey (Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog)

Aside from the two picks, Gardner looked like the superstar he's expected to be in his first year as the full-time starter, averaging 10.8 yards per attempt and rushing for 52 yards on seven carries; CMU couldn't keep him in the pocket and couldn't stop him when he escaped, including one play in which Gardner comically olé'd an awaiting defender hoping to hit him on the sideline.

His ESP-level connection with Gallon showed, as well; Gallon caught four passes for 47 yards and had a second touchdown catch wiped out when Taylor Lewan wandered downfield illegally rode his donkey too far even from the generous blocking zone they give linemen on play-action these days. Funchess and Reynolds both impressed, as well, and while each left the game due to injury, those dings appeared minor. Brady Hoke said after the game that Funchess left the game due to a cramp (an unfortunately-placed one, given the rather sensitive area he clutched after his long catch), while there was no report on the status of Reynolds.

Defensively, Beyer was a consistent presence in the backfield as a lineman in Greg Mattison's nickel package, tallying a sack and another TFL. Cam Gordon, playing in place of the injured Jake Ryan, looked fantastic in tallying a pair of sacks among his 2.5 TFLs, lining up at both strongline linebacker and defensive end and playing both well. Desmond Morgan took to his new position as the MIKE with aplomb, leading the team with seven tackles despite heavy rotation in the front seven. While the much-balleyhooed Frank Clark recorded a lone QB hurry, his backup, Mario Ojemudia, came up with a sack and looked like a very solid option at weakside DE.

Of the true freshmen to see their first action—and there were many—it was Stribling who impressed the most; he was Michigan's field corner when they went into the nickel package, and while he gave up a couple catches, he showed off his playmaking ability by stripping CMU's Andrew Flory after one of those receptions. Linebacker Ben Gedeon also played well in his first career action, tallying four tackles; "The Freak" didn't look out of place at weakside linebacker.

The only major points of concern were Gardner's two picks—hopefully those can be chalked up to opening-game rust, as he otherwise looked like a Heisman candidate—and the play of the safeties. Jarrod Wilson and Josh Furman blew a couple assignments, though there's a good chance that neither is starting by mid-September—strong safety Thomas Gordon sat out the game for a "violation of team rules" and Courtney Avery could factor in at free safety when he recovers from knee surgery, hopefully in time for next week's game but more likely for Akron. The offensive line had its moments, good and bad; Al Borges called for a lot of zone running plays instead of asking for his two new guards, Kyle Kalis and Graham Glasgow, to pull; Kalis played a very solid game, featuring a bone-crushing body-slam on Gardner's first touchdown run, while Glasgow and center Jack Miller had their ups and downs.

Michigan's fans trickled out of the stadium throughout the fourth quarter, content that their team took care of a MAC opponent like Wolverines should: devouring them alive. There was little reason to stay, more competitive football games to watch, and celebratory beers to drink. Cheers to a new season, a 1-0 record, and zero heart attacks.

*If you've just woken up from a three-year slumber, this is somehow not a joke.


Preview 2013: Linebackers

Preview 2013: Linebackers Comment Count

Brian August 29th, 2013 at 2:53 PM

Previously: Podcast 5.0, The Story, Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver, Tight End and Friends, Offensive Line, Defensive Tackle, Defensive End, Special Teams.

Depth Chart
Cam Gordon Sr.* Desmond Morgan Jr. James Ross So.
Jake Ryan Jr.* Joe Bolden So. Royce Jenkins-Stone So.
Brennen Beyer Jr. Mike McCray Fr. Ben Gedeon Fr.

Stupid ACL injuries wrecking everything… well… some things. Michigan loses Kenny Demens to graduation and Jake Ryan to cruel fate, but returns everyone else, adds Brennen Beyer from the stacked WDE spot, and welcomes two freshmen. They have a decent amount of experience, a decent amount of depth, and a ton of promise. James Ross figures to blow up; Desmond Morgan's improvement will be more incremental but now he's at a more comfortable position. Joe Bolden gives both a quality backup.

Even at the depleted SAM spot you've got a fifth year senior and true junior who Greg Mattison says are both playing like starters, and then Ryan is supposed to be back by mid-October… or sooner. Could be pretty good here.

Inside Linebacker

These previews had previously split out the middle and weakside linebackers into their own sections, but the obvious interchangeability of the two spots (Desmond Morgan moves from one to the other, Bolden played both last year, supposed MLB Kenny Demens took the bulk of the TE-seam responsibilities) we're combining the two into an inside LB spot. Differences between the two spots exist, but are thin—according to Mattison, "inside is inside."

Rating: 4


Morgan will hit ya [Upchurch/]

hit and shed
gets in, gets upfield
sheds block, slows Bell
no more forward for you
can move
comes from backside to tackle 
kind of Ryan-like here
was young
lost on counter
accepts a block
slashed to the ground
cut like a mofo
read and react
nerfs counter draw
takes on two blockers
sidles all the way
shuts down Martinez draw

DESMOND MORGAN enters his third year as a starter by moving over from the weakside to the middle, as predicted by everyone in the world including myself. This is partly because James Ross demands entry into the starting lineup and partly because Morgan's skillset—thumpin'—was always more suited to the mike. Even when he was at WLB, it was Kenny Demens tasked with following tight ends down the seam. Morgan isn't quite a Sam Sword two-downs-and-out guy, but between he and Ross there's no question who you want dropping into coverage and who you want taking on fullbacks.

The best part of Morgan's game is how running backs stop when he contacts them. Morgan emerged into a bang-you're-dead tackler over the course of the year. Here he takes on a block, sheds it, gets an arm on LeVeon Bell(!), and robs him of most of his momentum:

Michigan would boot State off the field on the ensuing third and short. Having guys like Morgan around makes every first down a battle. Morgan also robbed a Minnesota power back of most of his momentum, amongst other events. Click play and HEAR FOOTBALL!

The guy is a brick.

After his first year this space criticized Morgan's hesitancy (mildly since he was a freshman), something that lasted through the first portion of last season. Michigan would slant the line and get gashed and I eventually pieced together a theory that the linebackers were uncomfortable predicting what would happen on that slant and late to the hole.

As the year progressed (and Washington and Campbell got more reliable with their angles), that tendency receded:

The linebackers are generally more decisive. The Demens see-gap-hit-gap-eat-soul is one part of it; also you can sense Morgan feeling the play behind that. He eases to the playside a bit to give him an edge on someone who might be releasing backside. He's reading the play through, and he shows up to help at the right spot. There's an air of "I am no longer a confused freshman" to him.

Morgan put a lot of previous worries about athleticism to bed last year as he got sideline to sideline effectively and made plays in space against tough customers like Taylor Martinez. Watching his read-and-explode is at times reminiscent of Jake Ryan. At times.

The UFR chart is reflective of this:

Opponent + - TOT Notes
Alabama 5.5 10 -4.5 And this was the best ILB play!
Air Force 8 10 -2 Faded late after strong start, thus setting up allfrosh.
UMass - - - DNP
Notre Dame 5 2 3 Solid tackling day, looked pretty athletic.
Purdue 5.5 3.5 2 Overshadowed with +2, is this real life?
Illinois 7.5 4.5 3 This is relatively bad!
MSU 9 2 7 Remember the athleticism worries with him?
Nebraska 11 4 7 Hit Y on leaping bat that became INT.
Minnesota 11 5.5 5.5 You stop when he hits you.
Northwestern 4 9.5 -5.5 Rough outing with blown assignments; Ross out there on critical last two drives speaks for itself.
Iowa - - - DNP

OSU not done, sorry. South Carolina not listed because it was impossible to tell who was who between Morgan and Bolden, and South Carolina ran the tailback five times anyway.

For inside linebackers, anything above zero is generally good. After getting 'Bama'd and having issues against Air Force's triple option, Morgan started a run of six straight positive games—some very much so.

Of course, a couple games after I proclaimed him a star in the Nebraska UFR he got edged and outran all day by Northwestern. Hey, he's just not the best guy to take on Venric Mark. It happens. Moving him to the middle should mitigate those issues.

In year three, Mattison believes that Morgan has the mental and physical ability to be top notch as long as he fixes one issue:

"He's so smart. He can make the checks, and he's strong. That allows him to be able to strike a blow, punch and get off blocks. One thing our linebackers have to work extremely hard on that was a negative for us was there were too many times they ran into blockers and didn't disengage. That's been a big emphasis."

Morgan got consistently better at this as the year rolled along. He's too much of a blue-collar guy to get the sexy TFL stats to be All Big Ten (also, Max Bullough exists) but he should be a consistently plus player who fends off Joe Bolden all year. He will be an asset.

[After THE JUMP: James Ross! Depth! Jake Ryan as Loki! Cam Gordon! More depth!]


Monday Presser Transcript 8-26-13: Brady Hoke

Monday Presser Transcript 8-26-13: Brady Hoke Comment Count

Heiko August 26th, 2013 at 6:09 PM


  • Taylor Lewan, Courtney Avery, Jake Ryan, and Cam Gordon are your captains. 
  • Joe Reynolds, Graham Glasgow, and Joe Kerridge now have scholarships.
  • Courtney Avery is out with orthoscopic [MGoI'mGoingToDoSoWellAsAnM3: ARTHROSCOPIC] surgery for some cartilage in his knee. Playing time and experience would say that Jarrod Wilson is the next guy in, but there's probably a three-way battle between him, Josh Furman, and Dymonte Thomas.
  • Derrick Green and Deveon Smith made the traveling depth chart, and they will be expected to contribute either as backup running backs or special teamers. Their redshirts are toast.
  • Starting offensive line is Lewan, Glasgow, Miller, Kalis, and Schofield. 
  • Blake Countess is starting cornerback and starting nickel. Next guy off the bench is probably Hollowell, but both Channing Stribling and Jourdan Lewis made it onto the depth chart, so there may be some competition there.
  • Dennis Norfleet is handling all return duties.


Televised Part

Opening remarks:

"Okay let's get started. Thanks for coming out. We're five days away now. It is game week, and it's exciting. Our players, our staff, everybody involved has worked very hard since January to get to this point. We're excited about the opportunity to see where this team is, and we talk about never getting a second chance to make a first impression, so it's going to be exciting on Saturday. 

"We voted our captains yesterday, and I think the four guys: Taylor Lewan, Courtney Avery, Jake Ryan, and Cam Gordon, are very deserving. At the same time I'll tell you that whole class has done a tremendous job as far as leadership and teaching and helping to help coach young football players. As you all know we are a young football team. We also had an opportunity last night to award three scholarships to guys that have walked onto the program and have set a standard for work ethic and set a standard for their toughness. Their love for their teammates and their love for Michigan. Joe Reynolds, Graham Glasgow, and Joe Kerridge were three guys most deserving. When you have an opportunity to do that as a coach, you always feel good because it obviously is helping their families out. More than that, the guys have earned it. 

"Courtney Avery had arthroscopic surgery Thursday night. Cartilage. It should be a two-week setback, but everything went well. He is in great spirits and he'll be back on the field soon."