Michigan In The NFL: Who's Making The Cut?

Michigan In The NFL: Who's Making The Cut?

Submitted by Ace on August 13th, 2014 at 2:49 PM


wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

The NFL preseason is officially underway, and with mandatory roster cuts (down to 75) set for August 26th, now is a good time to check in with the former Wolverines currently playing in the league. After scouring the interwebs, here's my best guess at where each Michigan representative stands as we near the start of the season.

Locks To Make It

Jason Avant, WR, Carolina. After being relegated to decoy duty in Chip Kelly's offense for Philadelphia in 2013, Avant—who boasts the lowest drop percentage in the NFL over the last three years—should be one of Cam Newton's top targets with his move to the Panthers.

Tom Brady, QB, New England. Brady threw for over 4,300 yards with 25 touchdowns last season while working with a very raw receiving corps. It was universally considered a down year. I think he's gonna make it, y'all.

Alan Branch, DE, Buffalo. Branch was an integral member of the D-line rotation for the Bills last season, recording 39 tackles, and he should reprise that role working behind up-and-coming star Marcell Dareus again this year.

Stevie Brown, FS, New York Giants. After finishing second in the NFL with eight interceptions in 2012, Brown missed all of 2013 with a torn ACL. He's back from the injury and expected to start at free safety.

Larry Foote, ILB, Arizona. The longtime Steeler—Foote has played 11 of his 12 NFL seasons in Pittsburgh—was cut in the offseason, but quickly found a home in Arizona, which lost both of their starting ILBs from last season. He's currently atop the depth chart, and even if he doesn't hold that spot, he should stick around to provide veteran leadership for a young position group.

Jonathan Goodwin, C/G, New Orleans. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Goodwin and Tim Lelito, the two players competing to start at center, are "certain to make the final roster." Goodwin's ability to play both center and guard gives him extra job security, even at 35 years old, as does his relatively cheap one-year deal.

Leon Hall, CB, Cincinnati. While Hall tore his right Achilles tendon last season, just two seasons removed from tearing his left Achilles, he's back in the starting lineup as Cinci's slot corner, a spot he plays about as well as anybody in the league when healthy. Barring further injury, his spot is very much safe.

David Harris, ILB, New York Jets. Jets head coach Rex Ryan called Harris "the most underrated player in the league" after he was left of the NFL Network's top 100 players list for 2014. Yeah, he's safe.

Junior Hemingway, WR, Kansas City. Even though Hemingway missed a good deal of training camp with a hamstring injury, he came right back and was a prime target for QB Alex Smith out of the slot. This very thorough rundown of the Chiefs' roster situation has Hemingway safely on the team—in fact, he should start in the slot—and that doesn't look likely to change.

Chad Henne, QB, Jacksonville. Though Jacksonville used the #3 overall pick on QB Blake Bortles, Henne started the first preseason game, and the Jaguars higher-ups insist there's no QB controversy. Bortles is the QB of the future; for now, however, this is Henne's job.

Taylor Lewan, OT, Tennessee. First-round picks don't get cut in their rookie seasons, especially when they're competing for starting jobs.

Jake Long, OT, St. Louis. Long is coming back from a torn ACL and MCL, so he's been held out so far in the preseason, but he's on track to make a surpringly quick return. Also, he's Jake Long, which should be enough.

Ryan Mundy, S, Chicago. Even though the Bears have shuffled their safeties around, Mundy has seen the most action on the first team of anyone, and he can play both free and strong safety in their system. He started the preseason strong, picking off a pass in the opener.

Michael Schofield, OG/OT, Denver. Third-round picks also don't get cut in their rookie season, except in very unusual circumstances. Considering Schofield is "in the mix" at both left guard and right tackle, it looks like he'll be a critical backup at the very least in Denver.

LaMarr Woodley, DE, Oakland. After seven productive years in Pittsburgh, Woodley was unceremoniously released by the Steelers over the offseason, and the Raiders were happy to get him. He provides a major upgrade from them at DE, a spot that may suit him better than 3-4 OLB, where he played in Pittsburgh.

Charles Woodson, S, Oakland. At 37, Woodson came back to Oakland, where he's beloved by the fanbase. He'll play safety there, and he is Charles Woodson, so he'll play well until he decides it's time to hang up the cleats.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the list.]

One Frame At A Time: Notre Dame Past

One Frame At A Time: Notre Dame Past

Submitted by Ace on September 7th, 2013 at 3:41 PM

Hey, Butch Woolfolk, are you excited for the game tonight?

Agreed, Butch. How do you feel about it being the last Michigan-Notre Dame home game for the foreseeable future?

We're on the same wavelength, Butch.

[If you're wondering "why?" those are from the intros to the '81 ND game. For many more GIFs from Notre Dame games of the past, hit THE JUMP.]

Hokepoints: Time to Drop the Zero from Snoop?

Hokepoints: Time to Drop the Zero from Snoop?

Submitted by Seth on May 14th, 2013 at 10:38 AM

During a wee hours period break of a wee hours Wings game last weekend, I ended up in a conversation about the #1 jersey and who might be the next player to wear it. The guy was really high on Chesson or Drake Harris or some future giant; I was like thatsracist.gif because the best receiver since Braylon is on the roster RIGHT NOW

 IMG_5154

Upchurch

Unless you’re just categorically against changing numbers for seniors (which I totally understand in all circumstances but this), if we’re truly honoring elite receivers with the 1 jersey it could be time we give it to Jeremy Gallon. The case against: is 5’8, has always been just mediocre at returning punts and kicks, is 5’8, took some time to work his way up the depth chart, would ideally be a slot receiver because he’s 5’8. The case for: is secretly 8 feet tall, among his various Inspector Gadget peripherals is a cloaking device that saved Under the Lights I, and the WAR stat for receivers says he’s the best in the conference by a wide margin.

When I was doing the receivers pages of HTTV last week I went looking for some more advanced stats to put in tables aside from the usual Bentley things like receptions, yards, TDs, games played, and what you can get by dividing those things together. I remembered cfbstats’s Marty Couvillan last year made all of those targeting data available to the public, with an assist from Bill Connelly of Football Study Hall.*

What Marty did is took that play by play ticker information that the NCAA makes available, and through some ninja text-to-columns work, managed to pull out data for when each receiver was targeted. This is groundbreaking work in receiver stats, knowing what happens whenever a ball is thrown in the direction of a player. It still doesn’t say how well it was thrown, how deep if it wasn’t caught, or how many defenders had to be shooed off, but until we have official scorers UFR-ing every game this is about the best we can get. Guys like Bill began building their own stats out of the new data and came up with YRPR, which formula is:

  • The % of your team’s targets you receive
  • Times how many yards you average per pass thrown in your direction
  • Times an adjustment for the rest of your team’s passing game so we don’t just get the guys with great QBs and lines
  • Times an adjustment for how often your team passes, so that we don’t just award wide open receivers on run-heavy teams, e.g. Roundtree 2010.

And what it said was…

2012 Big Ten Receivers by YRPR:

Rk Name Targets Catch Rate School Rk (FBS) YRPR
1 Jeremy Gallon 79 62.0% Michigan 14 169.56
2 Jared Abbrederis 71 69.0% Wisconsin 22 149.32
3 Kenny Bell 77 64.9% Nebraska 34 134.55
4 Allen Robinson 126 61.1% PSU 36 133.27
5 Roy Roundtree 58 53.4% Michigan 51 118.63
6 Corey Brown 85 70.6% Ohio State 52 118.22
7 Devin Smith 58 51.7% Ohio State 73 109.21
8 Cody Latimer 65 78.5% Indiana 80 107.02
9 Shane Wynn 95 70.5% Indiana 124 86.15
10 Kofi Hughes 81 53.1% Indiana 129 84.95
11 A.J. Barker 46 65.2% Minnesota 150 79.71
12 Antavian Edison 92 63.0% Purdue 165 76.67
13 Quincy Enunwa 69 60.9% Nebraska 180 73.28
14 Keenan Davis 88 53.4% Iowa 193 70.45
15 Kevonte Martin-Manley 81 64.2% Iowa 196 70.20
16 Drew Dileo 30 66.7% Michigan 206 67.70
17 Jamal Turner 53 60.4% Nebraska 216 65.02
18 Jacob Pedersen 49 55.1% Wisconsin 221 63.33
19 Ryan Lankford 63 58.7% Illinois 237 59.96
20 Kyle Carter 52 69.2% PSU 240 59.30
           
27 Devin Gardner 37 43.2% Michigan 271 54.41
           
33 Devin Funchess 28 53.6% Michigan 324 47.86

I know what you’re thinking: that top five includes three of the receivers I drafted in last year’s Draft o’ Snark, and my fourth is in the Top 10. That and our tiny receiver who looks like Snoop was best in the conference and 14th in the nation. Not “one of the best after Allen Robinson and Kenny Bell and Jared Abbrederis and those Ohio State and Indiana guys,” but best-best.

Nationally Gallon was one spot behind West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, also a 5’8 mite, also the first receiver taken in this year’s NFL Draft. In fact most of the guys above Gallon were drafted this year—only USC’s Marqise Lee, SJ State’s Noel Grigsby, Bama’s Amari Cooper, Vanderbilt’s Jordan Mathews, and Fresno State’s Davante Adams return among those who finished above Jeremy Gallon in this metric.

When Brian gets to the receiver previews later this offseason he will undoubtedly point out that Gallon blew up after Gardner stepped in, projecting to Braylon-like numbers if you extrapolate the Gardner starts across an entire season. Well, the advanced stats guys took his entire year and said he’s Tavon Austin.

* [Where’s LSAClassof2000? Follow those links and stop writing personal diaries.]

[After the jump, how Gallon’s 2012 compared with those of past M receivers, and how the Big Ten has fared against the others]

Unverified Voracity Talks Uncertainty

Unverified Voracity Talks Uncertainty

Submitted by Brian on July 3rd, 2012 at 4:16 PM

image

Sponsors with benefits. Hotels: there are none on gameday unless you want to stay in Canada or Ohio. These places are inconvenient. Few people even speak English. Houses: Ann Arbor has many, lots of them right across the street from Michigan Stadium. Money: can be used to convince people in these houses to let you borrow the houses. Thus your crew of 8+ people can stay in the same, convenient place.

You are probably entering URLs that seem likely candidates to host such a service as we speak. Your fingers ache, your keyboard smokes. Well, enter nonexistent website URLs no longer. You can use Money to avoid Hotels at Gameday Housing, which not only benefits you but also the site. A bonus: mention MGoBlog when you sign up (in the "you heard about us from" box) and they'll take 50 bucks off your first rental*. You can lock down accommodations for Michigan State for about what a hotel would run you, except instead of a hotel room you get a house. Doing so also supports the site.

*[Fine print: only valid until the end of 2012, can't combine with another promotion, one per user.]

2011 photo spectacular. Max starts an excellent thread of favorite pictures from last year:

F1cRfl[1]

No sources are listed, unfortunately. Everyone should be shoving the metadata in their files so people can credit back if so inclined.

Troubaaaargh. The Daily's Matt Slovin reports that Jacob Trouba has a 200k offer from the OHL sitting on the table and that this is a source of OHL-related optimism in re: guy breaking his commitment to leave. Again. Kitchener denies this because kids in the OHL get 45 bucks a week only. It's not a professional league, man. You have to believe us.

We'll see how that goes. It's a chunk of cash, but for a guy who's likely to sign a max rookie contract in a year or two it's not a life changing amount. Insert usual bits about how Something Must Be Done, but what? It's clear the OHL doesn't care about its own rules, and the NHL is never going to step in, so what can be done?

UPDATE: Trouba has again reiterated he will play at Michigan.

Werner something. You're probably aware that Joe Paterno's legacy is even further tattered after the release of emails that imply the university administration was about to go to some sort of police-type organization that would have put Jerry Sandusky's crimes to an end until Joe intervened on Sandusky's behalf. But are you aware of the contortions many on the Penn State rivals board are willing to undertake to maintain their worship?

I Would Like to Pose a Question to the Board
Reply


Let's see who can answer this question.  Bear with me -- I have a point to make.  Here it is:

The human body consists of 99.9% of something.  What is it?

[several posts in which people respond.]

Congratulations! Three of You Got It.
Reply


The answer is empty space.  Now, on the face of it, the answer is absurd.  How can the body be empty space?  Well, because atoms are empty space.  Vibrating energy (I think) is what gives things solidity (this is a quantum physics deal, so I can't elaborate).  But, here's the point.  It is absolutely PREPOSTEROUS to claim that the human body is empty space, just as it is preposterous to claim that Joe Paterno was not involved in covering up Jerry Sandusky's child abuse.  Yet, the human body really is empty space; so why can't Joe Paterno not be involved in a cover-up, particularly since no one yet has forwarded any evidence of such?  It is a supposition that Paterno was involved, just as it is a common supposition that the human body is not empty space.

This guy has a future as a noir defense attorney.

Meanwhile, Vijay comes out of retirement to re-evaluate the "Grand Experiment." 

If this really happens… If Wisconsin's nonconference scheduling goes from sad to decent, yes, Virginia, strength of schedule will be a big deal in the new playoff world. Alvarez is talking about it, at least:

“If you want to be a player (in the national championship equation) and strength of schedule is going to be a part of it, then you really have to consider (a different approach),” UW athletic director Barry Alvarez said.

That might explain why UW football coach Bret Bielema disclosed on his Twitter account this week that he’s reached out to his Notre Dame counterpart Brian Kelly about a possible series with the high-profile independent. Bielema is targeting openings for 2018 and ’19 when Michigan drops off the Irish’s schedule.

It might also explain why Alvarez disclosed this week that there were recent discussions, orchestrated by ESPN, about matching the Badgers against defending national champion and Southeastern Conference power Alabama at a neutral site.

Alvarez, who handled scheduling when he coached the Badgers from 1990 to ’05, said Bielema countered with an offer to play a home-and-home series with the Crimson Tide — no specific years were discussed — but that Alabama coach Nick Saban declined.

That's all talk now. I have a hard time seeing SOS becoming important enough to overrule our current how-many-losses ranking system except in intraconference instances like last year's Oregon-Stanford hypothetical controversy, and if that's the case Wisconsin will continue its steady diet of cupcakes. Something to keep an eye on, at least.

Mario. He got suspended that one game and was kind of frustrating at other times, but Mario Manningham could play, yo:

In other Wolverine Historian bits, he captures the 1994 Minnesota game.

Big Ten Network programming breakdown. A poster on BSD totaled up a month's worth of BTN programming this summer and came out with these numbers:

A quick breakdown of school and how many hours of programming they have, in order from least to greatest:

  • Nebraska 27.5 hours
  • Minnesota 32 hours
  • Northwestern 40.5 hours
  • Penn State 47.5 hours
  • Purdue 49 hours
  • Illinois 73.5 hours
  • Iowa 82.5 hours
  • Indiana 85 hours
  • Michigan 106 hours
  • Michigan St 108 hours
  • Wisconsin 127.5 hours
  • Ohio State 153 hours
  • Wisconsin and MSU benefited from frequent replays of the inaugural champinship game. OSU's edge on the rest of the field is a combination of football and basketball prowess that no one else is matching at the moment. The jump from Purdue to Illinois is… odd.

    Left tackles can't stand normal bikes. Via a TTB interview with Erik Magnuson:

    Magnuson[1]

    That is a 6'6", 300 pound man on a unicycle. Maybe we'll see him performing during halftime at Crisler next year.

    Etc.: Hardaway, Burke, McGary all second-round-ish NBA prospects at the moment, with Burke in that gray area between the first and second round. The 2013 class rankings are rejiggered: Walton, Donnal up, Irvin down a little.

    Sam Mikulak makes the Olympic team. Jeff Porter makes it in the 110M hurdles. Michigan alum Richard Kaplan is mayor of a small Florida town that is way into cricket. Brady Hoke returns to his old stomping grounds to out MANBALL Ball State's new coach.

    MGoHall of Fame: Football Nominees

    MGoHall of Fame: Football Nominees

    Submitted by Brian on May 15th, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    Good lord, this was brutal. Hockey had a pretty clear cutoff that sat nicely at five, and getting to five in basketball was a stretch. I left Steve Breaston, Leon Hall, Allan Branch, and Zoltan Mesko out here. Jebus.

    See also: structure, basketball, hockey.

    David Molk

    0molkmofo[1]

    via MVictors

    PROS: Tough-talking no-neck was a four year starter at center perfectly suited for Michigan's zone running game; won the Rimington as a senior. Hilarious interview with absolutely no regard for cliché. High fantangibles rating. At times seemed to be the difference between doom and success in the Michigan ground game. Broke something serious in his foot in the Sugar Bowl, watched Rocko Khoury make some panic snaps on Michigan's first series, and played the rest of the game seriously damaged.

    Experienced both coaching changes and was one of the seniors Who Stayed™. A huge factor in the locker room uniting behind Hoke.

    CONS: Had some injury problems. Inexplicably had his snap count jumped against MSU and only MSU for like three straight years.

    Mike Martin

    AiUrIM_CEAAvgsD1_thumb[1]

    PROS: Four-year contributor and three-year starter who always teetered on the edge of being great. Finally accelerated down the senior-year stretch into a dominant nose tackle. During this period forced a pitch on a Nebraska speed option.

    This is about all you need to know. You could not block him. Michigan's insanely good third/fourth and short defense started with him (and ended with Kovacs).

    But wait, there's more: with Michigan's already-thin defensive line depth shattered by injury before the Sugar Bowl, Martin and Van Bergen faced off with future first-round pick David Wilson in a game where getting a stop meant you got four snaps before you were back on the field. They singlehandedly kept Michigan in the game despite dying halfway through the second quarter. A performance that should pass into legend the same way Hunwick's North Dakota game will.

    Also a member of Those Who Stayed™. Along with Molk and Van Bergen, Martin got the Full Andy Dufresne from his time at Michigan.

    CONS: Seemingly endorses "In The Big House." Not as highly regarded by the NFL as a few other guys on this list.

    Ryan Van Bergen

    ryan-van-bergen-post-osu_thumb[1]

    OSU

    PROS: Third and final member of Those Who Stayed™ on the list. Also a four-year contributor and longtime starter, underrated because of his lack of playmaking but still the TFL leader on last year's team. The other guy holding Michigan's defensive line together through sheer force of will in the Sugar Bowl. Virtually impossible to knock down. Screwed up a check in the 2009 Indiana game, leading to an 85-yard touchdown, then singlehandedly annihilated the next IU drive, giving Michigan a chance to pull it out.

    CONS: Probably the least-great player on this list. Here as a tribute to Michigan's phoenix act in 2011. Not enticing to NFL. Still… look at that. This is not a list of the best players ever, so…

    Brandon Graham

    PROS: The best player on an awful Michigan defense and awful Michigan teams. Did not get the Full Andy Dufresne since his career ended halfway through the sewage tube. Still bore all of this with a Denard-like beatific smile. Just killed people, all the time.

    NFL did really like him, drafting him in the top half of the first round.

    CONS: Unfortunately his impact was limited because the team around him was terrible.

    David Harris

    PROS: Sideline-to-sideline missile was cerebral to the point of near-genius. Always there. Always. Made a habit out of juking(!) offensive linemen in zone schemes, making them think the play was going one way, then exploding into the ballcarrier when this was not the case. Junior year was tremendously underrated thanks to chaos around him; was major lynchpin and possibly the best player on Michigan's monster 2006 defense. Yes, I mean that seriously.

    Early and still prime example of the usefulness of UFRing makes him near to my heart; not sure if you care. Validated all praise from Michigan fans by instantly becoming NFL tackling machine upon entry to the league.

    Kind of looks like Worf.

    CONS: Lacks iconic wow play. Others started longer than he did.

    Mario Manningham

    PROS: Emphatically does not have David Harris's problem since he was the target on two of the most iconic plays of the aughts: Oh, Wide Open and Lloyd Carr's Last Second. An electric playmaker the rest of the time, a guy who wasn't the biggest but was the fastest and hardest to keep track of. Had that brilliant slow-up-to-stall-the-DB-then-extend-for-the-TD move down pat. More of a technician than given credit for. Whenever I think of Manningham, I think of that Citrus Bowl when DeBord said "screw it, spread time" and Holly Rowe reporting that Florida deathbacker Brandon Spikes was chasing Manningham all over the field on his incessant end-arounds, saying "damn, boy, you good."

    Did the worm after the 2007 Penn State win.

    CONS: Got suspended for the weed, something that took some doing in the mid-aughts. Widely regarded as kind of maybe not the nicest guy to ever make it through the program.

    Jason Avant

    PROS: Amongst the nicest guys to ever make it through the program. Skillet-sized hands are made of industrial-strength adhesive. An elite-level possession receiver who was everyone's safety blanket. Targeted all the time and made all the catches. Probably the most common ex-player to be referenced in "You May Remember Me From Such Players As," to the point where I actively try to avoid it now.

    Did this:

    That about sums it up.

    CONS: Did drop that one pass once, you know, that one. Never a huge deep threat.

    Mike Hart

    PROS: Four year starter with great backstory and running style burned into your brain. No speed at all but capable of juking in a phone booth and grinding out two, three, four yards after contact. Got a standing ovation for a particular eight yard run against Penn State once. Came out of a tiny school in upstate New York with outlandish rushing stats and a youtube clip in which he jukes every player on the opposing team twice.

    Never, ever fumbled except twice inside the five against Florida in his last game. Pretty much the only thing standing between Michigan and a yards per carry under three during his time at Michigan.

    Mouthy in a rivalry-pumping way. Fantangibles high. Added spice to life. I have already written his column. There is a "Mike Hart is pined for" tag on this blog.

    CONS: Injury prone. Started this incredibly annoying "little brother" business. Spice added by mouth often backfired; went 0-fer against OSU.

    Lamarr Woodley

    72315190_crop_650x440[1]

    PROS: Kills people. Brandon Graham was Woodley 2.0, a devastating defensive end who could not be blocked one-on-one. Has enormous Wolverine tattoo on arm. Finished off the Oh Wide Open game with the Yakety-sax-capping scoop and score. Fighting with David Harris and Allan Branch for title of best player on 2006 defense.

    CONS: OSU 0-fer does not quite apply but really kind of does since he did not contribute much in 2003. That's about it. Kind of think maybe Graham was better since he had way less help and still produced.

    Jake Long

    77315876[1]

    PROS: Is he a man or a block-long wall? Only his mother knows, and these days she's not even sure. Four-year starter who rolled off the NFL left tackle prototype line and let exactly zero guys not roid-raging get to the quarterback when he was on the field. The first overall pick his draft year, all-American everywhere, etc, etc, etc, you get the idea.

    CONS: Fantangibles low. Another Michigan great who had to suffer through the indignity of 0-fer OSU. Hurt most of the 2005 season. Not sure what I'd write about him.

    Six Years of Crazy Detailed Michigan Receiving Stats

    Six Years of Crazy Detailed Michigan Receiving Stats

    Submitted by Brian on April 27th, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    Recently, Football Study Hall provided a spreadsheet of epic length to anyone who wanted it detailing not only catches and yards for the 2005-2011 seasons, but "targets"—ie, the number of times a guy had the ball tossed in his direction. FSH did this for all of D-I. I sliced out the other 119 teams to focus on Michigan.

    This data spans a fascinating period in Michigan history:

    • 2005-2007 are the last three years of the Henne era, except 2007 is a third Henne, a third Mallett, and a third injured Henne who shouldn't be playing but Mallett is insane.
    • 2008 is the Threet-Sheridan disaster.
    • 2009 is mostly Forcier.
    • 2010 and 2011 are mostly Denard, with 2010 RR's best shot at a great offense and 2011 the first year of Borges.

    Here's the interesting stuff that came out.

    YARDS PER TARGET

    uspw_5863278[1]

    The top 20 (min 10 targets). Bet yourself a dollar you can guess #1:

    RK Year Player Targets Catches YdsPerTarget YdsPerCatch
    1 2011 Junior Hemingway 58 34 12.1 20.6
    2 2010 Martavious Odoms 20 16 12.1 15.1
    3 2010 Kevin Koger 17 14 11.7 14.2
    4 2006 Mario Manningham 64 38 11.0 18.5
    5 2011 Jeremy Gallon 42 31 10.8 14.6
    6 2010 Junior Hemingway 56 32 10.6 18.5
    7 2006 Tyler Ecker 15 12 10.3 12.9
    8 2009 Junior Hemingway 26 16 10.1 16.4
    9 2010 Kelvin Grady 21 17 10.0 12.4
    10 2010 Sam McGuffie 39 39 9.8 9.8
    11 2007 Carson Butler Jr. 25 20 9.8 12.3
    12 2009 LaTerryal Savoy 17 12 9.6 13.6
    13 2009 Roy Roundtree 46 32 9.4 13.6
    14 2006 Adrian Arrington 58 40 9.4 13.6
    15 2005 Mario Manningham 48 27 9.2 16.4
    16 2009 Martavious Odoms 30 22 9.1 12.4
    17 2011 Vincent Smith 17 11 8.8 13.5
    18 2010 Roy Roundtree 107 72 8.7 13.0
    19 2011 Martavious Odoms 15 7 8.7 18.7
    20 2011 Drew Dileo 14 9 8.6 13.4

    You win a dollar from yourself. Junior Hemingway is the king of yards per target. Not only does he share the #1 spot with Martavious Odoms, he also finishes #6 and #8. It's too bad this data doesn't go a couple seasons further back, allowing us to have a YPT battle royale between Hemingway and Braylon Edwards.

    The other thing that jumps off the page is the impact of the spread. The only pro-style WR to crack the top ten was Mario Manningham's 2006 season. Tyler Ecker also made the top ten but on just 15 targets; he made his hay by catching 80% of his limited opportunities. Also, Roundtree does very well to show up at #18 despite being the target of dozens of screens. That target number is off the charts.

    This is expected, since the spread came with a huge shift towards running the ball. Passes are naturally more likely to go far when you run 70% of the time.

    The bottom 20:

    RK Year Player Targets Catches YdsPerTarget YdsPerCatch
    42 2005 Antonio Bass 11 8 5.8 8.0
    43 2006 Michael Hart 22 17 5.7 7.4
    44 2005 Tyler Ecker 40 21 5.7 10.8
    45 2007 Greg Mathews 65 39 5.6 9.4
    46 2008 Greg Mathews 73 35 5.6 11.7
    47 2006 Mike Massey 13 8 5.5 9.0
    48 2006 Carson Butler Jr. 32 19 5.4 9.1
    49 2009 Kelvin Grady 19 10 5.4 10.2
    50 2010 Michael Shaw 14 10 5.4 7.5
    51 2011 Kelvin Grady 14 5 5.4 15.0
    52 2006 Greg Mathews 13 7 5.2 9.7
    53 2008 Martavious Odoms 90 49 4.9 9.1
    54 2008 Darryl Stonum 37 14 4.8 12.6
    55 2009 Martell Webb 10 4 4.4 11.0
    56 2005 Mike Massey 12 8 4.3 6.4
    57 2007 Mike Massey 10 4 3.8 9.5
    58 2008 LaTerryal Savoy 11 4 3.5 9.5
    59 2005 Tim Massaquoi 25 11 3.4 7.8
    60 2007 Michael Hart 16 8 3.1 6.3
    61 2008 Michael Shaw 11 6 2.9 5.3

    This is mostly sparsely-used tight ends and tailbacks with the notable exception of the top three receivers in 2008 and their 200 targets between them. Also I would like to note the presence of Tim Massaquoi towards the bottom of the list. This is not his fault. Massaquoi broke his hand in 2005. Michigan kept throwing the ball at him.

    MOST TARGETED

    SuperMarioVsPSU[1]

    RK Year Player Targets Catches Yards CatchRate Target %
    1 2007 Mario Manningham 142 72 1174 50.7% 35.8%
    2 2005 Jason Avant 126 82 1065 65.1% 32.6%
    3 2008 Martavious Odoms 90 49 445 54.4% 29.7%
    4 2007 Adrian Arrington 115 67 882 58.3% 29.0%
    5 2006 Steve Breaston 87 58 670 66.7% 27.8%
    6 2010 Roy Roundtree 107 72 935 67.3% 26.4%
    7 2008 Greg Mathews 73 35 409 47.9% 24.1%
    8 2011 Junior Hemingway 58 34 699 58.6% 21.7%
    9 2006 Mario Manningham 64 38 703 59.4% 20.4%
    10 2010 Darryl Stonum 80 49 633 61.3% 19.8%
    11 2006 Adrian Arrington 58 40 544 69.0% 18.5%
    12 2011 Roy Roundtree 49 19 355 38.8% 18.4%
    13 2009 Greg Mathews 55 29 352 52.7% 18.0%
    14 2007 Greg Mathews 65 39 366 60.0% 16.4%
    15 2011 Jeremy Gallon 42 31 453 73.8% 15.7%
    16 2009 Roy Roundtree 46 32 434 69.6% 15.1%
    17 2010 Junior Hemingway 56 32 593 57.1% 13.8%
    18 2011 Kevin Koger 35 23 244 65.7% 13.1%
    19 2005 Steve Breaston 49 26 291 53.1% 12.7%
    20 2005 Mario Manningham 48 27 442 56.3% 12.4%

    Note that two of the worst yards-per-target guys—the 2008 versions of Odoms and Mathews—show up in the top 10 here. Guys, I'm beginning to think that Michigan's 2008 offense wasn't very good.

    Manningham's 2007 year is a clear winner here, with Jason Avant's 2005 a distant second yet distant from the #3. In context, Avant's stats scream "guy who will be a possession receiver for 20 years in the NFL": Michigan went to him all the time, never threw him screens, and he still checks in with a terrific catch rate.

    Also catch Roundtree's 2011: bad. His production fell off not only because he was targeted less frequently but because his catch percentage plummeted from 67% to 39%. No screens, no easy TDs, a lot of doubt about whether he can take over Hemingway's downfield duties.

    BEST/WORST CATCHIST

    Roy Roundtree Illinois v Michigan lZeXZhi8Z-wl[1]

    [NOTE: The spreadsheet erroneously listed Sam McGuffie as the #1 player here with 39 catches on 39 attempts… in 2010. The spreadsheet is right, in a way: those are McGuffie's numbers from his 2010 season at Rice. McGuffie still finishes #1 for his 2008 season, a 19 of 22 campaign.]

    Unfiltered, these are of debatable utility since all of the guys at the top are small-sample size guys. Tailbacks, tight ends, and slots dominate. Let's limit it to players with at least 30 targets in a season and see what we get. The "rank" is rank amongst everyone. There are 59 seasons in the DB.

    RK Year Player Targets Catches CatchRate YdsPerCatch
    11 2011 Jeremy Gallon 42 31 73.8% 14.6
    12 2009 Martavious Odoms 30 22 73.3% 12.4
    17 2009 Roy Roundtree 46 32 69.6% 13.6
    18 2006 Adrian Arrington 58 40 69.0% 13.6
    19 2010 Roy Roundtree 107 72 67.3% 13.0
    20 2006 Steve Breaston 87 58 66.7% 11.6
    24 2011 Kevin Koger 35 23 65.7% 10.6
    25 2005 Jason Avant 126 82 65.1% 13.0
    30 2010 Darryl Stonum 80 49 61.3% 12.9
    31 2007 Greg Mathews 65 39 60.0% 9.4
    32 2006 Mario Manningham 64 38 59.4% 18.5
    33 2006 Carson Butler Jr. 32 19 59.4% 9.1
    35 2011 Junior Hemingway 58 34 58.6% 20.6
    36 2007 Adrian Arrington 115 67 58.3% 13.2
    37 2010 Junior Hemingway 56 32 57.1% 18.5
    38 2005 Mario Manningham 48 27 56.3% 16.4
    40 2008 Martavious Odoms 90 49 54.4% 9.1
    42 2005 Steve Breaston 49 26 53.1% 11.2
    43 2009 Greg Mathews 55 29 52.7% 12.1
    45 2005 Tyler Ecker 40 21 52.5% 10.8
    47 2007 Mario Manningham 142 72 50.7% 16.3
    50 2008 Greg Mathews 73 35 47.9% 11.7
    56 2011 Roy Roundtree 49 19 38.8% 18.7
    57 2008 Darryl Stonum 37 14 37.8% 12.6

    I highlighted it this time. Roundtree's regression from 2010 to 2011 was enormous. He went from the #5 player in this sample to second-worst.

    In other news, Adrian Arrington's 2006 was secretly great. And when you combine the catch rates with the yards you have a dead heat between Mario Manningham '06 and Junior Hemingway '11 as the best season in this time frame, with Avant's '05 drawing an honorable mention for moving the chains.

    Speaking of…

    MOVING THE CHAINS

    There are two subsets provided in the data, with attempts split into "standard downs" and "passing downs." Passing downs can come on second and long but using them as a proxy for third and let's-not-run isn't going to introduce too many distortions. The top 20 security blankets:

    RK Year Player Targets Catches CatchRate Target % YdsPerCatch
    1 2007 Mario Manningham 67 34 50.7% 34.0% 20.5
    2 2008 Greg Mathews 51 25 49.0% 31.5% 14.8
    3 2006 Steve Breaston 46 29 63.0% 30.1% 18.9
    4 2005 Jason Avant 50 33 66.0% 29.8% 18.7
    5 2007 Adrian Arrington 54 30 55.6% 27.4% 19.0
    6 2011 Junior Hemingway 31 19 61.3% 24.2% 21.8
    7 2010 Roy Roundtree 42 22 52.4% 23.1% 19.1
    8 2007 Greg Mathews 42 25 59.5% 21.3% 14.6
    9 2008 Martavious Odoms 34 14 41.2% 21.0% 10.5
    10 2010 Darryl Stonum 36 17 47.2% 19.8% 10.3
    11 2011 Roy Roundtree 25 8 32.0% 19.5% 13.4
    12 2009 Greg Mathews 26 13 50.0% 17.4% 17.0
    13 2006 Adrian Arrington 24 17 70.8% 15.7% 7.4
    14 2006 Mario Manningham 24 14 58.3% 15.7% 17.8
    15 2005 Mario Manningham 26 12 46.2% 15.5% 19.8
    16 2010 Junior Hemingway 28 13 46.4% 15.4% 12.1
    17 2005 Tyler Ecker 25 11 44.0% 14.9% 18.9
    18 2009 Roy Roundtree 21 15 71.4% 14.1% 16.9
    19 2006 Carson Butler Jr. 19 12 63.2% 12.4% 19.6
    20 2008 Darryl Stonum 19 5 26.3% 11.7% 13.6

    You get a dollar for betting that you should throw it to Jason Avant on third and medium, too. Only low-usage versions of Arrington and Roundtree bested him on catch percentage and they were far less-frequently targeted; Arrington's 7.4 YPC further implies that some of those completions were well short of the first down.

    Avant has a combination of catching the ball and maintaining a great YPC that makes it totally unsurprising that he's a solid NFL player and a little wistfully sad whenever I compare yet another incoming WR to him when I know deep in the soul of my heart that there's no way Freshman X will be half as good.

    BONUS: Steve Breaston would like you to take your criticisms about his hands and shove them up where Bill Hancock's head is.

    The Story, 2010: Step Forth

    The Story, 2010: Step Forth

    Submitted by Brian on August 30th, 2010 at 10:26 AM

    Part one of the season preview. Previous editions: 2008, 2009.

    About a month ago the series of posts about the last decade of Michigan football struck upon the worst 11 plays the program suffered through since everyone started wearing those sunglasses with zeroes in them on New Year's Eve. The commenters were united in their opinion of these posts:

    face-meltI was with them. But it seemed not only wrong but impossible to evaluate the last decade of Michigan football without enumerating the many offenses we have suffered. The story of the aughts was Roman decline. Skipping straight to Mario Manningham with one second on the clock would have been fiddling in the ruins.

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

    It's about seven AM on the first game week of the 2010 season. Since I am a blogger and was an engineer before that, the last time I was up this early I was 19, in the second and last of the nepotistic internships I spent the first couple summers in college fiddling away at. My mom did the driving, so she set the schedule, and I spent a couple summers groggily pawing for an alarm clock with an "6" in the hour column and sulkily resenting how useless caffeine was for me. Mornings make me stabby.

    But I'm up and the feed reader's here. This is what it provides around 7 AM on August 30th, 2010:

    • Yost from the M-Zone unearths himself after two years of retirement to photoshop Jim Delany, David Brandon, Gene Smith, and Gordon Gee onto the horsemen of the apocalypse.
    • UM Tailgate commemorates ten(!) years on the internet by reminiscing about old times when there were bowl streaks existed and no one wondered if the coach would get fired.
    • Maize and Go Blue emerges from long hibernation itself to survey the state of the program, addressing the "constant ridicule" he is "bombarded with."
    • In the aftermath of last night's Mad Men, GIF PARTY deploys this, in which we are Ken Cosgrove and Pete Campbell is the universe:

      campbell-cosgrove

    • The AP has another story on the one thing that seems to generate good press about the program: a Christmas Eve car crash in 2007 that killed people near and dear to Elliott Mealer, tore his rotator cuff, and paralyzed his brother.

    It's been a ragged, weary summer, one that followed a frustrating collapse and a false but panicky NCAA apocalypse and the crater of '08 and I feel like I've been talking about how tired and frustrated and burned out I am for years now—the first sentence of last year's Story was "I'm tired"—which only makes the conversing about how it's tough out there for a Michigan fan more tedious and wearying and makes you want to go idle your time away on anything other than, say, the Ohio State UFR, missing for the second consecutive year. What felt like diagnosis and honesty last year now just feels like whining.

    A brief survey of themes from last year's game columns:

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

    EMO WHINING

    Get Out Of My Cab

    I've got no real analysis of either team other than they're both worse than I thought. I'm burning out after two years of almost unrelenting misery, and looking forward to football season being over for the third straight year. I mean, when Michigan was down to Purdue in the second half, some fan ten or twenty rows behind me kept shouting "they've got no heart" over and over again as the guy in the row in front of me called for Rodriguez's firing. Having a conversation about Michigan football right now is trying to remember that episode of GI Joe where Destro finds a secret ninja manual in a volcano*** that allows him to kill people with precisely-applied touches: if you can just remember where the red dots are you can spare everyone a lot of pain.

    EMO WHINING WITH MORRISSEY TITLE

    The Sea Wants To Take Me

    A serious thematic analysis of the Wisconsin game is pointless. Michigan's defense is exactly as horrifying as it's been all year. Everyone wants to fight each other in the liveblog. When the MGoPosse assembled to record this week's podcast, Paul said "at least we didn't muff a punt" and I responded "they didn't punt." (It turns out they did punt once in the first half, and Junior Hemingway misjudged a short one, almost fumbling it.)

    EMO WHINING CONSISTING ENTIRELY OF MORRISSEY LYRICS

    October Spawned A Monster

    Love, that November October
    Is a time
    Which I must
    Put out of my mind

    092609_SPT_UN v IU_MRM

    Oh, one fine day
    Let it be soon
    She won't be rich or beautiful
    But she'll be walking your streets
    In the clothes that she went out
    And chose for herself

    THE GENESIS OF THE OVERUSE OF "DONG" ON THE MESSAGE BOARD WITH MORRISSEY REFERENCE… AND WHINING!

    The Only Thing Corey Liuget And I Will Ever Have In Common

    To paint with broad strokes, I probably don't have much in common with 6'3", 290 pound black guys from Miami who think it's a good idea to play for Ron Zook. Our worlds are unlikely to intersect at a Lil Wayne show or the Ann Arbor Film Festival. Cory Liuget has probably never thought to himself "that reminds me of a Morrissey song." Of late, I think that all the time.

    But at around 6:30 on October 31st, 2009, we both felt like we had been punched in the dong. In Liuget's case, this is because he had been punched in the dong:

    In my case, and probably in yours, you had not actually been punched in the dong unless you had decided at some point that going outside with your buddies and punching each other in the dongs was preferable to watching the metaphorical dong-punching that started when Roy Roundtree's knee hit the ground at the one yard line and has not, to my knowledge, stopped. If you managed to miss this play and its aftermath because you were outside getting punched in the dong, congratulations: this is the one and only time when your decision-making skills will ever be regarded above average. Punch yourself in the dong in celebration.

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

    It is evidently my opinion that Morrissey sums up Michigan football of late better than anything else, and, well, yeah. Fey, petulant, wildly schizophrenic, once part of something great and now stuck in a self-loathing rut, extremely likely to fumble anything it's carrying if hit by a 250-pound linebacker, Michigan is Southpaw Grammar/Malajusted-era Morrissey to atomic precision.

    But then there are the Mealers, who don't so much put the above rending of fishnet shirts in perspective as obliterate the petty concerns of everyone who pays into the fandom industry just so their boring lives can sometimes feel titanic. Elliott's mother from that AP article above:

    "I questioned why I missed my opportunity to go to heaven," Shelly Mealer said Sunday night in a telephone interview as her voice cracked with emotion. "Still, I have my moments wondering if I can do this. But I know I'm here to take care of the boys because my husband always was the one who led us in his positive and optimistic way."

    Elliott himself:

    Elliott Mealer still feels a sense of regret and guilt for offering his girlfriend the outside seat in the back the car because she was feeling ill.

    "It could've been prevented, I guess, and it could've been me," he said softly. "It's kind of a difficult thing to think about."

    Elliott's brother Brock was told he'd never walk again and the "best he could hope for" was for the pain to go away in time.

    Right now it's easy to be the world's most cynical man ("I don't always drink beer, but when I do I make sure to remind everyone it's made from rice and by Belgians"). This site's already thrown up Henri the Otter of Ennui and packed it in with the site slogan, until recently "nevermind, PANIC aaaaeeieieie," and every hot seat list has Rich Rodriguez foremost on the chopping block. The secondary preview begins with "what's the point of anything?" Penn State fans with short memories are making each other's dangly bits tingle by speculating about whether Michigan will ever come back. I just told that New York audience that I don't think Rodriguez is going to make it.

    Brock Mealer's going to walk, though. On Saturday he's going to get up and walk under the MGoBlue banner in an act of defiance aimed at no one in particular. From the outside, what happened to Elliott Mealer and his family looks like an event that would physically and emotionally cripple anyone it happened to. It's orders of magnitude beyond any of the things I—we—have felt sorry for ourselves about over the past couple years. Something in them was resilient, though, and with the aid of this staff they'll reclaim a small part something they thought lost on Saturday.

    They can—probably already have—transfer this to the people around them. As I said about Manningham :01:

    In the end, the game served as a reminder that bitterness is no fun, faith is rewarded, the kids on the field are more resilient than we are, and sometimes they can let us borrow some of that.

    For both us and the team it's time to put away the eyeliner and walk.

    running-into-wallsnewspaper blackout poems

    Of The Decade: Best Plays Part II

    Of The Decade: Best Plays Part II

    Submitted by Brian on July 30th, 2010 at 1:57 PM

    Previously in this series: ESPN Images, Michigan's offense, Michigan's defense, Worst Plays of The Decade 7-11, Worst Plays 1-6, Best Plays Part I.

    6. Buffalo Stampede

    2003 Minnesota: trailing 14-0, Michigan has driven to around midfield. John Navarre chucks a WR screen to Steve Breaston, who throws it back to Navarre. Forty yards later, we all have beards and Michigan is within seven points.

    At some point in the 2003 Minnesota game I needed to get off the couch after something enraging had happened. I was on it with my girlfriend at the time and she sort of ended up on the ground as I executed my plan. The couch was low to the ground, she was unharmed, and in the aftermath the incident seemed funny. At the time all I could do was clench and unclench my fists.

    Michigan would eventually deploy an all-shotgun offense in the fourth quarter that shredded Minnesota for 24 points and win the game on a Garrett Rivas 33-yarder, but at the time it was grim. It would have been more grim but for the trick play of the decade:

    In the aftermath a friend immediately called me screaming "WHAT." It wasn't a question. It was just "WHAT." That. From seven year's distance it appears to be the slowest, most awkward touchdown convoy in school history.

    Eventually it was key in Michigan's comeback win and Rose Bowl berth but really it's just here for its sheer improbability.  It was one thing to run the transcontinental with Drew Henson; doing it with John Navarre—and getting a touchdown out of it—is pure audacity. This, by the way, is why Minnesota bloggers will never do a Worst Plays of the Decade list.

    5. In ur base killin ur d00dz

    MGoRetro: Pit Bull.

    branchmorelli_thumb1

    Penn State, 2006: it's second or third and long or something again, can't remember, doesn't matter, and I'm back in the pocket and I know I'm going to die. My offensive line has proven itself entirely hypothetical at this point. So I'm going to die, and it's not going to have any purpose. But this time I actually get a faint semblance of protection and I manage to find an open receiver—I'd forgotten those even existed—and I hurl it out there. And if Alan Branch hadn't driven his facemask into my shoulder and run through my tiny hoo-man body and left me in a concussed heap on the ground I would have gotten to see a first down. Which would have been nice.

    But then I might have had to play the rest of the game instead of getting an emergency cup of pudding repurposed from JoePa's stash. So, yeah. I could go either direction, as long as it's 180 degrees from wherever Branch is going.

    When Michigan fans are (unwisely, these days) attempting to tweak their Penn State coworkers this play, and the iconic image from its aftermath, is their go-to option. That's a meaningful statement when you've got most of a decade's worth of gloating to choose from, including another play on this list.

    As for the significance of the play, Penn State had bounced back from its early decade malaise in a big way in 2005, going 11-1 with the only loss featured a bit higher on this list. By the time the PSU game rolled around in '06 it was obviously the only thing standing between Michigan and a 1-vs-2 matchup against Ohio State at the end of the season. Michigan's last four opponents would all finish with losing records; the only road game was against Indiana. When Anthony Morelli got blasted out of the game the decks were clear.

    More than that, though, Alan Branch being in ur base is emblematic of the first ten games of 2006, when the Michigan defense was 1997 all over again and things were, briefly, back on course.

    4. "Oh, wide open"

    MGoRetro: Quod Erat Demonstrandum

    Notre Dame, 2006: Late in the first quarter, Michigan and Notre Dame are tied 7-7 after exchanging terrible interceptions when Chad Henne drops back to pass and launches one deep. Pat Haden breaks the suspense before the cameraman can catch up to a streaking Manningham by declaring "oh, wide open." When Manningham finally appears he is running under a perfectly thrown ball, all alone.

    Michigan entered the 2006 game uncertain of its place in the college football universe after a frustrating 7-5 season this blog nicknamed the "Year of Infinite Pain," if only to highlight how sheltered the Michigan fanbase has been in the aftermath of the last couple years. And if Alan Branch sending Anthony Morelli to his happy place was emblematic of Michigan's run to Football Armageddon, Mario Manningham getting ten yards clear of the nearest Notre Dame cornerback was the moment the Year of Infinite Pain became part of the past:

    Manningham would score twice more on deep balls as Michigan leapt out to a commanding lead. They didn't look back until the second quarter of the Ohio State game.

    51596685TP006_MichSt_Mich 3. Braylonfest Part III

    Michigan State, 2004: Braylon Edwards skies over yet another Michigan State defensive back, tying a game in which Michigan trailed by 17 with under nine minutes to go.

    Braylon Edwards was the most frustrating great player in Michigan history, prone to terrible drops on easy throws and legendarily not "on the same page" as Lloyd Carr. But he was great, and never greater than the last eight minutes of regulation in the 2004 Michigan State game. If they gave out Heismans for a single game, they would have had to give Edwards two for this one.

    It almost wasn't anything, though. In this game Michigan was driving in the third quarter, down 17-10, when Edwards fumbled around the 20. He was creeping towards the goat side of the ledger when DeAndra Cobb ran That Goddamned Counter Draw again and outran Ernest Shazor to the sideline and the endzone. But when you're down 17 with under eight minutes left, what is there to do other than chuck it up and tell the onside kick team that they should try really hard?

    I remember many things about that game. I remember being cold as hell as the game dragged on and the heat fled from the stadium. I remember going over to a friend's house afterward and being told by his roommates that they had actually left immediately after the DeAndra Cobb TD. I remember another friend telling me that a State friend of his had turned the game off as soon as Michigan hit the field goal to get within 14—he didn't even wait for the onside kick. I remember turning around and jovially telling the State fans behind me that it was good that MSU missed their last-second 52-yard field goal attempt to win after a terrible PI call, because if it had gone in there was no way they were getting out of the stadium alive. But mostly I remember the shadows that gave the whole enterprise an otherworldly feel. It's without question the best game I've ever been to.

    The pick here is the game-tying touchdown, as at that point victory seemed inevitable and the comeback was complete. Without it, the others are just coulda-been plays like the Mike Hart touchdown in the Horror.

    2. Phil Brabbs is absolutely not going to make this field goal

    Washington, 2002: Phil Brabbs hits a 44 yard field goal as time expires to beat Washington.

    I've interacted with Phil Brabbs a little bit since he came down with cancer and I've read his blog and am wearing his bracelet, so I have a little insight here. The bracelet says DOMINATE and his blog has pictures of him DOMINATING various things from hospital ice cream to IVs to chemo drugs. Sometimes he makes his adorable children DOMINATE things. He's kind of like anthropomorphized Brawndo. So I'm betting that when Brabbs strolled onto the field after a preposterous sequence of events set him up with a potential game-winning field goal in the 2002 season opener, he was totally psyched to dominate himself some 44-yard field goal.

    In this, he was utterly alone.

    I'm sure his parents and wife tell him that they just knew he'd hit it, but after a career debut in which he missed 36 and 42 yard field goals badly enough for Michigan to send out Troy Neinberg on a 27-yarder that he shanked, no one in Michigan Stadium thought a 44-yard field goal with no time left on the clock was going in. This includes those nearest and dearest to him. I was just hoping it went forward.

    Naturally, Brabbs did this:

    Dominated.

    Though Washington would end up one of the country's biggest disappointments at 7-6, they entered Michigan Stadium a top ten opponent. The moment the kick actually went through the actual uprights and everyone looked at the guy under the crossbar to make sure they hadn't hallucinated it, then looked at the other guy under the crossbar to make sure the first guy hadn't been hallucinating too, promised grand things. (That would fall apart in a ridiculous loss at Notre Dame in two weeks.)

    1. The New Math

    MGoRetro: The New Math.

    Penn State, 2005: With one second on the clock, Mario Manningham catches a deep slant to beat Penn State 27-25. 86 = 1, as Michigan State would learn in 2007.

    Why is this number one? It didn't end up mattering, and it was already clear it wouldn't since Michigan was already 3-3 and headed nowhere in 2005. It was the end of a classic game that swung dramatically from one side to the other, but other games were better and meant more.

    I think it's that :01 on the clock, the knowledge that that second was precarious, fought for by Lloyd Carr after the clock ran after a Michigan timeout, preserved by Steve Breaston's best Tyrone Butterfield impression, and ironically Joe Paterno's fault for getting his team an extra two seconds on what they thought was their game-winning drive. Michigan was living on borrowed time. It seemed like they'd been given a chance to go back and right wrongs. Scott Bakula was at quarterback.

    Meanwhile, Michigan was locked in an existential crisis unknown for decades. The 1984 season could be written off as a fluke since Jim Harbaugh's broken leg threw everything into disarray and Michigan bounced right back afterwards; 2005 was entirely different. Michigan had never been 3-3 in my recollection. My brother and I spent a large chunk of the game being bitterly cynical about everything. We felt justified about it after the killer Henne fumble/botched extra point for two combination. We'd collectively decided to dull the pain by withdrawing emotionally. This was working for a while, and then the team decided to give the middle finger to the cosmic middle finger, getting off the mat twice. The culmination:

    In the end, the game served as a reminder that bitterness is no fun, faith is rewarded, the kids on the field are more resilient than we are, and sometimes they can let us borrow some of that. A lot of the plays on this list were diminished by subsequent events in which Michigan failed to live up to the promise they had in that one moment, but this one has been magnified by the awful last couple of years. It promises a light at the end of the tunnel.

    Honorable Mention

    Drew Henson bootlegs his way into the OSU endzone to seal the win (2000) … Chris Perry puts the OSU game beyond doubt with a slashing bounceout TD to make it 35-21 (2003) … Breaston returns a punt for a touchdown against Indiana … Northwestern … Illinois … etc … Manningham's worm after the ND game (2006) … Chris Perry punches it against Penn State in to seal a win in Michigan Stadium's first OT game (2002) … Ron Zook seals the Outback Bowl by calling a reverse pass that Victor Hobson intercepts (2002) … Alain Kashama beats the Sex Cannon to a fumbled ball in the endzone, finally fulfilling four years of Canadian Reggie White hype (2002 Outback) … Jacob Stewart picks off Asad Abdul-Kaliq in the Buffalo Stampede game and returns it for a touchdown (2002) … Garrett Rivas finishes the Buffalo Stampede game with a field goal (2002) … Chad Henne hits Tyler Ecker for a game-winning touchdown against Minnesota and executes nailcoeds.exe (2004) … Braylonfest Part I … Braylonfest Part II … Braylonfest Part IV … Brian Thompson recovers an onside kick, greatly aiding Braylonfest parts II through IV … Jason Avant's catch against Northwestern (2003) … Marquise Walker's catch against Iowa (2001) … Jerome Jackson pops through a nonexistent hole against Iowa to establish himself useful, then scores the game-winning TD (2005) … the snap sails over Jimmy Clausen's head on the first play of the game (2007) … Michigan cracks open the Battle of Who Could Care Less against Illinois with a reverse pass (2007) … Manningham outruns Justin King to tie Penn State (2005) … Mike Hart drags Penn State tacklers for five of the most impressive eight yards of his career (2005) … Lamarr Woodley kicks off Yakety Sax (2006) … Prescott Burgess returns a Brady Quinn interception for a TD(2006) … Mike Hart levels Sean Lee on a blitz pickup (2007) … Arrington's catch against Florida (2007) … A ludicrous Ryan Mallett decision—pitch it backwards to Carson Butler as he's being sacked—works out (2007) … Steven Threet takes off on a 60-yard jaunt against Wisconsin (2008) … Denard Robinson fumbles the first snap as Michigan's quarterback and WOOPs his way for a touchdown (2009) … Darryl Stonum returns a kickoff for a touchdown against Notre Dame (2009) … Forcier hits Greg Mathews on a circle route to win against Notre Dame (2009) … Tate Forcier hits Martavious Odoms on a perfect seam for the game-winning points against Indiana (2009) … Forcier's mansome final drive in the rain to tie Michigan State (2009) … Brandon Graham demolishes Glenn Winston (2009) … Brandon Graham demolishes Everybody (2009).

    Acknowledgements

    A major reason this series came together is the tireless effort of Wolverine Historian, who put together video for almost everything on the list. Also a hat tip to parkinggod, who had HD of last year's ND game, and akarpo, who helped out with some of the clipping last year.

    Of The Decade: Best Plays Part I

    Of The Decade: Best Plays Part I

    Submitted by Brian on July 29th, 2010 at 1:39 PM

    Previously in this series: ESPN Images, Michigan's offense, Michigan's defense, Worst Plays of The Decade 7-11, Worst Plays 1-6.

    This one goes to thirteen because we aren't dead yet. Again, a combination of overall impact with a heavy emphasis on how awesome that moment was—if eligible the Donovan goal against Algeria would be the perfect candidate. #13 is admittedly valedictory.

    13. Intangibled

    Michigan State, 2007: Mike Hart scoops up a Mallett fumble and conjures a first down from air.

    If Mike Hart did anything other than run for thousands of yards at Michigan it was pick up blitzers on the most famous Michigan plays of the decade. There weren't any Mike Hart runs on this list because the guy always got caught from behind and Michigan's offense was set up to get its big plays from the passing game for the duration of his tenure, but Hart will block on three of the top four. This had to be rectified, but how? There was that eight yard run against Penn State, but that lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. It was in the first half, for one.

    How about this rescue instead?

    This may be the most Mike Hart play of Mike Hart's career. Ryan Mallett's come in the game for one play after Chad Henne limped off, and Mallett does what he always did, which was fumble. Michigan's about to be facing a second and forever even if they  get the ball back when Hart pops out of the pack, ball in hand. He then jukes one Spartan out of his shorts and plows over two more for a game-changing first down. He then heads to the sideline because he's so injured he shouldn't even be in the game.

    breaston_bird 12. Black Jesus

    2003 Illinois: Steve Breaston fields a punt on one sideline and glide-cuts his way all the way across the field, juking six separate Illini before finding a seam and setting sail for the endzone. NOTE: Unfortunately, I can't find this in an embeddable form. It is 15 seconds into this Breaston highlight reel. Picture not relevant.

    …was the name message board posters sarcastically bestowed on Steve Breaston as he redshirted and reports of his practice exploits became progressively more ludicrous. "Freshman you've never heard of fails to live up to epic practice hype" is perhaps the most common fall storyline across the country, and Michigan has had more than its fair share of epic busts from Grady Brooks to David Underwood to Kevin Grady. The nickname was a shield against disappointement

    When Steve Breaston took the field, though, he somehow managed to exceed the expectations built up over the offseason. This return was the crowning glory; after a half-season full of almosts where he'd get tackled at the five or have something called back on a penalty he didn't need, he waited and waited, making two of those looping back-cuts that would become so familiar and exploding up the sideline.

    For the most part teams stopped punting to him after this play, and though he remained amongst the country's most dangerous returners for the duration of his career he never quite recaptured the magic of the first two-thirds of his freshman year. At the moment he did this, though, he could do anything.

    11. Ernest Shazor just killed a guy. No, seriously, he's dead

    Purdue, 2004: Michigan has a narrow lead in the dying minutes but Purdue wins with a field goal and is driving. Dorien Bryant, then merely a freshman and not yet the Brooks Bollinger memorial eighth year senior, grabs a ball over the middle and starts picking up tons of YAC. Purdue is already in field goal range when Brandon Williams grabs at Bryant's feet, sending him into the air. This is where Ernest Shazor murders him. Bryant coughs up history's most understandable fumble; Leon Hall recovers, ending the game.

    I've seen a lot of murderous hits in football, but they're mostly for show. Football's violence is a thrilling, sometimes sad sideshow to the main event; only rarely does the sheer intimidating force of a guy running directly at another guy matter immediately. Not so here. This hit turned a very likely loss into a sure win and ranks as the most CLICK CLICK BOOM play of the decade.

    After the hit Shazor evaporated, providing only theoretical resistance against the first terrible appearance of That God Damned Counter Draw in the Michigan State game, about which more later, and entering the NFL draft early only to be passed over entirely. Despite being dead Bryant would go on to be probably Purdue's finest receiver of the decade, though I'll leave that judgment to the Purdue blogs' decentennial glazomania.

    This play is lower than I expected because the feelings were more relief and frustration at the defense. A close call against a Purdue team that wasn't at all good (7-5) nearly derailed Michigan's season. Other plays in crappier seasons were fraught with less expectation and more enjoyable, like for instance…

    10. The Blip

    MGoRetro: We're From Phoenix

    Wisconsin, 2008: Donovan Warren breaks up a slant, sending the ball on that parabolic trajectory that screams interception but often ends up hitting the turf. In this instance, Johnny Thompson is in the right place in the right time, catching the ball and picking up a defense's worth of escorts.

    Exactly one good thing happened in the entirety of 2008, and this was it. Michigan had just gotten a touchdown thanks to a supremely ill-timed Wisconsin blitz that set Brandon Minor free. One play later Michigan would be in the lead:

    Michigan would add another touchdown thanks to a 60-yard Steven Threet read option keeper and hang on for dear life, surviving a two point conversion that tied the game thanks to an illegal formation penalty and stuffing the second attempt.

    At the time, the win over a top-ten Wisconsin team seemed like an indicator that even in this season of transition and quarterback incompetence something of Michigan would persist. It seemed super important, and then Toledo blew everything to hell.

    9. Chad Henne robot apotheosis

    MGoRetro: Nails.

    Michigan State, 2007: Chad Henne completes his transformation from inept and injured to flawless robot incapable of understanding pressure by shouting "reprise" and pretending Mario Manningham is Braylon Edwards, completing an improbable Michigan comeback.

    I'd somehow managed to get tickets on the 50 yard line in the Michigan student section at Spartan Stadium, and things were tense. Some unlit-cigar-chomping State fan was in my seat and insisted it was his seat to the point where he called the cops over so they could look at my ticket and shrug. He'd eventually switch places with a few Michigan fans outside of the section. At some point early in the second half a woman who looked like she watches a lot of Jenny Jones turned around and screamed something incomprehensible but very angry. She proceeded to do this every five minutes until someone figured out the thing she was saying was "Art Fag U," at which point the guy standing next to me went off about how bigoted that was whenever given an opportunity for the rest of the game, which was every other play.

    Meanwhile on the field, Michigan was busy blowing a 14-3 lead in the immediate aftermath of Mark Dantonio's "pride" comments. They gave up three straight touchdowns while managing only one play of significance, a hopeful downfield jump ball that Mario Manningham came up with. With seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, Michigan was cooked.

    In my head, this is when Hart went over to Henne and slapped him really hard. Michigan State backed off their coverage and Michigan marched down the field for a touchdown, dodging the Mallett disaster above, got the ball back, drove some more, and then decided to inflict the maximum amount of pain by joining the Braylon Edwards Historical Reenactment Society:

    This is why Michigan State bloggers won't ever delve into their version of the Worst Plays of the Decade. As bad as you thought that was, Michigan State's edition would be typed equivalent of the Hurricane Katrina Valenti rant.

    8. "I Saw Cover Zero"

    TateMoxie_thumbMGoRetro: Moxie and MacGyver.

    Notre Dame, 2009: leading 24-20 early in the fourth quarter, Michigan faces a 4th and 3 in the no man's land where field goals are dodgy and punts get you put on the Worst Plays of the Decade list. Michigan goes for it, calling a bootleg pass for Forcier. Notre Dame's Stephen Filer cuts off the angle, so Forcier breaks his ankles and cuts up into the wide-open middle of the field.

    This could have been one of Forcier's scrambles on the game-winning drive or the touchdown that won the game or Charlie Weis's decision to call a 40-yard fly route during Notre Dame's attempt to kill the game—miss you, big guy xoxo—but for sheer impact it's Forcier rewarding Rich Rodriguez's ability to do math:

    Forcier's moxie would see Michigan through another two games of desperate fourth-quarter action before disintegrating in overtime against Michigan State and the fourth quarter against Iowa. In this it's similar to the Thompson interception, where early-season hope gave way to the cruel reality of the situation and the opponent turned out to be something less than they were supposed to be.

    7. A Knee On The Ground

    MGoRetro: Sort of Happy Super Chinese New Football Millennium, but mostly You Were Killed By A Bear And I Am Sad

    Citrus Bowl, 2007 season: with 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Chad Henne takes a snap and falls to the ground.

    The definition of bittersweet.

    Michigan had just finished racking up 91 yards of offense against Ohio State, so of course they come out in a shotgun spread attack and put up 41 points on Florida en route to yet another bowl victory over the SEC. Every downfield strike conjured forth a cauldron of mixed emotions: immediate joy. Fist-shaking at the general bloody-mindedness of the universe. Depression about the missed opportunity represented in Chad Henne's healthy shoulder. An entire extra layer of confusion about Mike DeBord. It was like being 15 again, like being 15 again and stuck in a never-ending afterschool special.

    But when Henne kneeled and Marques Slocum, of all people, was the first to get Lloyd Carr up on his shoulders, well… IT IS VERY DUSTY IN HERE RIGHT NOW. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUR AIR FILTERS. I have allergies, you know. Severe allergies.

    At some point you just have to let that frustration go and accept the program for what it is, accept Carr for who he is, and say thanks. He did hole up and punt with a six point lead against Tim Tebow, but how could he go out any other way?

    Of The Decade: Michigan's Offense

    Of The Decade: Michigan's Offense

    Submitted by Brian on July 20th, 2010 at 12:14 PM

    A series covering Michigan's aughts. Previously: obsessive ESPN image breakdown.

    This is a fairly standard pick-your-team exercise covering the 2000-2009 seasons. One note on the methodology: instead of considering careers we will consider individual years.

    QUARTERBACK

    john-navarre John Navarre (2003)

    There are only two real options since Michigan saw two players occupy seven of the ten available starting slots and was robbed what should have been rampaging senior campaigns by Drew Henson (signed away by the Yankees) and Henne (constant injury). They are Navarre's first-team All Big Ten performance in 2003, the—sigh—last time a Michigan QB actually beat Ohio State, or Henne's junior year, when he could hardly be blamed for an Ohio State loss in which he guided his team to 39 points.

    Season totals for those two years:

      Att Cmp Pct Yards YPA TD Int
    Navarre '03 456 270 59.2 3331 12.3 24 10
    Henne '06 328 203 61.9 2508 12.4 22 8

    Very little to choose from. Both ended up losing to USC in the Rose Bowl in games of approximately equal competitiveness (not very), though Navarre's trip seemed more doomed by fate—one USC touchdown set up by a ball bouncing off Braylon's heel and ricocheting directly to a defender—than Henne's.

    The edge is Navarre's if only because of that attempts number. Michigan '03 relied far more heavily on his arm than Michigan '06 did on Henne's, passing 47% of the time to '06's 37%. Yes, Chad Henne threw less than 40% of the time in 2006. That just goes to show the Lloyd Carr ideal: have a defense so ridiculous that you can grind out low-risk touchdowns against everyone not named Notre Dame and Ohio State. It did work once, and it almost worked in '06.

    Digression over. Your shocking winner is John Navarre, a guy who was utterly and unfairly loathed during his wobbly sophomore year—during which he should have been watching Henson, anyway—to the point where it was hard to figure out where his transition from liability to asset occurred. Whenever it was, it was before the 2002 Ohio State game. Michigan spent that running into the line for nothing on first and second down before deploying Navarre to pick up the third down with a laser-accurate pass to Edwards, Joppru, or Bellamy. Edwards lost a critical touchdown on a questionable offensive pass interference call and Navarre was blasted from behind on what should have been the game-winning drive. Michigan was only able to get down to the OSU 30 before they had to take a shot at the endzone with the last seconds on the clock. My friends and I wrapped arms around each other during the timeout, and I thought he could do it.

    Second String: Henne (2006).

    The obvious runner-up. Other candidates are inferior seasons by the above two quarterbacks, Henson's eight-game run as Michigan's starter in 2000, and then the horrible last two years. Since Henne concluded his career during the MGoEra we can turn to a column written after the '07 Michigan State game for a summary of how he played:

    I first thought "Chad Henne is a robot" a long time ago.

    It was the middle of 2004. A then-freshman Henne strode onto the turf at Michigan Stadium facing a four point deficit against Minnesota. The ball was on the Michigan thirteen; the clock read 3:04.

    Five plays and 56 yards later, Henne zeroed in on Z45 Part A Subsequence C Tight End Tyler Ecker, Rabbit-Hunting Mormon, crossing in front of a Minnesota linebacker; various servos and hydraulics kicked in. Henne flung a pass into Z45PASCTETERHM's outstretched arms, declared GOAL COMPLETED, and initiated nailcoeds.exe.

    This weekend, now-senior Chad Henne strode onto the turf at Spartan Stadium facing a ten point deficit. He was 6 for 19 for 83 yards at that point, 47 of which came on a single bomb to Mario Manningham. The clock read 7:35.
    Henne had been awful. Whether it was the unpredictable wind or his separated shoulder or some combination of the two doesn't really matter. He had been missing open receivers all day, flinging balls into the turf or the sideline or taking sacks he didn't have to. He and Brian Hoyer were locked into a duel to see who could torpedo his team's chances more thoroughly; Henne was winning. In the Michigan section, faith was running low. On the Michigan State sideline Jehuu Caulcrick was exhorting the Spartans to remember this moment, the moment they beat Michigan.

    Caulcrick forgot one thing: Chad Henne is a robot.

    On the last two drives he was 12-14 for 129 yards, flinging wide open outs, finding Mathews on a critical third and long, and looping perfect touchdown passes to Greg Mathews and Mario Manningham. He was ruthless, precise, and busy calculating digits of pi deep into the millions. He has a heart of nails and lungs made from old tires; his hair consists of pipe cleaners cropped short and his bones are discarded pipes. You have to whack him in just the right spot at just the right time to get his late-model Soviet guidance chip to seat itself in his shoddy southeast Asian motherboard.

    Excellence was good, man.

    RUNNING BACK

    chris-perry Chris Perry (2003)

    A bloody fight here. Your candidates:

      Att Yards Avg TD Long Catches Yds Avg TD
    Anthony Thomas '00 319 1733 5.4 18 68 17 271 15.9 1
    Chris Perry '03 338 1674 5 18 63 44 367 8.3 2
    Michael Hart '06 318 1562 4.9 14 54 17 125 7.4 0
    Michael Hart '04 282 1455 5.2 9 34 26 237 9.1 1
    Michael Hart '07 265 1361 5.1 14 61 8 50 6.3 0

    Close statistically with Perry's herculean, 51-carry Michigan State game pushing him past the two main contenders in terms of carries. Perry was much more frequently used in the passing game, though a 70-yard screen TD for Thomas against Ohio State made him more explosive. Thomas surpasses everyone else in terms of yards and has a significant edge in YPC, but as we're about to see a large part of that has something to do with the preposterously stacked 2000 line, which currently has four NFL starters and one Hall of Famer. Hart and Perry never had that luxury.

    Perry wins here, though, for the silverware. This is in addition to the Doak Walker:

    The Bo Schembechler Most Valuable Player of the 2003 football team, Perry was a finalist for the Heisman Memorial Trophy, placing fourth in the balloting. He led the Big Ten with 128.8 rushing yards per game and was named the 2003 Big Ten Conference Offensive Player of the Year and the Chicago Tribune Silver Football Award recipient as the Big Ten's MVP.

    It's brutally hard to leave out Mike Hart, but the methodology here favors the one supernova season over Hart's four (three and half) years of merely being awesome. Perry's gliding cuts and Navarre's addiction to him as an outlet win.

    Second Team: Mike Hart (2006)

    I know by the stats this is Thomas, but the stats don't reflect Hart's remarkably ability to glue the ball to his ribs when not inside the five against Florida and the infamous Northwestern game Thomas gave away without even being touched. Hart couldn't quite stay healthy enough to get past Perry, and that very reason makes me want to crumple up this post and start over with a career-focused outlook but it's postin' time and this is pushing 3000 words and the monster must be fed, so here he is and we're all a little bitter at Chris Perry for winning the Doak, but only just today. Hart, too, came in for summarizing in a game column, this one after the '07 Penn State game:

    Mike Hart does not care. He does not care that he is the size of Toad and runs about as fast as Richard Nixon, who is dead. He does not care that Michigan ruined everything the first two games of the season as he rode a bike on the sideline. He does not care that some people think he should shut up. He does not care that his legs are on someone else's legs and there is no possible way he can worm the ball to the goal line. It takes someone like this to pull you back from despair and ennui, to turn emo week into something other than emo year.

    Mike Hart does not care what came before.

    All he cares about is getting there.

    Third Team: Anthony Thomas (2000)

    Okay, Thomas did fumble against Northwestern but he also put up 1733 yards by RAGING his way directly at defenders. The original Brandon Minor, Thomas was briefly an NFL star before his inability to change direction without bouncing off something caught up with him.

    FULLBACK

    Kevin Dudley (2004)

    Dudley was the inspiration for this description of the fullback's job that still lingers on as one of phrases I'm proud to have turned:

    Minus Dudley, last year's fullback spot was manned by a motley crew of confused squat guys more likely to whiff entirely than crush a linebacker into a white-hot furrow of snapped limbs and smoke.

    For this, and his ability to create that furrow, he gets the nod.

    WIDE RECEIVER

    Braylon Edwards(2002-4, pick a year), Mario Manningham (2007), Steve Breaston (slot)(2006)

    It's a brutal competition when a guy who went eighth overall in the NFL draft and another guy in the midst of what will be a productive 10-year NFL career don't make the first team, but Michigan was blessed with a ridiculous wealth of options. Since the team has moved to a spread system and even before that used a three-wide formation as its base for virtually the entire Breaston era, we will include him as the prototypical slot ninja.

    The first winner is obvious. For all his problems catching simple slants, Braylon Edwards remains the second most terrifying receiver to ever put on a winged helmet:

    This is not up for debate.

    The second outside receiver slot is a war between the junior years of David Terrell and Mario Manningham. The stats:

      Catches Yards Avg TD Long
    Terrell '00 67 1130 16.9 14 57
    Manningham '07 72 1174 16.3 12 97

    Like quarterback, there is little to choose from. One small push in Manningham's direction: he rushed for 120 yards on 19 carries; Terrell had two rushes for 12 yards. (Terrell's team played one fewer game than Manningham's did, but Mario was suspended for the EMU beating in '07, so they're even as far as playing time goes.)

    Both labored through iffy quarterback situations, with Manningham saddled with about four games' worth of Ryan Mallett and another four games in which Chad Henne's shoulder was essentially nonfunctional. Despite this he lit up the heart of the Big Ten schedule, going six straight weeks with more than 100 yards receiving and at least one touchdown, with the high point a five catch, 162-yard performance against Minnesota. He was shut down in the Ohio State game that year as Michigan chose between a one-armed Henne and a then chicken-brained Mallett, but rebounded to post 131 yards of total offense and a touchdown in the Citrus Bowl against Florida.

    Meanwhile, Terrell was saddled with a freshman Navarre through the bulk of the nonconference schedule. That didn't matter much statistically, as he put up at least 82 yards and usually just around 100 in the games Navarre was forced to play in, but it didn't help. When Henson returned it was a steady diet: about six catches, approximately 100 yards except for the Penn State game, one win over Ohio State and a bowl nuking of Auburn (34 yards a catch on four receptions and a touchdown).

    The verdict: Manningham by a nose, who had fewer opportunities to make an impact in Michigan's injury-stricken '07 offense and added more production on the ground than Terrell did. This is a reversal from the All Carr team, FWIW.

    Finally, Steve Breaston is included as a slot receiver on my first team since Michigan fullbacks were increasingly situational players as Michigan moved to a modern passing offense, and then a spread, as the Henne era progressed. Dudley was the last true fullback to be able to claim anything approximating a starting job, and even before that there were a couple years in which BJ Askew was the team's top FB. Over the course of the decade the third receiver got more playing time than the FB.

    Anyway, the third receiver goes inside one of the outside guys in a place called the slot and the man who defined the position at Michigan in the aughts was all-purpose ninja Steve Breaston. Nicknamed "Black Jesus" before he even saw the field by cynical messageboarders wary of his massive practice hype giving way to a skinny version of Grady Brooks, Breaston took all of one game to establish himself a threat, returning four punts for an average of 26 yards against Central Michigan. By the Illinois game he'd set a team record for punt return yardage despite having two long touchdowns called back on irrelevant penalties; subsequent opponents refused to kick to him. As a kick returner he took one to the house for the first time since the 80s against Minnesota, returned virtually every kickoff to midfield in the '05 Rose Bowl, and set up The New Math Henne-to-Manningham connection with another return to midfield against Penn State the next year. Steve Breaston went to work immediately.

    As a receiver Breaston was the inspiration for the UFR receiverchart, which was a direct response to people complaining about Breaston's hands. They weren't necessarily wrong—the Year of Infinite Pain kicked off in earnest with a 17-10 loss to Notre Dame in which Breaston got open deep twice and dropped sure touchdowns—but the chart did its job, showing that Breaston's hands were an overrated flaw. His best year was '06, and while he never recaptured the magic of his freshman year in the return game that was largely because teams stopped punting to him (and Michigan, infuriatingly, refused to double the gunners). Only Anthony Carter, also the guy preventing Braylon Edwards from being the bar-none most terrifying Michigan receiver of all time, stands between Breaston and the title of Michigan receiver you'd pick to throw a bubble screen to if your life depended on it.

    Second Team: David Terrell (2000), Jason Avant(2005), Marquise Walker (2001)

    Terrell was just discussed. No one else quite matched his productivity save Marquise Walker, and when Walker and Terrell shared the spotlight Terrell was the man.

    Avant, meanwhile, is the player I'd pick if someone was holding a gun to my head and said he'd pull the trigger unless Michigan converted this third and five. I still remember the fourth and two pass at the end of the 2004 Ohio State game that clanged off Braylon's hands, and remembering that I really, really wish that ball had gone to Avant. Here's why:

    At some point during 2005 Avant dropped a third down pass that hit him in the hands, and that more than anything was an indication that it just wasn't Michigan's year.

    Avant also might be the nicest guy to ever play for Michigan—up there with Brandon Graham. The only person who can't root for Avant is Christopher Hitchens.

    Walker was a combo of Avant and Edwards, blessed with Edwards's leaping and Avant's ability to make the spectacular catch but cursed with Avant's lack of electric speed and Edwards's tendency to drop routine balls. It seemed like the latter flaw was something that popped up after he sustained a brutal hit early in his senior year; after that the footsteps got in his head and he alligator-armed a couple passes per game. That may have been a result of his increased deployment; once Terrell left for the NFL he went from 49 catches in a supporting role to 86 as the man in Navarre's bumpy sophomore year. He did do this:

    And that alone is worthy of mention.

    TIGHT END

    bennie-joppru Bennie Joppru (2002)

    There is no competition. Joppru came from nowhere to become John Navarre's safety blanket, a big white Minnesota version of Avant before Avant was around. By the time he'd finished his breakout senior season he'd set a Michigan record for tight end receptions that still stands and worked his way into the second round of the NFL draft. The Texans took him, whereupon he tore his ACL in training camp every year.

    Second Team: Bill Seymour (2001)

    It wasn't a good decade for tight ends. Seymour was a steady two-year starter that didn't get injured all the time, have meat for brains, or fail to pitch it to Steve Breaston. He wins basically by default.

    OFFENSIVE LINE

    Jake Long (2007), Steve Hutchinson (2000), David Baas (2004), Jon Goodwin (2001), Jeff Backus (2000)

    The first three are cake easy. Jake Long was dominant and became the first pick in the NFL draft. Hutchinson went in the first round to the Vikings and is in the midst of a Hall-of-Fame NFL career. Baas won the Rimington award. All were All-Americans their senior year. Lock, lock, lock.

    The right side of the line is trickier. We're not distinguishing between right and left tackles because players tend to move to the left as they get better, we're just trying to assemble the best possible team. So we'll flip Jeff Backus from left to right tackle and put him opposite long. Backus was first round pick of the Lions and has started 144 NFL games, all with the league's most sad-sack franchise. At Michigan he was All Big Ten two years running and won the Hugh Rader award as Michigan's best lineman those same two years, sharing it with Hutchinson and Mo Williams on 2000's ridiculously stacked line.

    The other guard spot is something of a downer compared to the All-Americans surrounding him, but Jon Goodwin was All Big Ten in 2001 and, unlike a couple of other ABT recipients later in the decade, seemed to deserve it. He's still in the NFL with the Saints.

    Second Team: Adam Stenavich (2005), Adam Kraus (2006), David Brandt (2000), Steve Schilling(2009), Mo Williams (2000)

    Williams is the most obvious, another member of the insanely stacked 2000 line who is still in the NFL. Sharing a best lineman award with Hutchinson and Backus is no shame, either. Stenavich is next, a two-time All Big Ten selection. This blog caught the end of his career and found it to be pretty good. He edges out Mark Ortmann, another good-not-great left tackle. The interior is something of a mess. Brandt, the final member of the insanely stacked 2000 line, gets a tentative nod over Dave Pearson and David Molk's freshman(!) year; Kraus and Schilling are the best of an uninspiring bunch, with Kraus's 2006 better than his '07.