Mailbag: Snap Jumping Again, Clock Management Win, Jake Ryan Of Christmas Past, Legends Logistics

Mailbag: Snap Jumping Again, Clock Management Win, Jake Ryan Of Christmas Past, Legends Logistics Comment Count

Brian October 16th, 2012 at 11:29 AM

medium_031608woods3[1]jerel-worthy-p1[1]

Past Jake Ryan, hopefully not future MSU

Snap jumping. Not again?

Dear MGoBlog,

Please address Sparty jumping the snap. What can be done to prevent it or even use it to the Wolverines' advantage?

Please, please, please use all your influence to prevent Sparty snap jumping from successfully occurring this Saturday.  This is an important key to Michigan's offensive success.

Thank you,
Philip McEachern

I AM USING ALL MY INFLUENCE MAN YOU JUST DON'T KNOW. Unfortunately, that influence consists of squinting really hard and making "wahwahwahwah" noises to project psychic sound waves about me. I have no influence.

I do think that we will see that snap jumping significantly reduced in frequency, possibly almost eliminated. One of the hidden transition costs last year was a coaching staff that had not endured Jerel Worthy's sometimes-offside-but-usually-just-eating-your-heart dance party and did not spend big chunks off the offseason fuming about it and scheming themselves a plan to defeat it. This year everyone is well aware that snap timing blew up the Michigan offense in all different ways and that changes must be made. We have seen Michigan vary their snap counts—they did it last week—and with a home game Michigan should be able to use audible signals if they want. Meanwhile, Worthy is gone and I haven't seen the Spartan replacements be able to replicate that maddening skill of his.

Unfortunately, this prediction about the snap jumping has reached the status of turnovers under Rich Rodriguez: logic says it can't happen again, and then it happens again. At this point I'll have to see a Michigan coaching staff enter a Michigan State game as prepared to play as the Spartans are before I believe it.

If not this year, though, when? Michigan State's coming off three straight nail-biters that required them to dump everything they had on the field in an effort to win the game. Michigan's coming off a bye and two laughers. MSU is shuffling guys on their OL, has benched a senior captain LB, and is trying to find two tight ends to rub together.

They don't have the depth to do much other than what they've done already. They don't have a changeup like Baker they can go to; they don't have the tight end depth that threw Michigan off; they are trying to find anyone who can catch a ball. Please, Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God, yea the most powerful of all fictional supernatural football deities, hear our plea.

Bellomy on the goal line.

Brian,

I am a little confused by the play calling after Denard went out with his "boo-boo".

1) Why is Toussaint in the "jumbo" (unsure if package name is correct)? Rawls just seems to have the short yardage figured out a little bit better i.e. size and running style: see 6:35 Q2. (I know my example comes after and did not have 6/7 on the line and all 11 within 5 of the LOS and inside the tackles but still).  Was Rawls insertion later a sign that he may now have the short yardage job?

You've got me on this one. I have two theories, neither of which seems that convincing.

Theory one: Fitz is in a funk and rusty and getting flack from people and some cheap touchdowns will help his morale, maybe get him driving harder at the goal line.

Theory two: Rawls is fumbling a lot in practice or going BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE.

Pick one or make one up yourself; I think either explanation is going to quickly fall by the wayside as Rawls becomes a preferred option inside the five. He probably would have scored on one of the two attempts. I do think the BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE theory has some credibility behind it since I just watched Rawls look at this…

rawls-wtf

…and decide to bounce that outside the TE instead of slam it up at the gaping cutback lane like he was born to do. Amazingly, the guy seems to have some Michael Shaw to him. Go north-south, young moose.

2) Why the vanilla play calls? It was clear later that they trust Bellomy with some measure of the offense that is clearly larger than watching the RB run into some ineffective down-blocks. With the alignment of weak-side DE, LB, and FS, why not run a PA boot with the TE rubbing off and going all Funchey in the back of the end zone? Is this just a manball fundamental that we must live with this year while the donkey punchers are being groomed?

Stuart

There's a big difference between trusting Bellomy to run around and fling stuff once you're up a billion points and having him take his first meaningful snaps in a rainstorm in a game that could still go either way.

Personally, I wanted him to hand off come hell or high water—when you're the silverback you want to lower variance, and having Bellomy think about all the stuff he's going to do after the snap could lead to bad news. Bellomy fumbled a snap later, after all, and Michigan doesn't want to open the door for anything cheap for the Illini because that's the only way they lose.

In general I don't think there's much to criticize either way about  goal line playcalling. The defense is selling out one way, you pick one or the other and succeed or don't.

[After THE JUMP: clock management, Afghanistan face-off, Legends logistics, Jake Ryan of the past.]

Comments

2011 Recruiting: Frank Clark

2011 Recruiting: Frank Clark Comment Count

Brian July 19th, 2011 at 2:52 PM

Previously: CB Greg Brown, CB/S Tamani Carter, CB Blake Countess, CB Delonte Hollowell, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Antonio Poole, and LB Desmond Morgan.

       
Cleveland, OH - 6'2" 210
       

frank-clark

Scout 3*, #33 TE
Rivals 3*, 5.6, #52 OH, NR OLB
ESPN 3*, 77, #83 DE
Others 247: 3*, 83, NR
Other Suitors Michigan State, Penn State, North Carolina, Cal
YMRMFSPA Larry Stevens
Previously On MGoBlog Commitment post from Tim.
Notes Cleveland Glenville (Pierre Woods)

Film

Miraculously, a D-I football prospect managed to get through his recruiting year without accumulating embeddable video—or even unembeddable video. Here's this instead:

Michigan has had no luck at all at Glenville High School, the magnet school coached by Ted Ginn Sr., since Pierre Woods finished his Michigan career rotting on the bench behind nonentities (except for that Iowa game he saved because Woodley was out). Whether that was a convenient excuse or real grudge held will never be known, but no Glenville kid has signed a Michigan LOI since Woods did.

That streak ended in February when Glenville LB/TE Frank Clark put pen to paper for Brady Hoke. Clark didn't have an Ohio State offer, but he had a significant number of other Big Ten options. Anything other than the MAC has been good enough for Glenville kids to spurn Michigan since Woods, so snagging Clark has a bit more significance than your average generic three-star might. At least it does off the field.

On the field, no one can figure out where he's going to play. As you can see above, the three main recruiting sites all list him at different positions—linebacker, TE, and DE. This Bill Kurelic post on his commitment says he'll be a "hybrid linebacker/safety"; safety is where he worked out at the Big 33 game before the coaches there asked Michigan for help finding a place for this guy…

Frank Clark SS/LB Glenville HS 
… In the two live practices Clark participated in, he really got after it, wreaking havoc in every way possible. After working out at safety for awhile, the Ohio coaches made a phone call to Michigan to see where Clark fits best. Because of his size/speed combo, expect to see him roaming the field as a defensive end and line linebacker.

…which is a weird group of people to ask because they dunno

Clark could play on either side of the football for the Wolverines, and was recruited as a linebacker, tight end or wide receiver.

"I'm not sure what position I will play, to be honest," he stated. "I will play wherever they want me to, and a couple different coaches have told me they want me in their position group. I'm just so happy to have this opportunity with Michigan, and my position doesn't matter to me."

…and you'll notice that with the addition of wide receiver we've reached five different positions Frank Clark almost but does not quite fit in.

Let's beat this into the ground. Rivals($):

Defensively he's a bit of a tweener between defensive end and linebacker, and he looks like he may be a bit bulky and stiff for wide receiver. -B.S.

ESPN($):

He is a bit of a defensive end / outside linebacker 'tweener at this point and has a some experience at both spots … There is some possibility that Clark could be looked at as a tight end.

TTB:

To be honest, I can't really project Clark anywhere. 

So he's Epic Tweener. But he did have a decently impressive selection of offers before settling on Michigan. What do people see in him? Athleticism, mostly:

Clark has a great football body. He looks bigger than his listed 6-2 and he is well-built. He has a lot of versatility and though he looks like his best position may be on defense, he actually wants to play wide receiver and is getting recruited as such. Defensively, Clark showed a really good motor, strength at the point of attack, and strong hands and instincts.

He did turn that into stats, collecting nineteen sacks as a senior. Rich Rodriguez offered in early December and Hoke followed up that interest with hyperbole

“He said he watched five seconds of my highlights and was blown away,” Clark said. “He said I’m just a pure athlete and he is waiting for me to get to Michigan and see what it’s all about.”

and a half:

“Frank, in a lot of ways Frank, and I don’t want to put this pressure on him, reminds me of Pierre (Woods),” Hoke said. “If you look at (Clark’s) length and the way he runs, he’s going to be a big ol’ guy for us as a football player and a destructive guy.”

Folks other than Hoke are a little less enthused. TTB bluntly states that while he is a decent athlete he's "about as raw and can be," getting his shoulders turned regularly and failing to wrap up. ESPN's often lurid scouting reports are reserved when they come to Clark:

He needs to add bulk, but looks to have good length and a nice reach and a frame to develop and add more size to. He displays good explosiveness. He looks to need to become more comfortable at using his hands, but he can be active with them when taking on blockers. He displays the ability to be able to play with good pad level and leverage. … He will attack half-a-man and while he needs to develop his pass rush arsenal he can be active with his weapons and can turn the corner well to get to the quarterback.

This reads like "we have seen him do these things occasionally, but not consistently" and stands in marked contrast to their evaluations of guys like Desmond Morgan. FWIW, they believe his length and frame will lead him to defensive end.

On the other hand, when Allen Trieu and Bill Greene caught him at the Michigan they both evaluated him as a WR/TE($), and pretty well. Trieu:

He's a big bodied kid who has a good sense of how to create separation. He's going up against speedy cover corners and he's still able to get open because he runs great routes. When the ball's in the air, it's his. He goes up and positions himself well. To me, the only drawback with him right now is that he's a tweener, but I think he'll grow into a pass catching tight end. I'd like to see how he blocks in the future.

…which implies that how he blocks now is "not entirely unlike Carson Butler."

It's inescapable: Frank Clark is a project. Whether he ends up at LB, DE, or even TE is unknown, and the possibility he plays Anton Hood's favorite position—guy who plays a lot of special teams—is strong. He needs to add weight, find a position, learn that position, and keep his athleticism if he's going to become a starter. That's a long road to productivity.

Etc.: Biggest fear is "not being able to provide for his family," which is… definitely not a white whine. Say it is "unfortunate" OSU didn't offer him. Scout commit article. MLive commit article. The Asheville Citizen-Times interviews him. Clark does win high school high jump competitions, so he's got that going for him.

Awesome sequence of articles from Rivals:

  1. Glenville LB close to being a Spartan? (money quote: "As many Spartan fans know, head coach Mark Dantonio does not push or pressure kids to make a commitment on their official visit.")

Save that face, yo.

Why Larry Stevens? Stevens was a high school safety/linebacker/touchdown machine who ended up moving to defensive end at Michigan. While he was a mainstay for the defense during his time, he was a very boring mainstay: in 44 games he managed 12 sacks. Stevens's touted athleticism took a hit as he bulked up his 6'2" frame to 240 pounds to play on the line; he never developed the technique to excel. The end result was the most definitively average defensive end in the last decade of Michigan football.

Like Stevens, Clark is a man without a position who will be a big LB or small DE. Stevens was considerably more hyped, FWIW, and Clark will probably take a longer time to see the field.

Guru Reliability: High-ish. Everyone says the same thing and Glenville is amongst the most heavily scouted schools in the country. The positional confusion does obfuscate things somewhat, but everyone says "project," so he's a project.

General Excitement Level: Meh. Without a position, electric athleticism, or much in the way of technique, Clark is just a big, moderately fast dude to put in the S&C program.

Projection: I'm guessing Clark is initially slotted at SLB since there are two MLBs, at least two WDEs, and a WLB in his class. There he's got a long wait behind redshirt sophomore Cam Gordon and redshirt freshman Jake Ryan, which is just as well because tweener without technique etc. It's possible he ends up putting his hand down and joins burgeoning numbers at WDE; either way expect a redshirt and at least one more year of special teams duty before he might see the field.

Comments

Unverified Voracity Destroyed Helmets

Unverified Voracity Destroyed Helmets Comment Count

Brian November 22nd, 2010 at 6:50 PM

Rob Lytle. Rob Lytle was before my time, so I can't offer anything personal in reaction to his death at the young age of 56. Wolverine Historian has dug through his archives and posted an interview with him from his playing days:

MVictors posted the WH compilation from the '76 OSU game during which Lytle ran wild. Angelique Chengelis writes the News's obit:

"He was special," Hanlon said Sunday. "He had a confidence about him which never showed up as cockiness. He was just always a team player: 'What can I do to help?'"  …

"You would never have known he was a great Michigan football player or professional football player," [Bruce] Madej said. "He didn't talk about it. He was anything but a big-timer. He was a nice, unassuming good guy. He was truly a good guy."

Markus at Maize 'n' Brew does have some personal memories and they all come down to his obliterated helmet:

Lytle_helmet_medium

The second thing I will remember about Rob Lytle was his helmet.  He played alongside some really tough and mean customers like S Don Dufek, DT Greg "Mo" Morton, S Dwight Hicks and OLB Calvin O'Neal.  Most of these guys had Wolverine helmet awards completely covering the surface of their striped, winged, Michigan football helmet.  Lytle's Michigan helmet was loaded with helmet awards too, but he front of the helmet was a mess.  I mean, the Maize paint was all screwed up, scratched and blended.  Lytle's head covering was put through so much abuse, you couldn't tell where the Michigan wings ended and the stripes began.

That thing's been through a war. Several wars.

Lytle had a great career with the Broncos after his Michigan days and Huckleby4Heisman collected some of the articles out of Denver, including what's probably the first and last Woody Paige column I'll happily link. From some NFL teammates:

"He wasn't the fastest guy in the league, but he got the tough yards every time," Morton said. "He would run through a brick wall for his team every time if he had to."

In his seven NFL seasons, all with the Broncos, Lytle rushed for 1,451 yards and 12 touchdowns and also had 562 yards receiving and two scores.

"He was an all-around player," Thompson said. "He ran hard. He could catch the ball well. He wasn't afraid to block. He was just an all-around good athlete."

The Broncos' vice president for corporate communications also has a post that's far more touching than his job title implies. RIP, Rob Lytle.

Soccer triumphant. Unless you are a Wisconsin fan, if you missed Sunday's NCAA tourney game against UCF you missed the most entertaining sporting event on Michigan's campus last weekend. Michigan launched 30 shots before overtime kicked in, then finally got the goal to put them over the top on a zinged-in free kick from Hamoody Saad that glanced off Latif Alashe on its way in but was probably destined for the net anyway. Also one of UCF's best players was rocking a Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man high top fade. It was wicked.

In the aftermath, the team performed a reverse field rush by running into the student section. Justin Meram was shirtless and airborne:

meram-soccer

#10 Michigan takes on #7 South Carolina in the third round. Unfortunately, they also scraped an overtime goal against Duke so the next game will be on the road. There doesn't appear to be any TV, which makes me cranky. Game is Sunday at 2.

BONUS: Yes, Meram does have a year of eligibility left for football if he wants to try his hand at kicker, but my friend exclaimed "he's better than Robbie Findley" in all seriousness and it was tough to disagree. A pro career probably beckons.

So about those incredibly obvious trends I got torn apart for mentioning. I got torn apart by rival fanbases for suggesting two things this offfseason. One: Penn State's quarterback situation is alarming and dismal. Two: Iowa wasn't all that great in 2009 and was overrated going into 2010. It was looking pretty good for thing one until Michigan's defense showed up to un-save the day and Matt McGloin experienced two and a half games in which he was Brett Favre before turning into Brett Favre in the second half against Ohio State. PSU's 71st in passer efficiency and while that's not good it's not as bad as I thought it would be before the season.

The other thing, well… remember this?

I don't think Iowa will be bad, exactly, but I'd be less surprised by the Hawkeyes finishing fifth in the Big Ten than second.

And remember the BHGP response to this?

And I guess that's what is so sad about this.  Because this is idiotic, and it is clueless, and it is so against character that it deserves to be called idiotic and clueless.  Either Cook didn't realize it's moronic, which makes him the least likely moron I've ever met, or Cook knew it (the title gives it away), and that basically makes him Tom Dienhart this time.  Regardless of the motivation, it's beneath him.

Iowa's now 7-4 and featuring in Doc Sat "Life on the Margins" posts about how Iowa's lost that old crunch-time feeling while Fight For Iowa should really be adding pictures of Henry The Otter of Ennui to a post titled "The Wastelands of Mediocrity" that went up even before the OSU game. They're headed for 8-4 since their last game is against Minnesota and will thus be at worst tied for fourth in the league (Penn State is also 4-3 and can match them by beating MSU in the season finale), but preseason skepticism about Iowa turned out to be something less than idiotic and clueless.

Something less than rabid careless monsters. Pierre Woods was chilling out in Ann Arbor, working as a groundskeeper and trying to keep in playing shape after the Patriots cut him earlier in the year. He did so by hanging out with Barwis, and is grateful:

“The guys at Michigan, man, they prepared me,” Woods told me. “Trust me. They prepared me. The head strength coach (Mike Barwis), the assistant (Parker Whiteman), I’m pretty sure they got tired of seeing my face up in there, but they allowed me to work out, use the facilities, go around, eat, everything. They treated me like family. You play at Michigan, you come back, they treat you like family. I got nothing but love for those guys and I appreciate what they did.”

Woods got back on the Patriots and is extending his NFL career somewhat. He did yoga with Mike Barwis and his family. Wolves doing yoga, basically.

Etc.: Wisconsin blog breaks down the 61-yard touchdown but starts after the guy is already through the line. That's 95% of the play! TWIS embeds the same things from the game column and tours that one USC board after the demolition at the hands of Oregon State. Michigan is going to a bowl game so AnnArbor.com brings out the same complaint from the previous academics investigation: academic folk get to go. Hurray for that being a relevant thing to bleat about again. The Daily on Troy Woolfolk's recovery from an ankle dislocation. Have a thought for the Michigan class of 2011, which started its career watching the Horror and finished it watching whatever that was against Wisconsin, with mostly crap in between.

Comments

Of The Decade: Michigan's Defense

Of The Decade: Michigan's Defense Comment Count

Brian July 26th, 2010 at 12:37 PM

Previously in this series: ESPN Images and Michigan's Offense.

DEFENSIVE END

Brandon Graham (2009) & Lamarr Woodley (2006)

Slam dunk locks and mirror images, Brandon Graham and Lamarr Woodley set the standard for Michigan quarterback terror in the aughts. Wildly hyped in-state recruits and five stars, both spent a couple of years as underclassmen playing here and there and making people wonder if and when they would live up to their billings; both did so emphatically as juniors and then managed to top those performances as seniors. A large portion of last year's defensive UFRs not given over to rending of garments was spent wondering whether Brandon Graham was actually better than Woodley.

Survey says: yes, amazingly.

There was a mailbag question that explicitly addressed it:

I think Graham is better. I haven't gone over the UFR numbers yet—slightly busy this time of year—but I know Graham set a record against Michigan State earlier this year and has been owning offensive tackles all year. Woodley set standards by being consistently around +8 or +9 with forays up to 12; Graham's baseline is around 12 and ranges up to 18.

Though he didn't win the Lombardi like Woodley did his senior year, Graham led the nation in TFLs and was drafted about a full round higher by the NFL. While Woodley was more heralded in the award department, that had a lot to do with the other guys on defense. Woodley's compatriots will pepper the rest of this list. Graham's not so much. Woodley lined up next to Alan Branch, Terrance Taylor, and a senior Rondell Biggs; Graham's bookend was a true freshman and his other linemates were just sophomores.

Lamarr Woodley, meanwhile, did with the Lombardi in 2006, the first and to-date last time a Michigan player has won it. His season was statistically frustrating since, like Graham, he was close to a dozen additional sacks that a competent secondary would have seen him put up truly ludicrous numbers. Even so he had 12 sacks and 4 forced fumbles; outside TFLs were low (just three) but that can be chalked up to the rest of the defense taking up that burden. As mentioned above, he was the original gangsta of the UFR, averaging close to double-digit plus ratings on a weekly basis.

But all that pales in comparison to the play that finished the "Oh Wide Open" game in which Michigan established itself a contender. By scooping up an unforced Brady Quinn fumble and fending off ND tight end John Carlson all the way to the endzone, Woodley inaugurated the Yakety Sax era:

I just watched that three more times.

Second Team: Dan Rumishek (2001), Tim Jamison (2007 or 2008, take your pick)

It gets muddy past the slam dunks. Michigan's quasi 3-4 from the beginning of the decade makes decisions difficult, as does that one year Michigan switched to an actual 3-4. In 2001, Dan Rumishek was on the All Big Ten team with just 22 tackles. Seven were sacks, but man. That same year Shantee Orr managed 35 tackles with six sacks and 10 TFLs, but didn't show up on all conference teams. Later editions of defensive ends would have almost identical big play numbers but way more tackles. Tim Jamison had 10 TFLs and 5.5 sacks as a junior and senior but had 52 and 50 tackles.

Past Rumishek, Orr, and Jamison pickings are slim. Rondell Biggs was the unheralded guy on the 2006 line, a decent plugger but nothing special. A post-career steroid bust also gives his career an unpleasant sheen. Larry Stevens's career was very long but largely anonymous. He's best remembered for being hog-tied on the Spartan Bob play.

We'll go with Dan Rumishek, the only other Michigan DE to get on an All Big Ten team this decade, and one of Tim Jamison's upperclass seasons. Which is entirely up to the reader since they are essentially identical; I lean towards '07 because Graham was not yet a beast and Jamison saw more attention.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Alan Branch (2006) & Gabe Watson (2005)

Alan Branch:

branch-morelli

That will do.

His statistics were not ridiculous (25 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 sacks in '06) but when he left for the NFL draft I thought to myself "this is a logical thing because he will go in the top five." Surprisingly he did not, falling to the top of the second round, but when you are primarily responsible for opponents going six of eighteen on third and one you get dropped onto the All Decade Team no questions asked. 

Watson will be a more controversial choice but the guy was a two-time All Big Ten selection and is currently an NFL player. At Michigan he never quite lived up to his copious recruiting hype but he did have some pretty nice statistics for a nose tackle: 40 tackles, 6 TFLs, and 2 sacks as a senior with almost identical numbers from the year before. The primary issue with Michigan's run defense in '05 was that Watson would drive his guy yards into the backfield, forcing the tailback to cut upfield into the gaping hole left because Pat Massey was 6'8" and therefore getting crushed backwards as far as the guy futilely attempting to contain Watson.

The year before Michigan had their one-off experiment with the 3-4, leaving Watson all alone in the middle, where he dominated. In the aftermath of Watson's one-game suspension for being approximately spherical to start the '05 season, I attempted to adjust for Michigan's tendency to give up a lot of nothing and then a lot of huge runs in the spirit of Football Outsider's "adjusted line yards" and came up with the number 2.5, which was better than anyone in the NFL by three tenths of a yard. (Schedules are much more balanced there, FWIW.) Watson may have been an overrated recruit, but his Michigan career has been underrated.

Second Team: Terrance Taylor(2007), Grant Bowman (2003)

 DT Terrance Taylor (67), DT John Ferrara (94), and DE Brandon Graham (65) pressure Irish QB Jimmy Clausen (7) during Michigan's 38-0 win over Notre Dame on Saturday, September 15, 2007 at Michigan Stadium. (RODRIGO GAYA/ Daily).

This is actually Taylor's junior season, when he lined up next to Will Johnson, a sophomore Brandon Graham, and Tim Jamison and managed impressive-for-a-DT numbers: 55 tackles, 8.5 TFLs, 3.5 sacks. He'd drop off considerably in his doomed senior year; whether that was a falloff in play or just collateral damage from the wholesale implosion around him is in the eye of the beholder. My opinion is the latter since Taylor tended to beat a lot of blocks only to see poor linebacker play rob him of opportunities in the run game; he was never much of a pass rusher.

We'll go with Taylor's statistically productive 2007 over 2008 because he was just about as good via the eyeball then and had more to show for it. Either way he is an easy pick.

The last spot is not easy. Early in the decade, Michigan defensive tackles were excruciatingly bored guys who spent football games blocking offensive lineman and letting linebackers take all the glory. In 2001 Shawn Lazarus started 12 games and managed 16 tackles. In the absence of accolades, statistics, or personal remembrances I can't put Lazarus or Eric Wilson or Norman Heuer in here even though I couldn't tell you whether or not those guys were even good. The guys not on the list who I do have personal remembrances of were not very good or are still on the team.

It's a debate between Grant Bowman, who I don't remember much about other than his mother was attacked by the usual band of Columbus idiots one year, and… yeah, Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen. Bowman's 2003 featured 36 tackles, 8 TFLs, and 3 sacks; Van Bergen had 40, 6, and 5; Martin 51, 8.5, and two sacks. Bowman's defense was infinitely better (22nd nationally in rush defense) than either Martin's or Van Bergen's but without the UFRs sitting around it's hard to tell how much of that had to do with Bowman and how much was the contributions of Pierre Woods, Carl Diggs, Lawrence Reid, and the profusion of non walk—ons in the secondary.

The tentative nod goes to Bowman if only because the rest of the line that year was Heuer, Massey, and someone the Bentley doesn't even bother to list but is surely Larry Stevens. Even if he had more help behind him, being the best player on a line that did pretty well against the run is a tiebreaker here.

LINEBACKER

David Harris (2006), Larry Foote (2001), Victor Hobson (2002)

A couple years ago I was editing a Hail to the Victors article about the considerable difference between David Harris and Obi Ezeh that referenced a couple plays from the '06 season. The diagrams, as diagrams are often wont to be, were confusing so I set about looking at the play myself so I could break the diagram out into three or four separate ones that would explain things in a more leisurely fashion. This was the result:

Untitled-1I swear to God I saw David Harris read not only the direction of a run play, the blocking scheme of that play, and which offensive lineman was assigned to him but modeled the lineman's brain and duped him into thinking the play had cut back. I found this terribly exciting.

That was just another boulder on the pile of reasons I love David Harris. He looks like Worf. He tackled everyone all the time and never did not tackle anyone. He was the first player I felt I was ahead of the curve on thanks to UFRing the games—like David Molk I think I was the first person in the media to recognize that this unheralded player was the balls, which made me feel like Dr. Z. And he kept tackling people. At some point in 2006 the Greek gods descended from the clouds and borrowed him for a while because the eagle that eats Prometheus's liver was on strike.

Then the Lions passed on him and Lamarr Woodley to take Drew Stanton, guaranteeing that the pair would instantly become two of the best defensive players in the league. Yeah. David Harris. I miss him so much.

Larry Foote M Larry Foote had a less tangential connection to the worst franchise in sports, but outside of that one-off decision his career has been a good one. As an upperclassman he was an all-around terror, notching 19 TFLs in 2000 and 26 in 2001 at the same time as he picked up a total of 16 PBUs. In 2000 he actually had more of the latter than Todd Howard, and Todd Howard got some of his when the ball deflected off the back of his helmet. Foote was what Jonas Mouton was supposed to be.

We'll go with Foote's senior year when his sack total leapt from one to six and he was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year en route to a smattering of All-American honors. A fourth-round pick of the Steelers, Foote's NFL career has been long and productive; he gets a small dollop of bonus points for being one of the current NFL crew frequently seen hanging out with Barwis.

The final member of the first team had to beat out stiff competition but Victor Hobson gets the nod because he was by far the best player on his front seven (Rumishek, Bowman, Lazarus, Stevens, Orr, Diggs, and Zach Kaufman(!) were the other major conributors) in 2002 and racked up the best all-around numbers of any linebacker under consideration: 99 tackles, 13 for loss, 5.5 sacks, and two interceptions. One of those was the Outback-sealing reverse pass interception. Hobson was deservedly All Big Ten on a team that finished 9th in the final rankings and 31st in rushing defense despite having zero future NFL players other than Hobson and an injury-stricken Orr.

Second Team: Pierre Woods(2003), Shawn Crable(2007), Lawrence Reid(2004)

Pierre Woods did something almost but not quite bad enough to get booted off the team after his breakout sophomore season (68 tackles, 14 TFL, 7 sacks) and spent the rest of his career playing sparingly—probably the only thing that has infuriated both Ted Ginn Sr and myself—until injury forced Michigan to deploy him extensively in the '05 Iowa game, whereupon he totally saved Michigan's bacon. Though he'd moved to defensive end by then, his bust-out year was at linebacker so here he goes.

Poor star-crossed Shawn Crable will go down in history as the best player to ever put on a winged helmet who Michigan fans have exclusively terrible memories of. In the span of three games at the end of the 2006 season and beginning of 2007, Crable delivered a helmet-to-helmet hit on a scrambling Troy Smith that turned a fourth-down punt into first down and eventually the winning points for OSU and failed to execute a simple blocking assignment on the field goal that could have turned The Horror into the worst win ever.

When he wasn't doing either of those things, though, he was a unique weapon. He is the current holder of Michigan's TFL record and spent his college days bouncing from linebacker to defensive end to crazy 6'6" chicken-legged defensive tackle in certain spread packages, finding ways into the backfield wherever he lined up. He also was the Ryan Mallett of defense as an underclassman, overran a bunch of plays even after he got his head on straight, and appears twice on the upcoming Worst Moments Of The Decade list. That disqualifies him from the first team, but not the second.

Finally, Lawrence Reid saw his career end prematurely as his back went out; late in the 2004 season it was clear he was laboring. Despite that he finished with 70 tackles, 12 for loss, 3 sacks, and an interception. Without the injury his senior season could have made it on to the first team… and seriously aided the 2005 team's efforts to not play the unready Shawn Crable.

CORNERBACK

LEON_HALL

Marlin Jackson(2002), Leon Hall(2006)

Leon Hall was sneaky great, one of the few players that the NFL ended up drafting well before I expected them to. Before Hall went halfway through the first round I'd pegged him as another LeSueur sort who'd go in the second and have a decent career; instead he's kind of ridiculously good. Hall leapt into the starting lineup midway through his freshman year an continued improving until he was a hidden beast on the '06 team. Hall's tackles declined from 61 to 45 as teams targeted neophyte Morgan Trent and whichever slot receiver Chris Graham had no hope of covering. At the same time his PBUs leapt from 5 to 15(!). That's impressive. Hall was a deserved Thorpe finalist.

Jackson, meanwhile, has the rare privilege of being the only sophomore to feature in the All-Decade first team. His opening-day matchup against Reggie Williams, Washington's star receiver and a player who had seriously considered Michigan before choosing to stay home, was electric. Jackson got in Williams's grill all day and the Huskies would not back off; by the third quarter he'd set an all-time Michigan record for pass breakups.

By the end of the year he was a second-team All-American to the AP, third team to Sporting News, and (whoopee!) first team to College Football News. He would spent his junior year at safety, battling injury, and though a return to corner as a senior found him on All-America teams again, Jackson never quite recaptured that sophomore magic.

Second team: Jeremy LeSueur (2003), Donovan Warren (2009)

LeSueur was a true rarity on the Michigan roster: a kid who managed to escape the state of Mississippi's immense gravitational pull. He started off slightly wonky—it was his face-mask penalty on Charles Rogers that extended Michigan State's final drive in 2001, setting up both the Spartan Bob play and Lloyd Carr's public dressing-down of Drew Sharp—but finally developed into the guy I thought Leon Hall was: an All-Big Ten type of player destined for a solid NFL career. That wasn't quite the case—LeSueur is currently playing for Bon Jovi, but no one else from the decade comes close.

The final spot is a tossup between Morgan Trent in the one year he wasn't clueless or unmotivated (2007), Donovan Warren this year, Grant Mason's year that exemplifies totally average play, and the nine starts James Whitley made in 2000 before succumbing to his personal demons. The vote here is for Warren, who I actually thought was good, over Trent, who I thought was okay trending towards good.

SAFETY… SORT OF

Jamar Adams (2007), Julius Curry (2000)

jamar-adamsMichigan fans will be unsurprised to find a wasteland here after nine defensive positions occupied by world-wrecking All-Americans who have embarked on long NFL careers—everyone on the first team to this point is still in the NFL and almost all will start this year. Safety? Well, Cato June is still kicking around as a linebacker, but at Michigan he was a wreck thanks to an ACL tear that took years for him to fully recover from. And that's almost it.

The almost: Jamar Adams, bless his heart, was the closest thing to a star safety Michigan had in the aughts. He was actually good. Not good enough to get on the All Big Ten first team or get drafted, but good enough to be on the second team two years running and stick with the Seahawks long enough to actually get on the field in six games last year. This makes him a slam-dunk lock as the best safety in the last ten years of Michigan football.

And now: guh. After Adams it's a choice between the most massively overrated Michigan player of the decade—Ernest Shazor—or the guys towards the beginning of the aughts that no one remembers being specifically terrible. You can feel free to disagree but there is no way I'm putting Shazor here. While he did decapitate Dorien Bryant in that one Purdue game, his Michigan career ceased there unbeknownst to the coaches and most of the fans. He was about 80% of the reason Braylon Edwards had to hulk up and smash Michigan State in the Braylonfest game and when he entered the NFL draft he went from a projected second-round pick to totally undrafted, but not before various organizations made him a first-team All American. I will exercise my Minute Observer of Michigan Football privileges and say this: ha, ha, ha.

The problem then is that as I went through the names that vaguely occupied the safety spots for Michigan over the last decade I thought to myself "I should probably write down Willis Barringer and Brandent Englemon." Sadly, I cannot vouch for two guys who couldn't stay healthy or maintain their starting jobs, nor can I seriously support anyone I've seen take the field in the UFR era. So let's reach back into the long, long ago when memories are fuzzy and haul out easily the most unlikely member of the All Aughts: Julius Curry.

I can't tell you that I have detailed knowledge of Curry's play anymore, but I do remember liking the guy a lot and being seriously disappointed when his junior and senior years were wrecked by injury. As a sophomore in 2000, he put up an impressive collection of statistics: 59 tackles, 5 TFLs, 5 PBUs, and 3 forced fumbles, plus two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown against Ohio State in a 38-26 win. Michigan managed to scrape out the 49th-best pass efficiency defense despite deploying Todd Howard and a very confused James Whitley—this was the heart of the "suspects" era—thanks to Curry's unregarded efforts. Maybe he never decapitated anyone, but by God he definitely would have tackled DeAndra Cobb by the second time.

garrett-rivas-2Second Team: DeWayne Patmon(2000), Ernest Shazor(2004)

Patmon was the second member of the safety unit I remember not being specifically terrified about; Shazor was discussed above. He does deserve to be here because even if he gave up a ton of big plays he made more big plays in Michigan's favor than the other safeties kicking around this decade, and those guys gave up about as many plays.

Kicker

Garrett Rivas (2006)

Rivas never had a huge leg but he was good out to 47-48 yards and stands as the most accurate kicker of the decade, hitting 64 of 82 in his four years as Michigan's kicker. That's a 78% strike rate; in 2006 he checked in at 85%. He was reliable, and that's all you ask for in a college kicker.

Punter

Zoltan Mesko (2009)

Obviously. All hail Zoltan the Inconceivable.

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