Dangermen: The Best Players Michigan Will Play In 2014 Comment Count

Ace July 30th, 2014 at 2:55 PM

You certainly know the man on the left, but do you know who's making the play on the right?

A couple weeks ago, I took a look at the most dangerous position groups Michigan will face on the 2014 schedule. Today, it's time to take a look at the best players, and this time around I took a team-by-team approach. In order of their appearance on the schedule, here are the dangermen who will be the focus of Michigan's game-planning in each of their regular-season contests.

Appalachian State: QB Armanti Edwards.

He graduated four years ago, you say? On an NFL roster, even? Well... I don't care. It's still Armanti Edwards.

Notre Dame: OLB Jaylon Smith

Smith is one of those five-star recruits who immediately live up to the billing. He started all 13 games as a true freshman last season, finishing third on the team in tackles (67) and second in TFLs (6.5) while generally looking like the Irish's best linebacker despite being surrounded by players with a lot of experience. He'll have to be the linchpin of Notre Dame's defense this year as the team tries to replace starting inside linebackers Dan Fox and Carlo Calebrese, who weren't all that impressive to begin with, as well as defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. With a standard sophomore leap, Smith could be good enough that his development alone overcomes the considerable losses in Notre Dame's linebacker corps.

Miami (NTM): WR/RB Dawan Scott

There's admittedly a dearth of choices from a team that went 0-12 in 2013, but Scott was a bright spot on an otherwise dismal Miami offense. His 15 yard average on 28 receptions led the team by over three yards. Until this season, he was actually listed at running back, and his 231 yards on 37 carries last season was good for second on the team. He's also a dangerous return man when given the opportunity, though the RedHawks reduced his special teams contributions last year as his role in the offense expanded. Miami does everything they can to get the ball in his hands, and given what's around him, that's as good a plan as any.

"It's Dres Day!" (!!!)

Utah: WR Dres Anderson

Utah's quarterbacks struggled last year, but that didn't matter much when they threw it to Dres Anderson, who led all Pac-12 receivers with an astonishing 18.9 yards per catch in 2013. It certainly helps that he can take a zero-yard pass and turn it into a 54-yard touchdown. The California native brings some explosive West Coast shit, and woe be upon the opponent that forgets about him.

Minnesota: CB Eric Murray

I guess I must acknowledge that Seth made one of the better picks of Draftageddon when he grabbed Eric Murray in the 18th round. While stats for defensive backs are often misleading, this chart speaks volumes about Murray's ability to play on an island with the best of them:

Minnesota runs a ton of man coverage, and they can largely get away with it because Murray makes life far easier on the rest of the secondary. At 6'2", 200 pounds, he's got the size to match up with just about any receiver and hold up well against the run, too.

Rutgers: DT Darius Hamilton

Hamilton is the type of five-star who needed a little time to marinate before starting to reach his prodigious potential; after a very quiet freshman year in 2012, he broke through as a sophomore, leading the Scarlet Knights with 11.5 TFLs and chipping in 4.5 sacks from the interior. He's got an NFL future, and he pairs with sophomore linebacker Steve Longa to give Rutgers at least a little star power on their defense. There may be a lack of high quality players on the roster, but Hamilton would be a big-time contributor on any of the teams on this list.

Penn State: QB Christian Hackenberg

While there may be more proven, experienced stars on the Nittany Lions—OT Donovan Smith and LB Mike Hull come to mind—there's little question the 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year has the most talent of anybody on the Penn State roster. Hackenberg has all the tools to be a first-round NFL quarterback: size, arm strength, accuracy, and pocket presence that belies his youth. The big question for this fall is how he'll deal with the loss of the outstanding Allen Robinson, who accounted for a massive 1432 of Hackenberg's 2955 passing yards last year. There may be a Henne-like step back for the sophomore signal-caller, at least numbers-wise, but with a great group of tight ends and that level of talent, he should be plenty impressive again this year.

Michigan State: S Kurtis Drummond

I'll let BiSB handle this one, since he would've inevitably chimed in anyway in the comments:

Along with Kurtis Drummond's 4 picks and 6 PBUs, he made 91 tackles from the free safety spot. That typically signals DOOM for a defense, so to put up those kinds of numbers in such a dominant defense is really impressive.

He doesn't just get to play center field, either; MSU's Cover 4 requires him to defend receivers in essentially single coverage all over the field, and he looks like a corner when he does so. He has great ball skills and can flip his hips and run with anyone in the league. That's him running stride-for-stride with Devin Smith.

Drummond is generally regarded as the top free safety prospect for the 2015 draft, which almost certainly will get him into the first round, perhaps even the top half. His play merits the hype.

Indiana: RB Tevin Coleman

I'm clearly getting lazy, because for the second time in a row, I'll let a big ol' blockquote do the explaining, this one from SBNation's Bill Connelly:

But the primary reason I can't worry too much about Indiana's offense is Tevin Coleman. Highlight Yards basically look at a runner's explosiveness once he reaches the second level of a defense. Combining that with Opportunity Rate (the frequency with which you reach said second level), we get a pretty good idea for what kind of back you are. Coleman's 35.9 percent Opportunity Rate was nothing special, but no one in the country was more explosive.

Of the 199 FBS players with at least 100 carries in 2013, only seven averaged 8.0 highlight yards per opportunity or greater. Boston College's Andre Williams and Missouri's Henry Josey averaged 8.0, Maryland's C.J. Brown and Ohio State's Braxton Miller averaged 8.4, West Virginia's Dreamius Smith and UL-Lafayette's Elijah McGuire averaged 8.6 ... and Tevin Coleman averaged 12.0. His average was 40 percent better than the second best. He had 14 carries of at least 20 yards (only 12 players had more), and he had eight of at least 40 (most in the country). He is unlit dynamite every play he's on the field.

Short version: daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn. Indiana may miss Tre Roberson's running threat as a change-of-pace quarterback, but their running game is still in good shape with Coleman toting the rock.

Northwestern: RB Venric Mark

Yes, we (justifiably) made fun of Seth for making Mark the first running back off the board in Draftageddon, but when healthy he's one of the most versatile and explosive players in the conference. When he played 13 games in 2012, Mark rushed for 1366 yards on 6.0 YPC, chipped in 20 receptions out of the backfield, and took two punt returns to the house. He only managed 31 carries last year before a broken ankle cut his season short; if he's back to full strength, though, he'll be right behind Melvin Gordon and Ameer Abdullah (and right with Coleman) in the conversation about who's the best back in the Big Ten.

Maryland: WR Stefon Diggs

Another star coming off a season-ending injury, Diggs was on the way to putting up some eye-popping numbers in 2013 before a broken leg ended his campaign after seven games. In that span, he caught 34 passes for 587 yards (17.2 YPC) while averaging nearly 6.5 yards on a handful of end-arounds and 23.4 yards on 12 kickoff returns. He's every bit the explosive playmaker he was billed to be as a highly touted recruit, and the solid depth and talent among Maryland's receivers makes it difficult for defenses to focus too much attention on him.

Ohio State: QB Braxton Miller

Well, yeah, it's hard to argue with the two-time reigning Big Ten MVP, even with all the stars along OSU's defensive line. Miller boasted a 24:7 TD-to-INT ratio, improved his completion percentage and passing yardage for the third straight season, and rushed for 1201 yards on 8.0 YPC when sacks are removed—and he even made strides in taking fewer sacks, too. While the loss of Carlos Hyde will hamper the Buckeye running game, they've got several talented replacements at running back, and the constant threat of Miller making something remarkable happen should keep Urban Meyer's offense quite dangerous indeed.


Evil Empire

July 30th, 2014 at 3:09 PM ^

"The California native brings some explosive West Coast shit, and woe be upon the opponent that forgets about him."


That would certainly be unforgettable.


July 30th, 2014 at 4:09 PM ^

That sounded a little out-of-place. I mean usually there's not a lot of casual swearing going on here, right? I know sometimes its kind of appropriate in extreme situations (the horseface thing for example) but not for calm-mood-preview-type-stuff.

It just jumped out at me for some reason, but I enjoyed the read otherwise.


July 30th, 2014 at 3:18 PM ^

I actually think Bosa may be the best player on OSU.  Even though Miller puts up nice numbers and and certainly dangerous running the football, he still isn't a great QB and seems to benefit from Meyer's offense leaving recievers wide open.  Meanwhile Bosa was really good as a freshman and going into his sophomore year with a great new DL coach is poised to wreck havoc on backfields.


July 30th, 2014 at 8:04 PM ^

But prior to doing so, do so pretending you are a HC, any HC in the BIG.  The question: Which player from OSU, if given the choice, would you like to see set out the game when they square off against you?  If you answer honestly, it won't be Bosa.  A rougly 3:5:1 TDs to Int ratio is good, very good no matter what offense you are running.  Even without Hyde, OSU will produce someone to complement Miller in the running game who is already a combination FB/TB as to difficult to tackle combined with RB speed and moves.  Everything in his career in regard to passing suggests he'll be just the opposite of what Steve Everitt suggested.  He scared the hell out of me as a freshmen and I stated then if his passing improved a little - it improved a lot - he would be the most dangerous QB in the conference.  Obviously the writers and coaches thought likewise naming him All Conference, along with winning the Griese/Brees award as best qb in the BIG last season. 

We never may know how he would do throwing out of a pro-set, one that is constantly adding more elements of the spread if their qb allows it, but believe me, if he gets drafted by an NFL team with a head coach secure in his job, you'll see them implement a package designed just for him.  And not every all conference member of the BIG could be classified as great, all of them are good, but if I were to describe him, I would have to say great, even if it is based on the offensive scheme.  As proven by UM, both running it and trying to defend it, it is the most difficult offense in existence to defend, granted the one taking the snaps is above average and he is all of that.   Furthermore, something tells me this young man, if presented the opportunity to just drop pass and throw the ball out an I formation would do much better than many would guess.


July 30th, 2014 at 7:35 PM ^

Who would you tag as UM's danger man? Limited options, but just being fully enveloped in the team would you go Gardner or Funchess? Or even throw everyone (no one) into left field with Peppers?


July 30th, 2014 at 7:48 PM ^

...if for no other reason than he provides a serious matchup problem that teams are less used to facing than a guy like Gardner (more solid dual-threat QBs out there than fast, TE-sized wideouts). It's pretty damn close, though; I'd probably go with Jake Ryan if there wasn't the uncertainty regarding the switch to MIKE.


July 31st, 2014 at 6:43 AM ^

JMFR possibly, but he's moving to a new position so as high as I am on the move itself, I need to see how he adjusts.

Funchess, but the guy is still contact-shy and careless, so again we gotta see if he's taken the time to work out his problems.  I'm getting worried because he doesn't strike me as a hard worker.  He talks the talk but he rides his absurd talent more than he should.  The guy is a matchup nightmare but if all he's good for are a few acrobatic catches a game he might lose his starting job by midseason because we got a LOT of talent at wideout.

Peppers is too new.  Not even Woodson was Woodson his first year.  I'm excited to see him play but honestly there is a chance, however small, this guy will bust.

Jake Butt -- don't forget him!  He'll miss at least the first few games. . . but like JMFR last season I doubt he'll be at 100%, so his breakout year is looking more likely to be 2015.

So for the second year in a row, I want to say Devin Gardner.  The guy is a goddamn weapon.  He had a rough start (ogod his pick-six to a DT still burns my eyes), but I saw him steadily improve until the O-line started really falling apart.  It's sad because as much as the interior O-line took the heat, he still took more of the blame than he should've.  He did everything asked of him, to a fault -- even if it's "fake hand-off on 2nd and 18".  I think DG will adjust to Nussmeier's offense a lot faster than anyone believes.

I can't recall where, but someone crunched the numbers and determined that -- given the conditions, which couldn't have been worse -- DG was not only good, but phenomenal.  The guy is a ridiculous talent, but he regressed to bad habits because his protection was not just bad but historically bad.  The scary thought is that without DG constantly making something from nothing (which did sometimes result in horrible mistakes), our offense would've been that much worse.  What really enrages me is that if the offense doesn't get it together next season, one of the best QB talents might not get a fair chance in the NFL.  They owe him, big-time.


July 30th, 2014 at 3:47 PM ^

Appalachian State: QB Armanti Edwards

I read this and had a panic attack until I read the succeeding paragraph. You know, Ace, that shit's not funny!


July 31st, 2014 at 11:34 PM ^

Appalachian State: QB Armanti Edwards.

He graduated four years ago, you say? On an NFL roster, even? Well... I don't care. It's still Armanti Edwards.


Somewhere out there on a Notre Dame blog, they are saying the same thing about Denard Robinson.




July 30th, 2014 at 5:28 PM ^

You have every right to be.  Sorry, we were an 8th place team in a bad conference last year.  They were a bit worse in a better conference.  They beat Stanford at home but if you look at their myriad losses there are a lot that stand out and make you say danger Will Robinson.  Such as a 1 point loss to ASU which was one of the best Pac 12 teams. And if the can hang with Stanford in the trenches that is a direct shot to our current weakness.

I see that game something like 21-17 but it could go either way.  And a loss there would really hurt the season IMO as we're most likely 2-1 at that point with 2 wins versus baby seals and all the chatter about hot seats begins.  It is a must win, far more than OSU or MSU which are far later in the year.


July 30th, 2014 at 4:39 PM ^

Didn't ND lose some serious talent on the DL?  I wonder if ND will have a "keeping the linebackers clean" problem similar to what we had last year. 


July 30th, 2014 at 5:08 PM ^

Brian Kelly insists that they're sticking with a 3-4 base despite bringing in Brian VanGorder. I don't think they want to waste Day at NT in a 3-4 (he's the most dynamic and disruptive linemen they have), but they don't have another pure nose on the roster (Jarron Jones is 6'6").


July 30th, 2014 at 5:48 PM ^

Can anyone tell me what the deal is with OSU's defensive line?  Everyone keeps mentioning how good they are, however in 2013 the OSU defense was nothing to be feared.  I know this is in large part because their secondary play was shoddy, however I don't recall their defensive line being particularly good either.  What gives?


July 30th, 2014 at 6:07 PM ^

I think their DL is getting overhyped in the offseason as well.  Many, including Phil Steele, are saying that they are the best DL unit in the country.  I don't think they're that good.  

That said, they will be good.  They were hot and cold last year, but they were still pretty young, and now they return all 4 starters and instead of 3/4 being underclassmen, they will have 3/4 being upperclassmen.  They're getting overhyped mainly because of how big those guys all were as recruits not because they have all looked amazing as college players, and if they take a leap this year to where their recruiting profile says they should be, they'll be dominant.  I doubt they live up to all that hype, but they'll be good, no doubt about it.


July 30th, 2014 at 7:58 PM ^

Because young players progress way faster than old players. And their young players were Spence and Bosa and Washington. And their old player is Bennett. Normal improvement from those guys from last year and things look ugly. Actually things were ugly last season but the defensive line was mitigated a lot by poor secondary play.

Remember when Michigan had RVB and Brandon Graham and Mike Martin and Craig Roh as their DL and we said "this should be a good DL" and then that defense went to crap? It turns out those were pretty good defensive linemen, but the rest of the defense wasn't very good so they could be mostly skipped.

OSU's guys are better than any of the guys above except Brandon Graham. Bennett's a strong candidate be the first DT off the board in next year's draft. Normal progression for Bosa and Spence gets one or both into that Brandon Graham range. And Washington is moving to 3-tech but they liked him there so much they moved a really good space-eating NT to offensive line because he wasn't needed anymore once they saw Washington.


July 30th, 2014 at 11:31 PM ^

Oh I know why people think they'll be good. I just think they're a little overrated is all. Trying to project improvement for young guys doesn't always go the way everyone thinks. Sometime young guys get way better and sometimes guys hit a peak early.


July 31st, 2014 at 9:09 AM ^

2013 Defensive Stats for OSU's 2014 starting DL:

N. Spence  52 Tackles, 14.5 TFL, 8.0 Sacks, 4 QB Pressure, 2 PBU, 1 FF, 1 FR

J. Bosa  44 Tackles, 13.5 TFL, 7.5 Sacks, 6 QB Pressure, 1 PBU, 0 FF, 1 FR

M. Bennett  42 Tackes, 11.5 TFL, 7.0 Sacks, 1 QB Pressure, 0 PBU, 3 FF, 2 FR

A. Washington 36 Tackles, 4.0 TFL, 2.0 Sacks, 2 QB Pressure, 0 PBU, 0 FF, 0 FR

Bosa was a true freshman, Spence and Washington were sophomores, Bennett was a junior. Washington was the only one on that list with "meh" stats and he missed a few games (and was hampered in many others) due to a significant groin injury.

If UM had a D-line with those guys returning, people on here would be creaming their pants.


July 31st, 2014 at 7:56 AM ^

To make a snap judgment about DLine, most people will probably look at the team's rush defense and sacks numbers.  OSU had a very good rush defense, but they also played very poor rushing attacks. 

They played 13 FBS teams and 1 FCS team.  You would not believe how poor the competition was.  Look at the ever popular yards/carry.  Only two of their opponents (Wisky and Indiana) finished in the top 50th percentile nationally in yards/carry.  The other 11  (84% of their opponents) finished in the bottom 50th percentile. 

And, while OSU almost led the nation in sacks, you need to look at their opponents sacks allowed/game.  Their OOC games opponents included Cal (107th), SDSU (85th), Clemson (102nd).  In conference they played Purdue (119th), Michigan (108th), Northwestern (111th), and Illinois 95th).  So, of their 13 FBS opponents, 7 of them (53% of their opponents) were ranked 85th or below.  Did any other team get as lucky as to play five teams ranked 100th or lower in sacks allowed?