2013 - Year of Manball...Right?

Submitted by Ron Utah on September 17th, 2012 at 12:42 PM


After watching the UMass game I went through a series of strange feelings:

  1. Relief.  Game never in question, easy opponent dispatched, spread covered.
  2. Anxiety.  The D-Line didn't look that good.  Come to think of it, neither did the run-blocking.
  3. Relief.  2013 isn't far away, and we'll be transitioning from Borges-Denard Fusion to Manball.
  4. Anxiety.  2013 isn't far away, and we'll be transitioning from Borges-Denard Fusion to Manball.

Yes, the last two are the same.  No, it's not a mistake.  Here's what happened in my brain:

  • I sure will miss Denard next year, but we'll be back to Michigan Manball without him.  And our offensive line will be much better at run-blocking.
  • Wait, why will it be better at run-blocking?  Who will even be playing O-Line for us next year?
  • SHUT-UP!  SHUT-UP!  SHUT-UP!  Enjoy the win.  Just pretend that Hoke will sprinkle magical Manball dust (wait, that doesn't sound right) and everything will turn out fine.
  • No, you shut-up.  I have to research this so I can sleep.  Or so I can't sleep.  AAARRRGGGGH!

Suddenly, I'm lying awake in bed, and going through the depth chart in my head.  The one guy that seems to be playing good football on the O-Line is Taylor Lewan, and it's no secret that he's projected to get a 1st round NFL draft grade.  We have to assume he's gone.  Also gone from the line is...EVERYONE.  Except Schofield.  He'll stick around for his fifth year.  Right?  RIGHT?!!!  And it's good that he stays...right?  RIGHT?!!!

Let's just assume the whole line, except Schofield, is gone.  Our new O-Line looks like this:

LT Erik Magnuson; LG Chris Bryant; C Jack Miller; RG Kyle Kalis; RT Michael Schofield

Maybe Joey Burzynski sneaks in there, but we're likely going with four (FOUR!) players with little or no playing experience.  And Schofield.

And I think, if we're geing honest with ourselves, that line doesn't look much better than this year's version.  Sure, Bryant and Kalis should be better people-movers than Barnum and Omameh, but they'll be learning the position as they go.  And a redshirt freshman left tackle?  Ummmm...

Oh, and did I mention that Jack Miller is currently 6-4 and 288 lbs?  Not exactly the size we're looking for at center.

My point is that our O-Line will be far from "Manball-Ready" and that we have much to fear about their abilities.  Maybe we'll get some better natural push, but we're trading that for what will likely be a drop-off in pass-blocking.  Erik Gunderson is currently listed ahead of Ben Braden, so I'm not holding my breath there.  Blake Bars isn't currently listed on the depth chart.  

On the other side of the ball, things don't look much better.  BWC and Roh are gone.  Pipkins should be seasoned, and hopefully in shape.  Brink, Washington, Black, and Ash are all back, but like, seriously.

Our hopes will be tied to Pee Wee (NT) and Frank Clark (WDE), with Heitzman/Brink/Wormley/Strobel at SDE and Black/Washington/Ash/Brink at DT needing to just not screw it up.

The only logical conclusion is that next year will require the same patience with our lines as this year.  This issue will be exacerbated by the lack of Denard...whether it's Bellomy or Gardner running the offense, it will be an offense that is trying to be pro style, and won't have a premier QB to run it.  Gardner's growth will be stunted by his time at WR, and Bellomy looks like a solid-but-not-spectacular player.  Navarre Light, if you will, with more mobility and a not-as-good arm.

I guess what I'm saying is that we'll really have to wait until 2014 before we have our Manball lines in place, and maybe then we can go back to complaining about the secondary.



September 17th, 2012 at 12:55 PM ^

If Gardener returns to QB this team in 2013, then I can see a more  gradual transition from fusion cuisine to MANBALL.  Gardener will obviously line up under center more than Denard does and has the arm to be a more classic drop-back passer, but his feet are too much of a weapon to do away with entirely.


September 17th, 2012 at 1:12 PM ^

All depends on the OL; we still can't gap block and pull worth a crap.  Those are almost pre-requistes for any MANBALL offense.  The first class of OL recruited specifically for this will only be RS FR.  If Lewan stays, it will help because he can do both, but it may still be a while until we really see MANBALL, or MANBALL run succesfully I should say.


September 17th, 2012 at 1:18 PM ^

I agree its gonna be a couple years til we see real MANBALL. We need to get a few of Hoke's recruiting classes in there to create some depth.  Once the offensive line is full of 300+ we'll be back to pounding the rock.  Bo style is comin back.  


September 17th, 2012 at 2:49 PM ^

So, you mean like RIGHT NOW, when our average weight on the OL is 303.6, and the lightest guy is Barnum at 296?  That's when we'll be MANBALL?  Or when we get back to "Bo Style".  like the 1980 team, whose avg OL weight was 259.6, with the largest guy being 270, or the great 1973 team, with an OL that averaged 231.2, and had the beast of Jim Coode at 245 as it's largest man.  Size is not the problem with our power running game.  The inability to pull our guards is what is killing many plays.  Keep an eye this Saturday whenever we try and pull, the runner (Denard or Fitz) has to slow up, and wait for them to get there, if they ever do.


September 17th, 2012 at 2:18 PM ^

I agree with your assessment of the OL, but I have two things to add. Schofield, who is a pretty decent pass blocker, could move to LT, and having a redshirt frosh at RT is less bad, and that could be Magnuson or Braden. Just because Braden isn't above Gunderson as a true frosh doesn't mean he won't be much better than him in a year. Graham Glasgow has had some pretty good reports so far, and he was one of the few second string OL who looked good on Saturday when he was in. I could see him playing a guard spot or RT if one of those other guys isn't cutting it. Secondly, 6'4" 288 is not too small for a center, especially one who is still a year away from starting.

I disagree a lot with your assessment of the DL. From the two deep, we lose two guys, and neither of them are killing it at their spots. Second year Pipkins should be every bit as good as BWC, and Black with another 10 pounds should be a solid 3-tech guy. QW and Ash will have another year, so will Beyer and Clark, and we have a handful of guys coming off redshirts who should provide depth. The only spot that worries me is the SDE, but it's not like Roh is playing at All American levels now, and between Brink, Heitzman, Strobel and Wormley, we should find two guys good enough to rotate at that spot. The DL will be solid to good, and the fact that the LBs behind them should be incredible will only make their jobs easier.

Wolverine 73

September 17th, 2012 at 2:21 PM ^

By 2015, we will have an OL of Hoke recruits with a couple of years of play under their belts, an experienced QB who fits the profile he seeks, and a solid defense featuring the best damn collection of LBs in the country at the rate things are going.  Plus, most of the big games are at home.  We have a couple years to nab an elite RB and WR to play with them.  I think the next couple years will be 9-4ish; if we manage 11-2 again in any year before 2015, I will be pleasantly surprised.


September 17th, 2012 at 2:51 PM ^

With so many true freshman playing this year and the monster 2013 class, 2015 should be special. And if Hoke can keep his recruiting mojo going, there will probably be a couple 2014 kids who will contribute in 2015. That's the earliest I can see this team being on the level of an Alabama.


September 17th, 2012 at 4:24 PM ^

Can I ask why you think 9-4 is "overly-optimistic"?  Do you just think UM will be lacking in talent?  Do you see sevaral players leaving early for the draft or transferring?  UM has all of 1 tough road game (at MSU), and 3 tough home games (ND, Neb, and OSU).  I see no way UM loses all 4 games, and I don't see any other team on the schedule that really has a legit shot at knocking off UM, with the exception of maybe at Northwestern.  If 10 wins is the goal next year, I see no reason why Team 134 can't meet it.


September 17th, 2012 at 9:15 PM ^

QB is a really big question mark.  We have reason to believe in the potential of Gardner, Bellomy, and Morris, but we don't know yet whether their h.s. production will translate to college.  I think it would be optmistic to think that QB will be a strength, if nothing else.  We could even see a year of real struggle at that position.

The OL will be really young even if Lewan comes back.  Just that could greatly slow down the offense.

I think Michigan is probably okay at WR if Gardner plays that position, but I don't know that they will be if he doesn't...I'm not including Funchess as a WR when I say that, btw...I think they'll be good at TE.

RB should be a strength with (I assume) Fitz returning, but he's not a guy who can carry an offense - or at least he hasn't shown that yet. 

To summarize re: the offense:  Denard's running covers up a lot, and that will of course be gone next year along with, maybe, 4/5th of the OL.

As for defense, the LBs will be good but still young.  The DL will be very talented but also very young (with the exceptions of Washington and Ash, neither of whom has shown a great deal so far).  I think it will hurt next year that Wormley isn't going to get any experience this year. 

The DBs will (repetition!) also be good but young.  I think Countess is likely to be a really good player if he's healthy, but that assessment is based more on my belief in his potential than any real track record.  I like Avery, but he's not even a third-team All Big Ten corner right now.  Who knows what Richardson or any of the incoming guys can do?  Taylor has struggled, it sure seems. 

To summarize re: defense:  I just don't think they'll be experienced enough to be even a top 25 defense in the country, which I think would be necessary to carry an offense that I expect to struggle. 

So, that's my long take on things next year...This isn't too say that I'm pessimistic about the future for Michigan, though.  I'm very excited about the relatively near future.


September 17th, 2012 at 3:56 PM ^


And a redshirt freshman left tackle? Ummmm...

Wasn't Lewan a redshirt fresman when he started?  And if memory serves, it was something like second game of that season?


September 17th, 2012 at 4:18 PM ^

I think next year will be similar to last year, record-wise.  The schedule next year is very easy, with the only true road test coming at MSU.  I also don't know why so many people are under the impression that Lewan will be gone after this year.  All indications have him returning.  I think our OL will look something like this next year:

LT - Lewan

LG - Kalis

C - Miller

RG - Bryant

RT - Schofield


While we do lose 3 seniors, I like the looks of that OL.  Depth should also be much better next year.  Add in the fact that we return virtually every skill player, the offense should be fine next year, even with the loss of Denard.



Hardware Sushi

September 17th, 2012 at 5:27 PM ^

I agree with your sentiment.

The one thing we have going for us (in a twisted not so cool way) is that Lewan isn't playing like a top-15 pick right now. I also think he enjoys being part of Michigan. 3 games in and I've never met him, but I'm optimistic he sticks around.

Both lines are still weak compared to "the expectation at Michigan for the position" TM haha, but depth will improve on oline simply due to everyone in last year's class having another year and having 5 freshman.

Dline is rough for another year...Jake Ryan and Frank Clark RUNNING WILD YEAHHHHH


September 17th, 2012 at 9:51 PM ^

QB- bellomy / gardner
RB- toussaint
FB- hopkins
WR- gallon / dileo
WR- j. robinson / j. jackson
TE- aj williams / devin funchess
LT- lewan
LG- bryant
C- miller
RG- kalis
RT- schofield

WDE- clark / beyer
SDE- black
3-tech- brink
NT- pipkins
Sam- ryan
Mike- bolden
Will- morgan / ross
CB- avery
CB- countess
FS- gordon
SS- m. robinson

strengths: rb, exterior o-line, linebackers, secondary
weaknesses: qb, interior o-line, 3-tech