Top five position battles entering camp

Submitted by Phil Brickma on August 6th, 2012 at 10:17 AM

Meinke posted a story about what he believes are the five position battles to watch during camp. The two that stick out to me are at LG and WR. Meinke lists Burzynski as a possibility to be the starter at LG, namely because he has been impressive and got the start in the spring game. I think starting the spring game is overrated, especially since Mealer was backing up at other positions on the line. Add in Hoke's loyalty to seniors, and I see Mealer batting super-freshman Kalis for that spot.

Also interesting was the battle for No. 3 WR. Chesson and Darboh have an excellent chance to contribute this year.



angry byrne

August 6th, 2012 at 10:35 AM ^

The position that I don't understand is punter.  How could Hagerup be so good in 2010 and so drastically bad last year?  I know Hagerup was held out for the first few last year but Wile was better and more consistent in the games as well as when I saw him in warm-ups.  You'd think with Hagerup being a junior it should be the type of position that we wouldn't have to worry about at all.


August 6th, 2012 at 10:34 AM ^

This is what I personally think:

1 - Mealer will start the season and last at least most of it. But Burzynski will push him for time. Kalis though I think will be the backup at RT like Coach Funk explained earlier this year. Kalis may see time at LG but that will be under dire situations.

2 - Robinson will get the chance to play, but either Darboh or Chesson will push him aside at the third WR position.

3 - Like we have seen, Rawls will be the number two RB with Smith being the third down back. I don't think this is much of a battle since this is what we pretty much saw all spring.

4 - Hagerup will start at punter, but Wile will push him all season long. I really hope Hagerup returns to freshman form.

5 - I think Gallon and Norfleet are the returners. Gallon was surprisingly pretty good last year and Norfleet will bring the speed and elusiviness needed in the return game.

These are my thoughts and they are probably all wrong.


August 6th, 2012 at 11:13 AM ^

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think Robinson was also mentioned by the 2010 outgoing seniors as a breakout player for 2011...and he did nothing.  He seems to have a lot of untapped potential.  And again, rumors seem to suggest it has more to do with his maturity rather than being a question of talent.


August 6th, 2012 at 10:35 AM ^

For all you football-knowing types out there - I'm sure it's been discussed before, but I'm curious as to which positions would be the "easiest" to come in and contribute early. WR seems like a decent possibility. Anyone have any insight into this?

angry byrne

August 6th, 2012 at 10:42 AM ^

It depends on the offense, but you're right... it's usually going to be WR.  That position in particular usually (in my experience/opinion) necessitates the least amount of weight/muscle gain in order to be moderately successful.  Yes, there are schemes that are needed to be learned and coverages, but I'd argue this isn't as great of a challenge as, say, the O line or certainly the QB.

Another position that can be 'easier' to contribute early is FB, although again, that depends upon the offense--some FB's need to know a ton of the offense, and some are simply there as a 'run forward and hit someone through that hole, you glorified guard'.


August 6th, 2012 at 11:16 AM ^

Aside from Jason Sehorn, I really don't see a ton of kick returners getting seriously injured.  Punts might be a different story with the vulnerability of deciding whether or not to fair catch a punt (or getting crushed on an illegal hit while waiting for the ball), but returning a kickoff is no more dangerous than returning an interception, IMO.

I don't think Countess will return kicks, nor do I think he would be the best guy to do it.  But injury and fatigue aren't the reasons.  I just think Norfleet, Gallon, and possibly others would be better.


August 6th, 2012 at 11:42 AM ^

Unless Countess is significantly better than the other returners he shouldn't do the job.  Woodson was, so it was worth the risk.  Is Countess that much better than Gallon and others?  I really doubt it.

As for kickoff returns not being a risk -- any play that occurs infrequently ( a few per game) is not going to produce a lot of injuries.  But in general, it seems self-evidently true that plays where offensive and defensive players are running full speed at each other would be slightly riskier than normal plays (where they don't).  But that's beside the point - any play is an injury risk.  If we assume Countess is a stud at CB and there's a big dropoff to his backup, you want to minimize his exposure in situations where there is less benefit.


August 6th, 2012 at 12:27 PM ^

I do wonder how the new rules will impact strategy.  Most people assume coaches will let their kickers boom away into the endzone and take the ball at the 25.  I wonder how many coaches will try to get their kickers to have more hang time and drop it inside the 25 and short of the endzone or even squib kick. Either of those two options seems like it could lead to more injury potential vs less since it is a live ball unlike punts. 


August 6th, 2012 at 10:51 AM ^

One of the comments on the article:

"What about the QB? I don't think that is settled yet?

Denard can Run but he cannot pass unless you call "chucking" the ball in the air down field passing?"

To which I can only respond:

angry byrne

August 6th, 2012 at 10:59 AM ^

It's amazing how internet anonymity makes people comfortable enough to go onto comment boards just to be a dick like that.  But as they say,

EDIT: Reply fail on my part, this was in response to unWavering.

angry byrne

August 6th, 2012 at 2:06 PM ^

You bring up a decent point... I'll admit that I had a good laugh over the "Martinez throws the perfect pass" video.  But the thing that makes it particularly dickish is that it was completely uncalled for and unrelated (nowhere was the article talking about Denard... the poster deliberately went out of his/her way to tear someone else down).  Also, it is an Ann Arbor article.  If you don't like Michigan football, then why are you reading the article/on the site at all?  (The obvious answer to that question is "to be a troll".)

Perhaps in the moment of things I was a bit sanctimonious, but I don't understand the constant negativity that overwhelms most sites.  As you point out, mgoblog isn't immune to folks who want to stir things up, but for the most part, it's pretty good-natured and tame around here compared to other sites.


August 6th, 2012 at 11:09 AM ^

For left guard, I see this spot as Mealer's as well, with Burzynski having shown himself to be a pretty serviceable backup here, even perhaps getting chunks of time himself. This is a tight battle, I would think. I have a feeling that Kalis - despite having just arrived essentially - might be "the next guy on the bench" for a few OL positions only because of the potential depth issues.

At wide receiver, I think both freshmen may very well make some early contributions - it seems like you have an almost ideal slot guy in Gallon, but I have to wonder if they'll experiment with Darboh and Chesson (and even Gardner) as the deep threat.

Rawls is probably the #2 at this position and probably will see much of the time when Fitz is getting some rest. Smith is a nice, darty back though and I see him getting plenty of third down carries as others do.

KR is probably between Gallon and Norfleet in the end, and I think both of them will get opportunities to do this anyway. Norfleet has some of the things that were absent from our KR production last year and should be a great help here.

I find the Hagerup / Wile competition to be the most intriguing one here actually - if Wile can continue to be Wile and Hagerup can regain his freshman form, this one is a tough call. By default, this might be Wile's job to lose because of his performance last year, but we'll see.

Interesting article. Thanks for posting.


August 6th, 2012 at 11:12 AM ^

Of all these battles, the one I'm most focussed on is KR.  I would love to see Northfleet win that battle and average over 23 ypr. 

I was often frustrated with Gallon as he seemed to make some poor choices on the return.  He had potential for a nice return at times, but other times was hesitant and it resulted in horrible starting position for too many drives. 

Plus, I always like have legit position players fresh.  I prefer the return man to be someone that specializes in that, and doesn't have to have a 35 yard return and then line up right away to run a route.


August 6th, 2012 at 11:43 AM ^

ignores Chris Bryant.  While he's been practicing mostly at RG, Kalis too has been slotted for another spot (RT). it wouldn't be a stretch to see the talented kid move over to LG if he's the best option.


August 6th, 2012 at 2:35 PM ^

Probably an incredibly stupid question, but is there a way for the public to watch practice today?  I'm in AA, and would LOVE to go down State Street and catch some UM action.  By watch, I mean other than stand on Stadium bridge (I don't know if that project is completed yet...) with binoculars.


August 6th, 2012 at 5:32 PM ^

I really think Robinson is going to have a breakout year and contribute. I have nothing to base this on besides that fact that he has enormous potential. I believe that the coaches will try and RS one of the two freshman WR's, but may not have a choice if Robinson and Jackson don't become contributors.

I also expect Mealer to start at LG this year. Even though Kalis may be very close to college ready as a true freshman, the experience Mealer have will allow him to at least begin the year as the guy.


August 6th, 2012 at 6:30 PM ^

I do not want to see Vincent Smith start at back.  We've played this game before and he simply cannot get it done as a multiple down RB.  unless Rawls completely drops the ball in the rest of fall camp it should go to Rawls.