Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Flashback: 2000 Orange Bowl

Usually, Michigan is playing in a bowl game around this time of year. The Wolverines just barely missed the cut this year with a record of 3-9. Luckily, there are plenty of times to look back on fondly.

Thanks to the heroics of Tom Brady, Anthony Thomas, and Ryan Pflugner's right foot, Michigan won this game 35-34 in heart attack-inducing fashion.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Wish List

With 2009 recruiting in the home stretch, the Wolverines have a little over a month to woo undecided prospects (or, in the case of Eugene Smith, decided prospects). With early enrollees possibly counting toward the 2008 class, possible transfers and early draft entries, etc., it has been suggested that Michigan could accept 28 National Letters of Intent. Considering all the decommits Michigan has suffered this year (Anthony Fera, Bryce McNeal, Kevin Newsome, Jordan Barnes, Shavodrick Beaver, Will Campbell), I doubt we will pull in 28 commits. I'm guessing the current number of 20 commits will jump to about 26 by National Signing Day.

Here is my Christmas wish list. Obviously, if this were totally wishful thinking, I'd wish for Russell Shepard and Jesus. These are eight players still on Michigan's radar who I would like to see fill out the class. In no particular order:

William Campbell, DT
Campbell is a 5-star to Scout and Rivals. He was an early commit to Michigan and then opened up his recruitment. The decommitment was rumored to be merely a chance to get free trips around the country. He was "interested" in USC, but the Trojans stopped recruiting him, possibly because they realized they had no shot at actually garnering a commitment from the 6'4", 317 lb. defensive tackle. Campbell will announce his commitment when he participates in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on January 3, 2009, but rumors have circulated that he has already enrolled for Winter 2009 classes at the University of Michigan.

Quinton Washington, OG
Washington is the #16 offensive guard to Rivals and a 4-star. After he visited Michigan officially on September 26, he made some comments about Michigan being his leader. Since then, our position with him seems to have weakened somewhat. He's been pretty quiet about favorites recently, but he hasn't visited any other schools recently. Hopefully he was so overwhelmed by Michigan that he's not visiting anywhere else and he's just trying to draw out the drama. At 6'3" and 315 pounds, he could be a mauler.

Denard Robinson, QB/ATH
Robinson is being recruited hard by Florida, who is considered the team to beat. But Michigan is probably turning up the heat on him. With the recent decommitment of Shavodrick Beaver, Michigan needs to add another quarterback in this recruiting circuit. Robinson has excellent athleticism and a decent arm, although he lacks some fundamentals. He's the #12 athlete in the country, according to Rivals, and if the whole quarterback thing doesn't work out, Robinson could play cornerback or wide receiver. It's quite possible that Tate Forcier will be the best QB recruit Michigan can get in 2009, and with the lackluster performances of the quarterbacks on the current roster, Forcier might have a clear path to be the starter for several years. It's not a bad idea to bring in a guy who could learn quarterback but play some receiver. And if Michigan gets a good QB in 2010 such as Devin Gardner, Robinson could switch to defense. He has a lot of talent and a lot of versatility.

Dan Mason, MLB
Mason is strictly an inside linebacker prospect. When I first watched film of him, I did not think he would be a significant upgrade over the decommitted Jordan Barnes. They seem like similar players in a lot of respects. But with additional film study, Mason looks more athletic than Barnes. I would like to see Michigan make a habit of turning outside linebackers into middle linebackers, but it's not a bad idea to have at least one pure MIKE on the team. Both other middle linebackers on the current roster (Obi Ezeh and JB Fitzgerald) have more athleticism and could also play SAM. Furthermore, Mason is a solid tackler, which has been a weakness of Michigan teams for the past two seasons.

Chris Freeman, OT
Freeman is a project. He's about 6'7" and 330 lbs. and he never played organized football until his junior year of high school. However, he was a basketball player before that, so he has some athleticism and competition isn't a brand new thing to him. Kids that size don't grow on trees, and the nice thing about Freeman is this - he doesn't have to be Michigan's savior at offensive tackle. Michigan isn't looking for Freeman to come in and start - or even compete - right away. These are the tackles Michigan will have on the roster in 2009: Mark Ortmann (5th year senior), Steve Schilling (RS junior), Perry Dorrestein (RS junior), Dann O'Neill (RS freshman), Patrick Omameh (RS freshman), Michael Schofield (freshman), and Taylor Lewan (freshman). There's a lot of young talent and depth at the position, meaning Freeman would presumably have three or four years to learn and mature before being asked to contribute.

Je'Ron Stokes, WR
Stokes plays a position of..."want." The Wolverines don't necessarily need another outside wide receiver for 2009. Stokes would have several players in front of him, all vying for a limited number of passes. But he's the #13 receiver in the country, according to Rivals, and you can never have too many playmakers on your team, especially when you're trying to fill up a recruiting class. Michigan has plenty of receivers for 2009, although several are of the slot variety, and two outstanding 2010 recruits in Jeremy Jackson and Ricardo Miller. I doubt Michigan will start handing out WR offers in the last month or so. If the coaches can land a good one, they'll take him. If not, they'll be fine with what they have.

Travante Stallworth, slot receiver
Stallworth's recruiting bears watching throughout January and into February. He had been an Auburn commit before things in Tigerland went haywire, so now he's a free agent. Without having visited Michigan, Stallworth has said that he's very interested in the Wolverines. On top of that, Michigan is the only team that has offered Stallworth a shot to play quarterback. Yep. Stallworth is a wispy high school quarterback from the SEC area that many schools are recruiting to play wide receiver. I'm not saying he's the next Pat White. But I'm not saying he's not the next Pat White, either.

Dennis Thames, S/CB
Thames has been hard to read throughout the scouting process. He's changed his mind several times about his leaders, which is understandable. Early in this recruiting cycle, it was thought Michigan would have a good shot with him because his uncle is Marcus Thames, an outfielder for the Detroit Tigers. More recently, it seems like Mississippi State might earn his pledge. Either way, Michigan needs help in the defensive backfield. Thames's ability to play corner would be helpful, since Michigan has several safety/linebacker hybrids who have yet to mature. If players like Isaiah Bell and Mike Jones move to linebacker, Thames could help out at safety; if those other two stay at safety, Thames could be a corner.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Plan

At this point, this is obviously a fledgling blog. I started it back in early fall. Due to extenuating circumstances, I was unable to keep up with it as much as I would have liked.

Looking forward, here are some ideas I have:

- Individual player pages, preferably in wiki form.
- Countdowns of various sorts, including "Freshmen Most Likely to Contribute" (to begin after National Signing Day) and "Top Returning Players" (to begin once a new defensive coordinator is announced or when we learn about the playing statuses of Avery Horn, Carson Butler, and Brandon Graham).
- General team reporting, opinions, and discussion.

The player page thing is a work in progress as I try to decide on the proper format for the wiki pages.

Feel free to give me ideas for things you might want to see.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

No more Beaver for Michigan fans

The interestingly named Shavodrick Beaver is no longer a Michigan commitment. Instead, he will be enrolling as a Tulsa Golden Hurricane come January. If that doesn't make sense to you, that's because it doesn't make sense.

Apparently, he just wants his mom to be able to see him play in football games, which is admirable, I guess. He certainly won't be attending Tulsa to get to the NFL; if he gets to the next level, he would join such memorable standouts as Garrett Mills (Vikings, TE) and Nick Graham (Colts, DB). It's not exactly a factory for NFL players.

The situation is not dire. Recruiting services have current commit Tate Forcier ranked above Beaver in almost every category, although Beaver is probably a more skilled runner. Forcier will enroll in January and begin his fight with Steven Threet to start on Opening Day 2009. In my opinion, Beaver would have sat on the bench behind Forcier and Threet for at least a couple years. Former walk-on (and former starter) Nick Sheridan will likely be third on the depth chart, at best, followed by redshirt junior David Cone.

This does not account for other potential commits such as:

Tajh Boyd - formerly committed to West Virginia, then committed to Tennessee until new coach Lane Kiffin reneged on the school's scholarship offer. He is Rivals' #3-ranked dual-threat quarterback. Ohio State is also in the mix, although Boyd might be leery of being only one year behind Terrell Pryor.

Eugene Smith - currently committed to West Virginia. Smith's interest in Michigan lasted for a long time, even throughout the commitments of Kevin Newsome (since decommitted), Shavodrick Beaver (ditto), and Tate Forcier. It would not surprise me to see Rivals' #5-ranked dual-threat quarterback jump at the chance to work with Rich Rodriguez and Calvin Magee instead of Bill Stewart.

Denard Robinson - currently reported to be a Florida lean. He's 6' and 179 pounds and listed as the #12 ATHLETE by Rivals. If the whole quarterback thing doesn't work out, he could be a solid wide receiver or cornerback.'s Tom Beaver is reporting that Robinson will be Michigan's number one contingency plan, although he may be a long shot to pull away from the Gators.

With the recruiting dead period upcoming, it may be a bit before Michigan gains another QB commitment. My prediction is that the Wolverines will pull in two quarterbacks in this class: Tate Forcier and Eugene Smith.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

2008 position preview: quarterbacks

The biggest question in the Big Ten this offseason has been, "How will Rich Rodriguez's offense perform without Pat White?" Nobody knows. The presumptive starter hasn't thrown a pass in college, the challenger for the position is a walk-on, and then there are two scholarship afterthoughts. Luckily, Michigan has a stable of running backs and slot receivers who should be able to take a lot of pressure off the quarterback position.


Steve Threet (#10 - RS freshman - Adrian, MI)
Threet was a four-star quarterback and the #8 passer coming out of high school in 2007. An early enrollee at Georgia Tech, he spent spring ball fighting for the backup quarterback position for the Yellowjackets. For reasons unbeknownst to the general public, he decided to transfer during the summer of 2007 back to his home state of Michigan. There were rumors that the transfer was due to his fear of competition, but he transferred to the University of Michigan when all-everything quarterback Ryan Mallett was still presumed to be the next great Michigan QB, so that can't be the case. Fortunately for Threet, Mallett was afraid of Rich Rodriguez's spread offense and hightailed it for Arkansas. Threet spent the spring of 2008 as the front-runner for the starting QB position and has a tenuous grip on that spot still. Rodriguez has said repeatedly that Threet needs to be more decisive. At 6'6" and 230 pounds, Threet has some mobility but needs to be able to throw the ball downfield with strength and accuracy to be effective. If he can't be an effective passer, Rodriguez will turn to a more mobile quarterback to run the read option

Nick Sheridan (#8 - Junior - Saline, MI)
At 6'1" and 212 lbs., Sheridan is considerably shorter and lighter than Threet. The word out of Michigan practices is that he's more mobile and runs the read option better than Threet. As a walk-on, it's very surprising to see Sheridan pushing Threet for the starting job in such a prestigious program as Michigan. However, Sheridan was a bit if an unknown quantity when he graduated from Saline High School and walked onto the Wolverines as a freshman. He spent most of his senior year watching from the sideline due to injury. Even if he had played, some observers thought he would only be Division II or Division III material. There was some talk of Sheridan during the 2007 season, especially after Chad Henne got injured during the Oregon game. Mallett stepped in and played pretty well, but against Minnesota, Sheridan was the first quarterback off the bench - not David Cone, the only other scholarship QB on 2007's roster. The rumor at the time was that Sheridan was allowed to play because it was a home game and Saline neighbors Ann Arbor, meaning it might have been the only chance for his family to see him play at Michigan Stadium; this rumor can now be debunked, since it has become more and more clear that Sheridan has outperformed David Cone in practices. It would not be a complete surprise to see Sheridan start at quarterback against Utah on August 30, but if you told Michigan fans that in August 2007, they would have said, "Who?"

Justin Feagin (#3 - Freshman - Delray Beach, FL)
Feagin is a complete and utter wild card for the 2008 season. He chose to compete for the QB position at Michigan instead of play wide receiver in the SEC. When Michigan was in the thick of recruiting Terrelle Pryor, Michigan commit Feagin had stated that he would welcome competing against the #1 recruit in the nation to play quarterback. Many schools saw him as a likely position switcher, either to WR or defensive back. Comparisons to Pat White, who was also recruited to play WR at SEC schools, at WVU are inevitable. Feagin ran the read option against weak competition in Florida. Still, he was named the Player of the Year in his division after rushing for 1,100+ yards and 25 TD's while completing 60% of his passes and another 19 TD's. Watching his highlight film immediately explains the accolades. His talent far exceeds that of the opponents. With the amount of hype fellow freshman Terrence Robinson has garnered for a single play (dubbed the "Dream Shake"), one would think Michigan fans would be gushing over the 6'1", 205 lb. Feagin. He consistently outmaneuvers defenders, and even though he doesn't throw the ball much, he's capable of throwing on the run with some zip. He has been hampered by a sore shoulder during fall camp, causing some fans to vocalize hopes for a position switch. When healthy, Feagin could provide a much different look in the backfield than Threet or Sheridan can. Rodriguez has already stated that Feagin is having difficulty with the mental aspect of the college game so far, but if he catches on quickly or if the coaches can put together a package for him to take some snaps each game, run the option, and roll out, he could be very dangerous. He will not be the full-time starter in 2008, but the coaches should see what he can do. If they hold him out and don't see how he can develop, they'll be starting all over again with 2009 commitments Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver (and/or Tate Forcier and/or Eugene Smith). At least for 2008, Feagin is a quarterback. After that it's up in the air.

David Cone (RS sophomore - Greenville, GA)
A class of 2006 recruit, Cone exited high school as a Wing-T passer. And he remains on that level. The Wing-T is primarily a running offense, and the passes from that offense usually come from rollouts or three-step drops. Many coaches alter their offense when they have good talent at quarterback, but apparently Cone's coach stuck with the system. He averaged 9 pass attempts per game as a senior. The 6'7", 214 lb. Cone suits the spread option even less than Threet and Sheridan, and he had a chance to transfer after Rodriguez was hired. However, he's choosing to stick it out at Michigan. Cone is not a legitimate option at quarterback and likely won't see the field unless Michigan is blowing out an opponent. He'll find himself even more buried on the depth chart when Newsome and Beaver arrive in 2009. At least he's getting a good education.