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.