Monday, November 7, 2011

Michigan vs. Iowa Awards

Freshman cornerback Blake Countess tackles touted receiver Marvin McNutt
(image via

Let's see more of this guy on offense . . . Michael Shaw.  If Fitzgerald Toussaint's apparent shoulder injury keeps him out next week, I would like to see Shaw get some playing time in lieu of Toussaint.  Vincent Smith has established himself as a capable third down back and receiver out of the backfield (although he dropped a key pass against the Hawkeyes), but he has also established himself as being incapable of playing the role of a lead back.  Shaw is averaging 6.4 yards a carry and has the ability to break big plays.  Smith hasn't had double-digit carries all season, and it should probably stay that way.

Let's see less of this guy on offense . . . tentative Denard.  The coaches need to rethink their coaching of Robinson and tell him to go all out.  The current iteration of Denard Robinson has him avoiding contact at all costs and searching for the sideline.  For a unit that can't create big plays down the field in the passing game now that Big Ten play has started, Robinson needs to be the player he was last year - the one that almost always looked for a few extra yards here or there, and the one who could look like he was running out of bounds and then turn up the sideline for a huge play.

Let's see more of this guy on defense . . . Thomas Gordon.  Gordon has had a hand in twice as many turnovers as anyone else on the team (1 interception, 3 fumble recoveries, 2 forced fumbles), but he found himself watching from the bench as Troy Woolfolk started at safety on Saturday.  Woolfolk isn't 100% healthy and should have sat out against a cupcake or two earlier in the season to get ready for the Big Ten, but the coaches sent him out there every week, anyway, and now we're seeing the repercussions.  Gordon needs to be on the field, and Woolfolk ought to be subbing in at corner, safety, or both.

Let's see less of this guy on defense . . . Desmond Morgan.  I'm a big fan of Morgan and his potential, but the bottom line is that he's a true freshman playing in the run-heavy Big Ten.  Iowa took advantage of him, and it seemed to be on purpose.  Whether the answer is Brandon Herron, Brandin Hawthorne, or Mike Jones, somebody with a little more experience ought to fill in.  What we're seeing right now is exactly the reason I was hoping that Marell Evans would start at WILL, but unfortunately, Evans is in purgatory right now while the coaches try to sort out some issues with his transfer credits; Evans' career might be done or he might be able to get a sixth year of eligibility.

Play of the game . . . Junior Hemingway's jump-ball catch.  At one point in the fourth quarter (I think), Denard Robinson threw a laser to a well-covered Hemingway.  The receiver - who had dropped two easy passes earlier in the game - went over top of the Iowa defensive back to reel in the ill-advised pass.  It was a typical play for Hemingway, who has saved Robinson's butt on several occasions in the past couple seasons.

MVP of the game . . . Blake Countess.  Perhaps I'm overstating the importance of Countess' performance on Saturday, but he did an excellent job on a very good receiver in the form of Iowa's Marvin McNutt.  Of course, it helps that nobody else had a standout game, but Countess is the team's best corner, in my opinion.  McNutt could have had a huge day, but in large part due to Countess, McNutt either had the ball knocked away or was tackled immediately when Countess was on him.  The freshman cornerback stepped up to the challenge and continues to look like the next great corner in Ann Arbor.


  1. Does anyone know why T. Gordon didn't play more? Is he in some sort of doghouse?

  2. If I had to guess why T Gordon didn't play more, I'd assume it's plain and simple, Troy Woolfolk is a speed demon.

  3. This should be fun. If Fitz is out we the people of the Michigan fanbase can revisit the Smith v. Shaw debate.

    Shaw hasn't had double digit carries all season either...because he was clearly beaten out by Fitz and Shaw. Smith averages 6.3 yards (despite playing tougher competition than Shaw who average 6.4) and has the longer gain on the season (38 yards).

    I have no problem with a rotation replacing Fitz, but Shaw hasn't been able to beat out Smith for 3 years now and under two coaching staffs.

  4. According to a tweet he made, he said it was due to "politics". Doesn't sound like a good situation. We cannot afford to lose another player due to attrition at the position.

    I agree he should be starting at that position. Woolfolk hasn't shown me anything this year. I'm sure a lot of it is due to injury.

  5. Magnus,

    That's #6 Keenan Davis being tackled, not #7 McNutt.

    McNutt still had a rather huge day, what with highest career receptions and all, but I see you're point. I'm mystified as to why J.T. Floyd was assigned to McNutt on a bunch of plays.

    Play of the game should have been Hemingway's catch right at the end, but...clusterfuck.

  6. I love how countess was playing, but McNutt DID have a huge day. I think it was mostly Floyd guarding him, but you have to wonder why the coaches think that's the better matchup.

  7. Guy I want to see more of: Martavious Odoms.

    Especially if Fitz is hurt - it's time to stop forcing the issue with fullbacks, 2 TE sets, etc. Let's see more 3 or 4-wides, shotgun, and let's open things up and score some points instead of trying to grind grind grind.

    Odoms isn't a big play threat, but he blocks well and is a reliable target. I'd rather see him out there than Watson or Hopkins.

    Agree with Gordon on defense. He's looked good at whatever position he's been asked to play, by whatever coordinator's coaching him. Free TG!

  8. Can we get an obligatory "Quit Kicking the Damn Ball out of Bounds on Kickoffs!!!". That will be all thank you.

    On another note......Countess has played pretty well. The only time McNutt really had good plays was when he was being covered by the other corner.......yeah that corner.

  9. It looked like Iowa was deliberately targeting Morgan. It reminded me a lot of what happened to Roh when he was a freshman. Morgan isn't ready for the physicality of B1G play. I'm excited for his future but he's not there yet.


  10. I'm pretty sure the game I watched had McNutt performing at a very high level and abusing our cb's at will.

  11. I'm pretty sure that the game I watched had McNutt performing at a very high level and abusing our corners on the regular.

  12. @ Anonymous 7:18 a.m.

    It sounds like Gordon wasn't playing because Woolfolk is a senior leader...and that's about it. Gordon wasn't suspended or hurt. Hopefully that doesn't last long.

  13. @ Lankwonia 9:55 a.m.

    I'm not interested in getting into another long debate about the running backs, but Vincent Smith beat out Michael Shaw for the third down role...which is exactly what should have happened. Smith still isn't a feature back. The last time Toussaint missed a significant chunk of time (Notre Dame), the coaches just ran Denard 16 times. They don't trust Smith as a feature back, either. And if they're truly going to line up in the I-formation and run power and play action all day long, Smith certainly isn't the answer.

    It might be Rawls or Cox or Hopkins or whatever, but it's not Smith.

  14. @ David 10:55 a.m.

    Thanks for the correction on the caption.

    I still don't really see McNutt's day as being anything spectacular. He had 9 catches for 101 yards and 0 touchdowns, which is a good day, sure, but not great. It seemed like the majority of those yards came against Floyd, and Countess seemed to make the tackle ASAP whenever he was on McNutt.

  15. @ Anonymous 11:59 a.m. and 12:06 p.m.

    In the game you were watching, McNutt abused ONE corner on the regular. That corner was J.T. Floyd.

  16. Hoke has said it over and over again that the team belongs to the seniors. Woolfolk is getting the chance because he's good enough and worked hard enough to get healthy and Gordon is a RS sophomore. That's pretty much my guess. I would rather see Woolfolk at Corner over Floyd at this point, or switching between both CB and FS slots. Gotta be a tough decision for the coaches to bench starters they didn't recruit, though. How do you do that and not look like a total A-hole. Gotta let some of them play bad until it's obvious I guess.

  17. @Thunder

    I guess my point is why "line up in the I-formation and run power and play action all day long" at all. I'm not sure that either Shaw or Smith is good in that situation, because the Michigan offense might not be good in that situation. We've seen enough to know those guys aren't good enough to define your offense around. Who is better in a hypothetical pro-style offense can hopefully remain a hypothetical debate, but I still don't see Shaw or Cox (who I almost brought up earlier jokingly but thought it might be taken as mean-spirited... guess not) as obviously superior and the stats don't support it either.

    Anyway, hopefully it's a moot point as Toussaint returns and rushes for 180 yards next week.

  18. @Thunder

    McNutt didn't score but he played an important role on each of Iowa's 3 TD drives:

    #1. McNutt 20 yard catch for 1st and goal.
    #2. McNutt 14 yard catch
    #3. 3 catches, 2 on 3rd down conversions.

    I don't remember him beating Countess either. Do you have a theory on why the coaches kept putting Floyd on him instead?

  19. @ Lankownia 5:44 p.m.

    Well, of course McNutt played an important role. He's arguably Iowa's best offensive player. But Denard played an important role in all of Michigan's scoring drives, too, and he didn't have a monster game. I don't think a 14-yard catch is worth any significant praise.

    Michigan has a field corner and a boundary corner. I think it was just coincidence (or Iowa's playcalling) that McNutt had his best plays when covered by Floyd. The coaches don't really match up the best corner with the best opposing WR.

  20. A couple of obvious points that need to be addressed:

    1) Our offense is scoring 30 points/game (I haven't done the math, but it was ~35/game before Iowa). We are very poor at passing threat and lead the Big Ten in interceptions (13, 2nd place is 8); we have no star performers. Isn't 30 points/game pretty good?

    2) The coaches could put Woolfolk at CB instead of Floyd. They must have a reason to play Floyd.

  21. guanxi, the problem is in our three most important/toughest games of the year thus far (ND, MSU and Iowa) we a) struggled mightily for 3 quarters until a Denard-fest of inexplicable and unrepeatable proportions led us to victory, b) scored 14 points and c) scored 16 points.

    Iowa's defense isn't even that good and we looked disjointed all day.

    It doesn't bode well for three more good defenses coming up. That's the problem.

    However, hopefully we can win these games 17-14 or so; thankfully, that's realistic considering a) the improvement of our defense and b) the rank mediocrity of IL, Neb and OSU's offenses.

  22. Magnus,
    You say that Desmond Morgan played as a true freshman in a run-heavy B1G, but I actually thought his freshman-ness came out most in pass coverage. Iowa hit its TE on him on simple slants and in routes and Morgan would not even be in the same frame. Thoughts?

  23. @Rob Pollard:

    Whenever you look at a team's average points/game, that includes lower numbers against better defenses and higher numbers against poor defenses. Note Alabama and LSU's totals from this weekend.

  24. @ Beef 11:54 a.m.

    I agree that Morgan was also somewhat weak against the pass, but I thought he was taken advantage of more in the running game. If I remember correctly, there was one touchdown run to Morgan's gap and another long run to his gap.

  25. @ guanxi 10:28 a.m.

    Yeah, 30 points a game is pretty good...but it hasn't been nearly that explosive in the Big Ten. Sure, Michigan beat up on teams like Minnesota, Northwestern, and Purdue, but that's not going to get it done against the good teams on the schedule. Against the two decent teams Michigan has played, MSU and Iowa, we've scored 14 and 16 points, respectively. Our defense is improved, but not enough to win games against Big Ten teams when we're only scoring 15 ppg.