Monday, December 12, 2011

Mailbag: Roster Questions for Next Year

Michael Schofield (#75) celebrates with Devin Gardner

I was going through the could be depth chart for next year and I have a ton of questions for you.
Cox stays or goes?? I'm thinking he doesn't come back
TE is going to be a mess next year. Your thoughts??
Does Schofield move back to OT?
What side will Magnuson, Braden and Williams play?
Is Justice Hayes a WR or RB?
Reading the Jerry Montgomery article scares me about Brink. Can he put on 20 lbs or so and be half effective??
Thanks, love the blog.
Thanks for the e-mail, Randy.  I'll do my best to answer your questions.

My gut tells me that redshirt junior running back Michael Cox will not return in 2012.  He was limited to special teams this season and did not see a single snap on offense.  While I think he has the talent to play at Michigan, he obviously hasn't done what it takes to get on the field more consistently, whether it's in the classroom or on the practice field.  It's somewhat rare that a guy who plays that little as a redshirt junior gets a scholarship for a fifth year.  If Cox gets his degree, though, I would not be surprised to see him transfer to a MAC-level school and play somewhere next season.  The kid has talent, whether people see it or not.

I'm not too worried about Michigan's tight end situation.  An elite tight end can be a great weapon, but you can still have a decent team without a great tight end.  Kevin Koger is not as good as most Michigan fans think he is; he's above average but that's about it.  Michigan will almost surely take a step back at the position, but I don't think it will affect the team greatly.  As a blocker he'll be missed, but he's only caught 21 passes for 235 yards and 4 touchdowns.  That production is roughly par for the course ever since Bennie Joppru suited up in 2002.  With players like Tyler Ecker, Tim Massaquoi, and Carson Butler in between, the performance of Michigan's offense suffered little - and neither Massaquoi or Butler was a great blocker, either.  The combination of fifth year senior Brandon Moore, redshirt sophomore Ricardo Miller, freshman Devin Funchess, and freshman A.J. Williams should be fine.

I do think redshirt sophomore Michael Schofield will move back to offensive tackle in 2012.  Michigan has lots of options on the interior between Ricky Barnum, Rocko Khoury, Patrick Omameh, Jack Miller, Chris Bryant, and Elliott Mealer.  At the tackle positions, it's just Taylor Lewan, Schofield, and freshmen, unless the coaches want to shake things up and move Omameh to tackle.

Incoming freshman Erik Magnuson looks like a future right tackle to me, but based on the available talent, he will probably play on the left side at Michigan.  Ben Braden looks like a prototypical right tackle.  A.J. Williams is being recruited as a tight end, so he'll play on whichever side the formation requires.

Freshman Justice Hayes has been playing running back in practice.  Some insiders suggest that he will end up at slot receiver sometime in the future.  Personally, I have never been high on Hayes as a running back.  He's a slightly bigger version of Vincent Smith, someone who can catch passes and do okay when put in open space.

Can Nathan Brink put on 20 lbs.?  Sure.  That's not an unbelievable amount of weight to add in an off-season.  Craig Roh has put on about 20 pounds in each of the past two off-seasons.  Can Brink be effective once he puts on that weight?  I don't know.  He has been manhandled this year, and it's hard to predict good things when he's been pushed backward with consistency.  I hope he can turn into all the good things that Jerry Montgomery and Greg Mattison have predicted for him, but that's a prediction I'm not willing to make.


  1. What do you think happens with the linebackers? Demens didn't have the year many thought or were hoping,Cam Gordon seems to be in the same boat. Is it possible that Morgan moves to Demens position then Gordon is brought in for a little more speed?

  2. @ Worm 8:48 a.m.

    I don't think much is going to change with the linebackers. Demens wasn't great early in the season, but started improving about halfway through. He didn't have a great game against OSU, but sometimes guys have bad games. His job is probably not in danger.

    Cam Gordon is too tall and inexperienced to play WILL. He's an outside linebacker, and if he's stuck behind Ryan, he's stuck behind Ryan. He was hurt early in the season and lost out on some valuable adjustment time, so we'll see what happens next season. I don't foresee a position change for him...unless he wants to help fill the void at tight end.

  3. My understanding of a TE is that they are somewhat of a O-linesman who can block and catch. In other words, he needs to have size, strength and bulk [not necessarily an OT], however, he must have reasonable strength and the blocking skills. "If" I am correct on that part, then my question regarding Ricardo Miller being moved to TE; why wasn't he left to be a big WR and do what big WR's do? What is going on with him?

  4. @ Anonymous 9:49 a.m.

    Well, Miller isn't very fast. You could see, especially in film from his senior season at Ann Arbor Pioneer, that Miller isn't a fluid athlete. I don't know that he would have the speed to be successful at WR, even as a big, possession WR.

    From what I understand, Miller is playing H-back. Koger was both the in-line and move guy this past season (at least in single tight end sets), but next year that might change. You might see Miller as the H-back and Moore as the in-line blocker, with some Devin Funchess and A.J. Williams mixed in there, too.

  5. Concerning TE: Does anyone have any idea why Pharaoh Brown's twitter still says "MICHIGAN BOUND FOLLOW ME"?

    Is it possible there is something he and the coaches know that we don't?

  6. With Cox the decision comes down to - Would you rather bring back a scholarship special teams player or reward a walk-on?

    Barnum and Mealer can both play tackle. The Omameh talk is weird since Barnum actually practiced at tackle and Omameh is a 3-year starter at guard. The bigger issue on OL is that Barnum can't ever stay healthy. So, it's not just a matter of finding a 5th starter among the interior linemen, but finding some stability. My guess: Bryant emerges as a starter at OG, Barnum swaps to center and battles (injuries or teammates) for the job all year.

    I think OL will remain a strength in 2012 but '13 is a big worry.

    "a slightly bigger version of Vincent Smith" - Yes Please!


  7. @Lankownia,

    Yeah the '13 OL looks like it could be really interesting. There's a lot of potential there if just a couple of the guys coming in next year (who will be sophomores or redshirt freshmen by then). We could have Lewan and Schofield bookending Bryant, Miller, and Kalis. With Magnuson and whoever else among the 5/6 OLs from that class steps up. That would be a lot of talent on the line, though young in spots.

    Worst case scenario, of course, is that either of the established guys (Lewan and Schofield) get hurt and no one else develops quickly enough. It's a little scary having that many unknowns, but I'm trusting the coaches' recruiting decisions and having faith that the young guys will come along quickly.

  8. Lank,

    The contrast between your love affair with Vincent Smith and Magnus' "meh" snort is hilarious.

    The guy had a handful of nice blitz pickups in the past couple of games, but he wasn't missed otherwise. I really don't understand your affection.

  9. Whoever the anon-lankownia is certainly has some bold, predictions.

    And by bold I mean stupid.

    We have Barnum and Omameh coming back, but Lankownia has predicted Bryant takes over a starting OG spot, as a redshirt freshman, over two seniors.

    Reward a walk-on, or give a special teamer a scholarship. How about use that scholarship to fill out the current recruiting class we are building?

    Khoury will probably be the center next year, with Miller as his back up. He has a lot of valuable center experience from when Molk went down, so hopefully he'll be fine. Lewan, Omameh, Khoury, Barnum, and Schofield, with Bryant Miller Mealer providing depth. Hopefully Kalis could contribute if needed as well.

  10. David,

    It boils down to viewing the RB position as being about more than what you do with the ball in your hands.

    I think Touss is clearly the best RB on the team, but Smith is clearly the second best.

    It wasn't 'a handful of blitz pickups' but his overall blocking, catching, and reliability. Mgoblog highlighted some pass-protection errors that Touss made that demonstrated how Smith was missed.

    For people with a significant number of carries, he was .1 yards off having the best RB ypc in 2009 and had the best in 2011. In 2010, the difference between him and Mike Shaw boiled down to opponent difficulty. He's been as productive as anyone, even in his weakest area - running with the ball.

    Smith's been the best of a weak group of backs in the last several years. He's undersized and not that talented, but makes the most of what he has. I think he's been scape-goated by fans and I don't really understand it.

    Thunder's said a lot more than 'meh'. It's been a lot of 'let's see less of this guy' for the last few years.

  11. @Anon

    There's been a few people insulting me under the anonymous tag lately. That's fine, but it seems pretty ridiculous to call me out if you dont identify yourself. Not like there's any accountability to a online handle but at least my comments and predictions can be referenced as my own. The stupid things posted under the anonymous tag are innumerable.

    Furthermore, you're not paying attention. I didn't say Barnum would get beat out, I said he would move to center. The coaching staff has reportedly not been real happy with Khoury. Miller may beat him out, or Bryant or Kalis may prove superior options - which is what I predict will spur Barnums move to OC.

    The coaches will fill the recruiting class to 28. They won't have 85 recruited scholarship players come fall. Knowing that, they'll either invite back 5th year guys who don't play much or give the scholarships to walk-ons.