Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Countdown to Kickoff: Day 3

2011 Final Countdown

Hooray!  It's finally over.  The countdown was a lot of fun to do, but it took a ton of time.  That's 89 consecutive days of player profiles.  Now that football season has started, it took some serious devotion to churn out these last several profiles between practice, work, and plain old real life.  I hope you enjoyed it.  In order to celebrate, here's a picture of a hot girl named Ari Brugh:

Ari Brugh

Here's the list all in one place, so you can see where each player ranks and debate the placement if you'd like . . . and we'll do it all over again next year.
  1. Mike Martin, DT
  2. Denard Robinson, QB
  3. Kenny Demens, LB
  4. Taylor Lewan, OT
  5. David Molk, C
  6. Kevin Koger, TE
  7. Patrick Omameh, OG
  8. Junior Hemingway, WR
  9. Troy Woolfolk, CB
  10. Ryan Van Bergen, DE
  11. Roy Roundtree, WR
  12. Carvin Johnson, S
  13. Jordan Kovacs, S
  14. Will Hagerup, P
  15. William Campbell, DT
  16. Ricky Barnum, OG
  17. Craig Roh, DE
  18. Martavious Odoms, WR
  19. Cameron Gordon, LB
  20. Mark Huyge, OT
  21. Drew Dileo, WR
  22. Courtney Avery, CB
  23. Jibreel Black, DE
  24. Michael Cox, RB
  25. Devin Gardner, QB
  26. Marell Evans, LB
  27. Jake Ryan, LB
  28. Matt Wile, K
  29. Stephen Hopkins, RB
  30. Michael Shaw, RB
  31. Marvin Robinson, S
  32. Quinton Washington, DT
  33. Mike Jones, LB
  34. John McColgan, FB
  35. Darryl Stonum, WR
  36. Thomas Gordon, S
  37. J.T. Floyd, CB
  38. Rocko Khoury, OG
  39. Tom Pomarico, LS
  40. Jerald Robinson, WR
  41. Je'Ron Stokes, WR
  42. Michael Schofield, OT
  43. Vincent Smith, RB
  44. Brandon Moore, TE
  45. Kelvin Grady, WR
  46. J.B. Fitzgerald, LB
  47. Richard Ash, DT
  48. Jeremy Jackson, WR
  49. Ricardo Miller, TE
  50. Seth Broekhuizen, K
  51. Jeremy Gallon, WR
  52. Josh Furman, S
  53. Fitzgerald Toussaint, RB
  54. Will Heininger, DE
  55. Steve Watson, TE
  56. Thomas Rawls, RB
  57. Ken Wilkins, DE
  58. Elliott Mealer, OG
  59. Blake Countess, CB
  60. Brandon Herron, LB
  61. Tony Anderson, CB
  62. Brandin Hawthorne, LB
  63. Terrence Robinson, WR
  64. Kellen Jones, LB
  65. Tamani Carter, S
  66. Raymon Taylor, CB
  67. Erik Gunderson, OT
  68. Greg Brown, CB
  69. Christian Pace, C/G
  70. Jared Van Slyke, S
  71. Terrence Talbott, CB
  72. Isaiah Bell, LB
  73. Antonio Poole, LB
  74. Terry Talbott, DT
  75. Jordan Paskorz, LB
  76. Brendan Gibbons, K
  77. Teric Jones, RB
  78. Desmond Morgan, LB
  79. Delonte Hollowell, CB
  80. Frank Clark, LB
  81. Brennen Beyer, DE
  82. Chris Barnett, TE
  83. Chris Bryant, OG
  84. Russell Bellomy, QB
  85. Chris Rock, DE
  86. Justice Hayes, RB
  87. Keith Heitzman, DE
  88. Tony Posada, OG
  89. Jack Miller, C

New Rivals 250 Released for 2012

James Ross is the #158 prospect in the nation

The new Rivals 250 was released on Tuesday.

Here's what the rankings looked like back in mid-May.

Since then, here's what happened for Michigan recruits:

- James Ross dropped from #143 to #158

- Joe Bolden dropped from #167 to #184

- Terry Richardson dropped from #195 to #214

- Tom Strobel dropped from #231 to outside the top 250

The following players have been offered by Michigan:

101. Keith Brown - LB - Florida (Miami)
103. Dillon Lee - LB - Georgia (Alabama)
104. Zeke Pike - QB - Kentucky (Auburn)
106. Greg McMullen - DE - Ohio (Nebraska)
111. JaQuay Williams - WR - Georgia (Auburn)
113. Vince Biegel - LB - Wisconsin (Wisconsin)
118. Jordan Payton - WR - California
120. Faith Ekakitie - DE - Illinois
121. Peter Jinkens - LB - Texas (Texas)
122. Max Tuerk - OT - California (USC)
125. LaDarrell McNeil - S - Texas (Tennessee)
127. Drae Bowles - WR - Tennessee (Tennessee)
129. Elijah Shumate - S - New Jersey
132. Ty Darlington - C - Florida (Oklahoma)
141. Bri'onte Dunn - RB - Ohio (Ohio State)
143. Raphael Kirby - LB - Georgia (Miami)
145. Dalvin Tomlinson - DT - Georgia
146. Evan Boehm - OG - Missouri (Missouri)
148. Jake Rodrigues - QB - California (Oregon)
149. Aaron Burbridge - WR - Michigan (Michigan State)
151. Paul Thurston - OT - Colorado (Nebraska)
154. Danny O'Brien - DT - Michigan
155. Jaleel Johnson - DT - Illinois (Iowa)
158. James Ross - LB - Michigan (Michigan)
161. Devonte Fields - DE - Texas (TCU)
162. Michael Starts - DE - Texas (Texas Tech)
163. Dwayne Stanford - WR - Ohio
165. Deontay McManus - WR - Maryland (West Virginia)
168. Kyle Dodson - OG - Ohio (Wisconsin)
169. Dan Voltz - OT - Illinois (Wisconsin)
170. Kwon Alexander - LB - Alabama
172. Brent Wilkerson - DE - Maryland (Penn State)
173. Cyrus Jones - CB - Maryland
174. Connor Brewer - QB - Arizona (Texas)
175. Matt Jones - RB - Florida (Florida)
180. Sean Price - TE - Florida (South Florida)
183. Brock Stadnik - OT - North Carolina (South Carolina)
184. Joe Bolden - LB - Ohio (Michigan)
188. Jonathan Williams - RB - Texas (Missouri)
196. Michael Moore - DE - Maryland (Virginia)
197. Derek Edinburgh - OT - Louisiana (LSU)
198. Adam Bisnowaty - OT - Pennsylvania
203. Ken Ekanem - DE - Virginia
204. Armani Reeves - CB - Massachusetts (Penn State)
205. Martin Aiken - DE - South Carolina (Clemson)
206. Shane Callahan - OT - Colorado
207. Ryan Watson - DE - Maryland
209. Jarontay Jones - DE - Georgia (Virginia Tech)
211. Amara Darboh - WR - Iowa
212. Latroy Pittman - WR - Florida (Florida)
214. Terry Richardson - CB - Michigan (Michigan)
226. Jordan Diamond - OT - Illinois
227. Jody Fuller - WR - North Carolina (South Carolina)
229. Leonte Carroo - WR - New Jersey (Rutgers)
230. Warren Ball - RB - Ohio (Ohio State)
233. Reginald Davis - WR - Texas (Texas Tech)
234. Troy Hinds - DE - Utah (BYU)
240. I'Tavius Mathers - RB - Tennessee (Mississippi)
246. Darius Powe - WR - California

Thoughts on the Initial Depth Chart

Surprise, he's starting at quarterback.

The initial depth chart was released for Michigan's game against Western Michigan.  Here's the depth chart and a few thoughts:

QB: Denard Robinson, Devin Gardner

TB: Michael Shaw OR Fitzgerald Toussaint, Vincent Smith, Stephen Hopkins
Shaw is going to be good if he stays healthy.  Just wait.  Lots of people think he was a better fit for the spread just because he was recruited by Rich Rodriguez, but he was actually a poor fit for the spread because he doesn't have great vision.  He's a one-cut-and-go back.  This is the offense in which he belongs.  Toussaint's another kid with great potential and lots of injuries.  If he stays healthy, this is a nice one-two punch.  Smith will be a good third down back.

FB: John McColgan, Steve Watson
There's, like, no one else.

WR1: Junior Hemingway, Kelvin Grady, Jeremy Jackson
WR2: Roy Roundtree, Jeremy Gallon, Martavious Odoms

I'm a little surprised that Odoms is third on the depth chart, but his shoulder and wrist injuries probably have something to do with it.  I'm expecting Gallon to bust out, so hopefully that does indeed happen.

TE: Kevin Koger, Brandon Moore, Steve Watson

LT: Taylor Lewan, Michael Schofield
LG: Ricky Barnum, Elliott Mealer
C: David Molk, Rocko Khoury
RG: Patrick Omameh, Elliott Mealer
RT: Mark Huyge, Michael Schofield
Exactly as expected, although Mealer's a bit of a surprise there.  My gut tells me that Khoury would replace either guard if there were an injury at either spot and Molk were still healthy.

5-TECH: Will Heininger, Nathan Brink
Walk-ons are a bit scary.

1-TECH: Mike Martin, William Campbell
3-TECH: Ryan Van Bergen, Quinton Washington
These two positions are largely interchangeable, although I doubt we'll see Van Bergen playing much nose tackle.  I'm a little surprised that Campbell won't start, but Van Bergen should be fine at DT instead of DE.  He played well there in 2009 and ended up with 5 sacks.

WDE: Craig Roh, Jibreel Black, Frank Clark
The first two were expected.  I'm a little surprised that Clark is on the depth chart, but . . . well . . . there's not much depth on the defensive line.  Hopefully he's a situational pass rusher and not much more.  He won't hold up against the run at only 228 lbs.

SAM: Cameron Gordon, Jake Ryan, Brennen Beyer
I sure hope Beyer stays off the field this year and can redshirt.  Gordon and Ryan are going to be solid.

MIKE: Kenny Demens, J.B. Fitzgerald, Marell Evans
Demens is going to be a stud.  There's actually a little bit of depth here.  The two backups are steps down from Demens, but they're not bad players.

WILL: Mike Jones, Brandon Herron, Brandin Hawthorne OR Desmond Morgan
I was leery of Jones starting at WILL since he was only 207 lbs. the last time we saw him, but he's up to 224 lbs. now.  I don't think he's a playmaker, but he had a decent spring game.  Herron and Hawthorne won't scare anyone.  Morgan's going to be a player someday.

CB1: Troy Woolfolk, Blake Countess, Greg Brown
CB2: Courtney Avery OR J.T. Floyd, Tony Anderson
Hopefully it's Woolfolk and Avery first.  Yippee for Countess, who looks like he'll be good for the next few years.  Floyd might be a solid slot corner, but I'm scared if he starts.  All things being equal, start the young guy.

SS: Jordan Kovacs, Marvin Robinson
(Edit: Never mind.)
FS: Thomas Gordon, Carvin Johnson
Gordon kind of came out of nowhere.  He was playing the nickel back position in the spring, but it sounds like he really turned it on over the summer.  He should have been starting over Johnson last year, anyway, so it seems like things have been righted here.  Johnson has apparently been boom-or-bust back there, but both of these guys should be solid players in the next couple years.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Countdown to Kickoff: Day 4

Mike Martin Press Conference: August 29, 2011

Kevin Koger Press Conference: August 29, 2011

David Molk Press Conference: August 29, 2011

Brady Hoke Press Conference: August 29, 2011

New Rivals 100 Released

Kyle Kalis is Michigan's top rated recruit at #22 overall

The new Rivals 100 has been released for the class of 2012, and there have been some minor shakeups and one big leap.

Here's what it looked like back in May . . .

. . . and some of the changes for Michigan commits:

- Kyle Kalis dropped from #18 to #22

- Erik Magnuson dropped from #34 to #44

- Ondre Pipkins jumped from #246 to #53

- Royce Jenkins-Stone dropped from #87 to #97

And if you're interested in how it looks for Michigan offerees altogether, take a look at the list below:

1. Dorial Green-Beckham - WR - Missouri
2. Mario Edwards - DE - Texas (Florida State)
3. D.J. Humphries - OT - North Carolina (Florida)
4. Eddie Goldman - DT - Washington, D.C.
5. Darius Hamilton - DE - New Jersey
8. Stefon Diggs - WR - Maryland
9. John Theus - OT - Florida (Georgia)
10. Ellis McCarthy - DT - California
11. Nelson Agholor - S - Florida
15. Gunner Kiel - QB - Indiana (Indiana)
16. Noah Spence - DE - Pennsylvania
18. Andrus Peat - OT - Arizona
21. Aziz Shittu - DT - California

22. Kyle Kalis - OG - Ohio (Michigan)
24. Joshua Garnett - OG - Washington
26. Arik Armstead - DE - California (USC)
29. Kyle Murphy - OT - California
36. Jordan Simmons - OG - California
38. Zach Banner - OT - Washington
40. Tommy Schutt - DT - Illinois (Penn State)
43. Durron Neal - WR - Missouri (Oklahoma)
44. Erik Magnuson - OT - California (Michigan)
47. Jonathan Taylor - DT - Georgia (Georgia)
48. Deon Bush - CB - Florida
49. Devin Fuller - QB - New Jersey
50. Avery Young - OT - Florida
51. Yuri Wright - CB - New Jersey
52. Jabari Ruffin - LB - California (USC)
53. Ondre Pipkins - DT - Missouri (Michigan)
55. Kent Taylor - TE - Florida
57. Geno Smith - CB - Georgia (Alabama)
59. Zach Kline - QB - California (Cal)
60. Avery Johnson - WR - Florida (LSU)
61. Ifeadi Odenigbo - DE - Ohio
62. Marcus Maye - S - Florida (Florida)
63. Tee Shepard - CB - California (Notre Dame)
64. Kendall Sanders - CB - Texas (Oklahoma State)
65. Keith Marshall - RB - North Carolina
66. Jordan Jenkins - DE - Georgia (Georgia)
68. Eli Harold - DE - Virginia (Virginia)
71. Tyriq McCord - DE - Florida
74. Adolphus Washington - DE - Ohio
77. Ronald Darby - CB - Maryland (Notre Dame)
78. Jarron Jones - DT - New York
79. Chris Muller - OT - Pennsylvania (Rutgers)
80. Se'von Pittman - DE - Ohio (Michigan State)
84. D.J. Foster - CB - Arizona
85. Brian Poole - CB - Florida (Florida)
89. John Michael McGee - OG - Texas (Oklahoma)
90. Taylor McNamara - TE - California (Arizona)
95. Derrick Woods - WR - California
97. Royce Jenkins-Stone - LB - Michigan (Michigan)
98. Dominique Wheeler - WR - Texas (Texas Tech)
100. Bryce Treggs - WR - California (California)

2011 Countdown: #1 Mike Martin

Mike Martin
Name: Mike Martin
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 304 lbs.
High school: Catholic Central High School in Redford, MI
Position: Nose tackle
Class: Senior
Jersey number: #68
Last year: I ranked Martin #4 and said he would have 60 tackles and 4 sacks.  He had 37 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks.

As you can tell by my ranking of Martin, he has a chance to be a big-time player for Michigan this season.  Of course, if he struggles with injuries like he did last season, this defense could go down the tubes.  Martin started 12 out of 13 games last season, but he was hampered by ankle injuries for the majority of the season, spraining both of them at different times.  He still managed to put up decent numbers for a nose tackle and be named Second Team All-Big Ten, but it wasn't quite the performance that most expected.  He had 51 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss back in 2009, so it was a step back for the then-junior.

Part of that can be attributed to the 3-3-5 that was ineptly installed by Rich Rodriguez and Greg Robinson.  The defense is designed so that eight men are in the box and any (or all) of them could rush the passer at any given point.  That would confuse offensive linemen and quarterbacks, thus freeing up any number of defenders to make plays.  Unfortunately for the Wolverines, Robinson blitzed only occasionally and allowed opposing offensive lines to devote at least two blockers to Martin on every play.  So despite having a defensive tackle who has been All-Big Ten worthy for the past two seasons, Michigan's coaches have seen his sack totals remain steady at 2, 2, and last season . . . 2.5.  Meanwhile, Michigan's sack totals have dropped steadily since 2006 from 43 to 33 to 29 to 22 to a low of 18 in 2010.  In other words, this team was getting almost 3.5 sacks a game five years ago . . . and only got 1.5 per game last season.  Remember when we all thought Ron English was a bad coordinator?

Anyway, Michigan finally has another coach (well, coaches) who understands the importance of creating havoc with the defensive line, and they plan to move their best lineman around to give him a chance to make plays.  In the spring and during August practices, Martin has been sliding all around the front seven, playing nose tackle, defensive tackle, defensive end, and outside linebacker.  There's even a clip of him playing outside linebacker, picking off Denard Robinson, and taking it to the house.  This is good.  Not because Denard Robinson is throwing picks to 300-pound linemen, but because Michigan's defensive coaches have the creativity and confidence to throw wrinkles at quarterbacks that they don't expect.

Martin ranks this highly on the list because there's nobody else on the team like him.  Aside from having a depleted defensive line from a numbers standpoint, the rest of Michigan's defensive tackles are relatively stationary, with 319 lb. William Campbell, former offensive guard Quinton Washington, and redshirt freshman heavyweight Richard Ash.  When Martin went down in the Iowa game last season, his replacement, Adam Patterson, got pushed diagonally for about 10 yards while the Hawkeye running back ran in the opposite direction.  I can't say that I've ever seen a Michigan defensive lineman get handled so easily.  With unproven linebackers and solid-but-unspectacular defensive backs, Michigan's defensive line must  be stellar this season.  If they struggle to hold at the point of attack, bad things will happen.  After being increasingly beaten, battered, and embarrassed, this defense needs a shot of confidence.  Hopefully Martin can help with that.

Prediction: 50 tackles, 4.5 sacks; First Team All-Big Ten

Monday, August 29, 2011

Countdown to Kickoff: Day 5

2011 Countdown: #2 Denard Robinson

Denard Robinson (#16) targets Roy Roundtree
Name: Denard Robinson
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 193 lbs.
High school: Deerfield Beach High School in Deerfield Beach, FL
Position: Quarterback
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #16
Last year: I ranked Robinson #5, said he would be the backup quarterback, and pegged him for 800 yards rushing, 900 yards passing, and 18 total touchdowns.  Boy, was I wrong.  He started every game, went 182/291 passing for 2,570 yards, and had 18 passing touchdowns with 11 interceptions.  He also rushed for 1,702 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Name a record and he set it, name an award committee and they voted him the winner.  Robinson set multiple Michigan records, including total yardage, and rushed for more yards than any quarterback in NCAA history.  He also was named team MVP, Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Big Ten MVP, All-American, my high school's homecoming king, American Idol, and America's Next Top Model.  It was a pretty good year.

Rather than trying to summarize what he did in words, just take a look at Robinson's weekly box scores:

UConn: 19/22 passing, 186 yards, 1 touchdown; 29 carries, 197 yards, 1 touchdown
Notre Dame: 24/40 passing, 244 yards, 1 touchdown; 28 carries, 258 yards, 2 touchdowns
UMass: 10/14 passing, 241 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception; 17 carries, 104 yards, 1 touchdown
BGSU: 4/4 passing, 60 yards; 5 carries, 129 yards, 2 touchdowns
Indiana: 10/16 passing, 277 yards, 3 touchdowns; 19 carries, 217 yards, 2 touchdowns
MSU: 17/29 passing, 215 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions; 21 carries, 86 yards, 1 touchdown
Iowa: 13/18 passing, 96 yards, 1 touchdowns, 1 interception; 18 carries, 105 yards
PSU: 11/23 passing, 190 yards, 1 touchdown; 27 carries, 191 yards, 3 touchdowns
Illinois: 10/20 passing, 305 yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions; 19 carries, 62 yards
Purdue: 13/21 passing, 176 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions; 22 carries, 68 yards
Wisconsin: 16/25 passing, 239 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception; 22 carries, 121 yards, 2 touchdowns
Ohio State: 8/18 passing, 87 yards; 18 carries, 105 yards
Mississippi State: 27/41 passing, 254 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception; 11 carries, 59 yards

He had nine 100-yard rushing games and seven 200-yard passing games.  He averaged 6.6 yards per carry, which is an outstanding average when one considers that Michigan's running backs were mostly average and rarely a threat to do anything but get injured.

The coaching change is bound to take away some of Robinson's impressive stats.  Including yours truly, many people were concerned that giving that ball to a 6'0", 190 lb. kid twenty times a game was a bad idea . . . especially when the season's outcome not only relies on that kid's legs, but also his shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, and fingers.  Robinson missed time in several games last season due to injury, and the new coaching staff won't put him at risk that often.  That also means cutting into his rushing statistics, but with an improved defensive philosophy and - hopefully - a new commitment to getting production from the running backs, Robinson should be a little healthier throughout the year.

When Brady Hoke was hired back in January, he emphasized a commitment to the "power run" which is a play usually designed to be run from the I-formation.  I expect Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges to run a good deal of power from the I-formation, and that means a handful of other plays out of the "I" as well.  However, I think Hoke and Borges will realize that Robinson works best from the shotgun, where he can see the field a little more clearly and read running and passing lanes a little more easily.  After the first few games, the coaches ought to be able to figure out their "bread and butter" plays and adjust their offensive philosophy from there.  I expect to see several designed quarterback runs each game, along with a light dose of zone read option plays, bootlegs, and bubble screens.

Not to be Debbie Downer, but I doubt that the country will see such an explosive offense as last season.  Robinson will make his fair share of nice runs - designed or not - and his running ability will open up some big plays in the passing game, too.  But I still have my doubts about Robinson as a passer.  He's not extremely accurate and he won't be able to rely on coaches making playcall adjustments from the sideline in the same no-huddle manner as we've seen from Michigan, Northwestern, and Oregon in recent years.  Last season Robinson struggled to throw an accurate deep ball consistently, and even some of his short throws (bubble screens, hitches, etc.) were inaccurate.  There were several instances where guys like Darryl Stonum and Junior Hemingway openly showed their frustration when short passes were thrown at their feet and they couldn't do what that pass aims to do, which is allow for yards after the catch.  It will no doubt be an exciting season for Robinson and Michigan fans, but I'm not expecting another Heisman campaign.

Prediction: 2,700 yards passing and 900 yards rushing, 28 total touchdowns; First Team All-Big Ten

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Recruit Tracker

Jeremy Clark (#2) had a punt return for a touchdown on Friday night.

Blake Bars
of Montgomery Bell Academy lost against Trninity High 66-21.

Joe Bolden played this afternoon on ESPN and won by a score of 17-7 over Cocoa.  He had 12 tackles and a 38-yard pass on a fake punt.  He also averaged 36.8 yards punting the ball.

Ben Braden's
team the Rockford Rams were defeated by the Lowell Red Arrows 28-7.

Pharaoh Brown's team the Brush Arc's were defeated by Eastlake North 51-20.  Brown had 2 receptions.

Jeremy Clark and North Hopkins defeated Graves County by a score of 42-13.  Clark had an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown to go along with 12 tackles and 1 interception.

Devin Funchess had 3 receptions for 70 yards, plus an interception, in a 43-7 victory over Detroit Cass Tech.

Allen Gant played on both sides of the ball as his team the Southview Cougars won 26-24 over the St. Francis de Sales Knights at The Glassbowl, which is home to the Toledo Rockets.  He had 6 tackles, 1 pass breakup, 1 carry for 6 yards, and 1 reception for 5 yards.

Matt Godin of Detroit Catholic Central registered two tackles before sitting out the second half due to a concussion. DCC won 42-0 over Dearborn Fordson.

Sione Houma's team the Highland Rams won 41-7 over the Cedar Reds.

Royce Jenkins-Stone had 4 tackles to go along with 2 receptions for 3 yards and 5 carries for 4 yards in a 43-7 loss to Farmington Hills Harrison.

Kyle Kalis of the 2010 Division 1 state champion Lakewood-St. Edward's Eagles did not play in a 17-14 victory over Cleveland Glenville.  He sat out the game with a knee injury suffered in last week's scrimmage.

Erik Magnuson's team the La Costa Canyon Mavericks open next week.

Shane Morris of Warren De La Salle went 12/15 for 233 yards and 1 touchdown. His team beat Ann Arbor Pioneer 43-28.

Mario Ojemudia had 4 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 fumble recovery, 1/2 a sack, and 6 quarterback hurries in a 43-7 win over Detroit Cass Tech.

Ondre Pipkins' of the Park Hill Trojans won 13-7 over Liberty.  Pipkins had 8 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 forced fumbles.

Terry Richardson had 1 tackle and 1 pass breakup in a 46-6 loss to Farmington Hills Harrison.  He also returned 3 kicks for 70 yards and had 1 reception for 11 yards.

Kaleb Ringer was held out of yesterday's contest against Hamilton due to a broken hand.

James Ross of Orchard Lake St. Mary's reportedly did a lot of stretching, bike riding and warm-ups while his team took care of Grand Rapids West Catholic 35-0.  Ross had 7 tackles and 2 tackles for loss.

Anthony Standifer's Crete-Monee team defeated T.F. South by a score of 32-8.

Tom Strobel had 5 tackles and 2 quarterback hurries in a 49-21 victory over Euclid.

Jarrod Wilson had 6.5 tackles in a 31-6 loss to Massillon Washington.

Christopher Wormley's team the Whitmer Panthers defeated the Start Spartans 42-6.  Wormley had 2 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 quarterback hurry.

Maize 'n' Brew: August 27, 2011 Recruiting Update

Kelly Karloff
The weekly recruiting update is up over at Maize 'n' Brew.

You're welcome for the picture.

Countdown to Kickoff: Day 6

2011 Countdown: #3 Kenny Demens

Kenny Demens
Name: Kenny Demens
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 248 lbs.
High school: Detroit Country Day School in Oak Park, MI
Position: Middle linebacker
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #25
Last year: I ranked Demens #35 and said he'd be the backup MIKE.  He started the final seven games of the year and finished with 82 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and 1 pass breakup.

Demens was a pleasant surprise in 2010.  After much practice hype, he actually lived up to it . . . belatedly.  Despite a frustrating lack of production and progression from a returning starter in Obi Ezeh, Demens sat on the bench for the first several games and watched Ezeh give away all kinds of yardage.  He stepped into the starting lineup against Iowa in the seventh game of the season and never looked back, making 71 tackles in his seven starts (Ezeh had 42 tackles in his 7 starts).  He was a hard-hitting, run-stuffing tackling machine who made every Michigan fan giddy, unless it was a pass.  The 248 pounder, who has put on four lbs. since last season, seemed a little bit stiff and unaware in pass coverage, things which should improve with experience.

Demens will no longer have to battle an undeserving upperclassman for the starting middle linebacker job, which means he looks like the de facto starter at MIKE.  As a 4-3 middle linebacker with the weakside end and the strongside linebacker funneling running backs to the middle of the field, Demens should put up some excellent numbers this fall.  Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, previously of the Baltimore Ravens, had a Pro Bowl middle linebacker in the form of Ray Lewis.  If you take a look at measurements of both Demens and Lewis, both play the same position, both are 6'1", and they're within two pounds of each other (Lewis is 250).  Certainly I'm not saying that Demens is the second coming of Ray Lewis, but Demens flashed the ability to stop the run like the former Miami Hurricane by playing downhill and delivering a solid blow to the ballcarrier when he arrived.  For the first time in a few years, Wolverines fans have a reason to be optimistic about their middle linebacker.

Prediction: Starting middle linebacker; 100 tackles

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Countdown to Kickoff: Day 7

The Wolverine Blog: An Interview with Yours Truly

Jamie O'Brien

The new editor of The Wolverine Blog, Jeff Contizano, made the impeccable decision to interview me about Michigan's upcoming season.  Head on over to TWB to discover my bulletproof predictions for the Wolverines.

Recruit Tracker: Kaleb Ringer

Kaleb Ringer

August 27, 2011: Kaleb Ringer will miss today's season opener against Hamilton due to a broken hand.

2011 Countdown: #4 Taylor Lewan

Taylor Lewan (#77) protects Denard Robinson
(image via
Name: Taylor Lewan
Height: 6'8"
Weight: 302 lbs.
High school: Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, AZ
Position: Offensive tackle
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #77
Last year: I ranked Lewan #28 and said he would be a spot starter at left tackle.  He started 9 games at left tackle.

Lewan was one of the most exciting players to watch on the football field in 2010.  I had been anticipating his debut since he was recruited, but his slight frame (he was listed at only 283 lbs. last season) made it seem as if he was still a year or two away from being ready for Big Ten football.  When he got on the field, though, it was clear that he belonged.  For the first time in the Rich Rodriguez era, it seemed that an offensive tackle was on the field because he was good and not just because there weren't any other options.  Between driving linemen and linebackers downfield, Lewan did struggle with false starts that occurred a bit too frequently; however, Lewan gave Michigan fans high hopes for what might be coming in the next few seasons.

Now that part-time starter Perry Dorrestein has graduated, Lewan's importance to the team has increased dramatically.  The starter on the opposite side looks like it will be Mark Huyge, a serviceable but nondescript lineman.  After that the depth chart goes to redshirt sophomore Michael Schofield, who has barely played, and then a bunch of walk-ons.  With fragile superstar quarterback Denard Robinson setting up in the pocket, it's imperative that Lewan and Co. keep him healthy.  Big #77 put on approximately 20 lbs. in the offseason and while he probably doesn't have the name recognition or team profile to warrant many accolades this season, I wouldn't be surprised to see him contend for All-America honors in the years to come.

Prediction: Starting left tackle; Second Team All-Big Ten

Friday, August 26, 2011

Countdown to Kickoff: Day 8

2011 Countdown: #5 David Molk

David Molk (#50) and Taylor Lewan
(image via

Name: David Molk
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 286 lbs.
High school: Lemont High School in Lemont Township, IL
Position: Center
Class: Redshirt senior
Jersey number: #50
Last year: I ranked Molk #1 and said he would be the starting center.  He started every game at center.

I hate to think about how bad Michigan could have been over the past three seasons if Lloyd Carr hadn't recruited Molk to Ann Arbor back in 2007.  Molk has started since his redshirt freshman season in 2008, and the only things that have beaten him have been foot and knee injuries suffered in 2009 that cost him eight games.  Otherwise, he was a rock for the zone running system implemented by Rich Rodriguez starting in '08. Molk has often been mentioned as the strongest offensive lineman on the team; that title was briefly stolen by Quinton Washington, who has since moved to defensive tackle.  Regardless, Molk complemented that strength with enough intelligence and quickness to be recognized as a first team All-Big Ten center by the conference's coaches and was a finalist for the Rimington Award, which is given to the nation's top center.

Molk isn't necessarily the ideal center for the power running game that new head coach Brady Hoke wants to implement at Michigan (think of someone who's 6'4", 310 lbs.), but you can bet that Hoke will enjoy Molk's presence while he's giving it one last hurrah for the Maize and Blue.  His strength will prevent him from being a detriment on power plays, and his quickness will continue to be an asset while offensive coordinator Al Borges looks to be in the early stages of phasing out the heavy reliance on the zone running game.  Molk will spearhead an offensive line that returns four starters (the lone new starter will likely be left guard Ricky Barnum) and the five average out to be in their 4th year of major college football.  The five have 67 starts among them, tied for 10th in the country in sacks allowed (11) last season, and paved the way for the #13 rushing offense (3,101 yards).  If games are won in the trenches, consider the offensive battle to be a likely victory.

Prediction: Starting offensive center; Second Team All-Big Ten

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Countdown to Kickoff: Day 9

Chris Barnett Plans to Continue with Football

As reported earlier today, freshman TE Chris Barnett is no longer with the University of Michigan football program. Per our conversation this afternoon, Barnett is back with his family in Texas and intends to enroll at another school after he reviews all of his options. "Everything is moving so fast," he said. "[I'll be looking] at whatever's out there." Barnett stated he will address his reasons for leaving the program after "declaring a new school." A time frame for that decision has understandably not yet been established.

Chris always presented as a respectful, humble young man during our conversations, often addressing me as "Sir" and describing himself as a "family man." I'm sure I speak for the Michigan community when I say that we wish him only the best going forward. To learn more about Barnett as both a player and a person, check out an interview with him from earlier this summer.

2011 Countdown: #6 Kevin Koger

Kevin Koger (#86)
Name: Kevin Koger
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 258 lbs.
High school: Whitmer High School in Toledo, OH
Position: Tight end
Class: Senior
Jersey number: #86
Last year: I ranked Koger #20 and said he would have 18 receptions for 250 yards and 4 touchdowns.  He caught 14 passes for 199 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Koger is that rare (soon to be) four-year starter at tight end.  Having been recruited by Lloyd Carr, he probably expected to be utilized like a Michigan tight end of old, grab 25-30 passes as an upperclassman, and move on to a journeyman NFL career.  Instead, he averaged 12 receptions and about 170 yards a season under Rich Rodriguez.  There was all kinds of scuttlebutt in the Rodriguez years that his coaching staff visited Oklahoma and got some tips on how to utilize the tight end in the spread offense, but the bottom line was that Rodriguez never used the tight end much at West Virginia and didn't see a need to do it at Michigan, either.  So Koger was underused and became a glorified walk-on fullback, albeit one who can make maddeningly athletic catches before disappearing for long stretches and/or dropping a couple passes in between.

Now Koger enters his senior season with a coaching staff that seems to appreciate the tight end a little bit more.  Rumors out of August practices even indicate that Koger could end up being the player the offense targets most, that he might go from an afterthought to a primary target.  I have a hard time imagining such a drastic change for a player who has been exciting, frustrating, and underused so far in his career, but it's very probable that we see an uptick in Koger's production in his final year.  The Borges/Hoke offense at San Diego State last season had a freshman tight end, Gavin Escobar, who finished the season with 29 receptions for 323 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Considering that Escobar was 6'6", 230 lbs., and a true freshman, I have to think that Koger will squeeze some better numbers out of Michigan's offense.  He ought to be the beneficiary of some waggles and bootlegs, not to mention a downfield threat on some quarterback play action much like (a slower) Roy Roundtree circa 2010.

Prediction: Starting tight end; 35 receptions, 420 yards, 5 touchdowns

Poll results: You people finally guessed correctly - Koger got 73% of the votes for the #6 slot, while Taylor Lewan got 16%.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Countdown to Kickoff: Day 10

Brady Hoke Press Conference: August 23, 2011

2011 Countdown: #7 Patrick Omameh

Patrick Omameh
Name: Patrick Omameh
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 299 lbs.
High school: St. Francis DeSales High School in Columbus, OH
Position: Offensive guard
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #65
Last year: I ranked Omameh #19 and said he would be the starter at right guard.  He started all 13 games at right guard.

Omameh was an under-the-radar recruit coming out of Columbus DeSales in 2008, and credit should be given to Rich Rodriguez for seeing how much talent he had.  Omameh was quite slim as a senior in high school, but it only took him until his redshirt freshman season to play - and play well - on the offensive line.  He has the athleticism to start at any of the guard and tackle positions, and he looks like a brick wall.  Last year's big play out of Omameh was the one on which he sprung Denard Robinson for his 87-yard touchdown gallop against Notre Dame, but that was just one of many nice blocks that Omameh made on the season.  He did an excellent job of getting to the second level, and when Michigan ran power last season, he was excellent at pulling and leading for Robinson.

This season's scheme ought to suit Omameh well.  While he's superb at blocking in space, he also has the technique and the mass to be a powerful in-line blocker.  Add that to his pass blocking ability, and he might end up being Michigan's best interior lineman since David Baas.  I see very few weaknesses in Omameh's game, and he should be a key player in 2011 as Brady Hoke and Al Borges work both the zone and power run games.  He has a shot to be an All-Big Ten player this season.

Prediction: Starting right guard; All-Big Ten Second Team

Poll results: Kevin Koger got 51% of the vote, while Omameh was second with 38%.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Review of 2006 Recruiting: The Offensive Linemen

Trent Williams was the #4 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft

Justin Boren
High school: North High School in Pickerington, OH
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #1 OC; Scout 5-star, #7 OL
Other notable offers: Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma
College: Michigan Ohio State
Scoop: Boren committed to Michigan and was just the fourth true freshman offensive lineman to start a game for Michigan in the modern era.  He started 1 game in 2006 and played in 4 others at offensive guard.  He replaced center Mark Bihl in 2007 and started all 13 games, 8 at center and another 5 at offensive guard.  After Rich Rodriguez was hired in December 2007, Boren and his family (which includes a father who played football at Michigan and a mother who ran track at Michigan) disliked the new regime and Justin transferred to hated Ohio State.  He sat out the 2008 season and redshirted.  Boren started 24 games at Ohio State at offensive guard from 2009-2010 and was named First Team All-Big Ten both seasons.  He went undrafted in the 2011 NFL Draft and is currently fighting for a spot on the Baltimore Ravens roster.

Perry Dorrestein
High school: Central High School in Plainfield, IL
Ratings: Rivals 3-star, #43 OT; Scout 3-star, #81 OL
Other notable offers: Illinois, Nebraska, Northwestern
College: Michigan
Scoop: Dorrestein had some middling offers coming out of high school, but chose the highest profile school on the list.  He redshirted as a freshman in 2006 and played sparingly as a redshirt freshman in 2007.  He started 4 games in 2008, 8 games in 2009, and 10 games in 2010.  He was a serviceable spot starter, but lacked the athleticism and strength to be a high performer.  Dorrestein went undrafted in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Stephen Schilling
High school: Bellevue High School in Bellevue, WA
Ratings: Rivals 5-star, #2 OT; Scout 5-star, #3 OL
Other notable offers: California, UCLA, USC, Washington
College: Michigan
Scoop: Schilling was an all-everything high schooler who took some time to adjust in college.  He redshirted as a freshman in 2006, a year in which he suffered not only a shoulder injury but also a bout of mononucleosis.  But by the beginning of 2007, he was on his way to becoming a four-year starter.  He was overmatched at right tackle as a redshirt freshman in 2007 and had a mediocre season under Rich Rodriguez in 2008.  For the 2009 campaign, Schilling moved to left guard and remained there through 2010.  Overall, he started 49 games in his career, missing only the 2008 Ohio State game due to injury.  He was named Michigan's top offensive lineman from 2008 through 2010 and earned All-Big Ten Honorable Mention in both 2009 and 2010.  He was drafted in the 6th round (#201 overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft.

Justin Anderson
High school: Irwin County High School in Ocilla, GA
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #7 OG, and #100 overall; Scout 4-star, #21 OG
Other notable offers: Georgia Tech, Nebraska
College: Georgia
Scoop: Anderson failed to qualify in 2006 and didn't attend Georgia until January 2007.  He redshirted as a freshman but rebounded by starting 7 games at offensive tackle and getting some freshman awards as a redshirt freshman in 2008.  Anderson started only 5 games as a redshirt sophomore in 2009 and then switched to defensive line prior to the 2010 season.  He had 1 tackle from his DT position in 2010 before undergoing season-ending surgery for turfo toe.  For 2011 he's listed at #1 on the depth chart to start at right offensive tackle.

Jim Barrie
High school: Berkeley Prep High School in Tampa, FL
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #15 OT; Scout 3-star, #58 OL
Other notable offers: Florida State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee
College: Florida
Scoop: Barrie redshirted as a freshman in 2006.  He played in 1 game as a redshirt freshman in 2007, but suffered a knee injury in August 2008 that essentially ended his playing career.  He dressed out for a couple games at the end of the 2008 season, but received a medical scholarship after the year was over.

Marcus Gilbert
High school: St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, FL
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #13 OT; Scout 4-star, #32 OL
Other notable offers: Auburn, Florida State, Miami
College: Florida
Scoop: Gilbert played sparingly in 2006 and thus received a redshirt.  He was a frequently used backup as a redshirt freshman in 2007, seeing action in 13 games and starting 1 game.  He was once again a backup in 2008, playing in 13/14 games.  Gilbert started the final 27 games of his career at Florida in 2009 and 2010 and he was a 2nd round pick (#63 overall) by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2011 NFL Draft. 

Daron Rose
High school: Jefferson High School in Tampa, FL
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #2 OT; Scout 4-star, #32 OL
Other notable offers: Florida, Notre Dame, South Carolina
College: Florida State
Scoop: Rose began his college career at Florida State, where he played in two games as a freshman before receiving a redshirt.  As a redshirt freshman in 2008, he started 11 of 13 games at offensive tackle but did not play particularly well.  Due to undisclosed reasons, he did not return to FSU for the 2009 season and announced a transfer to South Florida.  However, he never joined USF's program and instead attended North Alabama.  He started 6 games for North Alabama in 2010 and remains on their roster for the 2011 season.  He's projected as the starter at right offensive tackle.

Conner Smith
High school: Colerain High School in Cincinnati, OH
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #4 OG; Scout 5-star, #4 OL
Other notable offer: Oklahoma
College: Ohio State
Scoop: Smith redshirted in 2006 and remained a permanent backup throughout his career.  Prior to his redshirt senior season in 2010, Smith changed positions from offensive guard to defensive tackle.  However, he failed to accrue any statistics and went undrafted in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Alex Stadler
High school: Liberty High School in Bealeton, VA
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #12 OT; Scout 4-star, #33 OL
Other notable offers: Boston College, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech
College: Alabama
Scoop: Stadler redshirted in 2006 and transferred to Liberty University prior to the 2007 season.  He started 16 games total in 2008 and 2009, earning Second Team All-Big South honors for his play in 2009.  Stadler was slated to be the starting left guard in 2010, but it's unclear whether he played out his eligibility or not.  He went undrafted in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Joe Thomas
High school: St. Edward's School in Lakewood, OH
Ratings: Rivals 3-star, #43 OG; Scout 4-star, #12 OL
Other notable offers: Michigan State, Ohio State, West Virginia, Wisconsin
College: Pittsburgh
Scoop: Thomas played as a true freshman in 2006, starting 7 games at offensive guard for injured starter John Simonitis.  Thomas started 7 games once again in 2007 before suffering his own injury.  As a junior in 2008, he started all 13 games.  It's unclear whether he played out his eligibility in 2009, but he went undrafted in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Bartley Webb
High school: Springdale High School in Springdale, AR
Ratings: Rivals 3-star, #29 OT; Scout 4-star, #52 OL
Other notable offers: Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas
College: Notre Dame
Scoop: Webb redshirted in 2006 and then played 1 game as a redshirt freshman in 2007.  He then suffered a career-ending shoulder injury and acted as a student coach until he graduated.  Most recently he was a video assistant at Middle Tennessee State University.

Sam Young
High school: St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, FL
Ratings: Rivals 5-star, #1 OT; Scout 5-star, #2 OL
Other notable offers: Florida, Miami, Penn State, Stanford, USC
College: Notre Dame
Scoop: Young was one of the best linemen in the country coming out of high school, and his college career started off with an immediate starting gig as a freshman, when he earned Freshman All-America honors.  He started all 50 games of his college career.  After his senior season, he was a 6th round pick (#179 overall) by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2010 NFL Draft and played in 2 games as a rookie.

It was not a stellar year for Michigan's talent identification in 2006.  At a school that has regularly produced NFL linemen for decades, most of these guys went kaput quickly or are in the process of ending mediocre careers.  And obviously Justin Boren turned out to be more trouble than he was worth, even though he ended up having a decent career in Columbus.

Biggest miss: Marcus Gilbert.  He was the highest draft pick of the bunch, going in round #2.  Gilbert was probably going to be a backup LT for the Steelers, but he recently injured his left knee and it's unclear how much time he will miss.  The Wolverines could have used some good offensive linemen on a team that started journeyman-type starters such as Mark Ortmann, Perry Dorrestein, and Mark Huyge in recent years.

Biggest bust: Conner Smith.  As much as I would like to say Boren was the biggest bust, Smith was a consensus, elite blue chipper who saw the field only rarely in college.

Best in class: Trent Williams.  It's tough to pick this category for linemen, because stats are scarce and it takes a long time for even the good ones to develop.  Just going by draft status, though, the former Oklahoma Sooner was the highest NFL draft pick from the 2006 lineman class, having been picked #4 overall by the Washington Redskins in 2010.  Other notable players from the 2006 class are Oklahoma State's Russell Okung (#6 to the Seahawks in 2010) and Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi (#29 to the Bears in 2011).

Countdown to Kickoff: Day 11

2011 Countdown: #8 Junior Hemingway

Junior Hemingway (#21) runs away from Mississippi State's Disgusting Shin Man
Name: Junior Hemingway
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 222 lbs.
High school: Conway High School in Conway, SC
Position: Wide receiver
Class: Redshirt senior
Jersey number: #21
Last year: I ranked Hemingway #26 and said he would make 25 receptions for 300 yards and 4 touchdowns.  He caught 32 passes for 593 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Well, I was close to being right on the number of receptions, and I was exactly correct about the touchdowns.  Where I missed big-time was on the yardage.  Michigan's Denard Robinson's running game opened up some deep throws for the Wolverines in 2010, and Hemingway took advantage whenever Robinson threw the ball in his vicinity.  Hemingway caught a slant against Indiana and rambled to the endzone (he's not blessed with great speed), and he also outjumped a Hoosiers defensive back for a 42-yard reception at the end of the game, which set up the game-winning play.  Perhaps his biggest highlight was the 45-yard catch and run against Illinois, in which he shimmied and shook on the sideline until the Illini defensive backs flailed miserably as he slipped past them down the sideline.  Things were about as exciting as they could get for a receiver who had less than 600 yards and only four scores.

Hemingway is poised to expand on that production here in 2011.  Michigan will still run plenty of plays from spread formations, but when the Wolverines get into the I-formation or split backs, Hemingway should see plenty of throws coming his way.  Whereas the other wideout, Roy Roundtree, might be hampered by his lack of size as he moves out of the slot, Hemingway is more familiar with playing outside and will still be bigger and stronger than the cornerbacks covering him.  His ability to go up for jump balls and shield defenders from passes should serve him well.  Hemingway might not be the next great receiver in the mold of Braylon Edwards, David Terrell, etc., but he should be a very solid target for Denard Robinson.

Prediction: 70 receptions, 1000 yards, 7 touchdowns

Poll results: Kevin Koger got 40% of the vote while Patrick Omameh got 27% and Hemingway finished third with 21%.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Countdown to Kickoff: Day 12

Getting to Know -- Matt Wile

Interestingly, Matt Wile is the lowest rated member of the 2011 class, yet he is the most likely of the 19 freshman to make an immediate impact this season. This paradox centers around Wile's position as a kicker: recruiting services tend to view the position as having less value.

But don't tell that to Michigan fans, who have recently been reminded--the hard way--of the value provided by a competent kicker. Now, after two years of woeful performance at the position, all of Wolverine nation crosses its collective fingers, holds its collective breath and prays to the heavens that Matt Wile can come in as a true freshman and produce points*.

That's a lot of pressure.

But by all indications, Matt is a confident young man with an even temperament. He is also doing everything in his power to prepare for his pressure packed moments at the Big House.
"I’m trying to get myself in some sorts of pressure situations. It’s really hard to do when it’s just myself, but one of the things I’ll do is I'll set up balls in a certain location and I’ll give myself 10 seconds to run from the sideline to kick a field goal."
To further prepare, Matt utilized the assistance of a kicking coach, Lance Ortega of the San Diego School of Football, to get himself in optimal form for the 2011 season. The duo worked exceptionally hard just prior to Wile's move to Ann Arbor, spending hours addressing kicking mechanics, drills and habits. Matt is kind enough to spare us the intricate details of his kicking procedures, but he gives us a short overview of his game time routine.
“I go out on the field and get set-up; I take three steps back, two steps over. And before I give my head-nod to the holder to let him know that I’m ready, I always take one really deep breath [to] calm my nerves. And when the ball’s snapped, it usually ends up happening where I don’t hear anything anymore and all I focus on is the ball. And it usually goes through."
My favorite part of the quote is where Matt says that the ball usually goes through the uprights--yeah, that part was awesome. And it's also true. In fact, Matt's field goal average over his junior and senior seasons was a cool 76%. So Matt is accustomed to success and sees no reason why things should change once he starts kicking at Michigan Stadium. Actually, Wile's ahead of the game since he's already made a field goal at the Big House.
"From [the ages of] 6 -12, I used to travel with my dad and go to football games. And I was 10 or 12 and San Diego State was playing Michigan. It was a couple hours before the game; there weren't too many people on the field, so I asked my dad if I could go kick a field goal, and he said 'sure'…and I ended up kicking a 30 yard field goal in my tennis shoes…right down the middle."
Despite relocating to a school over two thousand miles away, Matt should feel right at home at Michigan. Not only is he a 5th generation Michigan student, but his father--who attended medical school at Michigan and works as an M.D. for the San Diego State University football team--plans to fly in to see all of his games(!). If that weren't enough, Wile's relationship with Coach Hoke dates back several years.
"They [the Hoke coaching staff] knew about me at San Diego State, and they offered me. The first year that Hoke was with San Diego State, they offered me. So over two or three years, I was actually able to develop a relationship with the coaches, and that played a major factor in me choosing Michigan."
Academics were another primary reason that Matt chose Michigan, and although many recruits say that, it appears to be especially true for Matt, who is a 4.0 student with plans to enroll in the College of Engineering. It sure doesn't sound like Wile is adverse to pressure, whether it's on the football field or in the classroom.

*...and effectively step in as punter during the first four games

2011 Countdown: #9 Troy Woolfolk

Defensive back Troy Woolfolk with his father, former Michigan running back Butch
(image via
Name: Troy Woolfolk
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 191 lbs.
High school: Dulles High School in Sugar Land, TX
Position: Cornerback
Class: Redshirt senior
Jersey number: #29
Last year: I ranked Woolfolk at #2.  But by the time I got to that ranking, he had already dislocated his ankle and been declared unable to play.

Thank goodness Woolfolk is back.  With the overall lack of speed and athleticism in the defensive backfield, he will be a welcome sight on September 3.  Last year I was expecting big things from the kid, and he had an unfortunate practice incident that caused his senior season to be delayed.  That absence meant that the cornerback positions were left to senior James Rogers and redshirt sophomore J.T. Floyd, neither of whom was particularly impressive; Floyd suffered an ankle injury halfway through the season that forced true freshman Courtney Avery into starting action, too.  By the end of the year, Michigan was starting cornerbacks #3 and #4 on the pre-season depth chart.  Rogers played admirably with 40 tackles and 3 picks, Floyd made 66 tackles and 1 interception, and Avery made 36 tackles, but getting 4 interceptions out of your cornerbacks - not to mention oodles of completions in front of them - was hard to watch.

Woolfolk has been earning praise this August for his off-season preparation and his knowledge of the defense, despite being unable to practice full speed in the spring.  Comments from defensive coordinator Greg Mattison and head coach Brady Hoke suggest that Woolfolk will be a starter in the defensive backfield on September 3.  But once again, his position has been muddied.  Michigan technically has three returning starters at the cornerback position with Woolfolk, Floyd, and Avery; meanwhile, only Jordan Kovacs has started at a safety spot (Carvin Johnson started a few games last year, but as a hybrid outside linebacker).  If the Wolverines want to get their best four defensive backs on the field, that might be a combination of Floyd and Avery at cornerback with Woolfolk and Kovacs at safety.  Whether he's at safety or cornerback, I'm guessing Woolfolk will be Michigan's best defensive back.

Prediction: Starting cornerback; 45 tackles, 2 interceptions

Poll Results: You guys really disagreed with me here.  Woolfolk only got 7% of the votes, while Koger (51%), Omameh (20%), and Hemingway (17%) all had more.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Countdown to Kickoff: Day 13

Maize 'n' Brew: August 20, 2011 Recruiting Update

Sydney Barlette

The weekly recruiting post is up over at Maize 'n' Brew.

Recruit Tracker: Sione Houma

Sione Houma

August 19, 2011: Houma's Highland team beat West by a score of 44-16.  Houma had 16 carries for 112 yards, in additiion to a 95-yard kickoff return TD

2011 Countdown: #10 Ryan Van Bergen

Ryan Van Bergen
Name: Ryan Van Bergen
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 288 lbs.
High school: Whitehall High School in Whitehall, MI
Position: Defensive end
Class: Redshirt senior
Jersey number: #53
Last year: I ranked Van Bergen #6 and said he would have 55 tackles and 7.5 sacks.  He had 37 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, and 1 pass breakup.

I'll be honest - I didn't expect Michigan to run quite so much of the 3-3-5 last season.  I thought it would be run only sometimes, and I assumed the Wolverines would blitz out of it.  Eh . . . not so much.  So for much of the season, Van Bergen was one of three rushers who made valiant but futile efforts to get to the quarterback.  Without another down lineman or blitzers to draw attention away from the starting three, Van Bergen and his cohorts were constantly double-teamed and chipped by running backs.  Production across the whole defensive line was down.  Consider that in 2009, the four defensive linemen averaged 48 tackles and 4.9 sacks.  In 2010 those averages dropped to 37.3 tackles and 3.2 sacks for the trio of Van Bergen, Mike Martin, and Greg Banks.  But hey, at least Michigan's strong safety had 116 tackles.

Van Bergen ought to see an uptick in his production as a senior this season.  Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has pronounced that Michigan will blitz, and with four defensive linemen already on the field, we should see Michigan's sack totals leap significantly.  From 2006-2010, Michigan's sack totals dropped from 43 to 33 to 29 to 22 to 18.  Even if one discounts the 2006 team that had so many stars (LaMarr Woodley, David Harris, Alan Branch, Shawn Crable, etc.), those totals in 2007 and 2008 are still satisfactory.  But 18? Yikes.  Van Bergen should benefit from the change in defensive philosophy.  While he'll line up on the strong side and face double-teams from a tackle and tight end on run plays, pass plays ought to give him a little more freedom to get a rush than he had last year.  Combined with more pressure from the backside and some blitzing linebackers, I'm going to predict the exact same thing that I did last year.

Prediction: Starting strongside defensve end; 55 tackles, 7.5 sacks

Poll Results: Patrick Omameh got 43% of the votes for the #10 slot, while Van Bergen got 30%

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Countdown to Kickoff: Day 14

2011 Countdown: #11 Roy Roundtree

Roy Roundtree
Name: Roy Roundtree
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 177 lbs.
High school: Trotwood-Madison High School in Trotwood, OH
Position: Slot receiver/wide receiver
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #12
Last year: I ranked Roundtree #9 and said he would start at slot receiver, catch 60 passes for 900 yards, and score 8 touchdowns.  He had 72 catches for 935 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Going into last season, I thought Roundtree was going to continue where he left off at the end of 2009, when he turned into Tate Forcier's favorite target.  And he did.  From his slot receiver position, Roundtree led the team in receptions, yardage, and touchdowns.  While he was wide open fairly often due to quarterback Denard Robinson's run fakes, the things that made him so effective were his route running and his sneaky quickness.  The kid has been less than 180 pounds for his entire career, but he knows how to get open and he makes people miss after the catch.  Roundtree isn't a typical Rich Rodriguez slot receiver because he's not 5'8" and doesn't have instantaneous acceleration, but while it looks like he'll be easy to take down, he now has four receptions of 70+ yards in his career.  For comparison's sake, consider that Braylon Edwards, Marquise Walker, David Terrell, Derrick Alexander, Desmond Howard, and Anthony Carter had three career receptions of 70+ yards . . . combined.

Now that it's 2011 and a new offense has come to Ann Arbor, I'm expecting a plateau for Roundtree. The year-long suspension of Darryl Stonum means that Michigan needs Roundtree on the outside, where the mismatches won't be quite so apparent.  He won't be able to get open quite so easily against cornerbacks as he was against linebackers and safeties.  Additionally, I don't think the new offense will be quite so friendly to Denard Robinson, who might struggle with a pro-style offense.  The team will run plenty of spread formations, but unless Roundtree moves into the slot when they go to the spread, the likely beneficiaries will be slot receivers like Martavious Odoms and Jeremy Gallon.

Prediction: Starting wide receiver; 65 receptions, 850 yards, 7 touchdowns

Friday, August 19, 2011

Countdown to Kickoff: Day 15

Poll Results: Who will be Michigan's top draft pick in 2012?

Mike Martin eats Vincent Smith a midget

DT Mike Martin: 79%
C David Molk: 7%
QB Denard Robinson: 2%
WR Junior Hemingway: 2%
TE Kevin Koger/WR Roy Roundtree (tie): 1%
OG Patrick Omameh: 1%
LB Kenny Demens: 0%
CB Troy Woolfolk: 0%
WR Darryl Stonum: 0%
DE Ryan Van Bergen: 0%
Other: 0%

In a landslide victory for exactly whom I expected to win this poll, senior Mike Martin pulled in nearly 4 out of 5 votes.  Martin is a 6'2", 304 lb. nose tackle with surprising quickness.  He might be undersized for playing nose tackle at the next level, which means he'll likely have to be drafted by a 4-3 team with a need for a 3-tech defensive tackle.  In fact, Martin should probably be playing 3-tech in college, except Michigan has no other viable options at the nose tackle position.  For his career he has 108 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks.

Fifth year senior David Molk took second place comfortably.  Molk is a 6'2", 286 lb. center who will be entering his fourth season as a starter.  Despite being slightly undersized to be an extremely valuable commodity at the next level, he has consistently been mentioned as the strongest player on the team and was a first team All-Big Ten selection in 2010.  Molk has the quickness, leverage, and intelligence to do well at the college level, but he'll likely have to add bulk in order to have a chance in the NFL.

Junior quarterback Denard Robinson barely beat out wide receiver Junior Hemingway for the third spot.  Robinson is a 6'0", 195 lb. quarterback who set the NCAA record last year for the most rushing yards in a season by a QB.  He has struggled as a passer at times and with his lack of height, he could very well have to change positions to play at the next level.  I doubt he will leave early for the NFL when his future position is such a huge question mark.  Last season Robinson threw for 2,570 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 11 touchdowns.  He also had 1.702 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns on the ground.

Hemingway is a 6'1", 222 lb. fifth year senior wide receiver.  Due to injuries and illness, he has never played a full season of football.  However, last year was his best statistical season when he grabbed 32 passes for 593 yards (18.5 yards per catch) and 4 touchdowns.  Hemingway has demonstrated good hands and leaping ability, and with his strength, he can often outmuscle cornerbacks for the ball.  He has only mediocre speed, though, and his production thus far has been mediocre.

Senior tight end Kevin Koger and redshirt junior wide receiver Roy Roundtree tied for the fifth spot.  Koger is a 6'4", 258-pounder with excellent athleticism who has been underused for the past few seasons in Rich Rodriguez's offense.  He has dropped some passes at times, but he has the speed, leaping ability, and size to be a huge mismatch for anyone willing and able to get him the ball.  The new coaching staff will almost certainly use him as a receiver more often than the old one.  In three years as a starter, he has averaged 12 receptions, 170.7 yards, and 1.7 touchdowns per season.

Roundtree stands 6'0" and only 177 lbs.  Despite a lack of elite size and speed, he set a school record for receiving yards in one game with 246 against Illinois last season.  He also has four career receptions of 74+ yards.  No other player in Michigan history  has more than one reception of over 70 yards.  Still his lack of impressive measurables may cause him not to be a high draft pick, even if he plays out his eligibility and enters the 2013 NFL Draft.

Omameh is a 6'4", 299 lb. offensive guard.  He has started the last 16 games Michigan has played and projects as the starting right guard in 2011, as well.  He moves well and gets to the second level with regularity, which suits the zone running game perfectly.  He's also an above average pass blocker.  As just a redshirt junior, however, it would be somewhat of a surprise to see him enter the draft in 2012.  He's more likely to be a 2013 entrant.

Demens is a 6'1", 248 lb. middle linebacker who burst onto the scene in 2010.  Despite starting only seven games, he finished the season with 82 tackles and led the Wolverines in tackles per start.  Known as a thumping run stuffer, he needs to work on recognizing pass routes and getting to his pass drops.  He already has the size to play in the NFL and could play middle linebacker in a 4-3 or inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.  He might wait to enter the NFL Draft until 2013, since he has one year of eligibility remaining beyond 2011.

Woolfolk is 6'0" tall and 191 lbs.  He missed his true senior season in 2010 due to an ankle dislocation, but started all 12 games in 2009, half at safety and half at cornerback.  With a couple exceptions, he played well at safety and improved when he moved back to cornerback for the second half of the year.  He has not proven to be a huge playmaker in his career (61 tackles, 3 pass breakups in three years), but other teams all but completely avoided throwing in his direction when he started at corner opposite current Pittsburgh Steeler Donovan Warren.  Woolfolk ran indoor track during his first few seasons on campus and has blazing makeup speed to go along with good size for the position.  Teams usually don't spend high draft picks on guys who have zero career interceptions, so turning out big plays this fall will be important if Woolfolk wants a shot at the next level.

Stonum is a 6'2", 195 lb. wideout whose lack of impressive statistics and keen ability to break the law make him extremely unlikely to be selected in the 2012 NFL Draft.  For one thing, he was suspended for the 2011 season and will take a redshirt, hoping to return in 2012.  For another thing, his best statistical season came in 2010, when he had 49 receptions for 633 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Those aren't bad numbers, but his performance wasn't impressive enough to make a team ignore his person issues.  Stonum also brings some potential value as a kick returner, since he returned 39 kickoffs for 1,001 yards (25.7 yards/attempt), including a 94-yard TD against Notre Dame in 2009.

The player with the least amount of votes was defensive end Ryan Van Bergen, a 6'6", 288 lb. defensive end.  Van Bergen has played both defensive end and defensive tackle in his career, totaling 90 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, and 6 pass breakups in his career.  This season he's bigger than he has ever been before, but Van Bergen works hard and has squeezed out just about every ounce of effort he can with his limited physical skills.  Some players make it to the NFL with superior athleticism, and some make it with a combination of athleticism and talent.  Not many make it that far on sheer determination.  Van Bergen could play at the next level as a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, but his chances are slim.

The "Other" category received just one vote, and I'd be interested to know which player that voter had in mind.

Practice Video: August 16, 2011

2011 Countdown: #12 Carvin Johnson

Carvin Johnson
Name: Carvin Johnson
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 200 lbs.
High school: Rummel High School in Metairie, LA
Position: Strong safety
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #13
Last year: I ranked Johnson #67 and said he would redshirt.  He started 3 games at outside linebacker and had 18 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 1 pass breakup.

Johnson's role on the 2010 team was a little bit mysterious to me.  As a true freshman, he came in and immediately started at a position that he hadn't played in high school; as a 195-pounder he was playing outside linebacker on a team that had more physically ready players at the position, such as redshirt freshman Thomas Gordon (23 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks).  Meanwhile, the team was experimenting with tiny freshmen like Courtney Avery and Terrence Talbott at safety.  Johnson's starting role was somewhat short-lived, however, once he hurt his shoulder in the opener against Connecticut and missed the next three games.  He returned and played sporadically for the rest of the season, most notably notching 6 tackles against Mississippi State on New Year's Day, but his debut season was largely forgettable for fans.

Then came the spring.  By the time April rolled around, Johnson was earning rave reviews from practice observers and after the spring game.  He turned a couple bad throws in the spring game and turned them into excellent interceptions and generally looked like the ballhawking safety that Michigan has been lacking for the last several years.  He even had decent enough speed to hunt down Denard Robinson on a long run, something we haven't been able to say for a Michigan safety in a while.  With Marvin Robinson struggling to stick with assignments, Josh Furman looking uncomfortable in open space, and Jordan Kovacs somewhat limited athletically, Johnson has set himself apart as a near lock to start in the defensive backfield and could perhaps be an All-Big Ten performer by the time he graduates.

Prediction: 55 tackles, 3 interceptions

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Countdown to Kickoff: Day 16

Al Borges Press Conference: August 16, 2011

2011 Countdown: #13 Jordan Kovacs

Jordan Kovacs has crazy eyes
Name: Jordan Kovacs
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 197 lbs.
High school: Clay High School in Curtice, OH
Position: Strong safety
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #32
Last year: I ranked Kovacs #21 and said he would start at bandit and make 70 tackles.  He had 116 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 pass breakup.

Some might look at Kovacs' 116 tackles in 2010 and think "Wow, he's really good."  Others might say, "Wow, the defensive front seven must have sucked for a safety to make that many tackles."  The truthfulness of those statements is "sort of" and "yep."  Michigan's defense was atrocious last season, and it all started with the front seven.  Between linemen who couldn't get any penetration, poor linebacker play, youthfulness, and a shoddy defensive philosophy, Kovacs found himself cleaning up the mess more often than anyone wanted (except opposing offensive coordinators).  He had 10+ tackles in six games last season, including a 17-tackle effort in the 37-7 loss (since wiped from OSU history) to the Buckeyes.  Unlike what we're used to seeing at Michigan from guys like Charles Woodson, Brandon Graham, Shawn Crable, and others, Kovacs' most amazing plays don't stem from superior athleticism.  Rather than a burst of speed or a crushingly hard hit, there's Kovacs instantly reading a play action pass and sticking to his TE coverage.  There's Kovacs reading a deep pass from an Indiana quarterback and jumping in the way to knock it down.  There's Kovacs watching the quarterback's eyes and jumping in front of a pass from the Ohio State quarterback before the end of the half.

We all love Kovacs for those plays and his 116 tackles, despite not being very big or very fast.  And yet . . . we yearn for more.  I couldn't help but lament his lack of speed when he intercepted OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor at the end of the half and returned it only 41 yards when it looked as if most defensive backs with decent speed could have taken it to the house.  If that happened, the nameless and speedy defensive back could have made it a 24-14 game going into the half, with Michigan down only 10 and momentum on their side.  Unfortunately, the return fizzled out and the Wolverines suffered the embarrassing, 30-point defeat.

And that's the difference between Jordan Kovacs and the Ideal Strong Safety.  It's not that a good strong safety can typically win a game all by himself.  It's not that Kovacs is a bad player.  After all, he was a Freshman All-American in 2009 and an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention in 2010.  It's just that he lacks that extra burst or change of direction that would make us say, "Holy s***" instead of "Can we amputate his head and put it on Justin Turner's body?"

Going into the 2011 season, Kovacs might face a battle from young safeties Marvin Robinson and Josh Furman for the chance to start in the defensive backfield.  Kovacs has experience and intelligence on his side, but Robinson has the hitting ability (and a little bit of speed) and Furman has the speed to be difference makers back there.  It's hard to imagine a redshirt junior with two years of starting (and 191 tackles) under his belt getting benched in favor of a sophomore or redshirt freshman who has, comparatively, accomplished approximately nothing.  But at some point, Michigan has to get back to creating oohs and aahs out of its defensive players, and not just what-ifs.

Prediction: Starting safety; 75 tackles