Friday, September 13, 2013

Preview: Michigan vs. Akron

Rush Offense vs. Akron Rush Defense
Michigan running backs managed just 71 yards on 24 carries against Notre Dame last week, which wasn't very impressive. But Notre Dame has a very good defensive line, so that was somewhat expected. The majority of Michigan's rushing yards came from quarterback Devin Gardner, who had 82 yards altogether. Starting running back Fitzgerald Toussaint looks like his quickness and cutting ability have returned, and his vision was a little better from week one to week two. Primary backup Derrick Green had just 1 carry for 1 yard last week, although he led the team with 58 yards on the ground against Central Michigan in the opener. Up front the starters will likely remain the same for Michigan, although guards Graham Glasgow and Kyle Kalis struggled last week. Meanwhile, Akron allowed 187 yards on 40 non-quarterback carries against FCS team James Madison, which averages out to about 4.7 yards/carry. Defensive ends Nordly Capi and C.J. James are both 6'3", 250 lbs. and defensive tackles Nico Caponi and Cody Grice average 280 lbs. The linebackers are similarly undersized (compared to the Big Ten) at an average of 6'0", 221 lbs. If Michigan can't run the ball against the Zips, the Wolverines are in trouble down the road.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Offense vs. Akron Pass Defense
Quarterback Gardner and wideout Jeremy Gallon put on a clinic against Notre Dame last week, the latter going for 8 catches, 184 yards, and 3 touchdowns. While there are no other outstanding receivers for Michigan, Gardner can spread the ball out to Toussaint, tight end Devin Funchess, slot receivers Drew Dileo and Dennis Norfleet, and wideouts Jeremy Jackson, Joe Reynolds, and Jehu Chesson. Offensive coordinator Al Borges likes to use play action and bootlegs to suck up linebackers, open up the middle of the field, and run slow-developing routes. In week one, Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles completed 18/24 passes for 314 yards and 3 touchdowns; JMU also went for 310 yards and 3 touchdowns, although they threw one pick. In the defensive backfield, the Zips start seniors at Rover and both cornerback positions, while the free safety is 5'9", 187 lb. junior Johnny Robinson; they combined for zero interceptions in 2012, and just one this year from rover Anthony Holmes. If Michigan isn't satisfied with just running on the Zips, Gardner should be able to find plenty of holes in the defense.
Advantage: Michigan

Rush Defense vs. Akron Rush Offense
The offensive line for Akron has decent size with senior left tackle Jarrod Pughsley (6'5", 313 lbs.), Florida State transfer left guard Henry Orelus (6'2", 297 lbs.), center Travis Switzer (6'2", 296 lbs.), right guard Dylan Brumbaugh (6'5", 310 lbs.), and Pitt transfer right tackle Zenel Demhasaj (6'6", 331 lbs.). Starting running back Jawon Chisholm (6'1", 206 lbs.) averaged 5.3 yards/carry last year when he went for 953 yards and 5 touchdowns; this year, however, he has just 22 carries for 97 yards, including a 55-yarder. If you do the math, that's 21 carries for 42 yards, aside from the lone long run. Backup running back D.J. Jones (5'8", 191 lbs.) is the little, quick bugger who comes in and has 7 carries for 62 yards on the year. Michigan has allowed just 162 yards rushing in two games, although that takes into account a few sacks of Central Michigan's quarterbacks in week one. The Fighting Irish had success running up the middle out of the pistol last week, but Akron's offensive line is smaller and less powerful. The Zips like to work from shotgun and the pistol almost exclusively, but I expect the defensive linemen to have big days in stopping the run. For some reason, I think this will be Keith Heitzman's breakout game.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Defense vs. Akron Pass Offense
Sophomore Kyle Pohl (6'3", 213 lbs.) is Akron's starting quarterback and has actually put up okay numbers. So far on the year, Pohl is 30/43 passing (70%) for 241 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Freshman slot receiver Fransohn Bickley (5'6", 138 lbs., not a typo) leads the team with 6 receptions, totaling 61 yards. He's followed by an array of average receivers with 3-5 catches each. There are a couple tall guys (Andrew Pratt and Jerrod Dillard are 6'5"), but generally, it's an unimposing crew. Meanwhile, the offensive line allowed 4 sacks to JMU last week. The Wolverines have an improving pass rush with 5 sacks so far (led by SAM linebackers Cam Gordon and Brennen Beyer with 2 each), and cornerback Blake Countess made 2 interceptions last week against the Fighting Irish. Michigan has a habit of playing back a little bit to prevent the big play, and they are capable of allowing short completions; Central Michigan tried that tactic to stay on schedule, but their quarterbacks were a notch below Akron's. I expect Akron to try to hit some short passes and then try a couple deep throws, altogether resulting in a couple more picks for Michigan's secondary.
Advantage: Michigan

Roster Notes
  • Former Ohio State Buckeye (and Michigan offeree) Se'von Pittman is now a redshirt freshman on the Zips' roster.
  • Former Ohio State Buckeye signee Jamel Turner is a redshirt sophomore linebacker for the Zips.
  • Players from the state of Michigan include WR Jerrod Dillard (Adrian), RB Bryan Green (Farmington), and DT Keontae Hollis (Pontiac).
  • Former Florida State and NFL cornerback Terrell Buckley is Akron's cornerbacks coach. Buckley had a big game against Michigan in the Elvis Grbac years, taking back a pick 40 yards for a touchdown when #1 FSU beat #3 Michigan.
  • Akron's Assistant Director of Football Operations, Mark Ouimet, previously held a job in Michigan's operations department.
  • Akron's Head Coach of Strength and Conditioning for Football, Dan Webb, worked as an intern and assistant strength and conditioning coach at Michigan from 2008-10 under Mike Barwis.
  • Keith Heitzman has his first significant production with a few tackles and a sack.
  • Michigan grabs 3 interceptions, including one for Jarrod Wilson, one for Countess or Taylor, and another for Channing Stribling
  • Now that the pistol's out of the bag for Michigan, Toussaint and the other running backs have a field day with the zone stretch
  • Shane Morris throws his first touchdown pass
  • Michigan 45, Akron 6


  1. I have this feeling that we might have 45 points at halftime.

    1. It's possible. I just don't know how enthusiastic the players will be after last week's big win. Emotional letdown + bad team = an easy win but not necessarily of epic proportions.

    2. In addition to the enthusiasm issue, which I think Hoke and staff will work hard to alleviate, I have a sense this game is going to be a "back to fundamentals" game. So the point production may not be as high because the game plan will be to grind out fundamental execution. Expect lots of 12 play drives that chew up clock.

    3. If I am Hoke, I would try to score a bunch early to get guys like Gardner, Fitz, Gallon, and Countess off of the field after one half. They came out pretty aggressive against CMU and I would expect the same this week. They can work on their Iso blocking in the 2nd half.

    4. Frankly, we'd have to try really hard to have a 12 play drive against this team. We will be ripping off a lot of long-yardage plays..

    5. "Frankly, we'd have to try really hard to have a 12 play drive against this team."

      Yeah ... but not for the reason you meant.

      I stand by my post above ... but change it to the past-tense: it SHOULD have been a "back to fundamentals" game. Because at this point I'm not convinced Michigan is capable of playing fundamentally good football.

  2. You deserve major credit for trudging through a detailed Akron preview. It could not have been easy.

  3. Yeah we may not put up epic numbers because Gardner will hopefully sit the entire second half.

  4. Green had -1 yards against ND, not +1.

  5. Hard to believe we'll only get 45, when we put 41 up on ND, letdown or not. Even if Gardner sits most of the second half, and we run the ball on every play in the 4th quarter, I think we'll top 60

  6. Se'von Pittman plays for Akron now? Huh, had no idea.

    I'm looking forward to seeing more of the young guys, like Smith and Green. Maybe some Taco.

  7. Hopefully we crack the top ten and cal beats the suckeyes this saturday