Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2010 Countdown: #4 Mike Martin

Name: Mike Martin
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 299 lbs.
High school: Catholic Central High School in Redford, MI
Position: Nose guard
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #68
Last year: I ranked Martin #7. He had 51 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 1 forced fumble.

Martin has been somewhat underappreciated at Michigan over the past two seasons. It's rare that a true freshman defensive tackle steals snaps from a talented fifth year senior, but that's what happened when Will Johnson saw his minutes declining in 2008. Last year Martin developed into a force in the middle of Michigan's defense, racking up 51 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss as a sophomore. Those are pretty good numbers for a guy who plays between the center and guard and gets double-teamed on a regular basis, especially when one considers that he played with a bum shoulder for much of the season. (The aforementioned Terrance Taylor's best season included 55 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss as a junior in 2007.)

The upcoming season will be a big test for Martin. No longer will he be aided by having Brandon Graham to one side of him, soaking up some double-teams. This is Mike Martin's defensive line, and though it's the strength of the team, it's not outstanding. He'll be flanked by a tackle/end tweener (Ryan Van Bergen) and a fifth year senior starting for the first time (Greg Banks). The defensive backfield is in shambles, and the linebacker crew is in limbo. Martin's backup, sophomore William Campbell, hasn't played consistently enough to wedge himself into the starting lineup, so Michigan has a 333 lb. benchwarmer. Martin needs to remain healthy in 2010 and step his game up another notch. He needs to play like an All American this season for Michigan's defense to resemble adequacy. Hopefully he can replicate William Carr's junior season, during which Carr earned 82 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, and 6 sacks. That's asking a little much, though.

Prediction for 2010: 60 tackles, 4 sacks

The voting for #4 went like this:
36% for Troy Woolfolk
26% for Martin
23% for Tate Forcier
12% for David Molk

Monday, August 30, 2010

2010 Countdown: #5 Denard Robinson

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 #31. He finished the season with 188 yards passing, 2 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions on 14/31 passes. He also had 69 carries for 351 yards and 5 touchdowns.

I wasn't sold on Denard Robinson as a quarterback going into 2009. He was bound to be an integral part of Michigan's offense, but he was raw as a signal caller. Coming from a high school that ran a Wing-T offense, I doubted he'd be ready to run a shotgun spread. His first play against Western Michigan was thrilling, but I guess after that, things could only go down. Robinson proceeded to be an evasive and exciting runner while also being a frustratingly poor passer. He excelled against an FCS patsy in Delaware State (3/4, 85 yards, 2 TDs), but was only 11/27 for 103 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions against teams with a pulse.

Part of the problem with Robinson's performance in 2009 was the fact that Rich Rodriguez inserted him somewhat randomly throughout the season. Rather than playing him situationally or giving him a quarter here or there, Rodriguez whimsically inserted him whenever the breeze blew juuuuuuuuuust right. I don't think anyone on the team was able to get in a rhythm, and that showed at times. It's a testament to Robinson's running ability that he was able to average over 5 yards per carry when it was clear that virtually every snap Robinson took would be a run.

In my opinion, the battle for the quarterback job in 2010 will come down to this: Which quarterback can run the zone read option most effectively? The zone read option has traditionally been the staple of Rodriguez's offense, and he hasn't had a quarterback run it consistently since Pat White did in 2007. Robinson was so ineffective at running the play that it was seemingly removed from the playbook when he was in the game. Tate Forcier seemed to make the wrong read two-thirds of the time. White averaged up to 8.0 yards per carry, and if Robinson can read the backside defensive end properly, there's no reason that he can't get at least six yards a pop.

I still think that Robinson will be extremely raw in 2010. There are reports that he has been tearing up Michigan's defense in spring and fall practices, but keep in mind that it's Michigan's defense. We know that Robinson can run the ball, but can he make the right reads? Can he pick apart a defense that runs something other than a base Cover 3? I have my doubts. When nearly 15% of one's passes against FBS opponents are caught by people wearing the wrong colored jerseys, faith disappears quickly. (Comparatively, a 15% interception rate for Tate Forcier would have resulted in approximately 42 interceptions!) Robinson will still be very important in 2010, but Michigan's offense can succeed without him. Forcier's range of talents makes #5 the most important quarterback on the team, no matter which quarterback starts on September 4th.

Prediction for 2010: Part-time starting quarterback; 900 yards passing, 8 touchdowns; 800 yards rushing, 10 touchdowns

I'm one of the few who doesn't buy the hype, I guess. The voting went like this:

36% for Tate Forcier
28% for Troy Woolfolk
15% for Mike Martin
15% for David Molk
3% for Denard Robinson

Sunday, August 29, 2010

2010 Countdown: #6 Ryan Van Bergen

Name: Ryan Van Bergen
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 283 lbs.
High school: Whitehall High School in Whitehall, MI
Position: Defensive end
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #53
Last year: I ranked Van Bergen #18 and said he'd have about 20 tackles and 2 sacks. He finished the season with 40 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, and 4 pass breakups.

As a redshirt freshman in 2008, there was a fair amount of hype about Van Bergen. He apparently had a motor that never stopped, was quick off the ball, blah blah blah, and he recorded 13 tackles. I wasn't that impressed. Then he moved to defensive tackle for 2009, and I thought, Great, a 6'6" defensive tackle who's under 280 lbs. getting blown off the ball is just what we need. Except he didn't get blown off the ball all the time. He actually held his ground for the most part, although that's partially due to the fact that he was playing on a line with Brandon Graham and Mike Martin, both of whom deserve to be double-teamed most of the time.

Now Van Bergen is back to defensive end, and he's taking the place of the aforementioned Graham. Graham was a superior athlete who also happened to develop a non-stop motor by his senior year. I don't expect the same kind of production from #53 as Michigan got from #55 for the past couple years, but Van Bergen's numbers and impact should improve slightly. And frankly, for this defense to be successful, Van Bergen and Co. on the defensive line are going to have to take their game to the next level. The secondary is inexperienced, and the linebackers are questionable. Van Bergen should be able to hold his own in the run game, and another year of training and coaching should have improved his pass rushing ability. He's an important cog in this year's team, because the backup defensive ends are either nondescript (Renaldo Sagesse, Anthony Lalota, Steve Watson) or very young (Jibreel Black, Jordan Paskorz). I think Jibreel Black is going to be a very good player by the time his career plays out at Michigan, but he's just a true freshman.

Prediction for 2010: Starting defensive end; 55 tackles, 7.5 sacks

Voters chose Van Bergen with 67% of their votes.

Friday, August 27, 2010

2010 Countdown: #7 J.T. Floyd

Name: J.T. Floyd
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 183 lbs.
High school: J.L. Mann High School in Greenville, SC
Position: Cornerback
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #12
Last year: I ranked Floyd #51 and said he wouldn't contribute much as a backup cornerback. He started two games at cornerback after Boubacar Cissoko was suspended from the team and ended the season with 17 tackles and 1 pass breakup.

Floyd was a safety in high school and came to Michigan as a safety/cornerback combo player. I really thought Floyd would/should end up at safety and that his spot as a backup cornerback was simply a result of the lack of depth at the position. I'm still not entirely convinced that I was wrong. Floyd was forced into action last season when Boubacar Cissoko went a little haywire. It's very telling to me that the coaches moved Troy Woolfolk from strong safety to cornerback and took Floyd off the field. Why? Because moving Woolfolk to cornerback meant that the coaches would rather have Jordan Kovacs and/or Mike Williams - both of whom were severely overmatched - playing deep safety than have Floyd on the field at cornerback. That's scary to me.

Here it is 2010, and Floyd has made the jump all the way to the #7 most important player on the team. Why? Well, due to the Great Migration of cornerbacks, Michigan has lost four of its top cornerbacks over the last ten months. Freshman Demar Dorsey didn't qualify, redshirt freshman J.T. Turner decided to transfer, senior Troy Woolfolk broke his ankle, and would-be junior Boubacar Cissoko is sitting in a jail cell for various ridiculous crimes. It is essential that Floyd has a good season in 2010. Other options at cornerback are a solid true freshman (Cullen Christian); a senior cornerback-turned-receiver-turned-cornerback benchwarmer (James Rogers); a sophomore running back-turned-cornerback-turned-safety-turned-cornerback (Teric Jones); and two true freshman midgets (Courtney Avery, Terrence Talbott). I am not expecting a huge turnaround from J.T. Floyd. I think he's limited physically, but if he can play fundamentally sound football, tackle consistently, and not allow receivers to race past him on the regular, then he'll have done a decent job.

Prediction for 2010: 55 tackles, 2 interceptions

Ryan Van Bergen was the leading vote earner with 40%. Floyd was second with 33%.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

2010 Countdown: #8 Craig Roh

Name: Craig Roh
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 251 lbs.
High school: Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, AZ
Position: Outside linebacker
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #88
Last year: I ranked Roh #48 and said I thought he'd earn the starting OLB job by the end of the season. He won it by Week 1 and finished the season with 37 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 interception, and 3 pass breakups.

Roh was my choice for the best defensive recruit in the Class of 2009, and he got off to a good start. He started every game last season and despite playing mostly defensive end at 235 lbs. or so as a true freshman, he held his own. Many Michigan fans were surprised at the athleticism he showed throughout the season, especially when he stuck with an MSU tight end on a corner route in the endzone. Roh is the real deal as an athlete, and he's gained about 20 lbs. since last season. This should help him hold up in the run game a little better.

Roh is not just penciled in, but inked in as the starting OLB/DE hybrid again this year. His backups at the position include Brandon Herron and J.B. Fitzgerald, both of whom are older, but this is Roh's job. The terminology has changed slightly this year, and many people think Roh will be playing more of a traditional linebacker role now that the defense has been called a "3-3-5." However, what you see out of him this season will be largely what you saw in 2009; he's going to be rushing the passer most of the time and dropping into pass coverage occasionally. Defenses can't play the run or rush the passer with only three rushers, so there will be a lot of blitzing and stunting. Roh should be the object of many of those blitzes, and I expect his sack numbers to jump significantly with his added weight and experience.

Prediction for 2010: 45 tackles, 7 sacks

I accidentally deleted the poll results, but Ryan Van Bergen was first with over 40% of the vote; J.T. Floyd was second with over 20% of the vote. I believe Roh was third, but might have been fourth.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

2010 Countdown: #9 Roy Roundtree

Name: Roy Roundtree
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 176 lbs.
High school: Trotwood-Madison High School in Trotwood, OH
Position: Slot receiver/wide receiver
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #12
Last year: I ranked Roundtree #46 and said he'd be the backup slot receiver. That was mostly true, although Roundtree came on late in the season to catch 32 passes for 434 yards and 3 touchdowns.

I have to admit, I didn't expect much out of Roundtree in 2009. He had a spectacular spring game prior to the 2009 season, but with Martavious Odoms returning and what seemed to be a solid tight end in Kevin Koger, it looked like Roundtree wouldn't get many reps. And for the most part, that held true. Late in the season, however, Odoms was injured, the coaches had lost confidence in Koger's ability to catch the ball, and Plan C Kelvin Grady had some drops, too. So they went to Plan D. Plan D turned out to be awesome, as Roundtree's late TD catch against MSU gave Michigan some false hope of winning the game. He went on to catch 30 passes over the last four games.

Roundtree enters 2010 with designs on being the #1 option for the Wolverines at receiver, although it's unclear whether he'll get more chances at slot receiver or at wideout. He's not particularly fast or elusive, but he's got that "it" factor that allows him to get open. He runs good routes, and he's also developed a chemistry with not one, but both quarterbacks. Sometimes that's all you need. With Michigan's surplus of talent at the receiver positions and the questionable nature of its tight end situation, I expect a lot of four-wide sets, especially on obvious passing downs. This would likely put Darryl Stonum and Junior Hemingway on the outside, allowing Martavious Odoms and Roy Roundtree to work in the slot. The upcoming season should be the most exciting and productive passing year since Rich Rodriguez arrived in 2008.

Prediction for 2010: Starting slot receiver; 60 catches, 900 yards, 8 touchdowns

Ryan Van Bergen earned 44% of the vote, and J.T. Floyd got 28% of the vote. Roy Roundtree was third with only 13% of the vote. Come on, people - look at all the depth we have at the receiver positions!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

2010 Countdown: #10 Jonas Mouton

Name: Jonas Mouton
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 240 lbs.
High school: Venice High School in Los Angeles, CA
Position: Weakside linebacker
Class: Redshirt senior
Jersey number: #8
Last year: I ranked Mouton #24 and said he had the ability to be an all-conference player. He had 66 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery, and 4 pass breakups.

Mouton was a safety early in his career, but most educated observers assumed he would quickly outgrow the position. That happened almost immediately, as Mouton became a weakside linebacker during his true freshman season. He played sparingly as a redshirt freshman in 2007 and then exploded in 2008, when he was the second-leading tackler (76) on the team. However, he took a step backward in 2009. He's one of those players who always seems to have a nagging injury, and a hand injury hampered him as a redshirt junior. That shouldn't have affected his ability to diagnose plays, though, which has been a problem at times. Mouton frustrated Michigan fans repeatedly last season, along with his fellow inside linebacker Obi Ezeh.

In more positive news, old linebackers coach Jay Hopson has departed (now the Memphis Tigers defensive coordinator), perhaps after being urged by head coach Rich Rodriguez. I don't think it's a coincidence that the only coach to depart happened to head up the most disappointing unit in 2009. Coaching the position now is none other than defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, who made a perennial goat, safety-turned-linebacker Steve Brown, into the team's leading tackler and a 7th round draft pick; Robinson also coached freshman DE/OLB Craig Roh into a solid true freshman season, accruing 37 tackles and 2 sacks. Michigan fans are hoping that Robinson can work his magic on the inside linebackers this year, turning an underperforming unit into the solid crew that two fifth-year seniors with 53 combined starts should provide. I'm optimistic about what he can do with the entire unit, but Mouton is especially important because the depth behind him is skimpy.

Prediction for 2010: 90 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions

Ryan Van Bergen was the leading vote-getter for the #10 slot with 32% of the vote. Mouton was second with 23%.

Monday, August 23, 2010

2010 Countdown: #11 Cameron Gordon

Name: Cameron Gordon
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 207 lbs.
High school: Inkster High School in Detroit, MI
Position: Free safety
Class: Redshirt freshman
Jersey number: #4 (changed from #84 last season)
Last year: I ranked Gordon #82 and said he'd almost definitely redshirt. He redshirted.

Gordon was an interesting prospect coming out of high school a year ago. He played wide receiver and wanted a shot to remain at that position, but I thought he would fit best at linebacker in college. In my opinion, he was too slow to really be a factor at wideout. After his true freshman season, he asked to move to the defensive side of the ball in an effort to help out the team. By the time spring practices came and went, Gordon was a hit amongst the coaching staff and seemed to be the leading candidate to play free safety in Michigan's revamped 4-2-5/3-3-5 defense (I think it's more of a 4-2-5). Spring practice reports were abuzz in regards to Gordon's instincts, athletic ability, and ferocity. And at 6'3", 207 lbs., he has plenty of size to bring the hammer.

While he's literally taken zero snaps in a game situation at the college level, Gordon ranks highly because of the weaknesses we have seen at the safety position over the last couple seasons and because of the terrifying inexperience at the cornerback positions now that Troy Woolfolk will miss the season. His main competition for the starting role will likely come from sophomore Vladimir Emilien, but Emilien has lacked the speed and durability to impress practice observers in his 1.5 years on campus. Other competition at free safety will be from true freshman Carvin Johnson, sophomore Brandin Hawthorne (unlikely to ever see a snap at free safety), and true freshman Ray Vinopal (likely a redshirt candidate).

Gordon lacks the elite athleticism to play free safety in a base Cover 2 defense or even in Man Free coverages, and his presence at the position (as opposed to Spur or Bandit) indicates to me that Michigan will be mainly a Cover 3 defense this season, in which Gordon is asked to cover only the area between the hashes; however, there will surely be occasional wrinkles in the defense that will expand Gordon's responsibilities. The free safety position should improve over the next few years with the development of Gordon, Emilien, and Johnson, but it's imperative that Gordon stays healthy and learns quickly. Otherwise, the defense could begin to cave quickly.

Prediction for 2010: Starting free safety; 60 tackles, 2 interceptions

Voters got this one correct: 32% chose Cameron Gordon, while the second-place finisher was Ryan Van Bergen with 22%.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Austin White, ex-Wolverine

Okay, this is getting old. A couple weeks after cornerback Justin Turner transferred (reportedly to WVU), now freshman running back Austin White has left the team as well. White was a 3-star recruit and the #10 all-purpose back in the Class of 2010, according to Rivals; Scout.com ranked him the #15 overall running back and a 4-star recruit. The reasons for his departure have not been explicitly stated by the University, but it seems as though his departure was more the program's decision than White's. Rumors have sprouted up that there were several violations of team rules that occurred, even after White was given a second chance.

If you read my comments on White over the last year and a half, you'll see that I was not impressed. That's four separate posts where I was largely indifferent to White's commitment and talent. Despite the fairly impressive rankings from Scout and Rivals, I have never been enamored with his abilities. I even suggested that he would be a candidate to change positions within a couple years, once he and the coaches realized that he would only be an afterthought to the other running backs on the roster. White has adequate talent to play at the Big Ten level, but the only thing that really stood out about him was his ability to catch the ball.

This leaves Michigan with five running backs on the roster: Michael Cox, Michael Shaw, Vincent Smith, Fitzgerald Toussaint, and Stephen Hopkins. White was almost surely headed for a redshirt in 2010, and both Toussaint and Hopkins (both with higher ceilings, in my opinion) have freshman eligibility as well. So Michigan won't feel this loss on the field. There's plenty of other talent at the position.

However, the Wolverines might feel it in their APR score. Michigan is already hovering dangerously close to the lower end of the spectrum due to all of the post-Carr-era transfers (incomplete list here). The recent departures of Turner and White will further drive that APR score into the ground, and Michigan could be facing scholarship limitations in upcoming years for their failure to graduate a sufficient number of scholarship athletes. This is a problem.

I'm also somewhat frustrated with the recruiting of White in the first place. As I have mentioned, I have never been excited about his talent. Furthermore, rumors circulated even prior to his commitment that he had caused some problems when in high school at Livonia Stevenson. Words like "prima donna" and "cocky" were thrown about, and there was allegedly a bit of a spat with the coaching staff. One can never be sure how much weight to give rumors like that, but in my experience, "where there's smoke there's fire" seems to be a decent rule.

Rodriguez recruited him despite those rumors, and now he's essentially been banned from the team prior to his freshman season. This is the fourth wasted scholarship from the Class of 2010 (following the failures to qualify by Antonio Kinard, Conelius Jones, and Demar Dorsey). Furthermore, there were other, more talented backs in the Class of 2010 who were considering Michigan, such as Dillon Baxter (USC), Dietrich Riley (UCLA), Corvin Lamb (Louisville), and Eduardo Clements (Miami-FL). Even Cassius McDowell (Toledo) and Brandon Gainer (Kentucky) would have been better fits if they actually, you know, had the ability to remain on the team. It's hard to tell how running back recruiting would have played out if a spot hadn't been taken by White, but it's conceivable that one of those kids could have been wooed to Ann Arbor in his stead.

In a positive light (I guess), much of what I said in yesterday's post about Troy Woolfolk's injury can be amended. Woolfolk's return in 2011 would have lowered the number of scholarships available to 16, but White's official departure puts that number back at 17. This now allows Michigan to add at least seven more players to the Class of 2011, perhaps including a linebacker (which will make some of yesterday's posters happy).

2010 Countdown: #12 Stephen Schilling

Name: Stephen Schilling
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 308 lbs.
High school: Bellevue High School in Bellevue, WA
Position: Offensive guard
Class: Fifth year senior
Jersey number: #52
Last year: I ranked Schilling #6. He started all 12 games at left guard, making All-Big Ten Honorable Mention and sharing the team's offensive lineman of the year award with Mark Ortmann.

Schilling was a very highly touted recruit from the Pacific Northwest in 2006. Early in his career, he had issues with mononucleosis and a shoulder injury that prevented him from working out for much of his first year in college. Regardless, he became a starter at right tackle in 2007. Suspect in pass protection, Schilling played a bit at right guard in 2008 and moved inside full-time in 2009, starting every game at left guard. He has started every game over the past three seasons except for the 2008 contest against Ohio State, and begins 2010 with 36 career starts.

The Wolverines will be counting on Schilling's leadership and run blocking in 2010. With a solid season, Schilling could squeeze into the middle rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft. He has good size and he's a solid 308 lbs. He lacks the lateral quickness and balance to play tackle in the NFL, but he could project at guard for an NFL team. With his experience and talent, Schilling could be ranked higher. However, the depth on Michigan's offensive line diminishes his importance somewhat. There are capable backups on the team in the form of Elliott Mealer, Ricky Barnum, and John Ferrara. Hopefully, though, Schilling is making his 49th career start sometime around New Year's Day 2011.

Prediction for 2010: Starting left guard; All-Big Ten second team

Apparently, the populace thinks I'm underrating Schilling here. He was tied for the sixth-leading vote-getter, behind Cameron Gordon (28%), Ryan Van Bergen (21%), Jonas Mouton (19%), J.T. Floyd (12%), and Troy Woolfolk (5%). Remember that I finished this list prior to Woolfolk's injury and will not be recalibrating his placement on the list, so take that into consideration before you vote.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Poll: Who should move to cornerback?

For the past several days, there has been a poll running on the sidebar regarding any potential position changes. Rich Rodriguez was asked by the media whether any offensive players would be moved to defense to play cornerback, and he said no. So far the only player who has changed responsibilities is Teric Jones, who played corner last season but was playing Bandit in the spring.

I'm curious to know who people had in mind when they voted for the "Other" category. Feel free to comment if you were one of those people and voice your opinion.

In the immediate future, I guess Michigan fans shouldn't expect any further position changes. But another injury or departure could force a switch.

The Effect of the Troy Woolfolk Injury on Recruiting

There was immediate frustration felt by Michigan fans upon Troy Woolfolk's ankle injury, and that injury will have a ripple effect on the team and Michigan's recruiting. As a true senior in 2010, Woolfolk's eligibility status throws an interesting wrench into the plans to recruit for 2011.

Woolfolk's senior status had Michigan fans and recruiting gurus planning to "take him off the books" for 2011, who assumed that his scholarship could be used toward bringing in a new recruit. I presume that Woolfolk will now return for a fifth year of eligibility in 2011. As a solid Big Ten starter with NFL measurables, Woolfolk had a chance to be a mid-round pick in the NFL Draft next year. Assuming that he recovers fully from his injury, that potential still remains but will likely be postponed until the 2012 NFL Draft.

According to my unofficial calculations, Michigan would have had 17 scholarships to give in the Class of 2011. Twelve seniors should be graduating, and five scholarships are unused. Ten of those scholarships have been filled up to this point. However, since Woolfolk will probably return for a fifth season, that number of graduating seniors drops to 11 and the total scholarships available drops to 16. And despite the fact that Michigan's cornerback depth is very thin, Michigan should return at least three cornerbacks with starting experience in 2011 - the presumed 2010 starters in J.T. Floyd and Cullen Christian; and Woolfolk. And although it wasn't completely necessary for Michigan to bring in an immediate-impact corner in the Class of 2011, now that need has likely been diminished even further.

Michigan already has two cornerbacks committed for 2011. The goal for a number of defensive backs may have swelled to four by Signing Day, but if Woolfolk returns, the need for a fourth DB disappears. There are now six scholarships available, and Michigan can only afford to use a maximum of one of those remaining scholarships for the defensive backfield. Here's how I see those scholarships being used:

1. Running back: Demetrius Hart is the most likely option, as long as Michigan's season goes fairly well.
2. Tight end: There are no impending commitments, but a WR/TE tweener could be offered and commit, such as Ben McCord.
3. Wide receiver: More depth is needed at wide receiver, especially with Darryl Stonum, Junior Hemingway, and Martavious Odoms being seniors in 2011. AJ Jordan is a possibility.
4 and 5. Offensive line: Anthony Zettel offers some position flexibility, which would be helpful with needs at both OL and DL. Chris Bryant would also be an option.
6. Defensive tackle: There's talent already at defensive tackle, but not a lot of bodies. Michigan needs one big body in the middle.

Cornerback isn't as pressing of a need as those other positions. Including Woolfolk and the two current Class of 2011 needs, Michigan will have seven cornerbacks on the roster in 2011. As mentioned, at least three of them will have starting experience. The needs at TE, WR, OL, and DT are more pressing. Interestingly, the position Michigan least needs to recruit is the running back spot, but Demetrius Hart is the highest-rated and most anticipated Michigan target at this point. If no additional scholarships open up and Hart commits elsewhere, I would not be surprised to see Michigan go without a running back in this recruiting cycle.

Addendum: If 2010 commitments Conelius Jones and Antonio Kinard end up qualifying and enroll in January, that could add more twists to the scholarship situation. However, usually it seems that Michigan's non-qualifiers don't end up at Michigan, so I'm not counting on them being a part of the picture.

2010 Countdown: #13 Darryl Stonum

Name: Darryl Stonum
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 195 lbs.
High school: Dulles High School in Stafford, TX
Position: Wide receiver/kick returner
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #22
Last year: I ranked Stonum #21 and called him an inconsistent deep threat. He caught 13 passes for 199 yards and 1 touchdown. He also returned 39 kickoffs for 1,001 yards (both are school records) and 1 touchdown.

Stonum has been one of the more frustrating components of Michigan's team over the past year or so. He committed to Lloyd Carr's Wolverines and then enrolled early in January 2008 for spring practices run by Rich Rodriguez. At the time of his entry to the University of Michigan, it was assumed that he would be Michigan's next great deep threat due to his excellent speed and acceleration. However, he suffered from a case of the Dropsies at times, and he doesn't always run his routes with maximum effort. Furthermore, his quarterbacks for the past two seasons have been less than stellar, a phrase that could also be used to describe his decision-making - Stonum received a DUI as a Wolverine, too.

Now it's 2010 and Stonum is an upperclassman. While he was an elite kick returner in 2009, his receiving stats weren't anything to write home about. He averaged just over one catch per game, although in fairness, those passes were being thrown by true freshmen. The deep passing game has been somewhat de-emphasized, whether by scheme or necessity. Therefore, most of the passes we're seeing are hitches, slants, or bubble screens, not deep posts, fly patterns, etc. Stonum has the talent to make plays on deep balls and run away from defenders, but the opportunities have been few and far between. But the 2010 season will see the use of quarterbacks who have actually taken college snaps before, whether that QB is Denard Robinson or Tate Forcier. This should improve Stonum's stats, although the quarterbacks have grown to love targeting slot receiver/wideout Roy Roundtree. Roundtree might lead the team in receptions and receiving yards, but Stonum's ability to get deep as well as return kickoffs makes him one of the most important members of the 2010 squad.

Prediction for 2010: Starting wide receiver and kick returner; 35 receptions, 525 yards, 3 touchdowns

The leading vote-getter for #13 on the list was Cameron Gordon with 25% of the votes. Stonum finished second with 18%.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I am Excited

2010 Countdown: #14 Obi Ezeh

Name: Obi Ezeh
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 250 lbs.
High school: Catholic Central High School in Grand Rapids, MI
Position: Middle linebacker
Class: Fifth year senior
Jersey number: #45
Last year: I ranked Ezeh #4. He had 69 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 2 pass breakups, and 1 fumble recovery.

After promising redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons, Ezeh's play fell precipitously last year. He went from 12 starts and 98 tackles in 2008 to only 9 starts and 69 tackles in 2009. One mitigating factor is that Ezeh let a back injury go undisclosed for the 2009 season. The extent to which his back injury negatively affected his play is impossible to determine, but it's something to consider when looking at how Ezeh failed to progress as a fourth-year player. Regardless, his play recognition seems to leave something lacking. Too often running lanes opened up in front of him, and he failed to plug the hole over and over again. Instead he waits for the ball carrier to get to him and doesn't use his hands to shed seemingly weak blocks.

Perhaps I'm overestimating Ezeh's importance to the team yet again in 2010, but I'm hoping that the departure of linebacker coach Jay Hopson will allow Ezeh (and Jonas Mouton) to improve. Hopson seemed to be a drag on the development of the linebackers, and defensive coordinator Greg Robinson has taken over the role of coaching the position. The defense will be relatively young with a projected 4 seniors, 2 juniors, 3 sophomores, and 2 freshmen (EDIT: The Woolfolk injury changes this to 3 seniors, 2 juniors, 3 sophomores, and 3 freshmen) starting this fall. If Ezeh gives way to Kenny Demens, a redshirt sophomore, the team will get younger and more inexperienced. Furthermore, despite his shortcomings on the field last year, Ezeh seems to be a leader in the clubhouse and is well spoken when addressing the media. He reportedly took his demotion with dignity last year when former walk-on Kevin Leach started in his place. Ezeh is fighting off a push from Demens and part-time fullback Mark Moundros for the starting MLB position, but on September 4th, I hope and believe that Ezeh will be on the field once again.

Prediction for 2010: Starting middle linebacker; 85 tackles

Just 30% of voters chose Ezeh to be at #14. Cameron Gordon and J.T. Floyd tied for second with 12% of the vote each.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

2010 Countdown: #15 Will Hagerup

Name: Will Hagerup
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 210 lbs.
High school: Whitefish Bay High School in Milwaukee, WI
Position: Punter
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: #43
Prediction for 2010: Punter

Hagerup was the #3 kicker in the country according to Rivals and played in the Army All-American Game back in January. He steps into a good situation for a freshman punter. Michigan's most beloved punter, Zoltan Mesko, graduated to the New England Patriots and there are zero other punters on the roster. It was an ideal situation for a freshman looking to play immediately, and Hagerup was the only specialist that Michigan offered in the entire class. Luckily for the Wolverines, their one offer at the position was accepted.

The importance of the punter position is underrated by many football fans, especially when it comes to consistency. Mesko improved throughout his five years at Michigan, averaging just over 41 yards per punt in his redshirt freshman and redshirt sophomore years before improving to 44.5 yards on average as a senior. More importantly, though, his kicks were often booted high in the sky, allowing coverage teams to converge on the returner. And perhaps even more importantly, Mesko rarely suffered through shanked punts.

Mesko was the first punter/kicker selected in the 2010 NFL Draft, so it's unlikely to expect the same kind of success for Hagerup. And as mentioned above, Mesko had the freedom to redshirt as a freshman. That's not the case with Hagerup, whose competition for the job is virtually nil. It's his job to lose, and he has reportedly looked good thus far in fall camp. With a new placekicker and a new punter - both of whom will likely be freshmen - Michigan's special teams will probably be shaky in 2010, but Hagerup should provide a small iota of stability in comparison.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

2010 Countdown: #16 Martavious Odoms

Name: Martavious Odoms
Height: 5'8"
Weight: 175 lbs.
High school: Pahokee High School in Pahokee, FL
Position: Slot receiver/wide receiver
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #9
Last year: I ranked Odoms #13 and said he's not a gamebreaker, but always a threat. He caught 22 passes for 272 yards and 1 touchdown; had 1 rush for 13 yards and 1 touchdown; and returned 6 punts for 54 yards.

When I think of the beginning of the Rich Rodriguez Era at Michigan, I think of Odoms. Even though Odoms wasn't the only player Rodriguez added to the Class of 2008 when he took over, he was the most successful and at times the most frustrating. He had an up-and-down freshman season in '08, where he led the team in receptions but also had fumbling problems and muffed several punts and kickoffs. Of course, normal teams would have had enough depth to put an upperclassman in his spot, but Rodriguez's other option was the misplaced and disgruntled Toney Clemons. Last season Odoms was involved a little less in the offense due to the emergence of Kelvin Grady and Roy Roundtree, who combined for 43 catches. However, he had the game-winning touchdown reception against Indiana and did the following, which endeared him to many Michigan fans:

Broken play? Not a problem. Here, let me go run full-speed into the middle linebacker, get knocked down, then get up and chase down the play to try to block someone else!

Adding to the awesomeness, Odoms was fast enough to nearly catch Denard Robinson from behind after getting knocked down - he reportedly beat Robinson in the spring's Fastest Man Competition. I guess that's why the University of Miami (FL) tried to give him a track scholarship out of high school.

Anyway, Odoms is a great glue player. He's not a superstar, but he's versatile and gives a superb effort. He won't juke many defenders out of their shoes, but he will try to accelerate through tacklers and split defenders who might misjudge his speed. I'll take a kid like that any day of the week. However, fellow slot receiver Roy Roundtree emerged toward the end of the season to lead the team in receptions, racking up 30 in the last four games. I expect to see a lot of four-wide sets with Junior Hemingway, Darryl Stonum, Roundtree, and Odoms this fall. That gives the team a good possession receiver (Hemingway), a deep threat on the outside (Stonum), a guy who can get open over the middle of the field and get deep (Roundtree), and a good bubble screen guy (Odoms). There are also rumors that Roundtree and Odoms will see time at wide receiver, not just in the slot. If the quarterback play is consistent, Michigan's receiving corps should be a bright spot in the 2010 season.

Prediction for 2010: Starting slot receiver; 35 receptions, 420 yards, 2 touchdowns

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Troy Woolfolk has an Ouchie

I hope this makes you feel better.

Reports and statements after practice today strongly suggest that senior cornerback Troy Woolfolk dislocated an ankle today. If that rumored prognosis is accurate, Woolfolk will most likely miss the entire 2010 season.

Who will take Woolfolk's spot at cornerback?
This practically cements the starting cornerbacks as redshirt sophomore J.T. Floyd and true freshman Cullen Christian. Floyd was probably set to be the #2 cornerback. Christian is the most talented of three incoming freshmen at the position, with more talent and potential than Terrence Talbott and Courtney Avery. Senior cornerback-turned-wideout-turned-cornerback James Rogers will also be in the mix.

Will any position changes occur to fill the void at cornerback?
Michigan doesn't have the talent or depth at other positions to move many guys. Sophomore Teric Jones played cornerback last year but moved to Bandit in the spring. When redshirt freshman J.T. Turner decided to transfer last week, head coach Rich Rodriguez stated that Jones would get practice reps at Bandit and cornerback. I imagine that Jones will make a full-scale move to cornerback now. Another option is true freshman D.J. Williamson, a 6'1", 170 lb. receiver who played a little defense in high school. Longshots to move include true freshman safety Ray Vinopal and redshirt junior safety Michael Williams, who has seemingly been squeezed out of the competition at Spur. None of these players should be considered as challengers for the starting cornerback job, however.

How did the depth at cornerback get so . . . shallow?
From the Class of 2007, wide receiver/cornerback Zion Babb ran off after Rodriguez arrived in Ann Arbor. Five-star cornerback recruit Donovan Warren entered the 2010 NFL Draft early, only to go undrafted. Cornerback/safety recruit Michael Williams suffered a knee injury and moved to safety full-time after Ron English was let go.

From the Class of 2008, Boubacar Cissoko took stupid pills once he arrived on campus and was booted from the team in mid-2009.

From the Class of 2009, athlete recruit Denard Robinson was pegged by some teams as a cornerback; he came to Michigan as a quarterback and has seemingly taken the lead in the race to be behind center in 2010. J.T. Turner arrived on campus out of shape and remained out of shape; he decided he'd had enough of Mike Barwis and his crazy "stay in shape" demands, so he received his transfer papers last week. Robinson's high school teammate Adrian Witty failed to qualify initially, and then once he qualified, Michigan's Admissions department failed to admit him for January 2010.

From the Class of 2010, prized defensive back recruit Demar Dorsey failed to meet Michigan's admissions standards (and apparently Louisville's, too). The late pursuit of Dorsey may have curtailed Michigan's chase for a couple potential mid-level cornerback recruits, particularly Rashad Knight and Tony Grimes. Athlete recruit Conelius Jones failed to qualify.

Overall, that's nine potential cornerbacks who are either playing other positions (Michael Williams, Denard Robinson) or no longer on the team. I can't blame Lloyd Carr or Rodriguez for most of those position changes and such. However, the handling of the cases of Adrian Witty, Demar Dorsey, and Conelius Jones should come into question now. Why were those three allowed to sign Letters of Intent if they weren't qualified? At such an important position - and one in such dire need - Rodriguez couldn't afford to hand out scholarships to kids who would never play a down for Michigan. He did anyway. I hope I'm wrong, but this could be a major failure of the Rodriguez regime at Michigan.

Are there any positives that could come of this?
Well . . . uhhh . . . since Woolfolk played as a true freshman in 2007 (a waste of a redshirt at the time), he's only a fourth year senior this season. He could possibly regain his health enough to play as a redshirt senior in 2011.

How much does this impair Michigan on the field in 2010?
Significantly. The likely starter at free safety is a true freshman who changed positions from wide receiver in the spring. One starting cornerback is a guy who many (including me) believed should be a safety . . . that is, if Michigan had enough depth at cornerback to move him. The other starting cornerback is either James Rogers, a senior who has barely seen the field in three years, or a true freshman. Michigan's defense was going to be bad in 2010, anyway. The loss of Woolfolk not only affects the passing game negatively, but also exchanges a solid tackler for an 18-year-old kid who admittedly needs to improve his tackling (Christian). This injury probably lowers Michigan's win total by one or two games.

Programming note: 2010 Season Countdown

Despite Troy Woolfolk's apparent season-ending injury, I will leave him at the ranking which I have already determined. We're already to the top 16, and it's no more inaccurate to put him at #16 than it is to put him higher on the list. As it is, he probably belongs down around #80 with guys like Christian Pace, but it's too late now. Oh well.

2010 Countdown: #17 Michael Cox

Name: Michael Cox
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 211 lbs.
High school: Avon Old Farms High School in Dorchester, MA
Position: Running back
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #15
Last year: I ranked Cox #70 and said he'd get a couple mop-up carries. He carried the ball 13 times for 113 yards and 2 touchdowns, and caught 1 pass for 11 yards.

Headed into the 2009 season, it seemed that Cox was going to be an afterthought. Seniors Carlos Brown, Kevin Grady, and Brandon Minor were recruited by Lloyd Carr and would almost certainly get the majority of the carries. Junior Michael Shaw, freshman Vincent Smith, and freshman Fitzgerald Toussaint all signed with a Rodriguez-led Michigan. Cox was the only non-senior who had signed with Lloyd Carr, and many thought that he wouldn't fit Rodriguez's system. Cox wasn't small and fast like Noel Devine, and he wasn't a giant bruiser like Kay-Jay Harris. But practice reports said that he looked like a slightly smaller version of Brandon Minor, and that seemed to be the most accurate description once the 2009 season played out. Fans' first sight of Cox saw him punishing Eastern Michigan tacklers for 24 yards on his first carry, and he added an impressive 57-yard touchdown run a few weeks later against Delaware State.

In the spring of 2010, the battle to replace Minor and Brown started to heat up. There can be a case made for several players. Shaw is extremely fast and shifty, but he can't stay healthy or break tackles and has questionable vision (he also might be academically ineligible for the season). Smith is shifty and has good hands, but is small and coming off a torn ACL. Toussaint was a highly touted recruit and possesses the best all-around skills, but is coming off a season-ending injury and didn't see any game action in 2009.

In my mind, though, there are very few questions about Cox. He has good size and speed. He runs hard. He hasn't suffered any significant injuries. There is but one question, really . . . but it's a huge one: Does Cox know what he's doing? He suffers brain farts occasionally, and that may have been to been to blame for a fumbled exchange in the spring game, although it should not be overlooked that early enrollee Devin Gardner was on the other end of the handoff. He looks silly at times, but he also runs for a bunch of yards - the 24-yarder against EMU, the 57-yarder against DSU, and a 22-yard TD against Michigan in the spring game. It's an extremely small sample size, but Cox looks better on paper than any other back on the roster. That's good enough for me.

Prediction for 2010: Starting superback; 140 carries, 700 yards, 9 touchdowns

40% of voters picked Will Hagerup to be #17. Only 13% chose Cox.

Monday, August 16, 2010

2010 Countdown: #18 Brendan Gibbons

Name: Brendan Gibbons
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 227 lbs.
High school: Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach, FL
Position: Placekicker
Class: Redshirt freshman
Jersey number: #34
Last year: I ranked Gibbons #66 and said he'd be the team's kicker. He redshirted.

Not many people expected Gibbons to redshirt in 2009. He stepped into a situation with one oft-injured kicker (Bryan Wright) and a bunch of walk-ons. But despite being the #8 ranked kicker in the 2009 recruiting class, he sat for the entire year and watched fifth-year walk-on Jason Olesnavage handle the placekicking duties. Gibbons definitely has leg strength; in his senior year of high school, 93% of his kickoffs were touchbacks and he had 7 field goals of 40+ yards, including a long of 52. However, reports of inaccuracy and inconsistency have been rampant, and Gibbons is fighting several former walk-ons for the kicking job again this year.

I'm not sure what will happen with Gibbons. He has been erratic, and walk-on kickers make an impact at various schools around the country every single year. I would not be surprised to see him lose the job, so this #18 ranking encompasses all the kickers, in a way. I think Michigan's offense will be high-powered enough that field goals won't be a premium mode of scoring points in most games. Games in 2010 aren't going to be won or lost with scores of 17-14 or 14-13. These are going to be high scoring affairs, and even though I'm sure Michigan will lose a few games, it will mostly be due to a questionable defense and not entirely the kicking woes that are sure to surface.

And hey, the lower my expectations are, the more likely I am to be pleasantly surprised.

Prediction for 2010: Gibbons will be the kickoff specialist; a walk-on will be the placekicker

Gibbons was the leading vote-getter with 20% of the tally.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

2010 Countdown: #19 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 sophomore
Jersey number: #65
Last year: I ranked Omameh #44 and said he'd be a backup offensive tackle. He was . . . until he started the last three games of the season at right guard. I also said he'd be in line to take over the left tackle job vacated by Mark Ortmann in 2010, but it looks like he'll still be at RG.

Omameh was a lightly recruited defensive end prospect coming out of high school, garnering a late offer from the Wolverines once Rich Rodriguez took the helm. He was very light for an offensive lineman, but was 276 lbs. by 2009 and now weighs in at a svelte 299 lbs. He played sparingly at the beginning of last season, looking up at offensive tackles Mark Ortmann, Perry Dorrestein, and Mark Huyge. However, with the offensive line rejiggering triggered by the David Molk injury, Huyge moved inside to guard but couldn't cut it inside. That's when Omameh stepped in and took the RG position by the throat, looking powerful and athletic over the last three weeks, including tough opponents Wisconsin and Ohio State.

The departure of David Moosman leaves the right guard position as Omameh's to lose. There's a possibility that redshirt freshman Taylor Lewan might win the left tackle position, but otherwise, Michigan has six offensive linemen with starting experience (Omameh, Huyge, Dorrestein, Molk, Stephen Schilling, and John Ferrara). This gives Michigan an experienced unit that should be perhaps the strongest group on the offense. Omameh himself is perfectly suited to the athletic line play that is required for Michigan's offense. He has the speed, agility, and power to get up to the second level and latch onto linebackers. Between fifth-year senior Schilling, veteran center Molk, and Omameh, Michigan should be able to run the ball effectively, no matter who wins the starting running back job by September 4th.

Prediction for 2010: Starting right guard

Only 17% of voters picked Omameh to be #19 in the poll. The leading vote-getter was Brendan Gibbons, with 20%.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

2010 Countdown: #20 Kevin Koger

Name: Kevin Koger
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 255 lbs.
High school: Whitmer High School in Toledo, OH
Position: Tight end
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #86
Last year: I ranked Koger #26 and said he wouldn't get more than 15 receptions. He caught 16 passes for 220 yards and 2 touchdowns.

I can't tell if Kevin Koger got to Michigan at the wrong time or the right time. On the one hand, if he played for Lloyd Carr, I think we'd be talking about an all-conference level player. Koger has speed and leaping ability, blocks well, and can make excellent catches. Carr would have used him well. On the other hand, Koger is a perfect fit for the spread offense run by Rich Rodriguez. He can get down the seam quickly, pull, block in space, and generally create problems for a defense. The only mitigating factor is that Rodriguez doesn't use the tight end very much. Despite reports that Rodriguez and his staff had visited Oklahoma's coaching staff to integrate the tight end more, Koger only caught 16 passes (1.3 receptions per game) and his backups only caught five passes for 63 yards, 47 of which came against Delaware State.

Consider this: the starting tight ends for Wisconsin (Garrett Graham, 51), Northwestern (Drake Dunsmore, 47), Iowa (Tony Moeaki, 41), Minnesota (Nick Tow-Arnett, 37), Penn State (Andrew Quarless, 30), Purdue (Kyle Adams, 29), Michigan State (Charlie Gantt, 22), and Indiana (Max Dedmond, 18) all caught more passes than Koger in 2009. Even Big Ten newcomer Nebraska's starting tight end caught 28 passes. The only two teams in the Big Ten who used their tight end less were Illinois and Ohio State, but the average number of receptions for a non-Michigan starting tight end in the Big Ten was 29.7, nearly double Koger's total.

Forgetting about all that, Koger has the ability to be a very good tight end. He averaged 13.8 yards on his receptions last season, and the catch pictured above is one of the most amazing I've seen anywhere, let alone from a Michigan player. He did struggle with a case of the dropsies in 2009, and I'm sure he knows that's an area he must improve. He's an important part of the team because of his versatility, whether he's blocking, catching passes, or lining up in the slot and creating mismatches. But with two somewhat inexperienced quarterbacks who are approximately 6' tall, Koger isn't likely to see a huge jump in his numbers this year.

Prediction for 2010: Starting tight end; 18 receptions, 250 yards, 4 touchdowns

40% of poll respondents correctly picked Koger at #20.

Friday, August 13, 2010

2010 Countdown: #21 Jordan Kovacs

Name: Jordan Kovacs
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 195 lbs.
High school: Clay High School in Curtice, OH
Position: Bandit
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #32
Last year: Kovacs was unranked in my 2009 Countdown. I feel bad about that. He started 8 games at safety, making 75 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 interception.

Raise your hand if you knew Kovacs would contribute in 2009.

Put your hand down, Mrs. Kovacs.

Jordan Kovacs wasn't even the most-hyped walk-on safety going into the 2009 season. That title went to Jared Van Slyke, a transfer from Southwest Missouri State and the son of former Pittsburgh Pirate Andy. When starting safety Michael Williams got hurt in the Notre Dame game, I'm sure I wasn't the only one saying, "Who in God's name is #32 and why is he on the football field in a close game?!?!" That nobody was one Jordan David Kovacs, a student body walk-on who was just recently recovered from a bum knee that prevented him from making the team when he tried out the year before. Kovacs took over a starting safety job in the Indiana game and never relinquished that role, although he bounced back and forth between free safety and strong safety. He ended the season as a Freshman All-American and finished second on the team in tackles, including 17 tackles against MSU.

This year Kovacs is all but guaranteed a starting job, most likely at Bandit, which is a strong safety-type position. Michigan will essentially be running a 4-2-5 defense in 2010, and that Bandit position will have deep third or deep half responsibilities at various times. This concerns me, as Kovacs has physical limitations. He's somewhat small-ish at 195 lbs., but that isn't the worst part; his lack of speed was obvious against teams like Indiana and Penn State, in which long touchdowns may have been prevented if he were more athletic. Still, Kovacs is a fearless and determined tackler and usually positions himself in the right place. I can't picture someone with Kovacs' physical limitations starting through the 2012 season, when he'll run out of eligibility, but for now the youngsters behind him (potentially Vladimir Emilien, Carvin Johnson, Marvin Robinson, Ray Vinopal, and Josh Furman) will watch and learn from Michigan's best rendition of Rudy in recent memory.

Prediction for 2010: Starting Bandit; 70 tackles

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tony Posada, Wolverine

Michigan received its tenth commitment of the Class of 2011 Wednesday, getting a pledge from Tampa offensive lineman Tony Posada. Posada is a 6'5", 315 lb. offensive tackle from Plant High School, which is also the home of James Wilder, Jr., a highly touted running back (Michigan has offered Wilder, but the interest seems unrequited). He chose the Wolverines over offers from Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, South Florida, and Texas Tech, among others. Posada is unranked by Rivals and a 3-star to both Scout and ESPN.

I haven't seen much of Posada, other than the few glimpses in the video below. He has no highlight videos anywhere on the internet that I have found, so I'm basing all of my opinions on that slice of video and what I've gathered from articles and pictures.

Although he's ranked as an offensive tackle by all three recruiting services, I think Posada's future is at offensive guard. I'm a rebel like that. One reason is that Posada is 6'5" (or 6'6", depending on whom you believe). If you subtract an inch because usually those recruiting sites lie, that means he's actually 6'4" or 6'5". Looking at the heights and body types of Michigan's current tackles and tackle recruits, they're all taller and leaner. Taylor Lewan is 6'8"; Perry Dorrestein, Michael Schofield, and recruit Jake Fisher are 6'7"; the shortest of the bunch is Mark Huyge at 6'6". If Posada is indeed 315 lbs., he's already heavier than all but Dorrestein (321 lbs.), but his body type suggests a future at guard.

One of the things I have been most impressed with about Michigan has been the development of the offensive line. Guys who couldn't cut it were quickly run out of the program (Kurt Wermers, Dann O'Neill), and the remaining members of the offensive line seem to be coming along nicely. So while Posada lacks an extremely impressive offer list, I'm beginning to trust more and more the offensive line offers that Rodriguez and offensive line coach Greg Frey extend.

As for the rest of the 2011 class, there are eight remaining spots with the departure of Justin Turner. Michigan will likely take at least one more offensive lineman, possibly two. I expect at least one wide receiver, one running back, one tight end, one defensive tackle, one linebacker, one cornerback, and one safety. It should be a matter of filling out the team right now, not necessarily taking as many stars as possible. With all of the scholarships devoted to running backs and defensive backs, Michigan is running short on scholarship linebackers and tight ends, in particular.

2010 Countdown: #22 Greg Banks

Name: Greg Banks
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 285 lbs.
High school: Montbello High School in Denver, CO
Position: Defensive tackle
Class: Redshirt senior
Jersey number: #92
Last year: I ranked Banks #32 and said he'd see plenty of time in the defensive line rotation. He made 5 tackles from the 3-tech DT position.

This might be my most controversial choice for starter, and he also has the potential to be my "most overrated" player by the end of the season. Banks was a backup defensive lineman in 2009, seeing time at the 3-tech defensive tackle position that Ryan Van Bergen occupied most of the time. He only made 5 tackles in a solid but unspectacular campaign and couldn't distance himself from Renaldo Sagesse, another backup DT. But Banks did earn praise from defensive line coach Bruce Tall in the spring; the coach called Banks' pass rushing moves "textbook," which might not be the best compliment, but it might be good enough.

There's going to be a weak link along the defensive line, especially if Michigan fans are looking for a Brandon Graham-like superstar. Ryan Van Bergen will be solid at 5-tech defensive end. Mike Martin will be very good, whether he's playing nose tackle or 3-tech DT. If William Campbell starts at nose tackle, his conditioning and technique will likely be a weakness. If Banks starts at DT, his strength and overall athleticism will make him the least heralded. He's not a superstar in the making, but if he can hold his ground as well as Van Bergen did at DT in 2009 (40 tackles, 5 sacks), Michigan fans should be happy. Campbell will get more playing time this year than last, and that might cut into the minutes Greg Banks sees. We'll see a slight drop-off at the DT position this year, but hopefully it will be muted by improved playing from the linebackers.

Prediction for 2010: Starting defensive tackle; 30 tackles, 2 sacks

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Justin Turner, ex-Wolverine

Redshirt freshman cornerback Justin Turner has apparently decided to transfer. He has been granted his release by the University of Michigan, although Sam Webb of Scout/WTKA/Detroit News fame has stated that his parents are going to try to talk Turner out of leaving Ann Arbor. We'll see how that goes.

If #2 does indeed follow through with his intentions to leave Michigan, he would be the first member of the 21-person Class of 2009 to leave. (Cornerback Adrian Witty never arrived at Michigan after Michigan's Admissions office failed to grant him entry.) To Rivals he was a 4-star safety, the #35 recruit in the country, and the #3 player at his position; to Scout he was a 5-star cornerback, the #3 player in the country, and the #1 player at his position. To the University of Michigan's football team, he was the #3 or perhaps #4 cornerback for the 2010 season.

The 2009 version of the Wolverines had horrible defenses and very little cornerback depth, especially after then-sophomore Boubacar Cissoko was booted off the team for skipping classes and generally being an idiot. But Turner still couldn't get on the field and redshirted, giving way to fellow freshman Teric Jones, who entered college hoping and expecting to play running back or slot receiver. With Donovan Warren leaving school early to enter the 2010 NFL Draft, many Michigan fans assumed that Turner would assume the starting cornerback role. However, redshirt sophomore JT Floyd took the lead in the battle for the open cornerback position.

There were reports that Turner had ballooned to an unfathomable 197 pounds and got too big to play cornerback, a regular Violet Beauregarde. (Set your sarcasm detectors to ON.) The fall roster even listed him at 198 pounds. However, cornerbacks coach Tony Gibson has spoken highly of Turner in the past, and his disenchantment likely has more to do with playing second fiddle to JT Floyd than anything else. He was 186 lbs. coming out of high school, so adding 11 or 12 pounds in college really isn't that big of a deal. He still could have played corner, although he would have been fighting incoming freshman Cullen Christian - a highly touted corner in his own right, and ranked higher than Turner in my 2010 Season Countdown - for playing time.

Turner was ranked as a safety by Rivals, and I think most Michigan fans were waiting for a time when cornerback depth would allow him to switch positions to free safety or Bandit. If his absence is felt at all, though, it will likely be a year or two down the road if Michigan's 17 safeties can't cobble together a decent starter or three. I'm not going to sit here and say that Michigan is better off without him. But the Wolverines are headed for 7 or 8 wins in 2010 whether Turner's in Ann Arbor or not.

2010 Countdown: #23 Thomas Gordon

Name: Thomas Gordon
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 205 lbs.
High school: Cass Technical High School in Detroit, MI
Position: Spur
Class: Redshirt freshman
Jersey number: #15
Last year: I ranked Gordon #77 and said he'd redshirt. He redshirted.

Gordon has made a surprising leap from where he was in high school. At Cass Tech Gordon had been a quarterback on a team that didn't throw the ball very well or very much. When he learned that he had a good shot at earning a scholarship on defense, Gordon convinced head coach Thomas Wilcher to play him at free safety. But that late-career position change stunted any chance for Gordon to play as a freshman, cementing a redshirt in his first college season. In the spring Gordon moved to Spur, which is similar to the SAM linebacker spot that Steve Brown occupied last season.

He remains the front-runner for the Spur position, as Michael Williams fell out of favor with the coaching staff during spring practices. Williams made 56 tackles in 2009, but his overzealousness and poor coverage opened the door for others. He's even dropped to third on the depth chart, behind former walk-on Floyd Simmons. Thomas Gordon and Simmons do not seem like extremely viable options at Spur in the long run, but almost everyone in the defensive backfield will be young in 2010. Other talented players are enrolling this fall (Marvin Robinson, Carvin Johnson, and Josh Furman), and they will push for playing time. I expect Gordon to be the starting Spur on September 4th, but I would not be surprised to see him passed up in the coming years.

Prediction for 2010: Starting Spur; 60 tackles

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

2010 Football Roster Tidbits

This guy is 320 lbs.

The 2010 football roster was released on Monday, and there are several interesting notes. Going down the list numerically . . .

Freshman safety Marvin Robinson is #3 and listed at 6'2", 200 lbs. Not only was Troy Woolfolk impressed with his play at safety during summer 7-on-7s, but for all those people who thought he would bulk up to play linebacker . . . 200 lbs. hardly screams for a position change.

Freshman safety Josh Furman is #6 and listed at 6'2", 207 lbs.

Senior linebacker Jonas Mouton is 240 lbs. now. Last year he was listed at 228. He's not the only linebacker who bulked up, so that's clearly a directive from the coaches and training staff.

Freshman cornerback Courtney Avery is #9 and listed at 5'11", 167 lbs. He has apparently been working hard this summer, but that's not much weight to be spread out across a 5'11" frame.

Freshman safety Carvin Johnson is #13 and listed at 6'0", 195 lbs.

Junior running back Michael Shaw packed on 6 lbs. and is up to 187.

Freshman safety Ray Vinopal is #20 and listed at 5'10", 193 lbs.

Freshman cornerback Terrence Talbott is #22 and listed at 5'11", 171 lbs.

Freshman cornerback Cullen Christian is #24 and listed at 6'0", 187 lbs. That seems like a perfect size to get some playing time this year.

Redshirt sophomore middle linebacker Kenny Demens is 250 lbs. now. And if you've seen any new pictures of him, he's jacked.

Freshman slot receiver Drew Dileo is #26 and listed at 5'10", 171 lbs.

Redshirt freshman middle linebacker Isaiah Bell is 245 lbs. now, up from 237 in the spring. He was a free safety and about 205-210 coming out of high school, so that's some impressive weight gain. Hooray for chocolate milk.

Redshirt freshman kicker Brendan Gibbons is 227 lbs. There were reports that he had been up to about 245.

Freshman linebacker Jake Ryan is #37 and listed at 6'3", 224 lbs.

Freshman linebacker Davion Rogers is #38 and listed at 6'6", 200 lbs. Maybe he can play small forward for our basketball team, too.

Freshman Kenny Wilkins is #41 and listed at 6'3", 262 lbs. Hopefully that's good weight, and I'm assuming it is because he has a reputation for being a gym rat. He's also listed as a defensive end, despite some people's thoughts that he would play Craig Roh's linebacker position.

Freshman punter Will Hagerup is #43 and listed at 6'4", 210 lbs.

Senior Mark Moundros (a permanent captain for this season) is listed as a "FB/LB," the only player on the team with two positions listed.

Senior middle linebacker Obi Ezeh is up to 250 lbs.

Redshirt junior center David Molk is listed at 285 lbs., up fifteen from the 2009 season.

Freshman defensive tackle Richard Ash is #54 and listed at 6'3", 320 lbs. That's a significant weight gain for someone who was 240 lbs. as a junior and listed at 263 lbs. on his recruiting profiles. That much weight gain can't be good weight.

Freshman defensive end Jibreel Black is #55 and listed at 6'2", 258 lbs. Expect to see him on the field this fall.

Redshirt junior defensive tackle Dominique Ware is still short (5'7").

Sophomore defensive tackle William Campbell has gone through quite a transition. He came in at a reported 330 lbs., got all the way down to 318, and is now listed at 333 lbs. It sounds like the training staff had to melt off some of the flab and turn it into muscle . . . hopefully.

The redshirt freshmen offensve linemen have all put on significant weight. Taylor Lewan is 294, Michael Schofield is 293, and Quinton Washington is now 315. That should make them viable options to play this fall.

Senior tight end Martell Webb is up to 255 lbs.

Freshman wide receiver Ricardo Miller is now 6'4", 215 lbs.

Freshman wide receiver D.J. Williamson is #84 and listed at 6'1", 170 lbs.

Junior tight end Kevin Koger is up to 255 lbs.

Redshirt sophomore tight end Brandon Moore is up to 250 lbs.

Freshman Jordan Paskorz is #94 and listed at 6'3", 242 lbs. He's also listed as a defensive end, which is where someone with his hip stiffness belongs.

Freshman Terry Talbott is #96 and listed at 6'3", 248 lbs. He's destined for a redshirt, especially because he's listed at defensive tackle, not defensive end.

Senior Adam Patterson is still listed as a defensive end, despite the fact that he got snaps at nose tackle in the spring.

2010 Countdown: #24 Mark Huyge

Name: Mark Huyge
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 306 lbs.
High school: Catholic Central High School in Wyoming, MI
Positon: Offensive tackle
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #72
Last year: I ranked Huyge #22 and said he'd be the starting right tackle. He began the season as the starter at right tackle, but moved inside to guard once David Moosman bumped to center. He started 4 games at tackle and 5 games at guard.

Huyge battled Perry Dorrestein for the right tackle job in 2009, finally winning the job in fall camp. He started the season there, but with the injury to center David Molk and the subsequent David Moosman move from guard to center, Huyge was deemed a decent fit at right guard. However, his starting role was eventually eliminated, as then-redshirt freshman Patrick Omameh beat him out at guard and Dorrestein had entrenched himself at right tackle. Huyge watched the last couple games from the bench, aside from some special teams duty.

With the graduation of two senior offensive linemen (Moosman and left tackle Mark Ortmann), the opportunity for Huyge to become a starter is there for the taking once again. Omameh will almost surely start at guard once again, but it's a four-way battle for the tackle positions between Huyge, Dorrestein, Taylor Lewan, and Michael Schofield. Huyge's most significant challenge will most likely come from Schofield, but the chances Schofield beats out the redshirt junior are very slim. Until or unless an injury occurs, Huyge is your starting right tackle in 2010. He's not a great blocker in either phase of the game, but Rodriguez is probably in a make-or-break year, and he probably can't entrust the tackle positions to redshirt freshmen.

Prediction for 2010: Starting right tackle

Monday, August 9, 2010

Review: 2009 Season Predictions

Jordan Kovacs went from an afterthought to a Freshman All-American.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to record my predictions, in order to look back on them at a later date. Well, that date has come. It's a few weeks prior to the 2010 season, and I can't help but think back on how I did last year (2009 Season Predictions here). I didn't do too badly, but there were a couple surprises.

Starting Quarterback
Last year's pick: Tate Forcier. I said he'd start every game.

I should have picked . . . Forcier. He started every game.

Leading Rusher
Last year's pick: Brandon Minor. I said he'd end the season with about 900 yards.

I should have picked . . . Minor. Minor only had 502 yards, but he missed three full games (plus parts of several others) due to injuries.

Leading Receiver
Last year's pick: Greg Mathews. I said he'd catch 50 balls for 650 yards.

I should have picked . . . Roy Roundtree. Mathews only caught 29 passes as the coaching staff continues to de-emphasize outside wide receivers. The leading receiver was slot receiver Roundtree, who caught 32 balls for 434 yards.

Leading Tackler
Last year's pick: Obi Ezeh.

I should have picked . . . Steve Brown. Middle linebacker Ezeh fought through a back injury and inconsistency to finish third with 69 tackles. SAM linebacker Brown brought down 80 ballcarriers, while redshirt freshman safety Jordan Kovacs made 75 stops.

Leading Sacker
Last year's pick: Brandon Graham. I said he'd finish at 10 sacks.

I should have picked . . . Graham. The obvious choice was obvious. Graham ended the season with 10.5 sacks, or 1/2 more of a sack than I thought. Damn half sacks!

Leading Interceptor
Last year's pick: Donovan Warren. I said he'd snatch 3 errant passes.

I should have picked . . . Warren. He actually picked off 4 passes, so once again, I overestimated. If he had only picked off 3 like I told him to, then maybe he'd have stuck around for an extra year! Then again, that pick-off against Indiana really saved Michigan's ass.

All-Big Ten First Team
Last year's picks: Brandon Graham and Zoltan Mesko.

I should have picked . . . Graham, Mesko, and Donovan Warren. Graham and Mesko were voted All-Big Ten first team by the coaches. Those two plus Warren were chosen for the first team by the media. Two for three isn't bad.

Leading Scorer (non-QB, non-kicker)
Last year's pick: Brandon Minor.

I should have picked . . . Minor. He scored 8 rushing touchdowns (48 points). The next closest scorer was Carlos Brown with 5 touchdowns (30 points). Placekicker Jason Olesnavage scored 75 points, but kickers are almost always the leading scorers, which is why I didn't allow myself to pick him.

Breakout Offensive Player
Last year's pick: Junior Hemingway.

I should have picked . . . Roy Roundtree. Hemingway only caught 16 passes, while Roundtree emerged as the go-to receiver late in the season and perhaps the front-runner for the next wearer of the coveted #1 jersey.

Breakout Defensive Player
Last year's pick: Troy Woolfolk.

I should have picked . . . Jordan Kovacs. I don't feel bad about the Woolfolk pick. He made 46 tackles and I think he surprised a lot of people with his solid play at both deep safety and cornerback. Despite switching to cornerback halfway through the season, it seemed that opponents targeted Donovan Warren more often than Woolfolk. Still, Kovacs was a Freshman All-American, started eight games, and finished second on the team with 75 tackles.

Most Disappointing Offensive Player
Last year's pick: Kevin Koger. I said he wouldn't catch any more than 15 passes.

I should have picked . . . I'm not sure. Greg Mathews? Maybe Koger was the right pick. I said he'd catch 15 passes or less, and the spiteful bastard caught 16 just to piss me off. Regardless, he dropped a lot of passes in the second half of the season and got phased out of the offense a bit. It's arguable who was the most disappointing, but I'm satisfied with my pick. I think most Michigan fans expected more production from the tight end spot.

Most Disappointing Defensive Player
Last year's pick: Ryan Van Bergen. I said he'd end up with about 20 tackles and a couple sacks.

I should have picked . . . Obi Ezeh. Maybe Jonas Mouton. Those inside linebackers made a lot of Michigan fans sad. It might be a little harsh to put Ezeh here, since he had a bad back and everything. But it's one of the two. Both were benched at various points, and Mouton had the same number of tackles as cornerback Donovan Warren. That's not good. Meanwhile, Van Bergen basically doubled my predictions - he had 40 tackles and 5 sacks. Good for him.

In Summary . . .
Well, the results are a mixed bag. Out of twelve predictions, six of them were spot-on. That's 50% (I'd like to thank my 4th grade teacher for the math skills). Technically, I guess I should get a slight deduction for only picking Graham and Mesko as All-Big Ten First Team; the coaches agreed with me, but the media added Warren. That's 49%. But I think I should get a few points for Koger as Most Disappointing Offensive Player, as well as a slight bump for Woolfolk as Breakout Defensive Player. That puts me at right around 55%.

So . . . 55% of the time, I'm right every time. Perhaps I should not be trusted.

Go blue!