Saturday, March 31, 2012 Heisman Trophy site lists Toussaint as sleeper

Kayden Kenzie predicts that Fitzgerald Toussaint has a good shot at breaking out this year, potentially competing for a Heisman Trophy.  He had 187 carries for 1,041 yards (5.8 yards per carry) and 9 touchdowns in 2011.  Only one out of the last eleven Heismans has gone to a running back, so it's clearly an uphill battle.  The last running back to win it was Alabama's Mark Ingram in 2009, who had 1,658 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.  Also on the list are Alabama running back Eddie Lacy, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell, and Notre Dame running back Cierre Wood.

The site does a rundown of potential Heisman winners for each recruiting class, too, and they have mentioned Tate Forcier, Devin Gardner, and Toussaint in the past.

A Note on TTB Ratings

Kyle Kalis is my top-rated recruited from 2012, but not every recruit receives
such high praise.
Recently I have taken a lot of flak for the TTB Ratings (and player reviews) I've been giving.  I'm a big boy and can handle the criticism; I expected criticism when I created the ratings.  However, I have to admit that some of the comments are unfounded and unrealistic.  Many of the complaints have centered around the fact that the coaches like the kids, so why can't I just shut up and enjoy the ride?  Well . . . because coaches are wrong.  And yes, that means I can be wrong, too.  But these are my opinions, not anyone else's.  And if my predictions are wrong, you can always point to a commitment post or a TTB Rating and say "Told ya so!"

Looking from a historical perspective, though, I think some people need to realize that a large number of these kids are bound to fail at football.  It's just the nature of the business.  Some high-profile recruits bomb.  Some low-profile recruits turn into stars.  And vice versa.

Looking at the bottom rung of my TTB Ratings, it says "0-39: Below average backup or special teams contributor."  Keep in mind that the TTB Ratings are trying to predict success at Michigan, not necessarily overall talent.  For example, a guy who I predict might get buried on the bench at Michigan could go to Kent State and play very well.  From 2002-2008, here's a list of all or most of the players who would fit that 0-39 category (essentially, these are complete non-contributors for various reasons): Tom Berishaj, Mike Kolodziej, Quinton McCoy, Kevin Murphy, Will Paul, Jim Presley, Clayton Richard, Pat Sharrow, Jeff Zuttah, Roger Allison, Keston Cheathem, Jeremy Ciulla, Grant DeBenedictis, Brett Gallimore, Marques Walton, Jason Forcier, Brandon Logan, Chris McLaurin, Chris Richards, Justin Schifano, Cory Zirbel, David Cone, Jason Kates, Cobrani Mixon, Quintin Patilla, Quintin Woods, Zion Babb, Artis Chambers, Vince Helmuth, Isaiah Bell, Taylor Hill, Dann O'Neill, Kurt Wermers, and Marcus Witherspoon. 

In a span of seven years, that's 34 guys who were complete busts . . . an average of 4.9 per recruiting cycle.  I realize some of those guys' careers ended early due to injury (Kolodziej, Sharrow, etc.), some transferred, and some got in trouble with the law . . . but some of them just couldn't cut it.  Jason Forcier was buried on the bench here and got buried at Stanford.  Brandon Logan could never see the field despite playing on a depleted football team.  Cone was behind younger players and walk-ons for his entire career.  No matter how you slice it, there are bound to be flops.

Am I a soothsayer?  No.  I can't predict the future.  All I can do is offer an educated opinion based on depth charts and what I see on film.  But I am 99% certain that some of these 4-stars will play like 5-stars, some 5-stars will play like 3-stars, and some 3-stars will become studs.  Nobody knows for sure which players they will be, but we're all bound to be wrong sometimes, and we're all bound to be right sometimes.

The difference between this site and others - whether you like it or not - is that I will share who I think those booms and busts will be.  There are numerous recruiting sites out there that essentially say "I love this kid and think he will be great!" . . . and they say that about every recruit.  That's fine if they want to do that, but I'm not going to put stock in the opinion of any "evaluator" who thinks 99% of these kids are going to be studs.  Imagine if you went to a doctor for your back pain and he said, "Surgery is great, acupuncture is great, chiropractors are great, exercise is great, and meditation is great!  They're all great!"  Or imagine if you went to a financial analyst who wanted you to put your money into every stock out there.  Well, surgery might mess up your back for life, and putting all your money into Groupon might sink your life savings.  Just like you would want a doctor or financial planner to steer you in the right direction, I hope I can steer Michigan fans in the right direction.

I will never root for a Michigan player to fail.  These kids play for Michigan, my alma mater.  I would love for every kid who walks onto the field to be an All-American and get drafted in the first round.  But that's not a realistic expectation, and realistic fans ought to be able to see that.  If my approach to recruiting upsets you, I encourage you to read another website.  That's not because I don't want traffic or that I don't value others' opinions.  I simply think you'll be happier elsewhere . . . and I know I'm unlikely to change.  I welcome other fans' opinions, but getting angry about my ratings is a waste of everyone's time.

Video: Brady Hoke press conference

Friday, March 30, 2012

Black Shoe Diaries: The State of Michigan Recruiting

Catherine Kluthe
Ace Anbender, of MGoBlog (and formerly The Wolverine Blog), spoke with Black Shoe Diaries about the state of recruiting at Michigan.  Obviously, things are going well . . . and opposing fan bases have noticed.

2011 Highlights: Brandon Herron

Attractive Michigan Girls of the Week

If you have any other pictures of girls wearing Michigan gear, drop me an e-mail.

Poll Results: Who will be Michigan's starting left guard?

Fifth year senior offensive lineman Elliott Mealer
This comes on the heels of Rocko Khoury's departure, who was presumed to be in the running to play center.  Now that it seems Ricky Barnum is destined to be the starting center this fall, that leaves an opening at left guard.  So I posed the question (for a second time): Who will be Michigan's starting left guard against Alabama?

Chris Bryant: 58%
Bryant is only a redshirt freshman but has earned praise from coaches and practice observers alike.  So far in spring practices, it has been reported that Bryant is playing behind Patrick Omameh at right guard.  This could be to give Omameh some competition, but Bryant has always seemed like more of a strongside guard to me.  When a kid is 6'4", 341 lbs., the coaches probably want him to do more bulldozing and less pulling.

Kyle Kalis: 16%
I still have doubts that a true freshman will start the first game of the season.  Kalis is good, but he won't get to campus until June.

Patrick Omameh: 12%
Omameh has been the starting right guard for parts or all of the last three seasons.  I'm not sure why he would flip to the left side at this point, although I wouldn't say it's impossible.  If the other guard isn't adept at pulling, Omameh (who isn't great at pulling, either) might be an upgrade in that department.

Elliott Mealer: 11%
At least in the early going of spring, Mealer seems to be the frontrunner for the left guard position.  The fifth year senior has been running with the first team, and his only serious competition would seem to be Bryant. 

Other: 1%
It was recently reported that redshirt freshman walk-on Graham Glasgow has been the #2 left guard in spring ball, but keep in mind that a couple walk-ons are bound to be on the second team due to a lack of depth.  Without Khoury, David Molk, and Mark Huyge (all of them graduated) and without the four freshman linemen on campus, numbers dictate walk-ons will get a chance to see some time.  The only "backup" scholarship players available are Bryant and redshirt freshman center Jack Miller.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wolverine Nation: Seniors spill the goods some more

Tiana Ta
Wolverine Nation  continues its anonymous polls/exit interviews, and they get some pretty interesting answers in the "short answer" section.  It's funny to read the quotes or poll results and think "I know who said this" or "I have a pretty good idea who would feel this way."  I would hate to speculate about some of the quotes because suddenly things get attributed to guys who didn't really feel that way, but it's still interesting to speculate in my own mind.

Video: Spring practice scrimmage

Video: Craig Roh interview

Scouting Report: Henry Poggi

Baltimore (MD) Gilman defensive tackle Henry Poggi
Name: Henry Poggi
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 255 lbs.
Class: 2013
Position: Tight end, defensive tackle
School: Baltimore (MD) Gilman

Notes: Holds offers from Alabama, Auburn, Boston College, California, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina State, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, South Florida, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas A&M, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin . . . Claims a 4.7 forty yard dash . . . As a junior in 2011, had 49 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, and 1 forced fumble . . . As a sophomore in 2010, had 6 sacks . . . ESPN 4-star DT . . . Rivals 4-star DT, #2 DT, #43 overall . . . Scout 4-star DT, #16 DT . . . 247 Sports 4-star DT, 95 grade, #6 DT, #66 overall . . . Brother Sam played at Duke . . . Brother Jim plays for Iowa . . . Father Biff is head coach at Gilman and one of the subjects in Season of Life, a book by Jeffrey Marx

Strengths: Really improved from sophomore to junior year . . . Uses hands well on defense . . . Not extremely explosive, but gets off blocks by using technique and effort . . . Good speed for a defensive tackle . . . Plays low and changes direction well for a big kid . . . Takes good angles of pursuit . . . Aggressive, hard-nosed tackler who wraps up ball carriers . . . Appears to be well coached . . . Strong blocker who could be used in short yardage situations as a tight end . . . Understands leverage and moves feet well when blocking

Weaknesses: Not particularly fast or explosive with pads on . . . Needs to improve upper body strength

Projection: Defensive tackle.  I can see why some teams and analysts have talked about Poggi as an "athlete" because he could contribute at multiple positions at the next level.  He's a very technically sound player on both sides of the ball.  As he adds weight to his frame, I don't think he's going to wow anyone with his physical skills.  He's not enough of a fast-twitch athlete to contribute as an edge rusher or be a real threat to catch the ball.  He might not end up being big or stout enough to play nose tackle.  But it looks to me that he would fit in well at the 3-technique defensive tackle position, where he can take on (and beat) single blocks with strength and technique.  Heck, with the way he blocks, someone might even want to put some weight on him for a few years and plug him in at offensive guard.  Ultimately, he doesn't look like a guy who will develop into a first round draft pick, but he could easily be one of those guys who has a very solid college career and gets picked in the 4th through 7th round.

Reminds me of: Dan Klecko

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wolverine Nation: Seniors spill the goods

Kelly Karloff

This article is behind a paywall, so it's not accessible for some of you.  But Mike Rothstein asked a few questions to outgoing seniors and got some anonymous answers to some polls.  Perhaps the most interesting part (that we couldn't have guessed) is the number of guys who said they liked or disliked Rich Rodriguez.  I have some guesses for who disliked him, although there weren't many of them.

Video: Roy Roundtree interview

Ask a Question: Drake Johnson

Image via

Drake Johnson amassed 2,805 rushing yards and 37 touchdowns during his senior season at Ann Arbor Pioneer, and in a few months, he will graduate and walk across the intersection of Main Street and Stadium Boulevard to play in the Big House. I'll be talking with Drake after his track practice this Friday, so leave a question for him in the comments section if you'd like, and I'll try to address it in the interview.

Thoughts go out to the Hoke family

Last night it was reported that John Hoke, father of head coach Brady Hoke, passed away from lung cancer.  My thoughts go out to the family as they deal with the loss.  It seems John did a good job of raising a successful and influential son, and in the grand scheme of things, that might be the thing that matters most.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Detroit News: BTN analyst thinks Michigan's a good bet to win division

Christina Halkiopoulos
Former Indiana and LSU head football coach Gerry DiNardo, who now works for the Big Ten Network, visited Michigan's spring practice lately and shares commentary on what he saw.  It sounds like he was impressed, but he wasn't a good football coach, so it probably doesn't take much.

Video: Jordan Kovacs interview

Poll Results: Who will be Michigan's starting nose tackle against Alabama?

William Campbell (#73) is the frontrunner for the nose tackle position in 2012
William Campbell: 73%
Believe it or not, Campbell is now a senior.  The former 5-star recruit has spent the last three seasons as a backup defensive tackle and offensive guard.  He should have redshirted in 2009 and, in an ideal world, would have two seasons of eligibility left.  Unfortunately, this will be his last hurrah.  Campbell is 6'5" and around 320 lbs., and when he fires off low, not many offensive linemen stand a chance; however, that's about a 50/50 proposition.  Last season he made 14 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 1 fumble recovery as Mike Martin's primary backup.  He'll probably get the first crack at taking Martin's starting spot

Ondre Pipkins: 17%
Pipkins is a 6'3", 330 lb. incoming freshman who won't hit campus until June.  It's notoriously difficult for true freshmen to play on either side of the line, so he would normally be a huge long shot . . . but the lack of productive depth at the position suggests Pipkins will be in the running for playing time.

Quinton Washington: 5%
The 6'4", 302 lb. made a bit of a sacrifice a couple seasons ago when he switched positions from offensive guard to defensive tackle.  When I watch him play defense, I see an offensive guard playing defense.  He's a very strong, stout player, but he's not athletic enough to be a real playmaker.  I think he lacks the qualities that the coaches are looking for in a starter, but he's a decent sub and goal line player.

Richard Ash: 2%
Ash will be a redshirt sophomore this fall and has yet to see significant playing time in college.  He did play in three games in 2011, but did not accrue any statistics.  As the voting indicates, I think Ash is the biggest long shot to start at the position.

Other: 0% (3 votes)
I'm not sure who was earning votes here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Detroit News: Robinson impresses with quick-trigger passes

Andrea Pasutti
This article from Angelique Chengelis focuses on Denard Robinson's decision making, which has been an issue at times (15 interceptions last season).  He has shown improvement this spring, which obviously bodes well for the team if it can carry over into the regular season.

Video: The #1 Jersey - Michigan Football Greats

Recruiting Update: March 26, 2012

Cornerback Devin Butler visited Michigan this past weekend
Owensboro (KY) Apollo offensive tackle Hunter Bivin committed to Notre Dame over the weekend.  The 6'7", 288 lb. lineman forged a friendship with Michigan's incoming safety Jeremy Clark, who played high school football nearby in Kentucky.  But with a full offensive line class, Michigan was no longer an option for Bivin.

Philadelphia (PA) William Penn Charter offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey committed to Notre Dame over the weekend.  The 6'9", 280-pounder also held offers from Florida, Florida State, Miami, Penn State, Pitt, and Wisconsin, among others.  Much like Bivin, Michigan has no more room for offensive linemen at this point.

New Lenox (IL) Lincoln-Way West offensive tackle Colin McGovern committed to Notre Dame over the weekend, too.  It's the chic thing to do.  McGovern also had offers from Alabama, Nebraska, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and several others.  See Bivin and McGlinchey above.

I was out of town this weekend, so I didn't get a chance to put together a list of weekend visitors on Friday.  However, there were a handful of kids in town:

  • Washington (DC) Gonzaga cornerback Devin Butler
  • Pickerington (OH) North tight end Jake Butt (already committed)
  • Detroit (MI) Cass Tech quarterback Jayru Campbell (2015)
  • Columbus (OH) Marion Franklin wide receiver Jaron Dukes (already committed)
  • Detroit (MI) Cass Tech defensive back Johnny Miggins (2014)
  • Detroit (MI) Cass Tech wide receiver Damon Webb (2014)
Butler is the most significant of those recruits, since he's a 6'1", 185 lb. cornerback and Michigan needs a player like him in this class.  The coaching staff struck out on some big corners in the 2012 class and are pursuing guys who are 6'0" or taller to pair with 2013 commit Jourdan Lewis.

Sunday, March 25, 2012 Shane Morris struggles at Elite 11

Jessa Lynn Hinton
Class of 2013 quarterback recruit Shane Morris had a tough day at the Dallas Elite 11, but I'm not concerned.  Quarterback camps are somewhat overrated, just like a camp for any other position.  What matters most is how players show when they're wearing pads.

NFL Wolverines: Manningham, Hutchinson, Henne Find New Teams

Mario Manningham is a 49er

NFL free agency kicked off at 4:00 p.m. on March 13 and that lead to some shuffling of former Michigan athletes. We'll find out where all of them land when I get around to updating the list of Wolverines in the NFL, but for now, here's the rundown of the high-profile movers.

Mario Manningham is headed to San Francisco after signing a two-year contract worth up to 7.3 million dollars - a good chunk of coin but significantly less than top-flight wide receiver money. Manningham fought a knee injury for much of last year and had the least productive regular season of his career, finishing with 39 catches for 523 yards. However, his playoff performances and Super Bowl heroics contributed to a healthy market for his services, which the Giants could not afford with two solid wide receivers, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, already on their roster. Manningham joins a 49ers receiving unit that includes former Buckeye and first-round draft pick Ted Ginn Jr., former first-rounder Michael Crabtree, and all-time receiving great Randy "straight cash, homie" Moss.

Steve Hutchinson isn't the dominant All-Pro left guard that he used to be, but the 34-year-old is still good enough to command a three-year contract from the Tennessee Titans. Hutchinson - who has pancake blocked the way to 1,000 yard rushing seasons for Adrian Peterson, Shaun Alexander and Chester Taylor - will now be paving the way for speedster Chris Johnson, one of the league's most exciting running backs.

Chad Henne separated his non-throwing shoulder in early October of last year, which caused him to miss the remainder of the 2011 season. Actually, the injury was "more severe than a separated shoulder," according to Henne. But he still drew attention when he hit the open market, first from the Seattle Seahawks and then from the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he signed a two-year deal worth $6.75 million. Henne will compete with the 2011 NFL Draft's 10th overall selection Blaine Gabbert for Jacksonville's starting spot. Through four years in the NFL, Henne has more interceptions (37) than touchdowns (31) and an unimpressive 75.7 passer rating, but it doesn't sound like he's ready to concede anything yet. "I'm a fierce competitor. I will do everything I can to get that job."

Friday, March 23, 2012 With Toussaint back, Hayes and other young backs are focus

Nicole Ciglar
The question with Justice Hayes has mostly been, Does he have the bulk and strength to play tailback in the Big Ten?  There's a fair amount of buzz about Hayes this spring, even though starter Fitzgerald Toussaint and primary backup Vincent Smith both return.  I guess the third- and fourth-string running backs are big stories during spring ball.

Mailbag: Should Devin Gardner play wide receiver?

Should Devin Gardner play wide receiver or be the backup quarterback?
Okay, this wasn't really a mailbag question.  It was asked by Lankownia in the comments section.  Also, it's the hip topic of spring practice (so far).  Here are my thoughts.

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, play him at wide receiver.  Michigan is hurting - badly - at the wide receiver position.  Besides the 2008 squad (Greg Mathews, Laterryal Savoy, Darryl Stonum, Martavious Odoms, Toney Clemons, etc.), I think this is Michigan's worst receiver unit in years and years and years.  Each of the returning receivers has at least one major flaw:

  • Jeremy Jackson: slow
  • Jeremy Gallon: short
  • Drew Dileo: short
  • Jerald Robinson: maturity issues
  • Roy Roundtree: chemistry issues
  • Darryl Stonum: drunk
Roundtree has the best chance of being the number one guy because he's been Michigan's leading receiver before, but he wasn't often targeted last season, he's had some issues with his hands over the past 1.5 seasons, and there was a fair bit of confusion between him and Denard last season when Roundtree went one way and the ball went sailing elsewhere.  Beyond that, all of these guys are role type players who have limited ceilings in this offense.  Gallon has some big play ability, but it seemed that Al Borges's only way of getting him the ball last season was to run a throwback screen (and to Jedi Mind Trick the Notre Dame Fighting Irish into completely forgetting he was on the football field).  Robinson is a jump ball guy who has receiving ability similar to Junior Hemingway's, without so much talent when it comes to running after the catch.

So aside from Denard Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint, this isn't a scary offense.

Now throw a 6'4", 205 lb. guy with long arms and good leaping ability into the mix.  Instantly, he's the tallest receiver on the roster.  He's probably the second fastest receiver on the roster.  He can jump.  He can catch.  He's bright.  Can he block?  I don't know.  Other than that, all the tools seem to be there.

The catch is that if Gardner plays receiver, who's being groomed to be the quarterback in 2013?  And who enters the game for Denard when he inevitably dings up a shoulder or a hip or a knee?  While Gardner's playing wideout, he's not taking snaps.  Meanwhile, third-string quarterback Russell Bellomy is getting some looks and then you have to look at 2013 freshman Shane Morris, a highly touted but [obviously] young QB.  Depth will once again be thin in 2013, even if Gardner plays quarterback.  Those are problems to worry about in the future, though.  Right now, assuming the electric Robinson can stay healthy, you need to get the best eleven on the field.  Gardner is one of the best eleven athletes on the offensive unit.  It doesn't do anyone much good to leave a kid like that wasting his time on the bench for three years.

I do have confidence in the futures of both incoming freshmen, Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh.  But you can't count on them to be ready immediately.  You have to plan to play the guys who are already on the squad, and I don't think you can convincingly guarantee me that every guy in the above bulleted list is a better receiving prospect than Devin Gardner.

On a side note, this discussion  is why you recruit at least one quarterback every year.  I insisted for the entirety of the 2012 recruiting cycle that Michigan should - and would - get a quarterback to sign with them in February.  It had happened for 14 years in a row and wouldn't stop.  Well, I was wrong.  The Wolverines got a commitment from Morris for 2013 and ignored the position for 2012.  Now they're flirting with the idea of putting the #2 quarterback at receiver and being stuck with Bellomy as the sole backup devoted to the quarterback position.  If the doomsday scenario occurs in which both Robinson and  Gardner get hurt, the Wolverines will be left with Bellomy and ___________ at quarterback.  That scenario is unlikely to actually occur, but if Michigan had an incoming freshman quarterback, the Gardner-to-receiver thing would be a no-brainer.  Instead, it has fans - and the coaches, it seems - unsure of how to use Gardner.

Attractive Michigan Girls of the Week

Thursday, March 22, 2012 Peyton Manning considered becoming a Wolverine

Michigan won a national championship during Peyton Manning's college years, so I can't say that I'm disappointed Manning went elsewhere.  I have an autographed Brian Griese photo hanging up in my house, and I wouldn't have wanted to mess with that 1997-98 team's chemistry.  But it would have been pretty cool to watch Manning play football in a winged helmet.

Video: Denard Robinson interview from BTN

Site News

I will be heading out of town for the next few days, somewhat unexpectedly.  I'll be gone from this afternoon until probably sometime on Sunday.  I have a couple posts ready to go, Andrew will be posting a couple things, and I'll be online occasionally.  I'm not expecting any commitments in the next few days, but if there's any breaking news, you might have to wait until Monday or Tuesday to get any kind of in-depth analysis.

Tim North Answers Your Questions

After graduating at the top of his class from Linden High School in 2005, Tim walked on to the Michigan football team, appeared in 32 games, earned a scholarship and became a three-time Academic All-Big Ten player. He now lives in Manhattan and works as an Account Executive at IBM. Before meeting his clients for dinner this Tuesday, Tim was nice enough to take a few minutes to talk about his Michigan experiences and answer several reader questions.

Mind over matter: "I started developing that at a younger age because when I was younger I was overweight and wasn't that good at sports. But it never bothered me; it made me want to get better. I learned how to workout and take care of myself. And then I was an in-betweener during the recruiting process. . . . So I keep that chip, and I think it really helps me out - knowing that you have to go out and earn it."

Unexpected opportunity: "I was not serious about playing college football until I started getting invitations to all these camps, and I was better than the kids I was playing against, so I was like, 'I guess I am good enough to do this.' But really I'm kind of secretly a nerd. I was really focused on academics and wanted to make sure I got into a good school. I was taking trips and getting offers from MAC schools. Then it came to a point where the former Director of Football Operations knew my high school coach and was like, 'we can't guarantee anything, but you've got a spot at practice if you want to come to Michigan,' and I can't imagine going to a different school."

Walk-on nation: "First of all, I'm very proud to be a walk-on, and I make sure that everyone knows that I'm very, very proud to be a walk-on. I think you find that most of the guys at Michigan really are. It's funny, we called our group walk-on nation. It [the name] is still going now, and it came before me. But you go through some different stuff as a walk-on. When you come in, you're scared because you have no clue what you're getting into. First of all, you need to get into school by yourself. And you don't have a coach who brought you in, and not much is expected of you. Not to take anything away from anyone on the team, because honestly you couldn't have a football program without walk-ons. I mean, it would be impossible to have a practice without walk-ons. And I've always kind of kept a chip on my shoulder. I just refused to feel different, and I just never felt out of place."

We're not in Linden anymore: "My first two years when I came to Michigan, I was on the scout team, and I went against Jake Long every single day in practice. I just had to learn to use every bit of my god given ability, and there's no better person to go against than that. . . . In terms of the recent years before I came in, Linden was terrible at football. It wasn't really until the class two grades in front of me who I played with - that was really the first class that was a winning class. It was kind of the tipping point* at Linden in terms of winning tradition. Ever since then we've won a championship almost every year. And ever since the two grades ahead of me and on, there have been several players besides me who have gone on to play Division II football and whatnot."

A team approach: "There's a new way that businesses are hiring now. I work with some guys who played football that were hired with me. It's a pretty selective hiring group, and I'd say that 30% of them were athletes. I really see companies understanding that they need people who can work work well as a team. . .Every single day I'm interlinked with at least 25 different people dispersed throughout different teams in my company who I rely on and who rely on me. So it goes back to the accountability thing, and especially when someone is from a school like Michigan, they have that instilled in them already - it's not something they have to teach them."

*Tim North recommending readings: The Tipping Point and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Big Ten Blog: Mattison puts Michigan defenders on alert

Kelly Karloff
With so much uncertainty on the defensive line in 2012, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison seems to be letting his players know that if they don't produce, they will be replaced by someone who can.  I'm guessing this is a shot across the bow aimed at some veteran defensive tackles who have yet to step up their games.

Rivals Position Rankings Released for 2013

Shane Morris (left) is Michigan's highest ranked recruit, and Dyomonte Thomas is the
country's eighth best safety
Here's a look at where each of Michigan's recruits ranks on Rivals for 2013, by position (highest ranked Michigan offeree in parentheses):

Kyle Bosch: #9 OT (Laremy Tunsil #1)
Jake Butt: #4 TE (Adam Breneman #1)
Taco Charlton: #16 SDE (Joey Bosa #2)
Gareon Conley: Unranked ATH (Shallman #10)
David Dawson: #23 OT (#1 Tunsil)
Jaron Dukes: #43 WR (Marquez North #3)
Chris Fox: #4 OT (Tunsil #1)
Khalid Hill: Unranked TE (Breneman #1)
Patrick Kugler: #7 OT (Tunsil #1)
Jourdan Lewis: #12 CB (Kendall Fuller #1)
Mike McCray: #8 OLB (E.J. Levenberry #3)
Shane Morris: #2 PQB (Morris)
Wyatt Shallman: #10 ATH (Shallman)
DeVeon Smith: #32 RB (Ty Isaac #2)
Dymonte Thomas: #8 S (Su'a Cravens #1)
Logan Tuley-Tillman: #13 OT (Tunsil #1)

Scouting Report: Laquon Treadwell

Crete (IL) Crete-Monee wide receiver Laquon Treadwell
Name: Laquon Treadwell
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 183 lbs.
Class: 2013
Position: Wide receiver
School: Crete (IL) Crete-Monee

Notes: Holds offers from Alabama, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, USC, Vanderbilt . . . As a junior in 2011, caught 75 passes for 1,400 yards and 18 touchdowns . . . As a sophomore in 2010, caught 49 passes for 815 yards and 7 touchdowns . . . Rivals 4-star WR, #5 WR, #31 overall . . . Scout 4-star WR, #11 WR, #76 overall . . . 247 Sports 4-star WR, 94 grade, #8 WR, #75 overall . . . Claims 225 lb. bench, 415 lb. squat . . . High school teammate of former 2012 Michigan commit Anthony Standifer (now committed to Mississippi)

Strengths: Good size at 6'3", similar to 2012 recruit Jehu Chesson . . . Frame to fill out to 210-215 lbs. . . . Good straight-line speed . . . Gets upfield quickly after catching short passes . . . Shifty but not a dancer . . . Quick feet for a tall kid . . . Plays in a pass-happy offense that gives him lots of reps catching the ball . . . Solid runner after catch . . . Runs with good body lean . . . Strong enough runner to break arm tackles . . . Willing blocker but needs to work on technique

Weaknesses: Plays in a somewhat simple passing offense . . . Needs to improve route running/footwork . . . A bit of a body catcher . . . Might not have enough elite speed to blow past good corners, but should be effective on posts, deep in routes, etc.

Projection: Wide receiver.  Treadwell is one of the top few receivers I've seen in the class.  He's not exceptional in any one area, but he doesn't have any major deficiencies.  With his size he should be a good red zone threat, but the one thing I would like to see is his leaping ability and whether he can catch the ball away from his body.  He should be a very good college player, though.

Reminds me of: Greg Mathews (but significantly faster) [EDIT: The more I think about it, David Terrell seems to be a better comparison.]

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wolverine Nation: Exit Interview - Michael Cox

This is a fairly repetitive interview from Wolverine Nation, but outgoing running back Michael Cox gets interviewed.  He doesn't say anything inflammatory throughout the interview and speaks highly of his Michigan experience.  Sometimes I root for the kids who transfer away from Michigan, because they're doing what's best for themselves.  Sometimes I root against them because they're jerks.  Cox's problem was reportedly his inability to grasp the playbook, but based on watching him play for the last three years at Michigan, I'm hoping he has success at UMass.  He's a very talented runner.  If he wins the starting job for the Minutemen, I hope he has a good week every week . . . except September 15th.

Video: Greg Mattison press conference

Video: Al Borges press conference

Video: MGoBlue - Jeremy Gallon feature

Michigan Combine participation and Draft position since 1999

Marquise Walker
With the NFL Combine behind us and the Draft not too far away, now seems like a good time to take a look at the recent history of Wolverines in the NFL. Here's a list of players who have participated in the combine since 1999, with draft position included in parentheses. It's worth remembering that the vast majority of players who are invited to the Combine end up with NFL teams, even if they are not selected in the Draft.

2012 (3): DT Mike Martin (TBD), WR Junior Hemingway (TBD), David Molk (TBD)

2011 (2): LB Jonas Mouton (2nd), Stephen Schilling (6th)

2010 (5): OLB Brandon Graham (1st), P Zoltan Mesko (5th), S Stevie Brown (7th)*, CB Donovan Warren (undrafted), RB Brandon Minor (undrafted)

2009 (4): DT Terrance Taylor (4th), CB Morgan Trent (6th), LS Sean Griffin (undrafted), DE Tim Jamison (undrafted)

2008 (7): OT Jake Long (1st), QB Chad Henne (2nd), LB Shawn Crable (3rd), WR Mario Manningham (3rd), RB Mike Hart (6th), WR Adrian Arrington (7th), SS Jamar Adams (undrafted)

2007 (6): CB Leon Hall (1st), DT Alan Branch (2nd), LB LaMarr Woodley (2nd), LB David Harris (2nd ), WR Steve Breaston (5th), LB Prescott Burgess (6th)

2006 (5): DT Gabe Watson (4th), WR Jason Avant (4th), TE Tim Massaquai (7th), OL Adam Stenavich (undrafted), LB Pierre Woods (undrafted)

2005 (7): WR Braylon Edwards (1st), CB Marlin Jackson (1st), OG David Bass (2nd), CB Markus Curry (undrafted), FB Kevin Dudley (undrafted), P Adam Finley (undrafted), S Earnest Shazor (undrafted)

2004 (5): RB Chris Perry (1st), CB Jeremy LeSueur (3rd), QB John Navarre (7th), OT Tony Pape (7th), OL David Pearson (undrafted)

2003 (7): LB Victor Hobson (2nd), TE Bennie Joppru (2nd), FB B.J. Askew (3rd), QB Drew Henson (6th), SS Cato June (6th), FS Charles Drake (7th), WR Ronald Bellamy (undrafted)

2002 (4): WR Marquise Walker (3rd), LB Larry Foote (4th), OG Jonathan Goodwin (5th), K Hayden Epstein (7th)

2001 (6): OT Jeff Backus (1st), OL Steve Hutchinson (1st), WR David Terrell (1st), RB Anthony Thomas (2nd), OT Maurice Williams (2nd), CB James Whitley (undrafted)

2000 (7): LB Ian Gold (2nd), FB Aaron Shea (4th), DT Josh Williams (4th), LB Dhani Jones (6th), QB Tom Brady (6th), DE James Hall (undrafted), WR Marcus Knight (undrafted)

1999 (8): OT Jon Jansen (2nd), TE Jerame Tuman (5th), WR Tai Streets (6th), CB Andre Weathers (7th), RB Clarence Williams (undrafted), QB Scott Dreisbach (undrafted), SS Marcus Ray (undrafted), LB Sam Sword (undrafted)

*Not invited to the Combine

Average number of Michigan players participating in the Combine: 5.4

Average number of Michigan players selected in the Draft: 4.1

Average Draft position: 3.8th round

Monday, March 19, 2012 Spring preview - specialists

Marisa Miller
Last one!  Kyle Meinke talks about the specialists Michigan will have for the upcoming season.  He does make a booboo by suggesting that Terrence Robinson will be a potential returner next year, because Robinson is leaving for (hopefully) greener pastures.  Nobody's perfect.  Except Marisa Miller.

Video: Michigan's Pro Day

Recruiting Update: March 19, 2012

How now? What news?
Warren (OH) Howland running back Deveon Smith committed to Michigan.

Randolph (NJ) Randolph offensive guard Brendan Mahon committed to Penn State.  For whatever reason, Mahon always seemed like a Penn State type of guy.  And obviously, with Michigan full at the offensive line position group, this doesn't affect the Wolverines a great deal.

St. Paul (MN) Cretin-Derham wide receiver James Onwualu committed to Notre Dame.  Onwualu had planned to visit Michigan last week, but decided to go ahead and commit to the Irish instead.  Cretin-Derham has produced several high profile athletes (Seantrel Henderson, Joe Mauer, etc.), including outgoing Notre Dame wideout Michael Floyd.

Pittsburgh (PA) Seton La Salle tight end Scott Orndoff committed to Pitt.  He was committed to Wisconsin for a long time, but the departure of offensive coordinator Paul Chryst made him back off that commitment.  Luckily for Pitt, Chryst became the Panthers head coach.  Orndoff visited Michigan unofficially last weekend, but you can't blame him for picking a Chryst's offense; he's a guy who has done a good job of developing tight ends.

Here's a list of the weekend visitors.  You can add 2013 commit Kyle Bosch to the list, too.

When Richmond (VA) Hermitage running back Derrick Green visited on Sunday, the coaches told him that they still wanted another running back, despite the fact that Smith committed on Saturday.  That means the door is still open for Green or Joliet (IL) Catholic's Ty Isaac. Spring preview - defensive line

Talia Shepard
Kyle Meinke continues his spring preview with a discussion of the defensive line, which is perhaps Michigan's biggest question mark going into 2012.  And you can take the "perhaps" out of the previous sentence.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Video: First Spring Practice 2012

DeVeon Smith, Wolverine

Warren (OH) Howland running back DeVeon Smith committed to Michigan on Saturday
Warren (OH) Howland running back DeVeon Smith committed to Michigan on Saturday.  He chose the Wolverines over offers from Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, and West Virginia, among others.

Smith is a 5'11", 205 lb. power back.  He estimated that he carried the ball 160 times for 2,200 yards as a junior in 2011.  Actual statistics of any kind have eluded me so far.

ESPN: Unranked RB
Rivals: 3-star RB, #32 RB (updated on 3/19/2012)
Scout: 4-star RB, #7 RB
247 Sports: 3-star RB, 89 grade, #31 RB

Michigan was Smith's favorite team growing up, despite the fact that his older brother, Lance, played running back for Wisconsin and Memphis. His first offer came from the Wolverines back in December, and it seemed in the following weeks that Smith would become a Wolverine sooner or later.  He held off on making a decision until he visited Michigan this weekend, which is a bit surprising because his high school coaches like their kids to wait a couple days after a visit before deciding.

There isn't a ton of film on Smith out there, but there's enough to get a glimpse of what he offers.  He's a powerful back who's built low to the ground.  He either works hard in the weight room or has the genes of a bowling ball, because that's how he runs.  Both his upper and lower body are pretty thick, giving him excellent balance.  He has a good stiff-arm and knows how to get downhill.  His coach mentions in the article linked above that he also rarely fumbles.  One of his best qualities seems to be that he knows what he is - a straight-ahead runner without the speed or elusiveness to be a dancer.

What Smith lacks is speed.  He's not a breakaway type of runner, unless a linebacker or a couple defensive backs have been left behind as roadkill.  He struggles to outrun high schoolers, and Howland doesn't exactly play the powerhouse schools in Ohio.

Some people want to compare Smith to Mike Hart, and I see that a little bit with his ability to bounce off of tackles.  However, Smith doesn't possess the same elusiveness and might even be a tad bit slower.  The guy Smith looks like to me is Leroy Hoard, the former Michigan running back who went on to a career with the Browns, Ravens, Panthers, and Vikings.  Hoard was the same height and approximately 225 lbs., which Smith could easily reach in a couple years.  Hoard was never a superstar, but he was a very solid player who excelled in part because his offensive line (at Michigan) was very good and got him to the second level against physically overmatched players.  Considering the offensive line Michigan is putting together in the 2012 and 2013 classes, Smith might be able to take advantage of that same circumstance.

DeVeon Smith is Michigan's sixteenth commitment in the class of 2012, a class that currently looks to reach nineteen (although further attrition is almost assured).  He's also the second running back, to go along with Novi (MI) Catholic Central's Wyatt Shallman.  There is some question about whether the Wolverines will still pursue Joliet (IL) Catholic's Ty Isaac, who also likes Michigan and visited last weekend.  I think Michigan will continue to pursue Isaac, who possesses the big-play ability that Shallman and Smith lack.

TTB Rating: 63 (rating system)

How will the recent departures affect Michigan in 2012?

Darryl Stonum is Michigan's biggest off-season loss
Several football players have left Michigan's program this offseason, including four announced departures during Friday's spring practice press conference.  Here I'll rank the departures from most important to least:

WR Darryl Stonum: Stonum was booted out of the program for yet another run-in with the law.  He had several alcohol-related offenses throughout his college career and was suspended for the entirety of the 2011 season, which would have been his senior year.  Instead, he took a "redshirt year" and everyone hoped he would mature and jump back into a starting role for 2012.  In 2010 he had 49 receptions for 633 yards and 4 touchdowns.  He probably could have approximated those numbers again in 2012 because he would have been the most proven and most physically talented wide receiver on the roster.  The Wolverines lost Junior Hemingway, Martavious Odoms, and Kelvin Grady to graduation, who combined for 46 receptions, 908 yards, and 7 touchdowns.  Now the top two wideouts going into 2012 seem to be the 5'8" Jeremy Gallon (31 receptions, 453 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Roy Roundtree (19 receptions, 355 yards, 2 touchdowns).  The loss of Stonum will hurt Michigan significantly.

C Rocko Khoury: Khoury was considered to be in the mix for the starting center job in 2012.  He had been the top backup at the position for the past two seasons, and with David Molk's graduation, there was an opening.  Most of the buzz this offseason indicated that Ricky Barnum was the front-runner for the position, and perhaps that was because the coaches knew for a while that Khoury would not return.  I would be interested to know why Khoury is done at Michigan.  Did he burn out?  Did he assume he would lose the battle with Khoury?  Will he continue his career elsewhere?  The answers to those questions are unclear.  It is clear, however, that the Wolverines are dangerously thin at center now.  Barnum - who has a history of getting injured -  is practically guaranteed to start at center, and the backup is redshirt freshman Jack Miller, who was listed at 263 lbs. last season.  Other options are Elliott Mealer, who has played guard and tackle in his career and taken some practice; walk-on Joey Burzynski; or one of the true freshmen, although none of them was expected to play center when recruited.  Considering Barnum's injury history, one or more backups are practically guaranteed to play at some point.

WR Terrence Robinson: Robinson was a virtual non-factor as a wide receiver (1 reception for 43 yards in 2010), but he turned into a bit of a special teams coverage demon in 2011.  He made a total of 6 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery on punt and kickoff coverage teams.  Some insiders believed that he even had a good shot at contributing on offense, based on comments that some of the coaches had made.  Robinson's role can likely be filled on special teams, however, and history suggests that any offensive output would probably have been minimal.

RB Michael Cox: Cox contributed very little in Michigan's 11-2 season last fall; the most he did was return a couple short kickoffs.  He had 19 career carries for 169 yards and 2 touchdowns, most of which came in 2009.  While Cox gave flashes that he might have been the most physically talented running back on the roster, rumors persisted that he struggled to learn the playbook and had some attitude issues.  He did play very well whenever he got a chance to show his skills, but all indications seemed to be that he would be see only limited duty again in 2012.  Of the six players listed here, Cox is the only one who has announced plans to continue his career elsewhere; he will transfer to UMass and play football for the upcoming season.

LB Isaiah Bell: Bell had been moored to the bench for the last three seasons.  He was likely destined to continue that role as a benchwarmer, and his departure should have virtually no effect on the team.

LS George Morales: Much like Bell, Morales hadn't seen the field yet in his career.  The Wolverines have a couple long snappers already on the roster, one of whom (Jareth Glanda) won the starting short snapper job last season for field goals and extra points; there are also a couple kids entering school as part of the 2012 class who might be able to help if needed.

Saturday, March 17, 2012 Spring preview - defensive backs's Kyle Meinke discusses the defensive back situation, which is largely the same as it was last season, minus Troy Woolfolk . . . who was injured and ineffective most of the time, anyway.

Video: Brady Hoke - Spring Practice Press Conference

Poll Results: Who will be Michigan's starting left guard?

Redshirt freshman Chris Bryant might
be the front-runner for the LG job
Last week I asked the question, "Who will be Michigan's starting left guard against Alabama?"

This poll is a little obsolete now that it has been announced Rocko Khoury will not return.  Barnum, the leading vote receiver in this poll, is now the front-runner for the center position.  So guess what?  There's a new poll about the position on the left sidebar.  But here's how much things can change with the loss of one player:

Ricky Barnum: 29%
The fifth year senior is a 6'3", 292 lb. guard/center has been about as injury prone as a football player can be throughout his career.  He has appeared in only nine career games and started three (at left guard) in 2011.  The coaches have praised his ability to get out and run, which seems to indicate that he should stay at guard, since centers don't run very much.  However, insider indications suggest that the coaches want him to win the starting job at center and will give him the first shot to do so. [EDIT: The previous sentence is clearly obsolete now.]

Chris Bryant: 18% (tie)
Bryant is just a redshirt freshman going into 2012, but coaches are reportedly enamored with his abilities, especially as a run blocker.  He appears to be the reason the coaches want Barnum to win the center job, so they can plug Bryant in at left guard.  He was listed at 6'4" and 341 lbs. as a true freshman, but I would expect him to be a little lighter entering the upcoming season.

Kyle Kalis: 18% (tie)
Going even younger, Kalis is an incoming freshman.  He stands 6'5" and 305 lbs., which gives him adequate size (Barnum and right guard Patrick Omameh were both less than 300 lbs.).  Kalis is the highest rated offensive line recruit in the freshman class and the odds-on favorite as the most likely of the freshmen to play in the upcoming season.  Due to a lack of linemen in recent classes, at least one true freshman is almost guaranteed to be on the two-deep, unless a walk-on emerges.

Patrick Omameh: 18% (1 fewer vote than the two above players)
Omameh, a redshirt senior, has started for all or parts of the last three seasons at right guard.  It strikes me as surprising that people think he will move to the left guard position, but I guess anything is possible.  Omameh is a 6'4", 299-pounder who struggled early last season, but seemed to improve late.

Michael Schofield: 13%
Schofield is listed as an offensive tackle, but he started nine games in 2011 as a replacement for the injured Barnum.  With few true threats to replace the departed Mark Huyge at right tackle, it seems unlikely that Schofield will stick at left guard unless there's a major rejiggering along the offensive line like, say, Omameh to right tackle.  While Kalis and incoming freshman Ben Braden are both expected to begin their careers at right tackle, they seem like long shots to start from Day 1.  At 6'7" and a listed 299 lbs. (although I have heard Schofield is a bit heavier now), he seems a little tall to remain at guard.

Other: 0% (2 votes)
I would be interested to know which player(s) were being considered with these two votes.

Friday, March 16, 2012 Spring preview - linebackers

Michigan returns all three starting linebackers from last season, plus two backups who have starting experience in Brandin Hawthorne and Cameron Gordon.  Here's Kyle Meinke's breakdown of a position without many surprises.

A Few Roster Updates

Michigan's football roster is slowly being updated.  Weights are the same for returning players (so far), but there is some information about the early enrolled freshmen:

  • Safety Jarrod Wilson is #22 and measures in at 6'2", 190 lbs.
  • Linebacker Joe Bolden is #35 and measures in at 6'3", 230 lbs.
  • Linebacker Kaleb Ringer is #49 and measures in at 6'1", 225 lbs.

Michael Cox is transferring to UMass

According to Wolverine Nation, running back Michael Cox will be graduating at the end of the semester and transferring to UMass, where he will go to graduate school and play football.  UMass will be playing its first season in the FBS after moving up from the FCS level.  They will be a member of the Mid-American Conference . . . and they happen to be playing at Michigan on September 15th of the upcoming season.

So Michigan fans haven't seen the last of Michael Cox.

Good luck to the men's basketball team!

I basically just wanted an excuse to post the video below, but good luck to Michigan's men's basketball team as they take on the Ohio Bobcats at 7:20 p.m. this evening.  I don't post much about basketball, since it's not my forte, but I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the team this season.  Hopefully they can make the season last a few weeks longer.

Four redshirt juniors won't return in 2012

According to head coach Brady Hoke, running back Michael Cox, center Rocko Khoury, long snapper George Morales, and wide receiver Terrence Robinson will not return for their redshirt senior seasons in 2012.

I guess this means Khoury won't be winning that center position.  This makes Michigan painfully thin at center, with only fifth year senior Ricky Barnum and redshirt freshman Jack Miller the only scholarship centers on the roster.  Fifth year senior Elliott Mealer has some experience snapping the ball, but only in practice. 

Attractive Michigan Girls of the Week