Friday, August 31, 2012

Pre-Snap Read: #4 Alabama

Pre-Snap Read  thinks Alabama is the #4 team in the country, a year after they won the national championship.  Uh-oh.

Attractive Michigan Girls of the Week

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

2012 Season Predictions

This is always fun.  Take a look at my 2011 predictions.

Now for the things that will absolutely, 100% become true in the coming months:

Leading Rusher
Last year I picked the right guy (Denard Robinson) but fell short on the yardage.  Now that it looks like Fitzgerald Toussaint will miss some time due to legal issues, it's even more likely that Robinson leads the team in rushing for the third straight season.  Hopefully he can stay healthy and make this come true.
Prediction: Denard Robinson, 1200 yards

Leading Receiver
Starting flanker Roy Roundtree looks like he's being groomed to be this year's #1 target, now that he's been moved to the multiple receiver side and wearing the #21 jersey.  The coaches want him to be The Guy, and he's been successful before.  He doesn't have the same ability to catch balls in traffic as last year's leading receiver Junior Hemingway, but he does have some smoothness and shiftiness to him.
Prediction: Roy Roundtree, 750 yards

Leading Tackler
Starting middle linebacker Kenny Demens returns to the same role this season.  He doesn't have the same talent in front of him to keep him clean, but the mass of Quinton Washington and William Campbell, along with the steady play of Craig Roh, should help Demens maintain some level of consistency.
Prediction: Kenny Demens, 90 tackles

Leading Sacker
The pass rush is not this team's specialty.  Especially if weakside end Frank Clark can't play much because of legal issues, the athleticism just isn't there for the full-time players.  The best pass rusher on the unit is SAM linebacker Jake Ryan, but he might be overmatched if he has to play too much weakside end.  Ryan is better as a guy who moves around from the edge to an inside blitz, back to the edge, etc.
Prediction: Jake Ryan, 5.5 sacks

Leading Interceptor
I picked J.T. Floyd for this spot in 2010, but he got hurt halfway through the year.  Then I picked Jordan Kovacs last season, and he ended up with just 1 pick.  The best cover guy on the squad is Blake Countess, in my opinion, but Countess had 0 picks last year, though he had 1 in the spring game.  So I'm going to combine my last two choices.
Prediction: J.T. Floyd and Jordan Kovacs, 2 interceptions each

All-Big Ten First Team
Prediction: Taylor Lewan, Denard Robinson

Leading Scorer (non-QB, non-kicker)
Prediction: Fitzgerald Toussaint

Breakout Offensive Player
A lot of starters return again in 2012, and last year's choice (Jeremy Gallon) already kind of broke out.  Lots of exiting Michigan players have mentioned Jerald Robinson as a guy to watch, but I have yet to see it.  I'll go with Thomas Rawls, who at the very least should be able to run over some mediocre competition through the first half of the year (except Alabama) and pile up some decent numbers.
Prediction: Thomas Rawls

Breakout Defensive Player
This is a tough choice, because the back seven guys all return, the defensive line is expected to be mediocre, and perhaps my #1 choice during the offseason (Frank Clark) is in legal trouble and might miss too much time to be a smart choice here.  I guess I'll go with Thomas Gordon, who showed flashes of playmaking ability last year.  I expect him to be even better in pass coverage this year and help support the run quite a bit, so this should be a big year for him.
Prediction: Thomas Gordon

Most Disappointing Offensive Player
Lots of outgoing players have chosen Jerald Robinson as a breakout player, and we haven't even seen a glimpse of it in a spring game.  Before Roy Roundtree's 2010 breakout season, he had a good end to the 2009 campaign and an awesome spring game.  Before Jeremy Gallon's 2011 breakout season, he had some nice plays during his 2010 redshirt freshman season.  Robinson must do a lot in practice, but it never translates to anything more than that.  He won't disappoint me because I'm not expecting a ton, but I do think he'll disappoint some of those guys who think he'll be a stud.
Prediction: Jerald Robinson

Most Disappointing Defensive Player
The only way anyone in the back seven disappoints is if they regress.  It's already a rather solid group, perhaps without a superstar but pretty good nonetheless.  I think defensive tackle/end Jibreel Black is going to struggle.  He's too small to play 3-tech and too big/stiff to be a quality weakside end.  He might be okay against the run as a weakside end, but Michigan probably won't get much of a pass rush out of him.
Prediction: Jibreel Black

The Big Finish
Sept. 1 vs. Alabama: LOSS.  Michigan is probably going to struggle, especially running the ball.  Alabama has a very good offensive line and stops the run well.  That leaves the game in Denard Robinson's hands, and he can't pass Michigan to a win.

Sept. 8 vs. Air Force: WIN.  Air Force is going to struggle this season, and Michigan will be angry coming off the loss to Alabama.

Sept. 15 vs. Massachusetts: WIN.  UMass is in its first season in the FBS, and Michigan should handle them pretty well.  And it won't be a close final score like it was a couple years ago.

Sept. 22 at Notre Dame: WIN.  This is basically a toss-up because Notre Dame is going to be on the upswing this year, I think.  The Fighting Irish will be better, but Denard Robinson shouldn't be making the same mistakes he did in last year's game.

Oct. 6 at Purdue: WIN.  Purdue probably won't be very good this year.

Oct. 13 vs. Illinois: WIN.  Illinois doesn't have the offensive firepower to beat Michigan.  They always seem to have a couple good defensive players, but they're probably going to get overpowered on offense.

Oct. 20 vs. Michigan State: LOSS. Michigan State's defense scares me a little bit, and Michigan hasn't shown over the past few years that they can handle the pressure up the middle.

Oct. 27 at Nebraska: WIN.  This was a blowout in Ann Arbor last season, and Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead had a bit of a rough day.  Michigan's defensive line manhandled Nebraska's offensive line, so it won't be a blowout, just a fairly close victory.

Nov. 3 at Minnesota: WIN. Minnesota is bad.

Nov. 10 vs. Northwestern: WIN.  Offensively, Northwestern will give Michigan some trouble like they always do.  But eventually Michigan will figure it out, and the Wildcats won't be able to hold up on defense.

Nov. 17 vs. Iowa: WIN. Iowa lost quite a bit last year, and I think this might be a year when Kirk Ferentz and his revamped coaching staff can't hold it all together.

Nov. 24 at Ohio State: LOSS.  The Buckeyes are going to be good at the whole defense thing, but I expect them to take a year before Urban Meyer's offense really takes shape.  However, the game is at the Horseshoe, so Michigan will be a little off their game.

Final record: 9-3

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Coach Hoover: The Follow Route

Coach Hoover  explores the Follow concept, which many teams use, whether they're a spread team (like what's highlighted) or not.

Video: Inside Michigan Football Radio Show - Alabama week

Video: Hoke Press Conference - Alabama week

Video: Countdown to Kickoff 2012 - Day 2: Darrell Funk

2012 Season Countdown List

Here's the final list of the 2012 Season Countdown.  I hope you've enjoyed reading all 89(!) entries.  I succeeded in posting one each day for about the last three months, and now I'm going to have surgery for carpal tunnel.

1. Denard Robinson
2. Ricky Barnum
3. Taylor Lewan
4. Fitzgerald Toussaint
5. Jordan Kovacs
6. Craig Roh
7. William Campbell
8. Patrick Omameh
9. Blake Countess
10. Thomas Gordon
11. Michael Schofield
12. Jake Ryan
13. Roy Roundtree
14. Kenny Demens
15. Devin Gardner
16. J.T. Floyd
17. Jibreel Black
18. Thomas Rawls
19. Jeremy Gallon
20. Desmond Morgan
21. Stephen Hopkins
22. Brendan Gibbons
23. Vincent Smith
24. Brennen Beyer
25. Courtney Avery
26. Elliott Mealer
27. Brandon Moore
28. Cameron Gordon
29. Ondre Pipkins
30. Jerald Robinson
31. Joey Burzynski
32. Frank Clark
33. Jareth Glanda
34. Marvin Robinson
35. Brandin Hawthorne
36. Drew Dileo
37. Jeremy Jackson
38. Terrence Talbott (left team)
39. Richard Ash
40. Nathan Brink
41. Quinton Washington
42. Jack Miller
43. Keith Heitzman
44. Chris Bryant (out for season, broken tibia)
45. Kyle Kalis
46. Joe Bolden
47. Jehu Chesson
48. Raymon Taylor
49. Russell Bellomy
50. Josh Furman
51. Will Hagerup
52. Matt Wile
53. Devin Funchess
54. Delonte Hollowell
55. Amara Darboh
56. Jarrod Wilson
57. Dennis Norfleet
58. A.J. Williams
59. Justice Hayes
60. Antonio Poole
61. Mario Ojemudia
62. James Ross
63. Ricardo Miller
64. Mike Kwiatkowski
65. Chris Wormley (out for season, torn ACL)
66. Royce Jenkins-Stone
67. Ben Braden
68. Mike Jones
69. Joe Kerridge
70. Erik Magnuson
71. Kenny Wilkins
72. Matt Godin
73. Terry Richardson
74. Erik Gunderson
75. Jordan Paskorz
76. Jeremy Clark
77. Kaleb Ringer (out for season, knee surgery)
78. Tamani Carter (left team)
79. Floyd Simmons
80. Graham Glasgow
81. Allen Gant
82. Tom Strobel
83. Chris Eddins
84. Drake Johnson
85. Willie Henry
86. Sione Houma
87. Blake Bars
88. Jack Kennedy
89. Steve Wilson

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pre-Snap Read: #7 Michigan State

Boo.  I hate these guys.

Video: Borges, Mattison Press Conferences - Alabama Week

Video: Countdown to Kickoff 2012 - Day 3: Curt Mallory

2012 Season Countdown: #1 Denard Robinson

Denard Robinson
 Name: Denard Robinson
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 197 lbs.
High school: Deerfield Beach (FL) Deerfield Beach
Position: Quarterback
Class: Senior
Jersey number: #16
Last year: I ranked Robinson #2 and said he would pass for 2,700 yards, rush for 900 yards, and score 28 total touchdowns; I also pegged him for All-Big Ten First Team.  He went 142/258 passing (55%) for 2,173 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions.  He also ran 221 times for 1,176 yards (5.3 yards per carry) and 16 touchdowns.

Last year I took some flak for ranking Robinson #2, placing him behind nose tackle Mike Martin.  Considering the defense's turnaround and Martin's extremely productive season (64 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks), I feel justified in having made that decision.  The offense was already good, but the defense needed to make some huge strides and Martin was a stud in the middle of that defense.

Meanwhile, it's tough to say that Robinson needed to have a good season for Michigan to be a good team, because Robinson struggled at times.  His final numbers were very good in lots of areas (passing yardage, rushing yardage, touchdowns, wins, etc.), but he struggled passing the ball early in the season.  Those final numbers included 15 interceptions and a completion percentage of 55%.  Out of the top 100 passers in the FBS last season, he tied for the sixth-most interceptions and had the eighth-worst completion percentage.  Especially early in the season, he struggled with the transition to a pro-style offense and looked very uncomfortable dropping back from under center.

In the second half of the year, however, offensive coordinator Al Borges started to get a better feel for Robinson's skills and seemed to simplify the offense for him.  Borges seemed to run more shotgun plays while still using multiple tight ends, and Robinson seemed to have a little more consistency and a higher comfort level in the pocket.  And while he wasn't quite as explosive in the running game, he still was the second-best rushing quarterback in yards per game (behind Chandler Harnish from Northern Illinois).  He had quite possibly the best performance of his career against Ohio State in November when he was 14/17 passing for 167 yards and 3 touchdowns to go along with 26 carries for 170 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground.  His raw numbers were arguably better against teams like Notre Dame and UConn in 2010, but his game management in putting up 40 points and 5 touchdowns against the Buckeyes was outstanding.

This year Robinson is clearly the most important player on the team.  The new starters along the defensive line mean that the defense as a whole might take a step back, and that means the offense needs to take a step forward for Michigan to maintain its trajectory toward an elite level.  The good thing is that Borges understands him better now and should start the season with better offensive play calls.  The bad thing is that Robinson lost his favorite target in Junior Hemingway, a solid guy in Martavious Odoms, and a pretty good tight end in Kevin Koger.  Those players are being replaced by Roy Roundtree (likely a step down from Hemingway), Drew Dileo (a step down from Odoms), and a combination of Brandon Moore/Devin Funchess (Moore is a step down, while Funchess might provide a spark in the passing game).  He does have a couple wild cards in Jeremy Jackson, who could catch some of those jump balls downfield but doesn't have much speed, and backup quarterback/part-time receiver Devin Gardner, who has oodles of talent but zero experience at wide receiver.

So.  What happens in 2012?  Robinson should cut down on those interceptions because he understands the offense better, even though he'll still probably toss up some jump balls that come down in the hands of guys wearing different-colored jerseys.  He will still be fast and run the ball a lot.  Along with Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, Robinson is one of two preseason Big Ten favorites to enter the Heisman race.  He will probably throw too many picks and lose too many games to win the award, but he's clearly the biggest star quarterback in the conference.  Very good things will happen.  Great things probably won't.  There's probably no national championship or Heisman coming this season, but Robinson will solidify himself as an all-time Wolverine great, if he hasn't done so already.

And if Robinson gets hurt for any significant portion of the season, the whole thing goes plop.  Gardner has a lot of talent but makes questionable decisions, and #3 quarterback Russell Bellomy looks like he's a year or two away from being a Big Ten-quality starter.

Prediction: Starting quarterback; 2,400 yards passing; 1,200 yards rushing; 34 total touchdowns, 10 interceptions; First Team All-Big Ten; Second Team All-American; Heisman finalist

Tuesday, August 28, 2012 Fitz Toussaint or Thomas Rawls?

Sam Cooke
We'll see what happens on Saturday, but this article discusses who will start at running back on Saturday.  Of course, we all know the quandary Michigan is in.  Play the troubled but talented Toussaint . . . or the inexperienced sophomore Rawls?

Recruit Tracker: Csont'e York

Csont'e York
August 24, 2012: York's Harper Woods (MI) Chandler Park Academy lost to New Philadelphia (OH) New Philadelphia by a score of 56-14.  York had 5 receptions for 73 yards and 1 touchdown, along with 4 tackles and 1 interception.  Chandler Park is now 0-1.

August 31, 2012: Chandler Park beat Romulus (MI) Summit Academy by a score of 56-6.  York had 2 touchdown receptions, 2 extra point conversions, and 1 punt return touchdown.  Chandler Park is now 1-1.

2012 Season Countdown: #2 Ricky Barnum

Ricky Barnum
Name: Ricky Barnum
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 296 lbs.
High school: Lakeland (FL) Lake Gibson
Position: Center
Class: Redshirt senior
Jersey number: #52
Last year: I ranked Barnum #16 and said he would be the starting left guard. He started three games at left guard before suffering an ankle injury.

Much like the recently profiled Fitzgerald Toussaint, Ricky Barnum has consistently been injured throughout his career.  Of course, Toussaint stayed mostly healthy last season and had a stellar season.  Despite being a fifth year senior, Barnum has played in just nine career games - two in 2009, three in 2010, and four in 2011.  He started three games last year, but he suffered an ankle injury that saw him replaced by Michael Schofield, who never relinquished the job.  Barnum has never been outstanding, but the coaches like him and he's a solid player.

Barnum has practiced snapping the ball throughout his college career after playing center in high school; but he has never taken a snap in college.  However, with the departure of Rimington Award winner David Molk and no clear heir, the coaches asked Barnum to move from left guard to center.  He's fairly short and quick for a lineman, so both of those traits bode well.  Unfortunately, if recent trends continue, he'll only be healthy enough to play in five games this season.  His backups are even less experienced.  First off the bench will likely be redshirt freshman Jack Miller, who is just 6'4" and 288 lbs., so he's a little slight.  Other options at center include former walk-on Joey Burzynski, who is also competing for the left guard position; and redshirt senior Elliott Mealer, who has been starting at left guard in recent days.  Both have played center in practice at times over their careers.  I hesitated to place Barnum this high on the list, but Michigan fans have seen what happens when the starting center leaves the game, most recently in the first series of the Sugar Bowl when Rocko Khoury replaced Molk.  Barnum can be an adequate player this season, but if/when he gets injured, it could seriously hamper the timing and effectiveness of Michigan's offense.

Prediction: Starting center

Video: Inside Michigan Football - Episode 1

Video: Countdown to Kickoff 2012 - Day 4: Taylor Lewan

Zac Johnson Answers Your Questions

Johnson celebrates with his teammate after a
2008 special teams touchdown.
Although he entered the program as a walk-on, former safety Zac Johnson eventually earned a scholarship by providing depth at his position, pushing players on the practice field, and becoming a "special teams demon."  Zac finished his Michigan career with 39 game appearances, 17 special teams tackles and two Academic All-Big Ten nominations.  Perhaps his most prestigious accomplishment and recognition, however, was garnering a #43 ranking in the 2009 edition of this very blog's notorious and annual Countdown series.  Zac recently took a few moments out of his day to talk about his time at Michigan and answer several reader questions.

Special teams success:  "The main things in order to be successful on special teams is that you need to be an aggressive player, channel your aggression, and have the will to win at the end of every play.

Most unheralded teammate:  "Someone who comes to mind is Mark Moundros.  He's played offense, he's played defense, he's been a great speaker - he was a role model on our team.  He was a guy that I really looked up to and really admired, and I think everyone on the team did."

Differences between the coaching staffs:  "All three coaches are great guys, and they all taught me a lot.  Coach Carr really showed me what it takes to be a Michigan man, and he really instilled integrity and character in me.  Coach Rodriguez was an intelligent offensive coach, and that is where his emphasis was.  Coach Hoke was a defensive-minded coach from his background, as a D-line coach.  Most of it comes from their background.  I finished with Coach Hoke my senior year, and I couldn't be happier with the way it turned out.

Sugar Bowl victory:  "Oh, man, that was the best feeling.  To go through everything we went through, the struggles - but even in the struggles you learn a lot about yourself and the people around you too.  But to win the Sugar Bowl reminded me of the Schembechler quote, 'Those who stay will be champions.'"

Three and Out:  "No, I didn't get a chance to read that yet, actually. . . .Yeah, I have an interest in reading it.  It's one of those things where it hasn't been a top priority.  I definitely plan to read it, though."

Putting football in the past:  "I've played football here for the past five years.  I did Pro Day for the NFL, and I didn't get picked up by the NFL; I only got a shot at Arena or CFL.  I decided beforehand that if I didn't get a shot at the NFL that I was going to be done playing football.  With the stress that's been on my body, I've had numerous injuries - it just comes with the game.  But right now, I'm currently working at Merrill Lynch, doing some financial consulting. . . .One of the biggest things that Michigan football has taught me is how to perform under high pressure situations, how to meet deadlines, and how to do those things as part of a team."

Expectations for Team 133:  ". . . .The thing about college football is any team can win on any given day.  That's something that I learned as a freshman.  My first game at Michigan Stadium was a loss to Appalachian State. . . . But that's what makes it such a great sport to watch.  Every week matters.  And nowadays, every team, no matter how big or small they are, have some talent on it.  It's about the team that comes ready to play on that day."

Zac's message:  "This is something I've thought about before.  I always try to leave with some kind of message, just so I feel like there's a purpose, so I came up with a quote here today - 'Learn how to fuel your goals and your dreams; a great vision and a great work ethic will propel you beyond what you can see.'  That is my advice; you have to have purpose in all that you do."

Choices for 2012 breakout players:  Blake Countess and Jerald Robinson  

Monday, August 27, 2012

Grantland: A Letter to Coach Hoke

This is more of a general college football column, but it contains a letter from John Brandon to Coach Hoke, indicating how much the rest of the college football world is rooting for Hoke to dominate the Big Ten and become a national power once again.

Video: Big Ten Network 2012 Big 10 Preview: Michigan

Recruiting Update: August 27, 2012

There's very little news right new about recruiting.  Lots of kids are already committed; the ones who are uncommitted generally want to take some official visits and/or decide after their high school seasons; and many without offers (or with unsatisfactory offers) are waiting a few games into the 2012 season before sending out new game film in hopes of earning some new ones.

So . . . if you're a recruitnik, life is boring right now.

Rivals updated their top lists, and there was some movement for Michigan recruits (including Shane Morris to 5-star status).

I started the Recruit Tracker series, so there's a post for each current Michigan commit that will update as the season continues.

Video: Countdown to Kickoff 2012 - Day 5: The Captains

2012 Season Countdown: #3 Taylor Lewan

Taylor Lewan (#77)
Name: Taylor Lewan
Height: 6'8"
Weight: 309 lbs.
High school: Scottsdale (AZ) Chaparral
Position: Offensive tackle
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #77
Last year: I ranked Lewan #4 and said he would be All-Big Ten Second Team.  He started all thirteen games and was named All-Big Ten Second Team by the coaches.

Lewan had an excellent season in 2011.  He started every game at left tackle as a sophomore after starting nine games there as a freshman.  He has continued to improve in almost every facet of the game, including leadership and cutting down on the mental errors.  Last year he was one of two stellar offensive linemen on the team, along with David Molk (pictured above), and those two paved the way for two 1,000-yard rushers in Denard Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint.  Lewan also has the quick feet and long arms that programs covet for their left tackles.

Along with running back Toussaint, Lewan will be one to watch as a potential early entrant to the NFL Draft.  Now approaching 310 lbs. and with his resume and steady improvement, there's good reason to believe that this could be his last season in Ann Arbor.  Size has been a little bit of a question mark because he was very thin coming out of high school, but he has consistently put on weight from season to season and now has the bulk to approach the elite level of college tackles.  I try to remain objective when it comes to Michigan players, but he looks like a future first round draft pick and a potential franchise left tackle.  I can't picture NFL teams passing up on a guy like him; or perhaps I should say, you don't see guys like this get drafted in the second or third round.  Some people might want Lewan higher on this list, but he has a capable backup . . . in the form of starting right tackle Michael Schofield.  If Lewan were to get injured, Schofield would slide over to replace him; a right tackle is easier to replace than a left.  But as long as Michigan State's William Gholston doesn't go all Ronda Rousey on Lewan, then hopefully he can stay on the field and protect Robinson's blind side.

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

Robinson, Kovacs Named Captains for 2012

Well, you people did a nice job of predicting Michigan's captains for the upcoming season.  On Sunday it was announced that Denard Robinson and Jordan Kovacs would be named captain.

Back in June, 91% of you voted for Robinson.  I never posted the results for the defensive poll, but 86% of you voted for Kovacs.

Last year's captains were tight end Kevin Koger, defensive tackle Mike Martin, and center David Molk.  The last quarterback to be named captain was Tom Brady in 1999 John Navarre in 2003.  The last safety to be named captain was Corwin Brown in 1992, although Marlin Jackson (2004) played some safety throughout his career.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pre-Snap Read: #11 Wisconsin

Michigan won't play Wisconsin this year, unless both teams make it to the Big Ten Championship Game.  But here's their preview, anyway.

Video: Fox Sports Detroit preview of Michigan

Video: Countdown to Kickoff 2012 - Day 6: Open Practice

2012 Season Countdown: #4 Fitzgerald Toussaint

Fitzgerald Toussaint
 Name: Fitzgerald Toussaint
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 202 lbs.
High school: Youngstown (OH) Liberty
Position: Running back
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #28
Last year: I ranked Toussaint #53 and said he would be a backup running back and kick returner.  He started eleven games at tailback and had 187 carries for 1,041 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and 9 touchdowns.  He also caught 6 passes for 28 yards (4.7 yards per catch) and 1 touchdown.

If I awarded an annual Underranked Player of the Year trophy, it would go to Fitzgerald Toussaint.  It wasn't that I was down on Toussaint's abilities, but I didn't expect him to stay healthy.  There always seem to be a couple players who suffer from perpetual injuries, and he was one up to that point.  Toussaint took over the starting running back job and rushed for 120+ yards in four out of the last six games.  His best performance came against Illinois, when he rushed 27 times for 192 yards and a touchdown.  He's got the best of both worlds, because he's part Jitterbug and part Mini-Plow; he can make you miss and gain some tough yards.

Naturally, once he rid himself of the injury bug, he caught the Grady-Stonum bug and got picked up by the police for driving under the influence of things that should not have been influencing him.  It's unclear how soon he will be cleared to play, although he missed some practice time and most people (including me) think he should miss at least the first half of the opener against Alabama, if not more.  The loss of Toussaint for the Alabama game could potentially be disastrous.  The coaches like Thomas Rawls and so do a lot of analysts and fans, but he only has 13 carries under his belt and does not have the elusiveness of Toussaint.  Rawls is going to have to break tackles that Toussaint would likely avoid, and that's going to slow down the offense.  Whenever #28 returns to action, he should pick up where he left off and have another great performance this season.  A missed start or two could cost him some end-of-season accolades within the Big Ten, and the presence of guys like Montee Ball, Rex Burkhead, and Le'Veon Bell in the conference could drop him to All-Big Ten Honorable Mention or even off the list altogether.

Prediction: Starting running back (whenever he returns); 180 carries, 1020 yards, 10 touchdowns

Poll results: Ricky Barnum got 69% of the vote for the #3 spot, while Toussaint got 30%.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Big Ten Network: Top 5 Defense Players of Last 5 Years

Elisabetta Gregoraci
The Big Ten Network came up with a list of the top five defensive players in the five years of the network's existence.  One Wolverine is on there, and he happens to be a favorite of mine.

Video: Borges, Mattison Press Conference

Video: Countdown to Kickoff 2012 - Day 8: Thomas Gordon

Recruit Tracker: Wyatt Shallman

Wyatt Shallman
August 24, 2012: Shallman's Novi (MI) Catholic Central team beat Detroit (MI) Cody by a score of 35-0. Shallman had 4 carries for 50 yards and 1 touchdown, along with 8 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 1 sack on defense.

August 31, 2012: Catholic Central lost to Toledo (OH) Whitmer by a score of 19-7.  The running back/defensive end had 7 tackles and 2 tackles for loss but missed some time with cramps.  Shallman's team is now 1-1 on the year.

2012 Season Countdown: #5 Jordan Kovacs

Jordan Kovacs
Name: Jordan Kovacs
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 202 lbs.
High school: Curtice (OH) Clay
Position: Safety
Class: Redshirt senior
Jersey number: #32
Last year: I ranked Kovacs #13 and said he would make 75 tackles.  He was All-Big Ten Honorable Mention with 75 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 1 pass breakup, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 interception.

Nope, that's not a typo - I predicted the exact number of tackles Kovacs would make.  Even a broken clock is right twice a day.  Kovacs had very good season in 2011, when he finally had a defensive coordinator who understood his strengths and weaknesses.  Greg Mattison used him as a blitzer, contain man, and disguising his underneath coverage responsibilities.  Mattison avoided using Kovacs deep whenever possible, and that allowed the sure-tackling safety to find the ball carrier and bring him to the ground.  His best game in 2011 came against Western Michigan when he had 10 tackles and 2 sacks, including the fumble-causing hit that linebacker Brandon Herron returned for a touchdown.  Last season also marked the third consecutive year in which Kovacs grabbed a pick in a big game - Wisconsin in 2009, Ohio State and Notre Dame in 2010, and then Notre Dame again in 2011.

Going into the 2012 season, Kovacs is one of the most indispensable members of the team - from walk-on to likely team captain.  His backups are junior Marvin Robinson and freshman Allen Gant, with Josh Furman also able to play there if necessary.  Robinson is a capable backup, but last year's legal struggles and some mental lapses place him a step or two below Kovacs.  There's not much we don't know about Kovacs at this point.  He's a very good tackler, a relentless blitzer, and a heady player.  What he lacks in speed and athleticism, he mostly makes up for in angles and intelligence.  He will be a good-to-very good football player, because he has been since his first season.  I used to bemoan his lack of athleticism as a serious downside, but the deployment of Kovacs is one of the things that convinced me of how well Mattison fit with this team.  Unlike Greg Robinson, who used Kovacs to cover a deep half or the middle of the field in 2009-10, Mattison will continue to blitz Kovacs off the edge and use him mostly as an in-the-box defender.  He will continue to rack up tackles, take down the quarterback a few times, and pick off one or two passes.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Kovacs earn All-Big Ten honors, if only as a Lifetime Achievement Award type of recognition.

Prediction: Starting strong safety; 80 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions; All-Big Ten Second Team

Poll results: Ricky Barnum was first with 59% and Fitzgerald Toussaint was second with 29% of the votes.  Kovacs was third with just 9%.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Grantland: The Total Package

Melinda Harmon
Chris Brown loves Oklahoma State's offense (Why not? It's awesome.), and here he takes another look at how they package runs and passes into the same play.

Video: Roy Roundtree interview on BTN

Attractive Michigan Girls of the Week

If you have any other pictures of girls wearing Michigan gear, send me an e-mail.  Go Blue!

Video: Countdown to Kickoff 2012 - Day 8: Jerry Montgomery

Recruit Tracker: DeVeon Smith

August 23, 2012: Smith's Warren (OH) Howland team beat Warren (OH) Lakeside by a score of 43-16.    Smith had 17 carries for 311 yards (18.3 yards per carry) and 3 touchdowns.  He also had at least 1 tackle and 1 sack on defense.  Howland is 1-0.

August 31, 2012: Howland beat Warren (OH) Harding by a score of 34-10.  Smith hurt his shoulder early in the game and did not return, except for a brief moment in the third quarter.  Howland is now 2-0.

2012 Season Countdown: #6 Craig Roh

Craig Roh (#88)
Name: Craig Roh
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 281 lbs.
High school: Scottsdale (AZ) Chaparral
Position: Defensive end
Class: Senior
Jersey number: #88
Last year: I ranked Roh #17 and said he would have 50 tackles and 6 sacks.  He had 32 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, and 1 forced fumble.

It's a little hard to believe for a kid like Roh, but indications last year seemed to be that he struggled to buy in to what the new coaching staff was teaching him.  He was reverting back to old (a.k.a. bad) habits, which is somewhat understandable for a guy who had played outside linebacker in a 4-3 and then outside linebacker in a 3-3-5 stack and then defensive end in a 3-3-5 stack and then weakside defensive end in a 4-3.  In his first three seasons at Michigan, he played four positions.  He had an up-and-down season last year, disappearing for stretches and playing solidly at times.  He was never the elite talent that he appeared to be coming out of high school, but he wasn't bad, either.  He looked like just an average Big Ten starter.  Michigan fans keep waiting for these elite high school weakside ends to turn into elite college players, and it just doesn't seem to happen.

Now make it five positions in four years.  Roh has moved to strongside end to replace the departed Ryan Van Bergen.  He has apparently reached the 280 lb. mark, which is a step in the right direction.  For the most part, Roh has been known as a technique guy - despite his early struggles last season - and should be able to hold his own with even adequate weight.  As a high effort player, he shouldn't be a liability.  Strongside ends often have to take on double-teams from tight ends and tackles, and they're the guys opposing teams will run at most often.  Roh will be solid again in 2012 and pick up where Van Bergen left off, but the lack of a Mike Martin in the middle will hurt his production.

Prediction: Starting strongside end; 40 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks

Poll results: Roh won 61% of the vote for the #6 spot on the countdown.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Grantland: S-A-C-K - Why Pass Protection Might be the Jets' Biggest Problem

Lara Kronfeld
Chris Brown takes a look at the Jets' pass protection.  I don't really care about the Jets one way or another, but it's a good look at how a defense can attack a weakness in the offense.

MVictors: Michigan Records Within Reach

Ron Simpkins (#40) holds Michigan's
record for most career tackles.
Greg Dooley "perused" the 2012 Michigan Football media guide and discovered several records that could be broken during the upcoming season.  Unsurprisingly, Denard will almost certainly crush Henne's record for most career yards gained (9,300), requiring only 1,140 yards this fall to surpass him.  On the downside, he should also pass up Henne for most career interceptions (37), as he's unlikely to throw fewer than eight picks.

Video: Countdown to Kickoff 2012 - Day 9: Ford Field

2012 Season Countdown: #7 William Campbell

I like this high school picture of William Campbell too much not to post it.
Name: William Campbell
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 308 lbs.
High school: Detroit (MI) Cass Tech
Position: Defensive tackle
Class: Senior
Jersey number: #73
Last year: I ranked Campbell #15 and said he would start at 3-tech DT with 40 tackles and 3 sacks.  He had 14 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 pass breakup, and 1 fumble recovery.

Okay, I was a little bit off with my prediction that Campbell would start, that he would be a 3-tech, and that he would make 40 tackles.  In fact, he didn't start, played mostly 1-tech, and made just 14 tackles.  My hopes were dashed.  He was the primary backup to the now departed Mike Martin, and those aren't bad statistics for a backup nose tackle; when Martin was a backup, he made 20 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks.  But Martin was a freshman, and Campbell was a junior.  I expected more.  I still don't really agree with the deployment of Campbell, who would be tough to block for just about any offensive guard one-on-one.  As a nose tackle who struggles to stay low, he's typically playing against centers (who are shorter and almost always use good leverage) and guards (who are sometimes shorter and often use good leverage).  There were plays last season when Campbell destroyed single blocks, and there were plays where he got washed out of the action by double-teams.  I guess the coaches thought they would rather start Will Heininger than have Quinton Washington or Richard Ash be rotation players, so that's what happened.

Now three-fourths of last year's starting defensive line has graduated (Martin, Heininger, and Ryan Van Bergen), and Campbell has to start at nose tackle.  There's really no other option.  He has reportedly taken to his newfound leadership role and slimmed down to 308 lbs. after playing earlier in his career at 340 or 350.  It's now or never for the former 5-star recruit.  The conditioning seems to be in place, but it remains to be seen whether he has the desire and focus to stay low every single play.  One of Martin's best traits was his ability to go hard on almost every play, and he was consistently a disruptive force in the middle of the line because of it.  Ondre Pipkins was expected to be one of Campbell's backups - if not the primary one - but a recent injury might temporarily keep Pipkins from playing.  That leaves Richard Ash, Quinton Washington, and Kenny Wilkins to vie for playing time on the nose, with Ash the likely winner of that battling trio.  Campbell should see a sizable jump in his production, but I think the defense overall is going to dip a little bit because of the loss of Martin and, to a lesser extent, Van Bergen.

Prediction: Starting nose tackle; 35 tackles, 3.5 sacks

Poll results: Campbell won 57% of the vote for the #7 spot.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Coach Hoover: 4-2-5 - The Defense of the Future

Federica Nargi
Coach Hoover's Football Site  has a post on the 4-2-5, which is identified as the "defense of the future."  There are some valid reasons for that, but NFL and powerhouse college teams have been 3-4 or 4-3 teams for years.  There are some elements of the 4-2-5 in a lot of those teams, but not necessarily as base defenses.  We'll see . . .

Video: Brady Hoke Press Conference

Video: Countdown to Kickoff 2012 - Day 11: Blake Countess

Rivals 250 for 2013 updated

Rivals updated its top 250 players in the nation.  Here's what it looked like back in May.  The top 100 was updated yesterday.

Movement for the Michigan commits:

- Dymonte Thomas fell from #95 to #102
- Chris Fox fell from #57 to #112
- Jake Butt fell from #118 to #131
- Jourdan Lewis fell from #147 to #150
- David Dawson jumped from #171 to #165
- Wyatt Shallman fell from #182 to #206
- Ross Douglas fell from #222 to #232
- Taco Charlton fell from #175 to #233
- Logan Tuley-Tillman fell from #235 to #241
- Ben Gedeon fell out of the top 250


102. Dymonte Thomas - S - Ohio (Michigan)
103. Michael Hill - DT - South Carolina (Ohio State)
104. Evan Lisle - OT - Ohio (Ohio State)
105. Antwuan Davis - CB - Texas (Texas)
109. Elijah Daniel - DE - Indiana (Clemson)
111. Isaac Rochell - DE - Georgia (Notre Dame)
112. Chris Fox - OT - Colorado (Michigan)
115. Keith Ford - RB - Texas (Oklahoma)
121. Greg Webb - DT - New Jersey (North Carolina)
127. Jake Oliver - WR - Texas (Texas)
130. Brendan Mahon - OG - New Jersey (Penn State)
131. Jake Butt - TE - Ohio (Michigan)
136. Yannick Ngakoue - LB - Washington, D.C. (Maryland)
137. Jordan Wilkins - RB - Tennessee (Auburn)
145. Scott Pagano - DT - Hawaii (Clemson)
150. Jourdan Lewis - CB - Michigan (Michigan)
151. Joe Mathis - DE - California
156. Al-Quadin Muhammad - DE - New Jersey
158. Hunter Bivin - OT - Kentucky (Notre Dame)
160. Billy Price - DT - Ohio (Ohio State)
162. Darren Carrington - WR - California (Oregon)
165. David Dawson - OG - Michigan (Michigan)
167. Jordan Cunningham - WR - Florida
178. Maurice Smith - CB - Texas (Alabama)
182. James Quick - WR - Kentucky
186. Nadir Barnwell - CB - New Jersey
189. Eldridge Massington - WR - Texas (USC)
195. Jayme Thompson - S - Ohio (Ohio State)
197. Ishmael Wilson - OG - Texas (Texas A&M)
206. Wyatt Shallman - FB - Michigan (Michigan)
213. Jason Hatcher - DE - Kentucky (USC)
217. Devon Allen - WR - Arizona
218. Sebastian LaRue - WR - California (USC)
219. Chase Abbington - ATH - Missouri (Missouri)
221. Cole Luke - CB - Arizona
229. Darius Latham - DT - Indiana (Wisconsin)
232. Ross Douglas - CB - Ohio (Michigan)
233. Taco Charlton - DE - Ohio (Michigan)
241. Logan Tuley-Tillman - OT - Illinois (Michigan)

2012 Season Countdown: #8 Patrick Omameh

Patrick Omameh
Name: Patrick Omameh
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 305 lbs.
High school: Columbus (OH) St. Francis DeSales
Position: Offensive guard
Class: Redshirt senior
Jersey number: #65
Last year: I ranked Omameh #7 and said he would be Second Team All-Big Ten.  He started 13 games at right guard.

Omameh started every game last year, and while he wasn't quite as good as I expected, the offensive line did fairly well.  He was named to Phil Steele's midseason All-Big Ten Second Team, but he struggled with his pulling, especially early in the year.  As the season went along and Michigan seemed to use more spread plays, Omameh appeared to get more comfortable with the footwork that offensive line coach Darrell Funk was using.

Omameh enters 2012 as a fourth-year starter at right guard.  He has experience in Al Borges's offense now and should pick up where he left off in the second half of 2011, paving the way for both Fitzgerald Toussaint and Denard Robinson to gain over 1,000 yards.  His primary backup is redshirt freshman Chris Bryant, who is a good drive blocker but needs work on his pass sets.  I think Bryant is going to be a good player, but he might be a year away from being effective . . . and aside from him, there are just true freshmen or walk-ons.  The loss of Omameh for any significant period of time could seriously derail Michigan's rushing offense with the question mark at left guard and a new starter at center.  I hate to predict the same thing as last year when I was wrong, but I think that Omameh will step up his performance another notch this season.

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

Tuesday, August 21, 2012 Blake Countess draws inspiration from Charles Woodson

Jennifer Nguyen
Charles Woodson lingers over every cornerback at Michigan.  Blake Countess will never be Charles Woodson, but he could turn out to be the next Leon Hall, and I'd be perfectly fine with that.

Video: Countdown to Kickoff 2012 - Day 11

2012 Season Countdown: #9 Blake Countess

Blake Countess
Name: Blake Countess
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 180 lbs.
High school: Olney (MD) Good Counsel
Position: Cornerback
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #18
Last year: I ranked Countess #59 and said he would be a backup cornerback.  He started six games and 44 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 6 pass breakups, and 1 forced fumble.

Countess parlayed a series of nagging Troy Woolfolk injuries into a starting cornerback job, and performed well enough to keep that job once Woolfolk was close to full strength again.  I thought that Countess would have to wait a little longer (until, say, 2012) to take over one of the cornerback spots, but it happened almost immediately.  For the most part, he performed well and turned into Michigan's best bet for a shut-down corner in the last several years.  He did get torched against Ohio State and was beaten for a touchdown in the Sugar Bowl, but overall, he had a pretty good season for a true freshman.  ESPN and the Big Ten Network each named him to the league's all-freshman team.

Michigan's entire secondary returns in 2012, including the corner on the opposite side, J.T. Floyd.  Countess plays the field side, which is usually reserved for a guy with a little more speed . . . but the coaches have also mentioned that Countess is the more physical corner of the two.  At a pretty solid 180 lbs., Countess has the strength to play press man coverage and support the run with equal aplomb.  He didn't have any interceptions last season, but he did steal a pass from Devin Gardner to Jeremy Jackson in the spring game.  The two corners might be the second-best duo in the Big Ten, and either one could earn all-conference honors of some sort.  There isn't much depth at the cornerback spots now that Terrence Talbott and Tamani Carter (the latter of whom was a free safety but could have played corner in a pinch) have left the team.  If Countess goes down for a significant period of time, we might see Courtney Avery bump out from the slot corner position or see some snaps from 162 lb. true freshman Terry Richardson.  Avery could hack it out there, but after that, things get very shaky.  Recent injuries to Floyd and Woolfolk notwithstanding, it seems like cornerback is a less physically taxing position than some other spots, so hopefully Countess can stay healthy and take the next step toward becoming an All-Big Ten corner.

Prediction: Starting field corner; 55 tackles, 2 interceptions

Poll results: Countess won 81% of the vote for the #9 spot.

Rivals 100 for 2013 updated

Shane Morris got a fifth star while Dymonte Thomas dropped out of the top 100
Rivals updated their top 100 players for the class of 2013.  Here's what it looked like back in May.

Movement for Michigan commits:

- Shane Morris jumps from #22 to #17 and gets a fifth star
- Henry Poggi fell from #52 to #58
- Mike McCray fell from #55 to #81
- Patrick Kugler fell from #73 to #88
- Kyle Bosch fell from #77 to #92
- Chris Fox fell from #57 to off the list
- Dymonte Thomas fell from #95 to off the list

3. Jaylon Smith - LB - Indiana (Notre Dame)
6. Kendall Fuller - CB - Maryland (Virginia Tech)
7. Vernon Hargreaves III - CB - Florida (Florida)
8. Su'a Cravens - S - California (USC)
9. Laremy Tunsil - OT - Florida  
13. Derrick Green - RB - Virginia
16. Montravius Adams - DT - Georgia
17. Shane Morris - QB - Michigan (Michigan)
18. Leon McQuay III - S - Florida
19. Ty Isaac - RB - Illinois (USC)

23. Laquon Treadwell - WR - Illinois
25. Joey Bosa - DE - Florida (Ohio State)
27. Cam Burrows - CB - Ohio (Ohio State)
28. Marquez North - WR - North Carolina
29. Eli Woodard - CB - New Jersey (Ohio State)
33. Eddie Vanderdoes - DT - California (USC)
35. E.J. Levenberry, Jr. - LB - Virginia (Florida State)  
38. Jonathan Allen - DE - Virginia (Alabama)
41. Ethan Pocic - OT - Illinois (LSU)
46. Dorian O'Daniel - LB - Maryland (Clemson)
48. Alex Anzalone - LB - Pennsylvania (Notre Dame)
50. Larenz Bryant - LB - North Carolina (South Carolina)
52. Demorea Stringfellow - WR - California (Washington)
55. Michael Hutchings - LB - California (USC)
56. Adam Breneman - TE - Pennsylvania (Penn State)  
57. John Montelus - OG - Massachusetts (Notre Dame)
58. Henry Poggi - DT - Maryland (Michigan)
59. Peter Kalambayi - LB - North Carolina (Stanford)
61. Steve Elmer - OT - Michigan (Notre Dame)
70. Robert Foster - WR - Pennsylvania  
73. Justin Davis - RB - California (USC)  
78. Jake Raulerson - OT - Texas (Texas)
79. Chris Hawkins - CB - California (USC)
81. Mike McCray - LB - Ohio (Michigan)
84. Priest Willis - S - Arizona
88. Patrick Kugler - OT - Pennsylvania (Michigan)
89. Wyatt Teller - DE - Virginia (Virginia Tech)
92. Kyle Bosch - OT - Illinois (Michigan)
93. Alvin Bailey - WR - Florida
94. Justin Manning - DT - Texas
96. Kevin Olsen - QB - New Jersey (Miami)
98. Tray Matthews - S - Georgia (Georgia)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Grantland: Matt Barkley and USC's "Sluggo Seam" Play

Chelsea Gilligan
I don't often get to watch USC play (except for the highlights), but right now their offense is fun to watch with Matt Barkley at quarterback and the talent they have at wide receiver.

Video: Michigan 14, Ohio State 6 (1977)

Video: Countdown to Kickoff 2012 - Day 12: Desmond Morgan

2012 Season Countdown: #10 Thomas Gordon

Thomas Gordon
Name: Thomas Gordon
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 207 lbs.
High school: Detroit (MI) Cass Tech
Position: Safety
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #30
Last year: I ranked Gordon #34 and said he would be the slot corner.  He started 10 games at free safety, making 67 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 2 pass breakups, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles, and 4 fumble recoveries.

For a redshirt sophomore playing his first season at free safety, Gordon had an outstanding season in 2011.  In the spring of last year, he was practicing at slot corner and doing an excellent job.  The lack of depth at free safety - perhaps combined with Gordon's playmaking abilities - jumped him into the top spot playing center field.  Toward the beginning of the year, he had a highlight-reel, one-handed interception on a double pass against Eastern Michigan; he also picked up a fumble in that game and went on to grab three more on the year.  For some unknown reason, he lost some playing time late in the season to Troy Woolfolk (who lost his cornerback job), despite only an occasional slip-up like in the Nebraska game.  Overall, he was a very solid player.

Now he's the incumbent free safety with no strong challenger for his job, but he has been rumored to be the best defensive player on the team; that was the case in the spring, and the rumors have persisted so far this fall.  He will never be the fastest free safety, but he rarely gets out of position, tackles well, and always seems to be around the football.  Gordon's primary backup appears to be freshman Jarrod Wilson, and true freshman safeties make me nervous.  Wilson needs to sharpen his skills in non-critical moments until he gains the awareness and strength not to be a liability back there.  Josh Furman and Marvin Robinson could also play free safety, but neither one excels in space.  Provided he stays healthy, this should be a bit of a breakout season for Gordon, who could earn some all-conference honors if he continues to improve.

Prediction: Starting free safety; 70 tackles, 2 interceptions; All-Big Ten Honorable Mention

Poll results: Gordon was first with 59% of the vote.

Recruiting Update: August 20, 2012

Brenon Thrift
Monroeville (PA) Gateway linebacker Brenon Thrift was offered by Michigan.  He's 6'3" and 230 lbs. and the teammate of safety Montae Nicholson, who also holds a Michigan offer.  Thrift had 78 tackles and 7 sacks as a sophomore in 2011 and claims a 4.7 forty.  He has stated that West Virginia is his leader.

Bealeton (VA) Liberty defensive end Wyatt Teller committed to Virginia Tech.  Michigan was consistently listed in Teller's top lists, but the Wolverines are pretty full at the defensive line positions.  It seemed like Teller was giving them a fair shot, but he was ultimately expected to pick one of the in-state schools.

247 Sports updated their Top 247 for 2014, and Michael Ferns is #98 overall.  Here's a list of all of Michigan's offerees.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Pre-Snap Read: #16 Nebraska

Pre-Snap Read  ranks Nebraska #16 in the country.  I could always be wrong, but seeing how Nebraska matched up in the Big Ten last year, I think Michigan (ranked #18) has the better unit.

247 Sports: Top 247 for 2014 updated

Michael Ferns is the #98 player in the country
247 Sports released its top 247 players for the class of 2014.  The lone Michigan commitment happens to appear at #98 overall.  Here are the rest of the Michigan offerees:

1. Da'Shawn Hand - DE - Virginia
3. Jabrill Peppers - CB - New Jersey
4. Cameron Robinson - OT - Louisiana
5. Leonard Fournette - RB - Louisiana
11. Edward Paris - CB - Texas
12. Braden Smith - OT - Kansas
13. Bo Scarbrough - WR - Alabama
14. Damian Prince - OT - Massachusetts
18.Bentley Spain - OT - North Carolina
19. Tyler Luatua - TE - California
20. Dante Booker - LB - Ohio
21. Jalen Tabor - CB - Washington, D.C.
24. Malik McDowell - DE - Michigan
30. Nick Watkins - CB - Texas
38. K.C. McDermott - OT - Florida
43. Khairi Clark - DT - Florida
44. Mason Cole - OT - Florida
47. Demetrius Knox - OG - Texas
48. Jalen Hurd - WR - Tennessee
60. Joshua Malone - WR - Tennessee
63. Casey Tucker - OT - Arizona (USC)
68. Andy Bauer - OT - Missouri (Missouri)
82. Jamarco Jones - OG - Illinois
85. Mark Andrews - WR - Arizona
89.Drake Harris - WR - Michigan (Michigan State)
91. Roderick Johnson - OT - Missouri
98. Michael Ferns - LB - Ohio (Michigan)
103. Dexter Wideman - DT - South Carolina
115. T'Kevian Rockwell - S - Texas
128. Kiy Hester - WR - New Jersey
164. Jeb Blazevich - TE - North Carolina
165. Parrker Westphal - CB - Illinois
168. Alex Bars - DE - Tennessee
171. D'Andre Payne - CB - Washington, D.C.
181. K.C. Crosby - LB - South Carolina
192. Damon Webb - CB - Michigan
205. Nic Weishar - TE - Illinois
212. Montae Nicholson - S - Pennsylvania
219. Tommy Doles - OT - Michigan
226. Brandon Simmons - S - Texas
241. Joe Henderson - DE - Ohio
242. Orlando Brown, Jr. - OT - Georgia

Video: Countdown to Kickoff 2012 - Day 13: Brandon Moore

2012 Season Countdown: #11 Michael Schofield

Michael Schofield (#75)
Name: Michael Schofield
Height: 6'7"
Weight: 300 lbs.
High school: Orland Park (IL) Sandburg
Position: Offensive tackle
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #75
Last year: I ranked Schofield #42 and said he would be a backup offensive tackle.  Schofield started 10 games at left guard and played in all 13 games on special teams.

At 6'7" and around 300 lbs., not many people expected that Schofield would play guard at Michigan.  In fact, when he came in for the injured Ricky Barnum early last season, it was the first time in his life that he had played guard.  Barnum suffered a lower leg injury that kept him from getting back to full strength, and Schofield played fairly well in his stead.  One might expect that someone with Schofield's height would struggle on the interior, but he used his athleticism (he was a high school hurdler) to pull and maneuver through traffic.

The guy blocking Schofield's path at right tackle (Mark Huyge) has graduated now, and the dearth of non-freshman tackles requires that he move back to the perimeter.  That opens up a hole at left guard now that Barnum has moved to center, but Schofield can't be the answer there anymore.  Many people think Michigan's pair of tackles is its best in years.  Taylor Lewan holds down the left tackle position and might be an All-American and/or a future first round draft pick, and Schofield has a chance to develop into a very good tackle over the next couple seasons.  Jake Long never had a strong tackle on the opposite side, so perhaps the 2000 season (Jeff Backus at LT, Maurice Williams at RT) was the last time Michigan was this good in the perimeter of the line.  It's imperative that the two tackles stay healthy, or else freshmen will likely have to step in there.

Prediction: Starting right tackle

Poll results: Schofield got 35% of the vote for #11, while Thomas Gordon was first with 39%.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Smart Football: Alabama linebacker play

Christine Dolce
There's nothing too in-depth here, but it's a basic instructional video on how Alabama's linebackers play.  I figured I'd link Smart Football  rather than posting it here so I don't slow down loading of the site.

Video: Countdown to Kickoff 2012 - Day 14: Elliott Mealer

2012 Season Countdown: #12 Jake Ryan

Jake Ryan
Name: Jake Ryan
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 242 lbs.
High school: Westlake (OH) St. Ignatius
Position: Linebacker
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #90
Last year: I ranked Ryan #27 and said he would be the backup SAM with 40 tackles and 2 sacks.  He started eleven games at the position, making 37 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 2 fumble recoveries.

Ryan probably had the biggest breakout season of any defender in 2011.  As I hinted at in last year's countdown, he's the type of kid who's just always around the ball.  In the opener against WMU, he hit the quarterback and caused the interception that was returned 94 yards for a touchdown by Brandon Herron.  Against San Diego State, he recovered two fumbles.  And in his most explosive game, the Sugar Bowl vs. Virginia Tech, Ryan made 7 tackles, 1 sack, and 4 tackles for loss, including a tackle of running back David Wilson 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage.  Ryan wasn't perfect; he lost outside contain at times and wasn't great in pass coverage, but he was pretty good for a redshirt freshman.

This season he will likely continue to hold off Cam Gordon for the SAM linebacker job.  Ryan has put on about twelve pounds in the offseason and looks considerably bigger.  He played some snaps at defensive end in pass rush situations, and that role will probably expand with the unknown future of weakside end Frank Clark, who will likely face a suspension or worse for his alleged role in stealing a computer.  Currently, Ryan and Gordon are the only two SAMs, so an injury to either one could force the coaches to shift another linebacker to the strong side.  Ryan is going to see lots of playing time this year, and he's going to be rushing the quarterback from every angle possible.  Not only will he be a better player in 2012; he should be more consistent.

Prediction: Starting SAM linebacker; 45 tackles, 5 sacks