Saturday, August 31, 2013

USA Today college football countdown: #13 Notre Dame

Paul Myerberg looks at the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Michigan's opponent in week two.

Hit the jump for an attractive lady.

Ex-Wolverine updates: Pre-Season Edition

This used to be Cullen Christian.
TE Chris Barnett: Barnett left Michigan shortly after arriving in 2011, and I have been unable to find any hard updates on him. He supposedly showed interest in playing for UMass this past winter, but he never enrolled there. He also talked about having interest in playing Division II as a middle linebacker.

CB Greg Brown: Brown had transferred to Findlay, but never played a game there in 2012. He has since left the football program and his whereabouts are unknown to me.

TE Pharaoh Brown: Brown is listed as a 6'6", 241 lb. tight end on Oregon's roster. He had 2 receptions for 42 yards in twelve games last season. Oregon has been talking about using more formations with two tight ends to get Brown on the field with Colt Lyerla.

CB Cullen Christian: After having 16 tackles and 2 pass breakups as a corner in 2012, Christian is now listed as a 6'0", 195 lb. backup free safety for the Pitt Panthers. The starter? Former Michigan free safety Ray Vinopal.

CB Gareon Conley: Conley is listed as a 6'2", 170 lb. cornerback on Ohio State's roster. He has been practice some with the starting unit while Bradley Roby has been demoted to a backup for his off-the-field transgressions.

CB Dallas Crawford: Crawford is listed as a 5'10", 196 lb. redshirt sophomore running back on Miami's roster. Last year he had an interception on a fake punt; offensively, he had 6 carries for 23 yards and was 1/2 passing for 29 yards. He will likely be the backup running back to starter Duke Johnson.

S Vladimir Emilien: Emilien is listed as a 6'1", 204 lb. safety for the Toledo Rockets. Last year he had 33 tackles and 1 interception for the Rockets. He will likely start this year at their strong safety/outside linebacker hybrid position.

OT Jake Fisher: Fisher is a 6'6", 291 lb. offensive tackle for Oregon. Last year he was the starter at right tackle, and he even scored a touchdown when De'Anthony Thomas fumbled into the endzone, where Fisher jumped on it.

K Matt Goudis: Goudis is listed as a 6'0", 172 lb. redshirt sophomore kicker for the Miami Hurricanes. Last year he had a 37-yard punt and two kickoffs that averaged 55.0 yards.

S Carvin Johnson: Johnson is listed as a 6'2", 205 lb. safety for Hampton University. Last year he had 57 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 10 pass breakups, and 3 fumble recoveries. He will likely start this fall.

LB Kellen Jones: Jones is listed as a 6'1", 225 lb. linebacker for Clemson. After leaving Michigan before his freshman season even began, he transferred to Oklahoma for the 2011 season, then sat out the 2012 year after transferring to Clemson, and will now be a backup inside linebacker for the Tigers.

WR Ricardo Miller: Miller is listed as a 6'4", 226 lb. tight end/wide receiver for UMass. With the starting tight end injured to begin the year, Miller will start at TE for the Minutemen.

DE Chris Rock: Rock is listed as a 6'4", 272 lb. defensive lineman for Ohio State after enrolling there in August 2012. Listed as a redshirt sophomore, he is not expected to be a heavy contributor this fall.

QB Kevin Sousa: Sousa is listed as a 6'3", 230 lb. redshirt sophomore quarterback for Wake Forest, but he not listed as one of the top three quarterbacks on the Demon Deacons' depth chart.

OG Caleb Stacey: Stacey transferred to the College of Mount St. Joseph during winter semester and intended to play football this fall. Their roster has not been released, so it's unclear if he's still on the team.

CB Anthony Standifer: Standifer is listed as a 6'1", 175 lb. cornerback on the Ole Miss roster. A blogger for the Rebels ranked him as the #57 most important player for the upcoming season. He had 3 tackles last year.

WR Je'Ron Stokes: Stokes is listed as a 6'0", 200 lb. wideout for Norfolk State, an FCS program. He joins younger brother Malik, a quarterback. Stokes played the last couple seasons at Bowling Green State University.

S Ray Vinopal: Vinopal is a 5'10", 200 lb. starting free safety for the Pitt Panthers. He had 14 tackles and 1.5 sacks as a redshirt sophomore in 2012.

CB Adrian Witty: Witty is listed as a 5'10", 187 lb. cornerback for the Cincinnati Bearcats. He had 25 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 4 pass breakups, and a forced fumble last year. It appears he's the front-runner for the starting free safety job this fall.

Preview: Michigan vs. Central Michigan

Rush Offense vs. Central Michigan Rush Defense
Michigan is breaking in three new interior linemen, but they return the two tackles, one of whom is an All-American in Taylor Lewan. Former 1,000-yard rusher Fitzgerald Toussaint returns from a broken ankle. The Chippewas have good size at defensive tackle, but their ends are light and the team was 93rd in rushing defense last year. I think Michigan is going to test out Graham Glasgow, Jack Miller, and Kyle Kalis in the middle, but if they need important yards, it will come on the edges behind the mammoth tackles. I would expect to see some outside zone plays that allow Lewan and Schofield to drive block those 250-ish pound ends off the ball.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Offense vs. Central Michigan Pass Defense
The Chippewas were 100th in the nation in sacks in 2012, and the leading sack artist is gone. It will be interesting to see how the interior offensive line holds up against the pass rush, which is the toughest thing for a young offensive line. Even with the youngsters in the middle, CMU shouldn't be able to present much of an obstacle. In the defensive backfield of the 4-2-5 defense, every Chippewa is over 6'0". Cornerback Jason Wilson and safety Avery Cunningham each had two picks last year, but they may struggle to keep up with the 5'8" and speedy Jeremy Gallon. Furthermore, both starting linebackers 6'0" and only one safety is 6'1", so there's nobody to match height with tight end Devin Funchess. If the linemen keep Devin Gardner clean, he should be able to pick them apart through the air.
Advantage: Michigan

Rush Defense vs. Central Michigan Rush Offense
This is perhaps the most favorable category for CMU, which has one fifth year senior, one true senior, and two redshirt juniors on the line with a redshirt sophomore center. They also have a senior tailback in Zurlon Tipton (6'0", 221 lbs.) who netted 1,497 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. That included a respectable 27 carries for 134 yards against BCS opponents Michigan State and Iowa. Michigan returns large nose tackle Quinton Washington and some quality inside linebackers, along with some more depth on the defensive line than in recent years. The Wolverines finished 51st in rush defense last season, but playing elite rushing teams like Alabama and Air Force dragged down that ranking. Even if it's a warm day, Michigan should be able to rotate in some quality linemen to attempt to stop the running game. Tipton will get his fair share of yards, but CMU won't be able to commit to the running game if they're playing from behind the entire time.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Defense vs. Central Michigan Pass Offense
Redshirt junior quarterback Kody Kater (6'3", 220 lbs.) is 2/4 for 12 yards in his career. Junior wide receiver Titus Davis (6'2", 190 lbs.) led the team last season with 43 catches for 860 yards and 8 touchdowns and returns this year. Opposite him is junior possession receiver Courtney Williams (6'1", 212 lbs.), who finished with 24 catches for 260 yards and 2 scores. Michigan's pass rush is reputed to be better this season, but even if it doesn't take a significant step forward, the cornerbacks are solid and so is strong safety Thomas Gordon. The Chippewas' best bet is to stretch the field and try to test sophomore free safety Jarrod Wilson, but that will also require holding up against defensive end Frank Clark and the aggressive blitzing of defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. Mattison probably won't want to show his hand to future opponents if the defensive line can get there rushing three or four, but he'll do what it takes to try to win comfortably.

Roster Notes
  • Wide receivers coach Mose Rison is the cousin of former Michigan State and NFL wide receiver Andre Rison.
  • Cornerbacks coach Archie Collins is famous around the Michigan recruiting blogosphere for formerly working at Southeastern High School in Detroit and allegedly steering kids toward Michigan State.
  • If you follow recruiting in the state of Michigan at all, Central Michigan's roster is chock full of names that should be familiar to you. 
  • The Chippewas have a quality control guy named Jason Assmann.
  • Fitzgerald Toussaint returns with a vengeance: 130 yards, 2 touchdowns.
  • Jehu Chesson scores his first career touchdown.
  • Michigan confuses and pressures Kater into throwing 3 interceptions.
  • Michigan 37, Central Michigan 6

Friday, August 30, 2013

Miami Dolphins: The Remarkable Journey of Jordan Kovacs

Andy Cohen talks about former Wolverine Jordan Kovacs as he attempts to make the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent.

Hit the jump for a Hooters girl lying on the floor bar of a Hooters.

Rivals 250 to Watch for 2015

Here's a list of Rivals' top 250 players to watch for the class of 2015. They aren't in any order other than alphabetical. Below, however, are the players from the Big Ten footprint or who have connections to Michigan:

Kareem Ali - CB - New Jersey
Pat Allen - OT - Maryland
Jerome Baker - ATH - Ohio*
Ryan Bates - OT - Pennsylvania
Terry Beckner, Jr. - DE - Illinois*
Rashod Berry - DE - Ohio
Quarvez Boulware - C - Washington, DC
Miles Boykin - WR - Illinois
George Brown - OT - Ohio
Matthew Burrell, Jr. - OG - Virginia**
George Campbell, Jr. - WR - Florida* (Michigan)
Jayru Campbell - QB - Michigan
Kamonte Carter - DE - Maryland*
Irvin Charles - WR - New Jersey
Jalen Christian - WR - Maryland
Devonaire Clarington - TE - Florida*
Najee Clayton - WR - New Jersey
Brian Cole - ATH - Michigan*
C.J. Conrad - TE - Ohio
Jashon Cornell - DE - Minnesota*
Shaun Crawford - CB - Ohio* (Michigan)
Ricky DeBerry - DE - Virginia#
Andrew Dowell - RB - Ohio
Chuma Edoga - OG - Georgia#
Minkah Fitzpatrick - CB - New Jersey
Hjalte Froholdt - DT - Ohio*
Aaron Garza - OG - Texas* (Texas)
Eric Glover-Williams - ATH - Ohio
Steven Gonzalez - OG - New Jersey
Darrin Hall - RB - Ohio
Damien Harris - RB - Kentucky* (Michigan)
Justin Hilliard - LB - Ohio*
Soso Jamabo - RB - Texas*
Van Jefferson - WR - Tennessee (formerly attended Orchard Lake (MI) St. Mary's)
Malik Jefferson - LB - Texas*
Sterling Jenkins - OT - Pennsylvania*
Nick Johns - QB - Washington, DC
Matthew Jones - OG - Ohio
Tyree Kinnel - S - Ohio* (Michigan)
Darrin Kirkland, Jr. - LB - Indiana
Iman Marshall - CB - California*
Osa Masina - ATH - Utah*
Adam McLean - DE - Maryland
Jacques Patrick - RB - Florida*
Richie Petitbon - OG - Washington, DC
John Reid - CB - Pennsylvania
Darian Roseboro - DE - North Carolina
Josh Rosen - QB - California*
Larry Scott - RB - Ohio
Tim Settle - DT - Virginia**
David Sills - QB - Maryland (USC)
Natereace Strong - RB - Illinois
Garrett Taylor - CB - Virginia#
Kevin Toliver II - CB - Florida (LSU)
Cameron Townsend - LB - Texas*
Shy Tuttle - DT - North Carolina*
Chris Warren - RB - Texas#
Mike Weber - RB - Michigan*
Tyrone Wheatley - DE - New York*
Anthony Wheeler - LB - Texas*
Brady White - QB - California (receiving recent interest from Michigan)
Reagan Williams - LB - Ohio

*Offered by Michigan
**Scheduled visit to Michigan

Attractive Michigan Girl of the Week

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

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Salt Lake Tribune: Bryan Mone grows up fast

This is a pretty great Salt Lake Tribune  article about 2014 Michigan defensive tackle commit Bryan Mone, who takes care of his disabled brother. Read it if you haven't already.

Hit the jump if you want, but definitely read the article.

Visitors: Michigan vs. Central Michigan

Defensive end Malik McDowell, who has since transferred from Loyola to Southfield
Joshua Alabi - DT - Detroit (MI) Cass Tech: Alabi is a 6'4", 260 lb. prospect for 2015 with offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, among others.

Trevon Avery - CB - Grand Blanc (MI) Grand Blanc: Avery is a 5'9", 160 lb. prospect for 2015 with no offers at this time. He's the younger brother of senior defensive back Courtney Avery.

Cory Contini - WR - Dover (OH) Dover: Contini is a 6'1", 170 lb. prospect for 2015 with no offers at this time.

Desmond Fitzpatrick - WR - Farmington (MI) Farmington: Fitzpatrick is a 5'11", 165 lb. prospect for 2016 with offers from Indiana, Ohio, and Toledo. He transferred to Farmington from crosstown Harrison this offseason.

KeShawn Gilmore - S - Detroit (MI) Cass Tech: Gilmore is a 6'2", 190 lb. prospect for 2015 with no offers at this time. He may take over this fall for former Technician Delano Hill, a current freshman at Michigan.

Drake Harris - WR - Grand Rapids (MI) Christian: Harris committed to Michigan in April. He injured his hamstring in a scrimmage last week and will be out for 4-6 weeks.

LaVert Hill - CB - Detroit (MI) Cass Tech: Hill is a 5'11", 165 lb. prospect for 2016 with no offers at this time. He's the younger brother of freshman safety Delano Hill.

Lawrence Marshall - DE - Southfield (MI) Southfield: Marshall committed to Michigan in May.

Jalen Martin - WR - Harper Woods (MI) Chandler Park: Martin is a 6'3", 190 lb. prospect for 2016 with a lone offer from Eastern Michigan. He's the former teammate of freshman wide receiver Csont'e York. Martin had 5 receiving touchdowns as a freshman in 2012.

Malik McDowell - DE - Southfield (MI) Southfield: McDowell is a 6'6", 292 lb. prospect with offers from Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State, USC, and a bunch of others. He attended the BBQ at the Big House in late July, and word around that time was that he got close to committing to the Wolverines. McDowell transferred to Southfield this summer and will be teammates with Marshall.

Donovan Peoples-Jones - WR - Detroit (MI) Cass Tech: Peoples-Jones is a 6'0", 169 lb. prospect for 2017 with no offers at this time.

David Reese - DE - Farmington (MI) Farmington: Reese is a 6'1", 235 lb. prospect for 2016 with no offers at this time. He could play inside linebacker, but might grow into a defensive end in the next few years.

Joshua Ross - LB - Orchard Lake (MI) St. Mary's: Ross is a 6'2", 190 lb. prospect for 2017 with no offers at this time. He's the younger brother of Michigan sophomore linebacker James Ross.

Nathan Skene - TE - Hartland (MI) Hartland: Skene is a 6'3", 190 lb. prospect for 2016 with no offers at this time. He's the son of former Michigan offensive lineman Doug Skene.

Tyriq Thompson - LB - Detroit (MI) King: Thompson is a 6'0", 206 lb. prospect for 2015 with offers from Illinois and Wisconsin. He's the son of former Michigan defensive back Clarence Thompson.

Demetric Vance - WR - Detroit (MI) Cass Tech: Vance is a 6'2", 180 lb. prospect for 2016 with no offers at this time.

Maurice Ways - WR - Detroit (MI) Country Day: Ways committed to Michigan in late April.

Michael Weber - RB - Detroit (MI) Cass Tech: Weber is a 5'10", 205 lb. prospect for 2015 with offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Tennessee, among others. He was considered to be Michigan lean until fellow 2015 running back Damien Harris committed to the Wolverines, which may not leave enough room in the class for Weber.

2013 Season Predictions

Here are my 2012 predictions, in case you're interested.

Leading Rusher
Michigan no longer has a quarterback who's much of a threat to lead the team in rushing, although he's a pretty good runner. Fitzgerald Toussaint is the best running back currently on the roster, but he struggles to stay healthy. I make this choice with very little confidence.
Prediction: Toussaint, 900 yards

Leading Receiver
The top receiver returns from last year, and that player has great chemistry with quarterback Devin Gardner. Jeremy Gallon had 829 receiving yards last season, despite having Denard Robinson as the primary passer for the first half of the season. Gallon should see an uptick in receptions and yardage this season, but without another proven threat, he might be bracketed a little more often.
Prediction: Gallon, 1100 yards

Leading Tackler
Strongside linebacker Jake Ryan led the team in tackles with 88 last year, but he's out with a torn ACL until at least October. The choice comes down to middle linebacker Desmond Morgan or weakside linebacker James Ross III, and I think I'll go with sophomore Ross, whose instincts are unmatched by anyone else on the team.
Prediction: Ross, 90 tackles

Leading Sacker
Ryan also led the team in sacks with 5.5 last season, but he probably won't have time to get to the quarterback that much since he'll miss half the season or so. There's been a lot of buzz about weakside end Frank Clark's improvement this offseason, and I think he'll gather a few sacks in some early season games against the likes of Central Michigan and Akron.
Prediction: Clark, 8 sacks

Leading Interceptor
The safeties aren't huge playmakers, and the best cornerback (Blake Countess) is coming off a torn ACL. Countess has good cover skills but has never been known as a true ball hawk. I think three players end up tied for this honor.
Prediction: Countess, Thomas Gordon, Raymon Taylor, 2 interceptions each

All-Big Ten First Team
Prediction: Jeremy Gallon, Taylor Lewan

Leading Scorer (non-QB, non-kicker)
I'm calling 10 touchdowns for Toussaint and Gallon rushing and receiving, respectively, but add a couple touchdowns through the air for Toussaint.
Prediction: Toussaint

Breakout Offensive Player
There are a few options for breakout players. I'm not going to count Devin Funchess, who already showed what he can do last season, even if he didn't get targeted much toward the end of the year. This leaves some backup running backs and whoever shows up across from Gallon. I think I'll go with Jehu Chesson, who should be targeted plenty.
Prediction: Chesson

Breakout Defensive Player
This is a really tough choice, because I foresee a few guys stepping up this year to make some plays: Frank Clark, James Ross, and Cam Gordon. I'm most confident in Ross, but I think the other two will take large steps forward as well.
Prediction: Ross

Most Disappointing Offensive Player
I think the interior of the offensive line is going to struggle, and that starts with redshirt sophomore Jack Miller. Miller will be a new starter and he's not the biggest or strongest of guys, so there will be both mental and physical issues there.
Prediction: Miller

Most Disappointing Defensive Player
I think the issues at free safety will carry over from last season, when Jarrod Wilson really struggled as a backup. This year senior Courtney Avery is competing with sophomore Wilson for the job, but Avery's out for a couple weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery. Wilson has good physical abilities, but gets himself out of position too much.
Prediction: Wilson

The Big Finish
August 31 vs. Central Michigan: WIN. The Chippewas are a mediocre MAC team.

September 7 vs. Notre Dame: WIN. Notre Dame got lucky a lot last season, and while their defensive front seven will still be good, the offense will sputter too much.

September 14 vs. Akron: WIN. Another mediocre MAC team.

September 21 at Connecticut: WIN. If for no other reason than the fact that I saw Paul Pasqualoni at a clinic this offseason and didn't care for his attitude, I'm picking the Wolverines.

October 5 vs. Minnesota: WIN. Jerry Kill has a good history of improving teams, so I don't think it will be a cake walk, but Michigan is more talented.

October 12 at Penn State: WIN. I have a feeling Penn State will drop off a little bit after the emotion of last season carrying them a little bit. It won't be easy, but I think Michigan wins.

October 19 vs. Indiana: WIN. Indiana isn't very good at the football, but the offense will be entertaining.

November 2 at Michigan State: WIN. The Spartans will have a good defense, but they'll struggle this year on offense. Michigan is more balanced.

November 9 vs. Nebraska: LOSS. After the emotion of beating MSU and facing a pretty good team in the Cornhuskers, Michigan loses a squeaker.

November 16 at Northwestern: WIN. Michigan is getting more athletic on defense, and Jake Ryan should be back by this point to help out defensively. It might be a shootout again, but I pick the Wolverines.

November 23 at Iowa: WIN. Iowa will probably be bad.

November 30 vs. Ohio State: LOSS. Michigan just won't have the running game to keep Ohio State honest because of the mediocre interior line.

Final record: 10-2

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Grantland: Jason Witten, Master of the Option Route

Chris Brown of Smart Football  looks at how the Dallas Cowboys - particularly Tony Romo and Jason Witten - use the option route to beat defenses on the regular.

Hit the jump for a selfie.

2013 Season Countdown List

Whew. Ninety-five player profiles over 95 days. It is finished. I think I'll go nap until 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

I had some people ask me to link each profile, but that's a crap ton of linking and time I don't have. I apologize, and while it does take some scrolling, you can click on "2013 Season Countdown" at the bottom of this post to read all the profiles.

1. Devin Gardner
2. Taylor Lewan
3. Jeremy Gallon
4. Thomas Gordon
5. Michael Schofield
6. James Ross III
7. Frank Clark
8. Fitzgerald Toussaint
9. Blake Countess
10. Devin Funchess
11. Quinton Washington
12. Cameron Gordon
13. Desmond Morgan
14. Raymon Taylor
15. Matt Wile
16. Derrick Green
17. Jack Miller
18. Jibreel Black
19. Drew Dileo
20. Jarrod Wilson
21. Dennis Norfleet, #23
22. Brendan Gibbons
23. Ben Braden
24. Jake Ryan
25. Amara Darboh
26. Keith Heitzman
27. Jareth Glanda
28. A.J. Williams
29. Kyle Kalis
30. Joe Bolden
31. Ondre Pipkins
32. Mario Ojemudia
33. Dymonte Thomas
34. Courtney Avery
35. Jehu Chesson
36. Willie Henry
37. Matt Godin
38. Brennen Beyer
39. Delonte Hollowell
40. Jake Butt
41. Royce Jenkins-Stone
42. Joe Kerridge
43. Jeremy Jackson
44. Shane Morris
45. Graham Glasgow
46. Taco Charlton
47. Chris Wormley
48. Josh Furman
49. Joe Reynolds
50. Jeremy Clark
51. Thomas Rawls
52. Sione Houma
53. Joe Burzynski
54. Richard Ash
55. Justice Hayes
56. Chris Bryant
57. Brian Cleary
58. Mike McCray II
59. Dylan Esterline
60. Antonio Poole
61. Terry Richardson
62. Drake Johnson, #20
63. Allen Gant
64. Tom Strobel
65. Da'Mario Jones
66. Ross Douglas, #29
67. Erik Gunderson
68. Ben Gedeon
69. Mark Lawson
70. Russell Bellomy
71. Jourdan Lewis
72. Delano Hill
73. Khalid Hill
74. Kristian Mateus
75. Jordan Paskorz
76. Erik Magnuson
77. Blake Bars
78. Kyle Bosch
79. Kenneth Allen
80. Jaron Dukes
81. Alex Swieca
82. Maurice Hurst, Jr.
83. Channing Stribling
84. Henry Poggi
85. Wyatt Shallman
86. DeVeon Smith
87. Patrick Kugler
88. Reon Dawson
89. Csont'e York
90. Logan Tuley-Tillman
91. David Dawson
92. Chris Fox
93. Dan Samuelson
94. Scott Sypniewski
95. Will Hagerup

Video: Inside Michigan Football 2013 - Episode 1

Inside Michigan Football 2013 Episode 1 by mgovideo

2013 Season Countdown: #1 Devin Gardner

Devin Gardner
Name: Devin Gardner
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 210 lbs.
High school: Detroit (MI) Inkster
Position: Quarterback
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #12
Last year: I ranked Gardner #25 and said he would be a backup quarterback and wide receiver with 25 catches for 425 yards and 3 touchdowns. He started games at wide receiver and quarterback, finishing with 16 catches for 266 yards and 4 touchdowns; 75/126 passing for 1,219 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions; and 47 carries for 101 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Last year was a very odd year for quarterbacks at the University of Michigan. The starter, of course, was Denard Robinson, a better runner than passer. Robinson hit Gardner on a 44-yard touchdown pass in the season opener against Alabama. A week later Gardner caught 5 passes for 63 yards and 1 touchdown against Air Force. Then 2 catches for 48 yards and 1 touchdown against UMass. So on and so forth. He was putting up decent numbers as a receiver, despite looking like a quarterback playing receiver - sloppy routes, some awkward catch attempts, poor body positioning. He was perhaps the best Michigan had at the position, yet he was out of his element. Then Robinson hurt his elbow in the first half of the Nebraska game, and Russell Bellomy entered with a thud. The following week, Gardner - who had apparently stopped taking snaps at quarterback during his WR tenure - started against Minnesota, where he went 12/18 for 234 yards and 2 touchdowns, plus a rushing score. That was followed by the Northwestern game, in which he went went 16/29 for 288 yards and 2 touchdowns, plus 47 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground; that earned him Co-Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week. He earned that honor again the following week with an 18/23 performance for 314 yards and 3 touchdowns, plus 37 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground. The Ohio State and South Carolina games weren't quite as productive, but he still performed adequately for being inexperienced when thrust into the position. Expectations skyrocketed, and this spring and summer, observers started to talk about how good he looked and how much he had grown at the position. People even started to suggest that he could leave early for the NFL after the 2013 season.

Here comes that 2013 season, and people around the country are looking at Gardner as a potential breakout star. His favorite target last year was Jeremy Gallon, who returns primed for a big year and wearing the #21 Legends jersey. Unfortunately, the guy expected to start across from Gallon (Amara Darboh) is out for the season after foot surgery. There aren't many other proven targets on the roster, aside from senior slot receiver Drew Dileo and sophomore tight end Devin Funchess. One potential breakout receiver is redshirt freshman wideout Jehu Chesson, who should soak up some of Darboh's vacated targets. Good quarterbacks can sometimes make mediocre receivers look good, too, and hopefully that's the case this season. Gardner was on pace last season for well over 3,000 yards passing and to be an elite passer nationally. If he can find another consistent target, Gardner could race Ohio State's Braxton Miller and Northwestern's Kain Colter for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year; he could also make a case to be the top quarterback in the nation if things fall just right. I don't think Michigan has the talent at wideout to earn him national accolades, but I'm guessing NFL scouts will like what they see.

Prediction: Starting quarterback; 63% completions, 3200 yards passing, 29 touchdowns, 11 interceptions; Second Team All-Big Ten

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Yahoo! Sports: College football's 25 most intriguing quarterbacks

Pat Forde talks about the 25 most intriguing quarterbacks for the upcoming season, and Michigan's Devin Gardner is right there in the middle at #12.

Hit the jump for a sparkly pink bikini.

2013 Season Countdown: #2 Taylor Lewan

Taylor Lewan
Name: Taylor Lewan
Height: 6'8"
Weight: 315 lbs.
High school: Cave Creek (AZ) Chaparral
Position: Offensive tackle
Class: Redshirt senior
Jersey number: #77
Last year: I ranked Lewan #3 and said he would be All-Big Ten First Team. He started all thirteen games and was named a First Team All-American and First Team All-Big Ten.

Lewan has been growing as a football player for the last few years, and last year he finally started to earn the national recognition that he deserved. A devastating drive blocker and adept pass blocker, he allowed just one sack (coming against Ohio State, unfortunately). He dominated regularly in Big Ten play, and against perhaps the best player in the nation, South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney, Lewan held his own. He was named a First Team All-American, First Team All-Big Ten, and the Big Ten's Rimington-Pace Award winner, which is given to the conference's best offensive lineman. He could have left for the NFL after last season to be a first round pick, but he surprised a lot of people by announcing his return.

Lewan will once again be the starter at left tackle, and he's been named a Pre-Season First Team All-American by various outlets. With a brand new interior line that includes a redshirt sophomore walk-on, a redshirt sophomore, and a redshirt freshman, Michigan will lean heavily on Lewan to win football games. As the program returns to more power blocking, I expect to see a lot of him blocking down with the backside guard (Kyle Kalis) pulling to the left side. The Wolverines will not be a dominant running team this season because of that youth inside, but Lewan should be dominant at his position. If he goes down with an injury, we would likely see right tackle Michael Schofield flip to the left and redshirt freshman Ben Braden or Erik Magnuson step in on the right. I don't think Schofield is a true left tackle, and redshirt freshmen usually scare me on the line, so hopefully Lewan eats his vitamins and stays healthy.

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

Monday, August 26, 2013

Grantland: Packaged plays and the newest form of option football

Chris Brown of Smart Football  looks at a play that might look familiar if you watched Rich Rodriguez's Michigan offense with Denard Robinson-to-Roy Roundtree. There are some different concepts from what Rodriguez run, but it's the same idea: Give the quarterback several options and see which one works best against each front.

Hit the jump for a girl in a white bikini.

2013 Season Countdown: #3 Jeremy Gallon

Jeremy Gallon
Name: Jeremy Gallon
Height: 5'8"
Weight: 184 lbs.
High school: Apopka (FL) Apopka
Position: Wide receiver
Class: Redshirt senior
Jersey number: #10
Last year: I ranked Gallon #19 and said he would be a starting wide receiver with 40 catches for 540 yards and 5 touchdowns, along with a punt return touchdown. He started at wideout and made 49 receptions for 829 yards and 4 touchdowns; he also had 11 carries for 67 yards, 2 kickoff returns for 23 yards, and 12 punt returns for 66 yards.

Gallon was arguably Michigan's breakout offensive player last year when his production exploded with Devin Gardner at quarterback. He was okay with Denard Robinson throwing the ball (107 yards against Alabama), but the Gardner-to-Gallon combination was on pace for 1,331 yards, including 133 yards against Iowa and 145 against South Carolina. Sometimes guys have signature plays or playing styles, but it's hard to pin down Gallon's. Is it the slip screen that he takes to the house? Is it the leaping catches to outjump taller defensive backs? It's not often that 5'8" receivers are known for their jump ball skills, but Gallon is basically Junior Hemingway with speed.

With Gardner as the full-time quarterback going into 2012, the connection with Gallon is supposed to take off from the start. They should start where they left off, and if that's the case, it will be a pretty sight for Michigan. I expect to see Gallon play a little more flanker this season to increase his targets, but offensive coordinator Al Borges will probably move him around to get him open in different ways. Gallon has been relieved of his punt return duties to keep him fresh and healthy (along with the fact that sophomore Dennis Norfleet might be a flat-out better option there). Gallon is ranked this highly because he has zero proven production behind him, and Michigan is severely lacking depth at receiver. There are a couple seniors who are backup material (Jeremy Jackson, Joe Reynolds), a quality slot guy (Drew Dileo), and then a bunch of youngsters with zero experience. If Gallon goes down, well . . . those young offensive linemen had better be able to run block.

Prediction: Starting wide receiver; 75 receptions, 1,200 yards, 10 touchdowns; First Team All-Big Ten

Depth chart for Michigan vs. Central Michigan

I won't post these every week, but I thought it was important for week one. Here's the depth chart. Feel free to discuss in the comments.

QB: Gardner, Morris, Cleary
RB: Toussaint, Johnson, Hayes, Rawls, Green/Smith
FB: Kerridge, Houma, Shallman
WR: Gallon, Reynolds
WR: Jackson/Chesson
TE: Funchess, Williams, Butt, Hill, Paskorz
LT: Lewan, Braden
LG: G. Glasgow, Bryant, Burzynski
C: Miller, Burzynski
RG: Kalis, Burzynski, Bars
RT: Schofield, Magnuson, Gunderson
SLOT: Dileo, Norfleet

DE: Heitzman, Godin/Wormley
NT: Washington, Pipkins, Ash
DT: Black, R. Glasgow, Henry
DE: Clark, Ojemudia, Charlton
SLB: C. Gordon/Beyer, Ryan
MLB: Morgan, Bolden, McCray
WLB: Ross, Jenkins-Stone, Gedeon
LCB: Taylor, Hollowell/Lewis
RCB: Countess, Stribling
SS: T. Gordon, Furman, Thomas, Hill
FS: Wilson, Clark, Avery

PK: Gibbons, Wile
KO: Wile
P: Wile, Allen
PR: Norfleet, Dileo
KR: Norfleet, Dileo, Chesson
H: Dileo, Allen
LS: Glanda

Recruiting Update: August 26, 2013

Cleveland (OH) St. Edward cornerback Shaun Crawford
Cleveland (OH) St. Edward cornerback Shaun Crawford committed to Michigan on Friday.

Huber Heights (OH) Wayne safety Tyree Kinnel committed to Michigan on Saturday.

Charlotte (NC) Catholic running back Elijah Hood decommitted from Notre Dame. He now appears to be headed to North Carolina or perhaps Alabama. He was high on Michigan before he selected the Fighting Irish, but the Wolverines do not appear to be re-entering the race.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

WSJ: How Penn State football survived

This is an excerpt from Fourth and Long, an upcoming book by John U. Bacon (the author of books about Rich Rodriguez and Bo Schembechler).

Hit the jump for a bikini.

Video: Countdown to Kickoff 2013 - Day 10: Jack Miller

Countdown to Kickoff 2013: Day 10 - Jack Miller by mgovideo

2013 Season Countdown: #4 Thomas Gordon

Thomas Gordon with Brady Hoke and Jordan Kovacs
Name: Thomas Gordon
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 210 lbs.
High school: Detroit (MI) Cass Tech
Position: Safety
Class: Redshirt senior
Jersey number: #30
Last year: I ranked Gordon #10 and said he would start at free safety with 70 tackles and 2 interceptions. He started at free safety and had 81 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, 2 pass breakups, and 1 forced fumble.

Gordon has been starting in some capacity since his redshirt freshman season, and entered last season as a steady hand at free safety after posting 67 tackles and 4(!) fumble recoveries in 2011. He did not disappoint, although he wasn't quite the turnover machine he was two seasons ago. He managed to pick off Purdue and Nebraska, but he was taken advantage of a little bit in the passing game at times. Not blessed with blazing speed or great size, Michigan's safeties (along with the now departed Jordan Kovacs) were a little lacking in ideal physical traits. Both probably project best to strong safety, but it was necessary to put the two best safeties on the field; Gordon just happened to be the one playing more out of position. He did fine, as you can see from the statistics above, but he wasn't the standout one might expect from a long-time starter.

Going into his fifth year, Gordon has taken on a leadership role and is likely to be named the defensive captain. He is one of the most indispensable members of the unit with depth somewhat lacking at safety. The backup could be anyone from redshirt junior Josh Furman - who has not been impressive at anything except punt coverage - to true freshman Delano Hill. If Gordon were to go down, we might see a safety combination of senior Courtney Avery and sophomore Jarrod Wilson at safety, two somewhat talented guys who are pretty inexperienced at playing safety. Gordon might be the glue that holds the defense together, and losing him for any stretch in Big Ten play could be quite detrimental. He may not be an all-conference player when everything is said and done because he doesn't make the big hits or highlight-reel returns, but we could see him on the Honorable Mention list and winning some team awards after the season.

Prediction: Starting strong safety; 85 tackles, 2 interceptions

Tyree Kinnel, Wolverine

Huber Heights (OH) Wayne safety Tyree Kinnel (image via 247 Sports)
Huber Heights (OH) Wayne safety Tyree Kinnel committed to Michigan on Saturday. He chose the Wolverines over offers from Arkansas and Kentucky.

Kinnel is a 6'0", 190 lb. prospect who claims a 4.4 forty.

ESPN: 3-star S
Rivals: N/A
Scout: 4-star, #24 CB
247 Sports: 4-star, 90 grade, #18 S

Kinnel had openly wanted a Michigan offer, but it was a while in the making. He earned his offers from Arkansas and Kentucky this spring, the latter from a program that is making serious inroads with good prospects in the state of Ohio. Kinnel camped at Michigan and Ohio State over the summer, but he left Michigan's camp without an offer and publicly stated his frustration with the situation. A little over a month afterward, the coaches extended an offer. He thought about it for a few weeks, returned to campus on Saturday for a visit, and committed to the coaches.

Kinnel shows pretty good instincts and playmaking ability in the passing game. He plays free safety for his high school team, so he should be comfortable playing in deep coverage once he gets to college. He shows a nice, smooth backpedal. He's able to go up and get the ball at its highest point, and he shows solid recovery speed. Kinnel takes good angles to the football and appears to be cognizant of not allowing big plays.

While listed at 6'0" and 190, Kinnel does not look close to that size on video; he looks 5'10" or perhaps 5'11" and 170-175 lbs. There's a chance that he has grown since his sophomore season, but if not, he looks rather slight. I mentioned the good angles, but Kinnel isn't the most physical tackler once he arrives at the point of attack. He doesn't arrive with much authority and tries to swing guys to the ground rather than driving his feet through the tackle.

I have not looked at the 2015 class as thoroughly yet as the 2014 kids (for obvious reasons), but I have a hard time believing that Kinnel would be the top safety on Michigan's board; yet he's the only one Michigan has offered up to this point. While he has the ability to be solid in a Thomas Gordon type of way, he does not look like a potential star. His speed is adequate, but his size and tackling are both a little questionable for me. All that being said, he's only about to start his junior year, so improvements in both areas could be forthcoming. This is a good prospect, but Michigan has generally been recruiting elite prospects, especially early.

This is Michigan's sixth commitment for the class of 2015 and the second defensive back, joining Cleveland (OH) St. Edward cornerback Shaun Crawford, who committed a day earlier. The last Wayne High School prospects to commit to Michigan were brothers Terry and Terrence Talbott, a defensive tackle and cornerback from the 2010 class, respectively; both left the program before contributing much. Michigan also recruited Wayne product Braxton Miller, now the starting quarterback for Ohio State.

TTB Rating: I will not assign ratings for 2015 prospects until the 2014 class wraps.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Grantland: Kyle Williams, the Underestimated Monster

Grantland looks at some of the most underappreciated players in the NFL.

Hit the jump for a dress with some deep cleavage.

2013 Season Countdown: #5 Michael Schofield

Michael Schofield
Name: Michael Schofield
Height: 6'7"
Weight: 304 lbs.
High school: Orland Park (IL) Carl Sandburg
Position: Offensive tackle
Class: Redshirt senior
Jersey number: #75
Last year: I ranked Schofield #11 and said he would be the starting right tackle. He started all thirteen games at right tackle.

Schofield played left guard for most of the 2011 season, so last year he was somewhat of a position switcher and playing right tackle for the first time. Things went okay for him at right tackle, where he was a solid blocker but not a standout. Overshadowed by all-everything left tackle Taylor Lewan, Schofield managed to start every game on the right side and not earn a single conference or team accolade. He did turn out to be the team's second-best lineman, but the trio of interior guys last year left a lot to be desired.

This off-season he's getting quite a bit of hype, although he's still in the shadow of Lewan. There have been various articles about this being the best tackle tandem in the Big Ten and perhaps the entire nation. Schofield has good length and is a plus pass blocker, but he's not the overpowering drive blocker you might want in an ideal right tackle. For Michigan I think he's the fifth-most indispensable player, because the backup options are potentially very questionable. The third tackle into the game would probably be redshirt freshman Erik Magnuson, who has not earned much practice buzz and is hovering around 285 lbs. Otherwise, there's fifth year senior walk-on Erik Gunderson and part-time guard Ben Braden, who no longer seems to be in the mix for the left guard job but hasn't been practicing a ton at tackle as a result of his battle for the LG job. Schofield is also the backup left tackle, so any injury to Lewan would force a reshuffling in at least two offensive line spots. He's the unquestioned starter at right tackle and could be All-Big Ten by the end of the year.

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

Friday, August 23, 2013

Shaun Crawford, Wolverine

Cleveland (OH) St. Edward cornerback Shaun Crawford (image via
Cleveland (OH) St. Edward cornerback Shaun Crawford committed to Michigan on Friday afternoon. He picked the Wolverines over offers from Arkansas, Cincinnati, Florida State, Miami, Michigan State, Penn State, Tennessee, and West Virginia, among others.

Crawford is a 5'9", 171 lb. prospect who claims a 4.51 forty. As a sophomore in 2012, he had 66 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, 3 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 fumble recovery. He also had 24 receptions for 438 yards and 5 touchdowns as a slot receiver.

ESPN: 4-star, 83 grade, #5 athlete
Rivals: N/A
Scout: 4-star, #10 CB
247 Sports: 4-star, 91 grade, #17 CB, #156 overall

Crawford had long yearned for a Michigan offer, but he had to wait a little while to get it. (By "a little while," I mean after he publicly stated wanting one - anyone who gets an offer during their sophomore year is pretty advanced in the process.) He had claimed that a Michigan offer could very well end his process early, but as we often see, he held off on a commitment after saying that. He took a spring visit to Miami that went well, but it didn't match up to his Michigan experience, so he ended up committing just prior to his junior season.

I see a lot of good things to like about Crawford. As an offensive player, he's shifty and fast enough to run right by most high school defensive backs. If he gets in the open field, you can forget about catching him. But he will probably play defensive in college. As a cornerback, the first thing that jumps out is his tackling ability. Unlike, let's say . . . Cullen Christian or J.T. Floyd, Crawford is a very solid tackler. He does try to throw his shoulder into ball carriers on occasion, which will have to be coached out of him, but generally he wraps up, drives his feet, and gets the most out of his 171 lb. frame. Especially for someone his size, he's about as good of a tackler as you'll find. He has fluid hips and changes direction well. With his low center of gravity, he has the ability to break quickly on underneath routes and cause deflections, fumbles, etc. If he gets the ball in his hands, he can burst upfield through small windows and burrow for some extra yards.

I have some questions about his overall ability as a cornerback. We don't see him much in man coverage; instead, he spends a lot of time in zone, reading plays, coming up to support the run, and causing some havoc underneath. I would like to see whether he can flip his hips to run with receivers in man coverage, and whether he can turn his head to find the ball and make a play. This is not so much a criticism but a curiosity on my part.

In my opinion, Crawford projects best as a nickel corner in Michigan's defense. He's excellent in run support and could presumably be a capable blitzer off the edge with his physicality, even if he's lacking some size. He's physical enough to reroute receivers and fast enough to stay with some of the smaller guys that teams will throw out there in the slot. I also think he would be great as a Cover 2 corner, but Michigan hasn't run a ton of Cover 2 during Greg Mattison's stint as a defensive coordinator. Crawford also has the skills to help out in the return game down the road.

This is Michigan's fifth commitment in the class of 2015 and the first defensive back. He attends the alma mater of redshirt freshman offensive guard Kyle Kalis.

TTB Rating: I will not rate 2015 prospects until the 2014 class wraps up.

Grantland: Casey Hayward and the value of a nickel

This piece is perhaps too focused on Hayward to be very useful - instead of the nickel position itself - but it still does a decent job of explaining the spot that Courtney Avery has manned and Dymonte Thomas will [likely] hold this fall.

Hit the jump for a blonde in a bikini.

Video: Countdown to Kickoff 2013 - Day 11: James Ross III

Countdown to Kickoff 2013: Day 11 - James Ross III by mgovideo

Attractive Michigan Girl of the Week

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

Video: Countdown to Kickoff 2013 - Day 12: Special Teams

Countdown to Kickoff 2013: Day 12 - Special Teams by mgovideo

2013 Season Countdown: #6 James Ross III

James Ross III
Name: James Ross III
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 220 lbs.
High school: Orchard Lake (MI) St. Mary's
Position: Linebacker
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #15
Last year: I ranked Ross #62 and said he would be a backup linebacker and special teams contributor. He started two games and played in all thirteen, making 36 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and .5 sacks.

Ross was one of my favorite and highest rated players coming into 2012, and he didn't disappoint. Early practice buzz suggested he was going to be hard to keep off the field, and that held true once the season began. When starting WILL linebacker Desmond Morgan missed the Iowa game due to injury, Ross stepped in and made a career-high 12 tackles. This spring when Desmond Morgan moved from WILL to MIKE to replace the graduated Kenny Demens, Ross was inserted into the starting lineup.

I expect good things from Ross this year. He's excellent at diagnosing plays and he can cover a lot of ground. He struggled a little bit with pass drops last season, but that's a problem for many young linebackers. Ross's primary backup on the depth chart is sophomore Royce Jenkins-Stone, whom I don't really trust yet as a football player. I suspect that if Ross were to miss any length of time, Morgan might slide back over to WILL to make room for sophomore Joe Bolden, who's a superior player to Jenkins-Stone. Morgan, Bolden, and Ross are three starter-quality inside linebackers, but then there's a drop-off to Jenkins-Stone and a freshman like Ben Gedeon. If Michigan's defensive line can keep offensive linemen off of the linebackers, I think Ross could be in the discussion for all-conference honors by the end of the year.

Prediction: Starting weakside linebacker; 90 tackles, 2 sacks

Thursday, August 22, 2013

MLive: Sitting out last season helped Kalis prepare for 2013

Kyle Meinke talked to redshirt freshman Kyle Kalis about redshirting last year, despite the fact that he was close to getting on the field.

Hit the jump for a very pretty lady.

Hot 100 seniors: OTs Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan rank at top

Gil Brandt says that our very own Taylor Lewan is the second-best prospect for the 2014 NFL Draft.

Hit the jump for Dannie Riel.

Video: BTN's 2013 Michigan Football Preview

2013 Michigan Football Preview by mgovideo

Video: Countdown to Kickoff 2013 - Day 13: Scrimmage Highlights

Countdown to Kickoff 2013: Day 13 - Scrimmage... by mgovideo

2013 Season Countdown: #7 Frank Clark

Frank Clark (#57)
Name: Frank Clark
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 273 lbs.
High school: Cleveland (OH) Glenville
Position: Defensive end
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #57
Last year: I ranked Clark #32, but I wasn't confident since he was facing charges at the time. He started four games at weakside end and made 25 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 3 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery.

Going into the 2012 season, I thought Clark was the most talented option at weakside end, but he was also the most troubled, since he was being charged with stealing a laptop. Michigan suspended him for the season opener against Alabama, but he turned into a part-time starter. His main competition came from Brennen Beyer, who is supposedly solid against the run but doesn't provide much in the way of big plays. For a backup end, Clark's 9 tackles for loss were pretty good. His season highlight was a free run to destroy Braxton Miller like Charlie Weis destroys a Golden Corral. In the off-season, Clark added some weight and was supposedly up to 277 lbs. this spring; he claims to be 268 now, but the roster lists him at 273.

Regardless of his actual weight, Clark is very powerfully built at only 6'2". Taylor Lewan has talked about the epic battles between himself and Clark, and other players have talked about Clark's speed to track down ball carriers from the opposite side of the field. He has shown flashes of explosiveness and playmaking, but this is the year to show it full-time with Beyer playing SAM linebacker. Clark might end up as one of the top three or four best players on the team, but sophomore Mario Ojemudia was occasionally impressive last year, and true freshman Taco Charlton has wowed observers with his frame and athleticism; there's also a chance that Beyer could move back to weakside end late in the season once Jake Ryan returns from injury. It seems to be quite a deep position when there are people to rotate, but losing Clark for any length of time would be quite a blow to the pass rush. If Clark's as good as people say - and I think he might be - he could be all-conference by the end of the year.

Prediction: Starting weakside end; 50 tackles, 8 sacks

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

USA Today college football countdown: #18 Michigan

Paul Myerberg previews your Michigan Wolverines, whom he places at #18 in the nation.

Hit the jump for some Michigan girls.

Video: Countdown to Kickoff 2013 - Day 14: Jibreel Black

Countdown to Kickoff 2013: Day 14 - Jibreel Black by mgovideo

Amara Darboh out for the season

Amara Darboh (#82)
Sophomore wide receiver Amara Darboh will miss the 2013 season after injuring his foot last week, an injury that requires surgery. He was expected to be a starting wideout this fall, and various people were suggesting he would be an acrobatic Spider-man reeling in diving and one-handed catches. Not anymore, at least not until maybe a bowl game or the 2014 season.

Despite being pegged as a starter opposite Jeremy Gallon, I ranked Darboh as the 25th-most important player in the 2013 Season Countdown. I'm not quite on the bandwagon that thinks he'll be a star wide receiver, although I think he'll be a solid player. I've long suggested that redshirt freshman Jehu Chesson will be the better player in the long run, so this should give Chesson a few more opportunities to produce. The Wolverines also have a trio of seniors in the form of Drew Dileo, Jeremy Jackson, and Joe Reynolds, as well as a trio of true freshmen in the form of Jaron Dukes, Da'Mario Jones, and Csont'e York.

Teams always face injury issues, and this is just another example. Last year freshman defensive lineman Chris Wormley tore his ACL around this time, and sophomore Blake Countess tore his ACL in the first quarter of the opener. Darboh joins redshirt sophomore quarterback Russell Bellomy on the list of guys expected to miss the season, and redshirt junior linebacker Jake Ryan is out until late this fall with an ACL tear; would-be redshirt sophomore linebacker Antonio Poole took a medical hardship in the off-season after dealing with a chronic upper body injury.

2013 Season Countdown: #8 Fitzgerald Toussaint

Fitzgerald Toussaint
Name: Fitzgerald Toussaint
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 210 lbs.
High school: Youngstown (OH) Liberty
Position: Running back
Class: Redshirt senior
Jersey number: #28
Last year: I ranked Toussaint #4 and said he would be the starting running back with 1,020 yards and 10 touchdowns. He had 130 carries for 514 yards and 5 touchdowns, plus 6 catches for 62 yards and 1 touchdown.

Last year was supposed to be a dominant year for Michigan's running game with Denard Robinson, Toussaint, three redshirt senior interior linemen, and two solid bookend tackles. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way. Robinson ran the ball well, as always, but injured his elbow against Nebraska; Toussaint struggled mightily and then suffered a gruesome broken ankle against Iowa; and that interior offensive line was less than stellar. That last item, along with what looked like a loss of a little quickness on Toussaint's part, dropped him from 5.6 yards/carry in 2011 to just 4.0 in 2012. Between being suspended for the season opener against Alabama, struggling on the field, and then the nasty injury, it was a pretty forgettable season for him. Then he missed spring practices while recovering.

This August, practice reports are saying that Toussaint looks like the 2011 version. Reports from practice are often lies, but he has looked good in the limited number of practice clips posted on the internet. The interior of the offensive line will probably struggle once again, since it's bound to be some combination of redshirt sophomores and redshirt freshmen who haven't played much before. I don't know what to expect from Toussaint this year, coming off the injury and running behind a mostly inexperienced line. He's been injured for large chunks of every season except 2011, and he has a number of backups vying for playing time. I think Toussaint is the best of the bunch right now, but with last year's primary backups combined with a couple touted true freshmen, Michigan should be able to roll out a decent alternative or two.

Prediction: Starting running back; 200 carries, 900 yards, 10 touchdowns

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

USA Today college football countdown: #22 Northwestern

Paul Myerberg breaks down the Northwestern Wildcats, his #22 team for the 2013 season.

Hit the jump for a Wildcats cheerleader.

Rivals 250 for 2014 updated

The Rivals 250 was updated for 2014. Here's what it looked like back in May, and the Rivals 100 was announced yesterday. Movement for Michigan commits:

- Mason Cole dropped from #118 to #122
- Bryan Mone moved up from #181 to #180
- Michael Ferns III dropped from #128 to #189

105. Andy Bauer - OT - Missouri (Mississippi)
108. Jamarco Jones - OT - Illinois (Ohio State)
110. Daniel Helm - TE - Illinois (Tennessee)
113. Demarre Kitt - WR - Georgia (Clemson)
122. Mason Cole - OG - Florida (Michigan)
124. Adarius Pickett - CB - California
126. Montae Nicholson - S - Pennsylvania
133. Kalen Ballage - ATH - Colorado
136. Otaro Alaka - LB - Texas (Texas)
137. Khairi Clark - DT - Florida (Florida)
139. Dexter Wideman - DT - South Carolina (Florida State)
148. Quincy Wilson - S - Florida (Florida)
152. Bentley Spain - OT - North Carolina (North Carolina)
153. K.J. Williams - WR - Pennsylvania (Syracuse)
160. Nick Watkins - CB - Texas
164. Devon Thomas - RB - Oklahoma (Oklahoma State)
166. Dravon Henry - CB - Pennsylvania
169. Tyler Luatua - TE - California
175. Jeb Blazevich - TE - North Carolina (Georgia)
176. Shai McKenzie - RB - Pennsylvania
180. Bryan Mone - DT - Utah (Michigan)
189. Michael Ferns - LB - Ohio (Michigan)
190. Kenny Young - LB - Louisiana
192. Wesley Green - CB - Georgia (South Carolina)
195. Erick Smith - S - Ohio
207. Roderick Johnson - OT - Missouri
208. D'Andre Payne - CB - Washington, DC (Tennessee)
209. Christian McCaffrey - RB - Colorado (Stanford)
224. Kyle Berger - LB - Ohio (Ohio State)
230. T'Kevian Rockwell - LB - Texas (Baylor)
231. Corey Holmes - WR - Florida (Notre Dame)
233. Parrker Westphal - CB - Illinois
236. Saeed Blacknall - WR - New Jersey (Rutgers)
238. Garrett Dickerson - TE - New Jersey
245. Brandon Simmons - S - Texas (Stanford)

Video: Countdown to Kickoff 2013 - Day 15: Courtney Avery

Countdown to Kickoff 2013: Day 15 - Courtney Avery by mgovideo

2013 Season Countdown: #9 Blake Countess

Blake Countess
Name: Blake Countess
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 182 lbs.
High school: Olney (MD) Good Counsel
Position: Cornerback
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #18
Last year: I ranked Countess #9 and said he would be the starting field corner with 55 tackles and 2 interceptions. He tore his ACL in the first quarter of the season opener and missed the rest of the year.

I was pretty hyped about Countess coming into the 2012 season, and I thought he would be one of the Big Ten's best corners. But on punt coverage in the season opener against Alabama, he came limping off the field, and things didn't look good. A torn ACL kept him out for the year, and he was replaced by Raymon Taylor (who coincidentally had very similar numbers - 45 tackles, 2 picks - to what I predicted for Countess). He was running by the spring, but the coaching staff held him out of all game-like activities to prevent re-injury.

Countess is full go now and has been practicing with the team this August. Observers say that he looks like the old Blake Countess, and the old Blake Countess was a 4-star recruit who picked off Devin Gardner in the 2012 spring game. Talent-wise, he might deserve to be higher on the list, but Michigan returns Taylor and Courtney Avery; additionally, junior Delonte Hollowell has received some practice buzz, and there are some other talented young guys. Countess is the best of the bunch right now, but corner is a position where young guys can contribute (as Countess did in 2011). If he stays healthy, I think the baseline for Countess will be honorable mention all-conference. There are a few other good corners to compete with for those all-conference honors (Purdue's Ricardo Allen, Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard, etc.), but Countess should give it a run.

Prediction: Starting cornerback; 55 tackles, 2 interceptions

Monday, August 19, 2013

USA Today college football countdown: #27 Michigan State

Paul Myerberg looks at those pesky Michigan State Spartans.

Video: Countdown to Kickoff 2013 - Day 16: Mike Schofield

Countdown to Kickoff 2013: Day 16 - Mike Schofield by mgovideo

Rivals 100 for 2014 updated

Rivals released its updated top 100 players on Monday. Here's what it looked like back in May. Movement for Michigan commits:

- Jabrill Peppers remains at #2
- Drake Harris dropped from #57 to #62

1. Da'Shawn Hand - DE - Virginia
2. Jabrill Peppers - CB - New Jersey (Michigan)
3. Cameron Robinson - OT - Louisiana
4. Quin Blanding - S - Virginia (Virginia)
6. Leonard Fournette - RB - Louisiana
7. Adoree' Jackson - CB - California
10. Joe Mixon - RB - California
11. Damian Prince - OT - Maryland
12. Andrew Brown - DT - Virginia (Virginia)
13. Lorenzo Carter - DE - Georgia
14. Elijah Hood - RB - North Carolina (Notre Dame)
15. Malachi Dupre - WR - Louisiana
20. Jalen Tabor - CB - Washington, DC
21. Jalen Hurd - RB - Tennessee (Tennessee)
24. Solomon Thomas - DE - Texas
26. John Smith - S - California
29. Jamal Adams - S - Texas
30. Josh Malone - WR - Tennessee
31. Bo Scarbrough - ATH - Alabama (Alabama)
32. Damon Webb - CB - Michigan (Ohio State)
35. Demetrius Knox - OG - Texas (Ohio State)
36. Alex Bars - OT - Tennessee (Notre Dame)
39. Braden Smith - OT - Kansas
40. Malik McDowell - DE - Michigan
42. Myles Garrett - DE - Texas
45. K.C. McDermott - OT - Florida (Miami)
46. Steven Parker - S - Oklahoma
54. Marshon Lattimore - ATH - Ohio
56. Edward Paris - S - Texas (LSU)
62. Drake Harris - WR - Michigan (Michigan)
65. Artavis Scott - WR - Florida (Clemson)
71. Dante Booker - LB - Ohio (Ohio State)
73. Nyles Morgan - LB - Illinois
79. Casey Tucker - OT - Arizona
85. Dwight Williams - LB - California
87. Mark Andrews - WR - Arizona (Oklahoma)
100. Petera Wilson - LB - Tennessee

2013 Season Countdown: #10 Devin Funchess

Devin Funchess
Name: Devin Funchess
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 235 lbs.
High school: Farmington Hills (MI) Harrison
Position: Tight end
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #19
Last year: I ranked Funchess #53 and said he would be the backup U-back. He caught 15 passes for 234 yards (15.6 yards/catch) and 5 touchdowns.

Funchess came into his freshman season at approximately 225 lbs., and as one might expect from a tight end that size, he was bound to struggle a little bit physically. At one point this summer, he admitted to having been a "pretty boy" who didn't like to be physical. That combination of size and pretty boy-ishness kept him from some early playing time and the ability to play as an in-line blocker, but Denard Robinson liked using him as a passing target early in the year. In week two against Air Force, Funchess had 106 receiving yards and his first career touchdown. Things were going well early in the season, but Robinson's elbow injury and Devin Gardner's subsequent insertion at quarterback curtailed Funchess's production; Robinson was adept at hitting tight ends and inside receivers, whereas Gardner liked to look outside a little more. Still, his season was good enough to warrant Honorable Mention All-Big Ten and several Freshman All-American nods.

I expect Gardner to look in Funchess's direction more often this season. You can't ignore a 6'5", swift guy like Funchess for too long. He's a matchup problem for linebackers because of his speed and defensive backs because of his size. If the quarterback can put the ball in the right place, Funchess will basically be open on every single pass play. Michigan doesn't have another significant receiving threat at the position, so losing Funchess for any length of time would possibly alter the offense in a big way. Freshman Khalid Hill is a 6'2", 258 lb. option at the position, and fellow freshman Jake Butt is a big target but perhaps not quite as athletic. Senior wide receiver Jeremy Gallon will almost certainly lead the team in receiving, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Funchess in second place by the end of the year.

Prediction: Starting U-back; 35 receptions, 500 yards, 6 touchdowns

Recruiting Update: August 19, 2013

Jonathan Hilliman
Jersey City (NJ) St. Peter's Prep running back Jonathan Hilliman committed to Rutgers. Hilliman long seemed geared toward committing to Ohio State, but staying home proved to be too much of a pull. Michigan had been in his top group at one point, but the Wolverines had stopped recruiting him several months ago.

Scout released its top 100 and top 300 players for the class of 2015.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

USA Today college football countdown: #31 Wisconsin

Paul Myerberg breaks down the Wisconsin Badgers, who lost that jerk of a coach Bret Bielema and took Utah State's head coach. It will be interesting to see whether they can maintain their success.

Hit the jump for Wisconsin girls in short shorts.

Video: Countdown to Kickoff 2013 - Day 17: Cam Gordon

Countdown to Kickoff 2013: Day 17 - Cam Gordon by mgovideo

Rivals: Pre-season in-state top 20 prospects

The Wolverine released its top 20 in-state prospects for the class of 2014, and the Wolverines are well represented on the list. Here's the list with commitments listed in parentheses and offerees bolded:

1. Malik McDowell - DE - Southfield
2. Damon Webb - CB - Detroit Cass Tech (Ohio State)
3. Drake Harris - WR - Grand Rapids Christian (Michigan)
4. Tyler Wiegers - QB - Detroit Country Day (Rutgers)
5. Jalen Embry - CB - Detroit King
6. Maurice Ways - WR - Detroit Country Day (Michigan)
7. Tim Cason - CB - Clarkston (Western Michigan)
8. Avonte Maddox - ATH - Detroit King (Pitt)
9. Lawrence Marshall - DE - Southfield (Michigan)
10. Byron Bullough - LB - Traverse City St. Francis (Michigan State)
11. Deon Drake - LB - Detroit Cass Tech (Michigan State)
12. Tommy Doles - OT - Grand Rapids Christian (Northwestern)
13. Chance Stewart - QB - Sturgis (Western Michigan)
14. Connor Hayes - OG - Traverse City West (Pitt)
15. Jared Wangler - LB - Warren De La Salle (Michigan)
16. Travis Smith - QB - Ithaca (Toledo)
17. Jalen Watts-Jackson - CB - Orchard Lake St. Mary's (Michigan State)
18. Matt Sokol - TE - Rochester Adams (Michigan State)
19. David Beedle - DT - Clarkston (Michigan State)
20. William White - LB - Detroit Cass Tech

2013 Season Countdown: #11 Quinton Washington

Quinton Washington (#76)
Name: Quinton Washington
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 301 lbs.
High school: Timberland (SC) St. Stephen
Position: Defensive tackle
Class: Redshirt senior
Jersey number: #76
Last year: I ranked Washington #41 and said he would be a backup defensive tackle. He started ten games and had 32 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 1 forced fumble.

Going into last season, Washington had 3 career tackles and looked like a backup. That turned out to be a poor assumption. He made his first career start in week three against Notre Dame and held onto the job from there. He became a pretty solid nose tackle for the Wolverines, doing a good job of holding the point of attack and allowing the linebackers to flow freely; the three starting linebackers each had between 81 and 88 tackles. Saving the best for last, he made his first career sack and first career blocked field goal against his home state South Carolina Gamecocks in the Outback Bowl. Washington is a different style of nose tackle than previous starter Mike Martin, who was a quick and explosive penetrator, but effective nonetheless.

This year Washington seems to have a pretty firm grip on the nose tackle job. His backup is the wide-bodied sophomore Ondre Pipkins, who was overweight last year and lacked some of the explosiveness that he showed as a high schooler. Greg Mattison likes to rotate defensive lineman, so losing Washington for a lengthy period of time means the third-string nose tackle (either Richard Ash or Willie Henry) would have to get significant reps. Ash has barely played throughout his career, and Henry has garnered practice buzz but redshirted as a freshman last season. Washington won't be the nose tackle who busts through the line on every play and ends up with a bunch of TFLs and sacks. He will likely become a forgotten man in a few years because of his position, but I'm sure Desmond Morgan and James Ross will remember him for a long time as a guy who kept them clean and allowed them to rack up tackles.

Prediction: Starting nose tackle; 40 tackles, 2 sacks

Saturday, August 17, 2013

USA Today college football countdown: #37 Penn State

Paul Myerberg looks at the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Hit the jump for some PSU cheerleaders.

2013 Season Countdown: #12 Cameron Gordon

Cameron Gordon
Name: Cameron Gordon
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 237 lbs.
High school: Detroit (MI) Inkster
Position: Linebacker
Class: Redshirt senior
Jersey number: #4
Last year: I ranked Gordon #28 and said he would be the backup SAM with 30 tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 interception. He had 17 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 1 pass breakup.

Gordon has been quite an interesting player throughout his career. From wide receiver in 2009 to free safety in 2010 to 3-3-5 strongside linebacker in the second half of 2010 to SAM under Brady Hoke, he's played everywhere. His best statistical season came as a redshirt freshman when he had 77 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, 4 pass breakups, and 2 fumble recoveries; since then he has totaled 21 tackles and 3 tackles for loss. He was nominally the backup SAM in 2012, but starter Jake Ryan rarely came off the field. And if the team went to a nickel package, they would sometimes put Ryan at defensive end, remove the SAM linebacker spot, and insert a slot corner. This spring, after Ryan tore his ACL, junior Brennen Beyer moved to SAM from weakside end and started at his new position in the spring game; Gordon was relegated to backup duty once again.

Beyer also played ahead of Gordon back in 2011 (although Gordon was suffering from a minor back injury at the time), so evidence suggests that Beyer will be the starter in 2013. He's been ahead of Gordon every step of the way. But Beyer's next big play will be his first, and I think he's just an average player. Gordon appears to be slightly inconsistent, but he's a much better athlete and has more big-play potential. I think Gordon should be the starting SAM until Ryan recovers, and I'm going to hope that the coaches agree with me.

Prediction: Starting SAM linebacker; 40 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 interception

Video: Countdown to Kickoff 2013 - Day 18: Jeremy Jackson

Countdown to Kickoff 2013: Day 18 - Jeremy Jackson by mgovideo

Friday, August 16, 2013

Happy 10,000,000th Pageview!

Hit the jump for a bunch of pretty ladies.

2013 Season Countdown: #13 Desmond Morgan

Desmond Morgan
Name: Desmond Morgan
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 228 lbs.
High school: Holland (MI) West Ottawa
Position: Linebacker
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #48
Last year: I ranked Morgan #20 and said he would be the starting weakside linebacker with 80 tackles and 3 sacks. He had 81 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, .5 sacks, and 2 pass breakups.

Morgan was a pretty consistent player as a second-year starter in 2012. He didn't make many flashy plays, but he was dependable and the coaches could usually count on him being in the right position. He finished the season tied for third on the team in tackles (Jake Ryan was first with 88, Kenny Demens had 82, Thomas Gordon also had 81) and was awarded the #48 jersey in honor of former Wolverine and President of the United States of America Gerald Ford. Morgan was also Academic All-Big Ten. With the graduation of Demens, Morgan bumped over to middle linebacker in the spring to make room for rising sophomore James Ross at WILL.

This year the coaches seem to be counting on Morgan to be a leader of the defense. He's a little bit light for the MIKE spot, but he moves well and should be a bit of an upgrade over Demens, in my opinion. I have always had a fairly high opinion of Morgan, and I think he fits better at MIKE than WILL, where he was a little less athletic than desired; for the past couple years, he has been playing slightly out of position to get the best eleven on the field. His backup should be sophomore Joe Bolden, a quality player in his own right, albeit somewhat inexperienced. Jake Ryan is the star on the outside, and Ross is an up-and-comer on the weakside, but I believe Michigan fans will be very satisfied with the play from the middle linebacker position.

Prediction: Starting middle linebacker; 85 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 interception