James Crawford’s, the nephew of Charles Woodson, highlights:
For those that missed it, check out this senior day feature on Denard Robinson:
“This comparison is due to arm strength and similar whip-like but tight deliveries. Wilson is right-handed, but the style and riverboat gambler mentality both seem to possess are attractive traits. Let’s hope Morris develops the accuracy so he can have the success Wilson has had.”
With the 2012 season wrapping up this weekend, it’s time to take a way too early look at the 2013 projected depth chart for the Wolverines with some analysis. Note: The only incoming freshmen that I will include in the depth chart are Shane Morris and Jake Butt.
QB: 1. Devin Gardner – Senior
2. Shane Morris – Freshman
3. Russell Bellomy – RS Sophomore
Analysis: Gardner returns for his fourth season as a Wolverine after starting the second half of 2012 at the QB spot following Denard Robinson’s injury. Gardner’s skill set opens up a more vertical passing game that the Wolverines became accustomed to with Robinson at the helm. Gardner has also shown the ability to make teams pay with his feet and should be the future of the position if he is granted a fifth season, something Coach Brady Hoke seems optimistic about. Shane Morris will be the second best quarterback on the roster talent wise, but don’t expect to see him in mop-up duty– that role will fall on Bellomy’s shoulders. However, should Gardner get hurt, expect to see Morris step in as the starter, ready or not.
RB: 1. Fitzgerald Toussaint – RS Senior
2. Thomas Rawls – Junior
3. Justice Hayes – RS Sophomore
4. Dennis Norfleet – Sophomore
In an ESPN discussion with Jay Bilas, Chad Ford had the following under the question: Which team is the nation’s most talented?
“But the team that may have the most talent in the country, in my book, is Michigan. The Wolverines currently have five players ranked in our Top 100. Kentucky is the only other team to have as many Top 100 players.
Right now, point guard Trey Burke is the only Michigan player ranked in our top 30, but Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr. both have the ability to crack the first round of the NBA draft. Freshmen Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas are further down the list, but both have a real shot at getting drafted down the road.
That’s in part why I believe Michigan is a Final Four team and may give Indiana a run for the No. 1 spot by the end of the season.”
THE game. The greatest rivalry in all of sport. Whether 0-11 or 11-0, this game is one where you can throw the records out.
Looking at the trends, both teams are trending up. Michigan is on a 3 game winning streak, and frankly, their offense has taken enormous strides during those 3 weeks. Granted one can look at the opponents and make an argument that part of their success can be attributed to that. But last week showed what could truly be a special performance in the Snakepit Saturday, with Denard playing all over the field, and Devin Gardner being as special through the air as Denard can be on the ground.
If there is one thing to look for, its how Michigan chooses to attack a Buckeye defense which has been suspect much of the year. Do they try to run to set up play action and other passes, or pass to pull the safeties back and give Denard, Thomas Rawls and others more running room? My guess is you’ll see a more wide open look similar to what you saw in the ND game at the start. Like ND, Ohio’s secondary is suspect, and ranks 11th in the B1G in passing yards allowed.
Braxton Miller poses quite the threat to a Michigan defense which has been stout for the majority of the season. The 3 games that Michigan struggled the most defensively were Alabama (with an O-line like I’ve not seen since the 2000 UM line), and Air Force/Northwestern, which attacked the edges with the option, and had the speed to make that difficult. Ohio, while it has the speed in Miller, doesn’t really have a back fast enough to really attack the edges with the option on a consistent basis.
The Snakepit is by far the most difficult venue in the B1G to play in. Its fans have no issue showing their class (or lack thereof). That said, I think Michigan will be able to move the ball as much as they need to, and will be able to get enough stops to pull the game out.
Michigan 42, OSU 34.
Devin Gardner continues to improve at an amazing rate. The better Devin plays, the more Al Borges has opened up the playbook and there has been little drop off in play. Devin made several NFL caliber throws on Saturday that Michigan fans haven’t seen since 2007. Throwing the deep 15-20 yard out route between the corner and safety is one of the hardest throws in football and Devin passed the test with flying colors. Devin also threw 2 flag routes to Roy Roundtree that were as impressive and difficult a throw as you are going to see in this offense. Devin continues to showcase that he is at his best when throwing to the sideline and vertically down the field. Al Borges has wisely steered away from throws to the middle of the field which can be hit or miss for Devin. Devin still has moments when he throws into double coverage or doesn’t identify hanging defenders which gets him into trouble. Devin’s interception to Micah Hyde occurred on a play where he failed to identify the hanging defender and threw the ball into what appeared to be an open spot.
If they’re smart, Michigan will continue to recruit mobile and dual-threat QBs in the same mold as Devin Gardner. The ability of mobile and duel-threat QBs to make plays with their legs in addition to throwing the ball is too advantageous to pass up in this era of college football. Devin Gardner’s arm has opened up facets of the playbook that Michigan hasn’t been able to successfully access prior to now. Gardner’s legs will allow them to continue to use parts of the playbook that would otherwise disappear once Denard Robinson is gone. Devin “only” carried the ball 9 times but he was extremely efficient and successful on those runs, accounting for 3 TDs and 37 yds. Devin’s legs not only force defenses to play honest, but give Michigan the ability to continue to actively attack opposing defenses on designed runs.
Offensive Co-Players of the Week
Devin Gardner, Michigan
Jr., QB, Detroit, Mich./Inkster
· Became only the sixth player in the Football Bowl Subdivision since 2000 to throw for 300 yards, pass for three touchdowns and rush for three scores in Michigan’s 42-17 victory over Iowa on Saturday
· Was 18-for-23 with 314 yards passing and three touchdowns, while also rushing for 37 yards and three more scores in the victory
· Is the first Michigan player to account for six touchdowns since Steve Smith also had three passing and three rushing scores in 1983
· Wins his second Big Ten Player of the Week honor in as many weeks
· Last Michigan Offensive Player of the Week: Devin Gardner (Nov. 12, 2012)
Matt McGloin, Penn State
Sr., QB, Scranton, Pa./West Scranton
· Finished just four yards shy of the PSU passing yards record, totaling a career-best 395 yards and tying a career high with four touchdowns in a 45-22 win over Indiana
· Completed 22 of 32 passing attempts, a 68.8 completion percentage, with all four of his touchdown tosses coming in the first half
· Became the program’s single-season leader with 251 completions and 3,071 passing yards and is now the career leader with 45 touchdown passes
· Wins his second career Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week award and first this season
· Last Penn State Offensive Player of the Week: Matt McGloin (Sept. 26, 2011)
Defensive Player of the Week
John Simon, Ohio State
Sr., DL, Youngstown, Ohio/Cardinal Mooney
· Totaled six tackles, including a program-record four sacks, in a 21-14 overtime victory against Wisconsin on Saturday
· The four sacks is the most by a Big Ten player since Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan had four on Nov. 13, 2010 against Michigan
· Ranks as the conference leader with nine sacks and is tied with teammate Ryan Shazier with 14.5 tackles for loss this season
· Wins his second career Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award and first this season
· Last Ohio State Defensive Player of the Week: Ryan Shazier (Nov. 5, 2012)
Special Teams Player of the Week
Corey Brown, Ohio State
Jr., PR, Upper Darby, Pa./Cardinal O’Hara
· Scored the first touchdown of the game against Wisconsin, returning a punt 68 yards for a touchdown to give OSU a 7-0 first-quarter lead
· Averaged 23 yards per punt return on three attempts in a 21-14 overtime win over the Badgers
· Wins his second Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week award
· Last Ohio State Special Teams Player of the Week: Corey Brown (Oct. 8, 2012)
Co-Freshman of the Week
James Ross III, Michigan
LB, Orchard Lake, Mich./Saint Mary’s Prep
· Led the Wolverine defense with a career-high 12 tackles in their 42-17 victory over Iowa on Saturday
· Was part of a Michigan defense that held Iowa to 309 yards of offense, below its season average
· Claims his first Big Ten Freshman of the Week award
· Last Michigan Freshman of the Week: Devin Funchess (Sept. 10, 2012)
Dan Vitale, Northwestern
SB, Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton-Warrenville South
· Finished with a Northwestern season-best nine receptions for a career-best 110 yards in the Wildcats’ 23-20 road win against Michigan State
· Becomes the second Wildcat receiver to go over 100 yards receiving in a game this season
· Claims his first Big Ten Freshman of the Week award
· Last Northwestern Freshman of the Week: Nick VanHoose (Oct. 15, 2012)
Here we are, at the end of the home slate of Team 133′s season. Amazing as the years go by, how quickly they seem to pass.
The drama surrounding Denard Robinson’s injury continues, and I’m not sure we’ll even know anything until after the Ohio game. Don’t be surprised to see him play some Saturday, whether its QB or RB, even if its just a few plays for Senior Day. Regardless of whether you love Denard, or despise him because you can’t stand him as a passer, you can’t really argue what he’s meant to Michigan Football in his four years. He has been literally the face of Michigan Football. I, for one, will be sad to see him go. I’ve been going to Michigan games since the Anthony Carter days, and while I’ve seen some incredible teams and players, I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone as electric as Denard. Sure Desmond could take it to the house every time he touched the ball, but so can Denard, and he handles the ball on every play.
Most of us welcome the return to Michigan offense we’ve seen for the better part of the last 20+ years after the bowl game. But we have 3 games left where Denard could play, and if he sees the field, please embrace witnessing him play. It may be awhile before we see someone as dynamic as him.
Iowa quite frankly brings a team of disappointment to town. Few expected them to truly contend for the Legends division title, but even fewer anticipated them being 4-6 at this point, with a loss to CMU in there as well.
The Hawkeye’s defense has been respectable of late (and we may be calling on them next week to slow Nebraska down to keep our title hopes alive!) but their offense has been abysmal. When you need to rely on your team to run the football, have lost multiple starting offensive linemen and several running backs to season ending injuries, and your QB is relatively immobile, yet completes passes at a clip similar to a dreadlocked super athlete across the field, trouble will ensue. QB James Vandenberg has thrown more interceptions (6) than TD (5). That spells trouble for a Hawkeye team who will need to score in the 20′s to be in the game.
Sadly for them, Michigan sends its 23 seniors out in their last game in the Big House happy. Michigan 34 Iowa 16.
Denard Robinson remained sidelined thanks to the wrath of the elbow gods and Devin Gardner saw his 2nd start of the season. There were thoughts after last week that Gardner’s performance was simply the result of playing a weak opponent in Minnesota. Those ideas where put to rest on Saturday as Devin led Michigan to a come from behind victory over a ranked Northwestern team. Devin continues to learn facets of the offense and how to deal with different game situations on the fly, but so far he has handled it very well. Devin was poised for the majority of the game on Saturday and his ball placement was excellent throughout the game. There are times when the ball gets away from Devin, particularly when he throws over the middle. Locating backside defenders continues to be an issues for Devin and Michigan was fortunate to only turn the ball over once through the air. Devin is very adept when throwing to the sideline and vertically downfield. Devin dropped the ball into holes in the defense like a seasoned vet and put his receivers into great situations simply because of the ball placement. Devin did potentially cost Michigan the game with a very poor decision to force the ball into Devin Funchess on a wheel route, resulting in a horribly timed interception late in the game.
Devin continues to be decisive in the run game. Escaping pressure and scrambling to daylight is one of Devin’s strengths and Michigan was rewarded with a productive 47 yds on 9 carries, including 2 TDs. The great thing about Devin is not just his ability to throw the ball and add to the Michigan playbook, but he is still a very capable runner and dual-threat that opposing defenses have to account for.
Fitzgerald Toussaint was finally able to break off a big run during a meaningful stretch of the game. Unfortunately the play ended with a fumble but it was still good to see Fitz flash the same level of explosiveness that he showed last season. The 50 yd run skewed the day that Fitz had from a statistical standpoint. Fitz ran hard but if you take out the one big run, the numbers show 42 yds and a 2.5 ypc average. The 50 yd run was big and must be taken into account when evaluating the running game but room to run was still hard to come by which effected the production of the backs. Thomas Rawls had just 3 carries, one helped Michigan convert for a 1st down while another was a goal line TD.
Offensive Co-Players of the Week
Devin Gardner, Michigan
Jr., QB, Detroit, Mich./Inkster
· Accounted for four touchdowns, two through the air and two on the ground, to help Michigan to a 38-31 overtime victory over Northwestern on Saturday
· Threw for 286 yards on 16 completions, including a 53-yarder with under 10 seconds in regulation to set up a game-tying field goal
· Threw touchdown passes of eight and 28 yards, and scored on runs of one and eight yards, with the former serving as the game-winner in overtime
· Wins his first Big Ten Player of the Week honor
· Last Michigan Offensive Player of the Week: Denard Robinson (Oct. 8, 2012)
Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Sr., RB, Wentzville, Mo./Timberland
· Rushed for 198 yards and three touchdowns against Indiana on Saturday, moving into second place on the NCAA all-time touchdown list with 77
· Moved his career rushing touchdown total to 71, which is tied with former Badger Ron Dayne for the most in Big Ten history
· Part of a Wisconsin running attack that amassed 564 rushing yards against the Hoosiers, which ranks as the sixth-most in a single game in Big Ten history
· Wins the sixth Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honor of his career, which is tied for fourth in conference history, and his second this season
· Last Wisconsin Offensive Player of the Week: Montee Ball (Oct. 15, 2012)
Defensive Player of the Week
Kawann Short, Purdue
Sr., DT, East Chicago, Ind./East Chicago Central
· Posted six tackles, including a career-best four tackles for loss, as Purdue defeated Iowa 27-24 on the road on Saturday
· Finished with five solo tackles, including a third-quarter sack for a 10-yard loss to help Purdue win in Iowa City for the first time since 1992
· Part of a Purdue defense that held Iowa to just 74 yards rushing after entering the game averaging more than 125 yards per contest
· Takes home his third career Defensive Player of the Week laurel and first this season
· Last Purdue Defensive Player of the Week: Kawann Short (Nov. 14, 2011)
Special Teams Player of the Week
Brett Maher, Nebraska
Sr., P/K, Kearney, Neb./Kearney
· Accounted for 12 points and averaged 41 yards per punt in Nebraska’s 32-23 victory over Penn State on Saturday
· Was a perfect three-for-three on field goal tries, converting from 27, 32 and 33 yards, his fourth game with three or more field goals this season
· Had 205 punting yards, including 69-yarder in the fourth quarter, pinning the Nittany Lions on their own two-yard line to set up a Nebraska safety
· Wins his sixth Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week award, the most in Big Ten history, and third this season
· Last Nebraska Special Teams Player of the Week: Brett Maher (Oct. 29, 2012)
Freshman of the Week
Mason Monheim, Illinois
LB, Orrville, Ohio/Orrville
· Totaled a career- and game-high 15 tackles against Minnesota on Saturday
· Finished with 1.5 tackles for loss and one-half sack, and ranks in the top 10 in the conference in tackles per game during Big Ten play
· Wins his second Big Ten Freshman of the Week award
· Last Illinois Freshman of the Week: Mason Monheim (Oct. 1, 2012
Devin Gardner was an All-American QB coming out of HS. Even so, his skills and ability at the QB position has largely been an unknown. Gardner beat out Tate Forcier for the #2 QB job during the fall of 2010 and briefly played in relief action but few outside of the coaches had seen him in extended action before Saturday.
The passing game was shaky early as Devin attempted to shake off the rust associated with not playing meaningful snaps at QB for months. Everything about Devin’s 1st quarter interception was bad, footwork, mechanics, and decision making. Once he settled down, Devin really began to dial things in. There were still several ill-advised throws and decisions but for the most part Devin looked like the QB many expected coming out of the high school. Devin adds an element the Michigan offense that fans haven’t seen in quite awhile. Downfield passing has been a major strength in Devin’s game since high. There may be poor decisions and throws but Devin throws one beautiful deep ball.
For the most part Michigan shied away from using Devin on designed runs. With only 2 healthy QBs the risk was just too high to exploit Devin’s true duel-threat ability. Devin did show great anticipation and reaction to pressure and was quick to move out of the pocket and scramble when the plays called for it. Unlike Denard who seems averse to scrambling, Devin was decisive when it came to when to take off and when to wait things out in the pocket.
The running backs continue to be handcuffed by the play of the offensive line. Both Fitzgerald Toussaint and Thomas Rawls ran hard but there were limited opportunities to produce big numbers on the ground. Rawls was especially successful in short yardage and is proving to be quite the load for opposing teams on handle. Rawls breaks a lot of tackles and for the most part he has to because of the issues the team has up front. Fitz also ran hard and was finally able to break through late in the game on a long TD run. It seems as though it has been a year since Fitz busted a major run of significance so Saturday’s run was big even if the game was already decided.
We enter the home stretch in the B1G season, as the Wildcats of Northwestern travel to the Big House.
While the status of Denard Robinson is up in the air, my personal opinion is he won’t play unless absolutely necessary. It’s merely an educated guess, but given Devin Gardner’s performance last week in Minneapolis, there’s growing confidence he can get the job done. At the end of the day, the staff has to feel they need him more in Columbus than any other game left on the schedule, and making sure he’s as close to 100% as possible for November 24th has to be the goal. Nobody really knows…
On to defense. What can be said about the performances, week in, and week out, that the Michigan defense has come up with this season. An expected weakness (at least in the front 4) has actually proven to be a strength, and kept Michigan in many games (see MSU, ND and others). Expect Michigan to stack the box against Northwestern, who runs nearly 2/3 of the time, and force them to throw. Veneric Mark is a heck of a tailback (one of the 3 B1G finalists for the Doak Walker award) but NU hasn’t played a defense as stout as Michigan’s. He’s capable of taking it the distance every time he touches it. Gap integrity is of utmost importance.
When Michigan has the ball, assuming Gardner takes the reigns again, expect to see a gameplan that mirrors last week. With the weather being so good tomorrow, you may even see Michigan attempt to take advantage downfield a bit more, with a very capable passer in Gardner in the lineup. Its imperative that the offensive line makes strides, because frankly, in the vast majority of the season, it may be the teams biggest disappointment. We’re hearing Jack Miller and others have gotten some run with the first team, as the interior of the line continues to struggle. Not sure if they’ll pull the trigger and make a change, but if they continue getting blown up too frequently up the middle, don’t be shocked.
Michigan holds Northwestern to a few field goals in the red zone, performs well enough to pull it out, Michigan 27, Northwestern 16.
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