Grading The Performance: Notre Dame

The Good

Devin Gardner to Jeremy Gallon- Michigan fans have seen dynamic QB-WR duos in the past. Grbac to Howard, Brady to Terrell, and Henne to Edwards/Manningham come immediately to mind. While duos of the past have often produced stunning numbers, few have displayed the kind of relationship that the nation was treated to on Saturday night. Gardner and Gallon acted in unison for most of the night and seemed to be connected almost telepathically. The back shoulder fades that Notre Dame found so difficult to defend takes an enormous amount of practice and trust between QB and WR and Michigan’s 2013 duo made it look easy. Devin and Jeremy put on a beautiful display of teamwork and execution on Saturday that is likely the envy of many in both college and the NFL.

The Bad

Nonexistent pass rush- Getting pressure on the QB with a 4 man rush has been the major point of emphasis for the Michigan defense since the end of last season. Despite multiple opportunities for Michigan defenders to go one on one, the Wolverines failed to consistently beat blocks and pressure the QB. Notre Dame used a variety of maximum protections to keep Tommy Rees upright. Michigan struggled to beat blocks and get pressure with a 4 man rush even on the occasions when Notre Dame did not leave backs and TEs in to block however.

The Ugly

4th Quarter Interception- There were a number of instances that could have gone in this space. Notre Dame’s horrific secondary, Eminem’s bizarre halftime interview, Louis Nix’s nonexistent vertical jump. In the end, Devin Gardner’s interception in the endzone was too ugly to ignore. In reality the entire drive could have been include but Devin’s decision to throw the ball while being tackled in the endzone takes the cake. While ultimately not costing Michigan the game, the play marred was was otherwise a flawless performance for Mr. Gardner.

Grades

QB: A-

A single offensive series keeps the grade from reaching A+ level. Devin was the maestro for a Michigan offense that seemed unstoppable.

RB: B

Two of the biggest plays, a run and a reception, occurred on a single drive in the 4th quarter when it mattered most. With limited running room, Fitz Toussaint was able to eek out a number of big plays purely on effort.

WR/TE: A+

The difference in the game was the Michigan passing game, highlight by the playmakers outside. Gallon, Jake Butt, Dileo, Jeremy Jackson, and Devin Funchess all contributed big plays to a stellar day through the air.

O-line: C+

Notre Dame’s defensive line and constant blitzing did a number on the Michigan offensive line. The holes were few and far between and Devin was running for his life on too many occasions. Jack Miller put forth a Heraclea effort inside against Louis Nix, though the interior had issues overall identifying and picking up blitzers.

D-line: C

The lack of pass rush was alarming for the 2nd game in a row, registering zero sacks and only 2 TFL. Michigan is badly in need of high impact, game changing defensive linemen.

LBers: B-

Michigan’s LBers did an adequate job of filling run lanes and making tackles but there were issues with drops into coverage and proper pursuit. James Ross put in a Dr. Jerkel-Mr. Hyde performance, looking like an All-American one series then following it up by looking like a true freshman the next. Both Brennen Beyer and Cam Gordon did a great job making plays from the SAM position.

Secondary: B

Thanks to the defensive gameplan, the primary job of the secondary on Saturday was coming up and making tackles. The Wolverines did a masterful job of limiting the yards after catch for the Irish and also managed to produce two huge turnovers. Blake Countess is well on his way to becoming a bonafied playmaker.

Special teams: D

A dropped punt, a shanked kick, and poor kick coverage all played into a special teams unit that struggled to contribute in a positive way for the team.

A: Unit played as close to flawless as possible. Unit played well enough to win the game on their own.

B: Unit had a major positive impact on the game but also had several assignment/execution miscues.

C: Unit did not negatively or positively affect the game. Unit made key positive plays along with several errors.

D: Unit made multiple critical errors that could potentially cost the team a win. Unit blew assignments and had poor execution across the board.

F: Play of the unit was bad enough that it could directly cost the team a victory.

Note: Plus and minuses denote degrees of the grade.

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Central Michigan Game Prediction

Finally the incredibly long off season is over, and Team 134 is ready to take the field. While many have been saying the 2014 season will be the one where Brady Hoke has a full compliment of "his" players and will finally be removed from the speed bump known as the Rich Rod era, this team should hardly be discounted. Devin Gardner - 11

There has been a continual building of talent since Brady took over in January 2011. With only 15 seniors, the talent on this team is obviously young but it’s top notch.

While Michigan is replacing 3 OL, with all due respect to Team 133, it will be an upgrade, at least at some point in the season. Jack Miller, Graham Glasglow and Kyle Kalis, look to bolster subpar line play, and bookend tackles Lewan and Schofield might just be the best tandem in the country.

The stable of running backs harken back to the days of Bo stomping the sidelines, with several potential great backs toting the leather this fall. Fitz Touissant will be the first, and if OC AL Borges has his way, will carry the lion share of the load. Drake Johnson, fresh off his redshirt, comes in after impressive bowl practices and spring camp, looking for carries, as do true freshman Derrick Green and Deveon Smith, both among the nations top tailbacks.

Jeremy Gallon has grown into QB Devin Gardner’s favorite target, and with the fall camp injury to likely #2 Amara Darboh, there are some questions as to who will step up. I believe RS Freshman Jehu Chesson will be that guy . He has the talent, but is still somewhat raw. Speed is one of his strengths however, so stretching the field at 6’3 is a good thing.

While QB is a position of strength for Team 134, depth isn’t there. Many close to the program have raved about Devin Gardner’s ability to make plays. He has great talent, but still only has 5 career starts under his belt. Shane Morris coming in as a true freshman has obvious 5* talent, but needs to learn the offense, and hasn’t played much in a year since missing a large part of his senior year of HS with mono.

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2013 Defensive Depth Chart Preview

I expect the 2013 defense to be strong once again despite losing some solid contributors such as Jordan Kovacs, Will Campbell, Craig Roh, Kenny Demens, and JT Floyd. Here is how I see the 2013 depth chart shakinBrenen Beyer - MGoBlogg out with no true freshman included.

SDE: 1. Brennen Beyer – Junior

2. Tom Strobel – RS Freshman

3. Keith Heitzman – RS Sophomore

4. Chris Wormley – RS Freshman

Analysis- After two seasons at the WDE position, I see Brennen Beyer moving to the strong side next year. He will need to gain weight, but his strength is stopping the run. Strobel has earned praise from people close to the program, and I really liked him coming out of high school. He is the future of the position. Heitzman saw some playing time in 2012 and should contribute again in 2013. Wormley already has NFL size and could be a star player in the future if he recovers fully from his injury that he sustained in camp this season.

WDE: 1. Frank Clark – Junior

2. Mario Ojemudia – Sophomore

Analysis- Beyer’s pending move to the strong side is also because of the talent Michigan has at WDE. Clark showed great potential against OSU and is an explosive player. Ojemudia, in a perfect world, would have redshirted in 2012 but saw the field because of his pass rushing ability. Michigan will be solid on the weak side in 2013.

3T: 1. Jibreel Black – SeniorJibreel Black2

2. Nathan Brink- RS Senior

3. Matt Godin – RS Freshman

Analysis- Black showed some flashes of being a dominant 3Tech defensive tackle in 2012. He has been versatile since arriving in Ann Arbor playing three positions along the defensive line. Brink didn’t contribute nearly as much in 2012 as he did in 2011, but provides solid depth at the position. Godin could play SDE or 3Tech in the future, but assuming he gains weight this offseason I see him as a future starter at defensive tackle.

NT: 1. Quinton Washington – RS Senior

2. Ondre Pipkins – Sophomore

3. Richard Ash – RS Junior

Analysis- Q was probably the biggest surprise on either side of the ball in 2012. He showed that he can be an anchor in the middle and should have a solid senior campaign. Pipkins showed flashes in 2012 of the skill set that made him a highly touted DT coming out of high school. As with all young defensive linemen, the offseason will be crucial for Ondre. Richard Ash will need to have a great offseason to contribute.

Will: 1. James Ross – Sophomore

2. Royce Jenkins-Stone – Sophomore

Ana102911_SPT_UMich_vs_Purdue_MRMlysis- Ross pretty much solidified himself as the future of the position late in the 2012 season. He is extremely athletic will instincts that cannot be taught. I see future All-Big Ten potential with his game. RJS will likely start at Will, but could play all three linebacker spots because of his athleticism.

Mike: 1. Desmond Morgan – Junior

2. Joe Bolden – Sophomore

3. Mike Jones – RS Senior

4. Kaleb Ringer – RS Freshman

Analysis- Because of Ross’ late season play, I see Morgan moving to Mike for 2013. He is a solid tackler that lacks ideal athleticism to continue to hold down the Will spot. Joe Bolden had a solid freshman campaign and will (along with Ross) provide a great future at the inside linebacker positions because of his instincts and tackling ability. Jones and Ringer provide adequate depth assuming Ringer recovers from his injury.

Sam: 1. Jake Ryan – RS Junior

2. Cam Gordon – RS Senior

Analysis- Jake Ryan will be the center piece of the Michigan defense in 2013. One of the few defensive playmakers in the 2012 season, Ryan provides a unique combination of skills with underappreciated athleticism. Cam Gordon has bounced around throughout his career at Michigan but will contribute again at Sam in 2013.

CB: 1. Raymon Taylor – Junior

2. Blake Countess – RS Sophomore

3. Terry Richardson – Sophomore

4. Delonte Hollowell – Junior

Analysis- Taylor was another big surprise in the 2012 season and locked down one corner spot heading into the 2013 season. If Countess recovers from the injury he sustained against Alabama, Michigan could have one of the best corner combos in the Big Ten. Richardson needs to add weight in the offseason but is a great athlete. Ditto with Hollowell. Michigan could see some freshman contribute in the 2013 season at the cornerback position.

NB: 1. Courtney Avery – Senior

Anaylsis- Avery is undersized as an outside corner, but provides a solid option when Michigan brings in the nickel package. He has seen significant time throughout his MiThomas Gordon - Rivalschigan career and I expect that to continue in 2013.

SS: 1. Thomas Gordon – RS Senior

2. Marvin Robinson – Senior

3. Allen Gant – RS Freshman

4. Jeremy Clark – RS Freshman

Analysis- I see Gordon moving over to the strong safety position in 2013 following the departure of Jordon Kovacs. He has the skill set to play either safety spot and I expect him to be a solid starter once again in 2013. Marvin Robinson will definitely push at the position. He is a great athlete who just has to put it all together in his senior campaign. Gant and Clark are young but both have impressed the coaches this season.

FS: 1. Jarrod Wilson – Sophomore

2. Josh Furman – RS Junior

Analysis- Jarrod Wilson is the main reason I see Gordon moving spots in 2013. Wilson has underrated athleticism and has shown the intelligence and cover skills to be the future at the position. Furman is a freak athlete and one of the fastest players on the team. He could definitely push Wilson with a strong offseason.

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Top 5 Fall Position Battles

Left-Guard

ContendersElliott Mealer

SR. Elliott Mealer

RS. Soph. Joey Burzynski

FR. Kyle Kalis 

Micheal Schofield’s move to right tackle left a giant hole at LG. The good news is that whoever fills the position will be teamed with Michigan’s best offensive lineman Taylor Lewan. The bad news, the coaches are choosing between a career backup, a walk-on, and a true freshman. Elliott Mealer has the most experience of the 3, but was exclusively regulated to mop up duty. Joey Burzynski received a ton of praise from the coaches in the spring, and was actually the starter at LG for the spring game. Kyle Kalis is by far the most talented of the bunch, but he’s a true freshman whose head will probably be spinning for much of camp.

Split End, Wide-Receiver

Contenders

RS. Soph Jerald Robinson 

JR. Jeremy Jackson 

JR. Ricardo Miller 

FR. Amara Darboh 

FR. Jehu Chesson 

This spot would have surely been filled by Darryl Stonum had he not been dismissed from the team. The battle for who lines up across from Roy Roundtree will be one of the most hottest contested position battles in camp. Robinson was the talk of the spring but has done very little in his career at Michigan. The same is true of Jeremy Jackson and Ricardo Miller, who both entered Michigan with a lot of hype. Both of the true freshmen WRs should redshirt, but Michigan simply does not have enough depth to allow it.

Running Back

Contenders

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Top 5 Questions Entering Fall Camp

Michigan’s 2012 season officially gets under way on August 4th with the beginning of fall camp. Last year at this time there were a host of questions going into camp. What would the offense look like, how would Al Borges adapt to Denard Robinson, how much would the defense improve, etc. Michigan has reduced the number of question marks entering the 2012 campaign but key issues remain.

Here are 5 key questions for Michigan entering fall camp.

R. Barnum5. Can Ricky Barnum & Brandon Moore fill the shoes left by David Molk and Kevin Koger?

A 4 year starter, Molk was not only the best linemen on the team, but also the heart, soul, and mind of the offensive line. Barnum now steps in as the brains of the operation and while he has starting experience, the majority of that time was spent at guard. In the offense that Michigan runs, the success of the offensive line, and the offense as a whole, depends on the play of the he center. A large drop off in play at the center position could be devastating. Getting good snaps and making sure that the correct calls are made up front can’t be overvalued. Michigan has played without Molk in the past and the results were unspectacular to say the least. Barnum cemented himself as the starter during spring practice but how well he plays with live bullets is unanswered at the present.

Koger’s impact on Michigan’s offense has largely been underrated. While Koger never put up monster numbers in the passing game, his play was critical. Michigan’s success in the running game over the last 2 years, especially from the shotgun, was due in large part to the play of the TE. Without a strong blocking presence at TE, Michigan’s running game will suffer. Brandon Moore goes into his 5th year as a Wolverine, but has seen limited action during that time. Like Barnum, Moore won the starting TE job in the spring but how good he will play has yet to be determined.

4. What kind of production will Michigan get from the WR core?

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