Grading The Performance: UConn

The Good

The Defensive Line– For the first time all season the defensive line put forth a dominant performance. In the wake of the Akron game, Greg Mattison vowed to get back to basics with the defensive line and the players responded. The off season hype machine on Frank Clark was enormous and through the first three games of the season was more bark than bite. Clark had a monster game against the Huskies however, accounting for 5 tackles and 2 sacks. Jibreel Black also had a strong game from his defensive tackle position and was a match up nightmare for the Huskies all night. The defense has the potential to make major strides if the Wolverines can get this kind of performance out of the defensive line for the rest of the season

The Bad

The Offensive line- While the QB position is often the most important, everything cascades from the offensive line. If the offensive line struggles, so too does every offensive position. QBs and RBs magically look unstoppable when the offensive line does its job. Michigan is simply not getting winnable production from its offensive line. Running lanes are few and far between, and pass protection is spotty at best, especially against the blitz. While there is an injury issue, you know things are bad when Taylor Lewan struggles to protect the edge.

The Ugly

Devin Gardner above the neck- Devin is a broken QB at this moment. His confidence is shot, he’s playing scared to make a mistake, and he doesn’t trust his teammates to do their jobs. Turnovers were a big issues coming into the game and things just got worse against UConn.  Between the constant pressure and turnovers DG has become a head case. He’s anticipating pressure even on plays where there isn’t any because he flat out can’t trust the line to keep him upright and bails before plays have time to develop. Thanks to the interceptions, and now what is likely constant emphasis on not turning the ball over, Devin has become gun shy. He’s so afraid to make a mistake that he hesitates, which ironically causes even more mistakes.

Grades

QB: F

A high throw to Gallon, an underthrow to a covered Joe Reynolds, and fumble on a QB sneak nearly cost Michigan the game. Devin was erratic for much of the night and very easily could have turned the ball over 5 or 6 times.

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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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Grading The Performance: Northwestern

Quarterback

Wistert - UMGoBlue.comDenard 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.

Grade: B+

Running Back

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.

Grade: C+

Wide Receivers/TEs

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Grading The Performance: Purdue

Quarterback

Denard Robinson has traditionally played well in bounce back games. Robinson has gone through his share of poor performances but has usually returned the next time out with a great effort. Saturday was no exception as Denard turned in another great performancDenard - Toledo Bladee. The offense continues to lean on Denard as the sole bread winner. 200 yd. days on the ground from Denard have become surprisingly routine though no less spectacular. 235 yds. on 24 carries would be considered extraordinary for a RB but has become expected for Denard. Denard was efficient with his runs, he picked his spots and exploded when creases became available. Denard’s vision and natural running ability are some of his most underrated qualities. Everyone notices the speed and acceleration but the vision is really what really allows Denard to make much of the plays he does in the running game. After 3 years in the system Denard still has issues reading when to give and when to keep the ball on the zone read.

After an abysmal passing performance against Notre Dame, Robinson was protective of the football and Michigan limited the number of passing attempts in the game. Denard threw a picture perfect TD pass to Devin Gardner late in the 2nd quarter and actually threw the ball away when he found himself in trouble. Robinson still showed some accuracy issues, he overthrew a wide open Fitz Toussaint on what should have been a routine play.

Grade: B+

Running Back

For weeks Michigan fans have wondered whether the lack of production from the running game outside of Denard Robinson was a product of the backs or the offensive line/Denard. While there wasn’t always perfect blocking or reads from the QB, clearly there are issues with the backs. Fitzgerald Toussaint was a shell of his former self, hesitant, slow, and not assertive. I continue to wonder whether Fitz is nursing an injury that hasn’t be disclosed to the media because he looks nothing like the back that gained close to 1,000 yards in just the last 5 games of last season. Vincent Smith performed barely better than Fitz on the few opportunities he was given. The most impressive back of the game was Thomas Rawls who gained 33yds and scored a TD in garbage time. It has become repetitive but Michigan must continue trying to get more production out of the “non-Denard running game.”

Grade: D+

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