Red Letter Games

When Dave Brandon fired Rich Rod, he laid out his measures for evaluating coaches. One of those measures was the coach’s record in “red letter games.”

“If you want to be successful at Michigan, you better win more than your share of those ‘red-letter games.’”

Brandon identified the follow opponents as red letter games*:

Notre DameWisconsin
Michigan StatePenn State
Any Bowl Opponents 

*Nebraska wasn’t in the conference at the time he made his comments but I can guarantee they would have been included in the list of schools if they were.Brady Hoke

Michigan has yet to play its bowl game but Brady Hoke’s 3 year record in "red letter games”, including Nebraska, stands at 7-11 (3-9 the over the last 2 seasons). Now that’s certainly better than the 3-15 record posted by Rodriguez but significantly below Brandon’s standard. As we sit at the end of year 3, the measures of success move from individual season analysis to multi-year, trend analysis.

Does that mean it’s time to fire Hoke? Not necessarily, and based on Brandon’s press release earlier in the week it does not sound like that’s going to happen anytime soon. What it does mean is that Brady Hoke, and by extension Michigan, is failing at one of the key trend measures in evaluating success.

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Notre Dame Game Prediction

Electricity will fill the air Saturday in Ann Arbor, perhaps for the last time in the storied rivalry that is Michigan Vs ND. Some hundred plus years ago, Michigan taught the little leprechauns the brutal game of intercollegiate football, and hope to do so again Under the Lights in only the second night game in the 86 year history of the Big House. If the first time was any indication, we’re in for a treat at Stadium and Main. It’s the kind of setting that would just seem perfect for Keith Jackson.

With Michigan’s main three rivals all struggling to a certain extent with MAC schools in week one, The Wolverines handled CMU by half a hundred. While we shouldn’t read too much into that, it’s hard to ignore the success Michigan had, in spite of the numerous teaching moments. The secondary without its starting safeties ( one to injury, one to suspension) was human for much of the game in spite of the front seven generating a good amount of pressure. Some of that should be cleaned up this week, and both safeties return at least in part, assuming Courtney Avery hasn’t suffered any setbacks in his recovery from minor knee surgery.

The linebacking corp showed signs of excellence, even without potential all American Jake Ryan, and for the most part tackled very well.

By and large, the front 4 played well, generating pressure, albeit against a young, less talented offensive line, and a team which lost a starting QB and 1500 yard rusher in the first quarter to significant injuries.

On the offensive side of the ball, the line played very well. Holes were enormous on several occasions, and Devin Gardner had little pressure. Even the second team OL played very well, showing how the past couple of years in recruiting that group is paying great dividends.

Devin Gardner had success, in spite of a couple of ill advised throws, and continued to show how dangerous he is running the football when the play breaks down or simply isn’t there.

Brian Kelly brings his Fighting Irish in after a 28-6 victory over Temple. While the score is much closer than one might have thought, ND did put up over 500 yards of offense. They have explosive offensive weapons, as only one of their 4 scoring drives was over 3 plays. That being said, Michigan will be able to put more pressure on Tommy Rees, who has shown the propensity to turn the ball over under pressure (see 2011 UTL1).

On defense, you can definitely see that the Irish miss Manti Te’o in the middle, and from the film I watched of the second half of the Temple game Louis Nix was gassed. He looked physically exhausted. Carrying 357 pounds will do that to you. Expect Michigan to pound the leather on the ground. Even if they aren’t as successful as they would like early. If you wear out Nix in the second half, by constant double teams, he will be sucking on an oxygen mask. Temple showed that ND is susceptible on the edges and I expect to see the stretch running plays as well. Even if it’s not a normal thing for Al Borges to show, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some hurry up offense.  In the passing game, ND has a couple of good corners, but has inexperience up the middle, both in LB and Safety spots. I expect the TE’s to play a huge role in this game, especially Devin Funchess. He’s a mismatch that they can exploit.

If one thing Tommy Rees is good at, it’s pre-snap reads. He’s very good at getting the Irish into the right play. DC Greg Mattison will do his best to disguise what he’s doing, and he’s got the team speed to do it. If I were Brian Kelly, I’d try to run some hurry up offense as well. Michigan has so much depth on the defensive line, that he could neutralize that by running some no huddle.

At the end of the day, similar to last year, turnovers will reign supreme. If Devin Gardner can protect the football, Michigan should score a decent amount of points. I also don’t think Notre Dame will be able to sustain long drives on Michigan, and if the safeties keep the ball in front of them, ND more often than not will stall. 

Michigan 27, Notre Dame 17.

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Profile for 2014 U of M Commit Jabrill Peppers

Name: Jabrill Peppers

Position: Cornerback

Height & Weight: 6’ 1” 205 lbs.

High School: Paramus Catholic Paladins


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2014 Recruiting: What’s Next? (Defense)

Michigan inked a very impressive 2013 recruiting class and the 2014 class in starting to take shape as well. So far the Maize and Blue have verbal commitments from Wilton Speight (3* QB – Virginia), Drake Harris (5* WR – Michigan), Juwan Bushell-Beatty (4* OT – New Jersey), Mason Cole (4* OG – Florida), Michael Ferns (4* LB – Ohio) and Brian Mone (4* DT – Utah). The Wolverines also picked-up Brady Pallante (NR DT – Florida) who received a greyshirt offer, which means he’ll count against either the 2014 class or the 2015 class depending on how the numbers shake out.

Defensive End (1-2)

Again, depth is being built especially at tDaShawn-Hand-Touch-the-Banner1he SDE position. WDE is coming along as well, but a blue chop pass rusher would go a long way into solidifying this unit.

Da’Shawn Hand – 6’5” 260lbs. Woodbridge, VA. The #1 guy on my board had a great visit back in March and has Michigan in his top 5 schools along with Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and Virginia Tech. Hand is a absolute beast finishing his 2012 season with with 110 tackles, 16 sacks, 40(!!!!!) tackles for loss, two pass deflections, four forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. He’s big enough and athletic enough to play either end position, or possibly even slide inside in pass rushing situations. He’s said a few times that the Michigan staff as a whole is his favorite, but the thought right now is that Hokies may have the slight edge. There is still a ways to go, but things look pretty good with Da’Shawn as of today.

Joseph Henderson – 6’4” 220lbs. Cleveland, OH. Michigan offered him a long time ago and things seemed to be a little hot at the time. He has visited UM at least 3 times, but I haven’t heard his name in quite a long time. In my opinion he’s waiting for an Ohio offer, so we’ll kind of see how it plays out over the next few months. He’d likely end up at the WDE spot, but might have enough athleticism to play the SAM position as well.

Lawrence Marshall – 6’4” 215lbs. Southfield, MI. The former Ohio commit will soon cut his list down to a few schools and although MSU might have a slim advantage, Michigan is right there as well. I’m not as high on him as some others, but he’s be a nice addition at the WDE spot. Marshall on weighs around 215 so a red-shirt would be likely.

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2014 Recruiting – What’s Next? (Offense)

Michigan inked a very impressive 2013 recruiting class and the 2014 class in starting to take shape as well. So far the Maize and Blue have verbal commitments from Wilton Speight (3* QB – Virginia), Drake Harris (5* WR – Michigan), Maurice Ways (3* WR – Michigan), Ian Bunting (4* TE – Illinois), Mason Cole (4* OG – Florida), Michael Ferns (4* LB – Ohio) and Brian Mone (4* DT – Utah). The Wolverines also picked-up Brady Pallante (NR DT – Florida), who received a greyshirt offer, which means he’ll count against either the 2014 class or the 2015 class depending on how the numbers shake out. NOTE: Juwan Bushell-Beatty (3* OL – New Jersey) committed on 4/29.

Quarterback (1)

Wilton Speight – 6’6” 220lbs. Richmond, VA.Wilton Speight - Richmond Times-Dispatch

Running Backs (1)

Talented depth is being built, but it is also young and unproven depth at this point. I could see the staff taking one RB in this class, but it wouldn’t be all bad if they missed out mainly because the 2015 has a few big time prospects that love Michigan.

Dravon Henry – 5’11” 180 lbs. Aliquippa, PA. Dravon is a longish shot at this point and has a top 4 schools of Ohio State, Pitt, PSU and West Virginia. He did however say that this list could change and is somewhat fluid. IF he visits UM there’s a shot there, but I just don’t see it at this point.

Jonathan Hilliman – 6’1” 210lbs. Jersey City, NJ. Hilliman just released his list of top 10 schools, with a top 3(in order) of Ohio State, Michigan and Alabama. He had planned on visiting in the spring, but nothing has been set in stone yet. If he does indeed visit, Michigan should be there until the end.

Joe Mixon – 6’0” 195lbs. Oakley, CA. Mixon is one of the most heavily recruited kids in the country regardless of position with somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 offers. He recently cut that list to a more convenient 16 which includes Michigan. He will likely take all of his officials and wait until the all-star games in January to decide. Michigan’s chances in snagging Mixon will again come down to whether or not he makes it to Ann Arbor.

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