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.


QB: A-

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


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.


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.

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post

Notre Dame Preview

What to watch on offense

Brian Kelly led rapid turnarounds at both Cincinnati and Central Michigan before taking over an underachieving Notre Dame program hoping to do the same. While it took longer than previous stops, Kelly now returns thirteen starters off of a team that produced an undefeated regular season, and a National Championship berth. Kelly largely serves as his own offensive coordinator, though he retains Chuck Martin as a major player in the game planning and preparation. Kelly earned his offensive reputation as a spread coach but has run a more traditional offense in South Bend.

One of the biggest stories of the off season was the dismissal of QB Everett Golson from the team for an academic violation. Golson, who led the Fighting Irish to an undefeated season, was the most dynamic member of the Notre Dame offense and represents a significant loss. Even with the loss of Golson, Notre Dame still returns a QB with game experience in Tommy Rees (18 career starts). The Irish return a pair of starting WRs in the speedy TJ Jones, who produced over 600 yds last year, and the physically imposing DaVaris Daniels. The Irish lost its leading receiver from a year ago in Tyler Eifert and the Irish will attempt to replace him with a committee approach led by Troy Niklas.

The Irish head into the season having lost its top two rushers in Theo Reddick and Cierre Wood. George Atkinson who saw averaged over 7 ypc a year ago has taken over the mantle at RB, though Amir Carlisle and Cam McDaniel will also see extended snaps

The top two returning linemen are Zack Martin and Chris Watt, both of whom play on the left side of the line. The interior of the line entered the season as a question mark, thanks to the Irish breaking in a new C and RG.

Best Offensive Player

DaVaris Daniels – Daniels is the most physically gifted of the Irish offensive players and has drawn comparison to former Golden Domer Michael Floyd. At 6’2 200lbs, Daniels is a large and physical target that presents major matchup problems for opposing defenses.

Head Coach: Brian Kelly-4th Year

Off Coor: Chuck Martin-2nd Year

Def Coor: Bob Diaco-4th Year

2012 Record


Returning Starters



Key Losses

QB Everett Golson (suspended)

TE Tyler Eifert

RB Theo Riddick

RB Cierre Wood

OC Braxston Cave

DE Kapron Lewis-Moore

LB Manti Te’o

SS Zeke Matta

Key Returners

WR TJ Jones

WR DaVaris Daniels

QB Tommy Rees

OT Chris Watt

DT Louis Nix

DE Stephon Tuitt

LB Prince Shembo

CB Bennett Jackson

CB Keivarae Russell

What to watch on defense

Bob Diaco presided over a 2012 defensive unit that finished 2nd in the country in scoring defense, and 7th in total defense. 8 starters return to an Irish defense that has fully embraced the 3-4 schemes. Diaco lives to pressures the QB and control the line of scrimmage with his linemen, allowing the LBers to roam freely.

The Irish boast two of the best defensive linemen in the country in DE Stephon Tuitt and the insanely large Louis Nix at NT. While the Irish lose the services of Kapron Lewis-Moore who accounted for six sacks a year ago, they replace him with the highly touted sophomore Sheldon Day who saw action in all 13 games a year ago.

Manti Te’o put together one of the greatest defensive seasons in Notre Dame history and was a Heisman candidate a year ago. Left in his wake are seniors OLBs Prince Shembo and Dan Fox who both recorded over 50 tackles a year ago. Replacing Te’o at MLB is sophomore Jarret Grace who saw limited action a year ago.

The Irish return both starting CBs, including the physical Bennett Jackson who finished 3rd on the team in tackles a year ago. The Irish break in two new starting safeties in Elijah Shumate and Matthias Farely. While both players saw action a year ago, neither has played extensive minutes at the safety position.

Best Defensive Player

Stephon Tuitt/Louis Nix – It’s impossible to really say which of the Irish linemen is the best. Both Tuitt and Nix play major roles in Bob Diaco’s defense and both are expected to go in the first round of the NFL draft. Nix is a space eater that every team not named Alabama found impossible to move a year ago while Tuitt was a terror for opposing QBs, registering 13 sacks.

Michigan Rush Def vs. Notre Dame Off

The Wolverines were stout against the run against helpless Central Michigan, allowing under 70 yds on the ground. Stopping the run remains the focal point for the Michigan coaches and the Wolverines have their best defenders engaged in the run game.

Notre Dame had little trouble running the ball against Temple last week but questions remain concerning the overall ability of the Irish to run the ball when needed. The interior of the line and the loss of their two leading rushers leaves them with a stark disadvantage.

Advantage – Michigan

Michigan Pass Def vs. Notre Dame Off

The Irish boast two very talented WRs in Jones and Daniels, both of whom have the ability to keep opposing DCs up a night. Tommy Rees is capable passer who has seen his share of success against the Wolverines secondary in the past.

The Wolverines suffered several breakdowns a week ago against Central Michigan but return senior Thomas Gordon and Courtney Avery at safety. Along with the pass rush, the secondary remains the major question mark of the Michigan defense.

Advantage – Notre Dame

Michigan Rush Off vs. Notre Dame Def

Michigan has committed to a power running game and while the results a week ago were sometimes inconsistent, the Wolverines showed flashes of a brilliant rushing attack.

Unless your jersey colors are crimson and white, you don’t successfully run the ball on Notre Dame. Even with the loss of Te’o the Irish have one of the best rush defenses in the country

Advantage – Notre Dame

Michigan Pass Off vs. Notre Dame Def

Devin Gardner had his share of struggles a week ago, tossing two bad interceptions. Though he rebounded nicely, the Michigan passing attack is far from humming on all cylinders. The Wolverines continue to search for a playmaker to compliment Jeremy Gallon.

Aided by an outstanding front 7, the Irish secondary face little in the way of true pressure a year ago and through the first game that fact remains the same. Breaking in two new safeties leaves the Domers with vulnerabilities. Much will depend on the pass rush and taking pressure off the back 4.

Advantage – Push

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post

Grading The Performance: Central Michigan

The GoodJibreel Black 3

Defensive Front Seven– Losing Jake Ryan was a definite blow to the defense but front 7 looked no worse for wear without the presence of #47. The front seven was as fast as the unit has been since 2006. Good pursuit is always preached by defensive coaches but the group of Saturday went above and beyond, often getting to their spots well ahead of their offensive counterparts. The LBers flowed to the ball with exceptional speed and quickness and were solid in their open field tackling. The line didn’t get quick as consistent a push or rush early as Greg Mattison probably would have liked, but they rebounded nicely in the second half and were active throughout. Jibreel Black and Mario Ojemudia flashed the ability to beat one on one blocks that the coaches have been pushing for since in the end of last season.

The Bad

Turnovers – Cutting down the number of turnovers has been a major point of emphasis that has been preached by both Brady Hoke and Al Borges. The first game often has its share of hiccups but the Wolverines did an average job of taking care of the football. The two interceptions have been a major point of discussion since Saturday, but there was also a muffed punt by Dennis Norfleet early in the 1st half.

The Ugly

Continue reading “Grading The Performance: Central Michigan”

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post

Central Michigan Preview

What to watch on offense

A longtime disciple of Mark Dantonio, Dan Enos has made his bones on the offensive side of the football. Enos served as Dantonio’s QB coach at both Cincinnati and Michigan State in addition to holding several offensive coordinator roles prior toZurlon Tipton CBS Sports joining Dantonio. Enos prefers a varied offensive attack but his roots are deeply planted in the pro-style offense. As the offense of a year ago showed however, Enos is perfectly willing to use multiple WR sets and throw the ball at a high clip.

Ryan Radcliff leaves Mt. Pleasant after compiling a statistical career only surpassed by Dan LeFevour. In his wake were left a number of contenders for the starting QB position have battled it out throughout both spring and fall camps. Cincinnati transfer Kody Kater was the odds on favorite to win the job despite the presence of the speedy Alex Niznak. Kater was named the starter just prior to game week and his experience and arm strength make him a potential breakout player for the Chips this season. Kater will be aided greatly by the return of 2nd team All-MAC WR Titus Davis who accounted for over 800yds and 8 TDs a year ago. They also return the speed Courtney Williams who will be relied upon to the stretch the defense across from Davis.

The Chips owe much of the success of last season to RB Zurlon Tipton who produced a monster season on the ground. Despite rushing for over 1,500yds a year ago, Tipton surprisingly did not earn 1st team All-MAC honors, a feat he will likely contend for greatly this season. While he isn’t the fastest back in the country, Tipton is an extremely tough runner that is difficult to bring down with just one tackler. The Chips also return super sophomore Saylor Lavallii who average 4.6ypc a year ago as a true freshman.

Central Michigan had produced exactly one first round draft choice prior to last year and the emergence of OT Eric Fisher who went on to become the #1 overall pick in the draft. Lost in the love fest with Fisher is the fact that prior to last season, it was Jake Olson who received much of the praise from observers at the LT position. An early season injury forced Olson out of the lineup a year ago but he returns to lead a unit that while low on starts, has a good amount of overall experience. The Chips are expected to start just one underclassmen on the offensive line.

Best Offensive Player

Zurlon Tipton- Tipton is coming off of the one of the best rushing seasons ever in Chippewa history after rushing for over 1,500yds and scoring 19 TDs on the ground. A load 6’1 220lbs, Tipton has a knack for breaking tackles and extending runs deep into the second level.

Head Coach– Dan Enos- 4th Year

Off Coor– Mike Cummings-3rd Year


Continue reading “Central Michigan Preview”

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post

Freshmen Most Likely to Impact Michigan’s 2013 Season

#1. Dymonte Thomas DB

Unlike the others on this list, Thomas is the only player that already has a starting position locked down. An early enrollee, Thomas was able to secure the nickel back role during the spring and was one of the most impressive players during the spring period. Thomas has played safety for much of his career but is simply too talented for the coaches to keep Dymonte Thomas - Rivalsoff the field.

#2. Derrick Green RB

Green is the most highly touted of the group, widely regarded as the #1 high school RB in the country. Green is a sure to see the field this fall thanks to his unique blend of size, speed, and toughness. Green is also the prototype for the type of back the Michigan coaches want in the backfield and the most physically gifted runner on the roster. How much and how often Green plays will largely depend on how quickly he is able to pick up the intricacies of the offense and his willingness and ability to block. The Michigan coaches won’t risk the health of Devin Gardner by sending out a RB they don’t trust to protect the QB when needed.

#3. Jake Butt TE

Another early enrollee, Jake was able to get a jump on his fellow freshman by participating in winter workouts and spring practice. Like Devin Funchess, Jake is a natural pass catcher who is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Michigan’s desire to use multiple TEs on the field at the same time will result in Jake seeing a fair amount of playing time this fall. As with Funchess a year ago however, Jake’s physical limitations as a blocker will keep him from seeing extending time in every situation.

#4. Shane Morris QB

Jake Butt - ISportsWebThe physical nature of the game of football combined with the dual-threat ability of Devin Gardner will eventually lead to Shane Morris seeing the field in some capacity. Whether it is for a series during a game or a series of games is yet to be seen but for better or worse, Shane Morris will have an impact on the 2013 Michigan football team in some way. From a purely physical standpoint, Morris is the most gifted thrower of the football that has seen Michigan roster is over a decade. Whenever it is he sees the field there are certain to be moments of brilliance combined with the typical freshman mistakes that Michigan fans experienced with freshman QBs like Chad Henne and Tate Forcier. Morris has been preparing to be the Michigan QB since childhood. At this point it is a question of when not if Morris has an impact on Michigan.

#5. Ross Douglas DB

A common theme with this list is the presence of early enrollees. Recruits who are able to enroll at Michigan early stand at a distinct advantage when it comes to seeing the field early and Ross is no exception. While a bit undersized, Ross flashed exceptional instincts in the spring and the lack of depth in the secondary gives him quite the opportunity to see the field. Ross will likely see most of his early playing time on special teams but an injury or poor performance from a player ahead of him on the depth chart could see him thrust into action sooner rather than later.

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post