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.
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.
Injuries – The injury bug bit both Central Michigan and the Wolverines on Saturday. Drake Johnson suffered the worst of the bunch, tearing an ACL that will cost him the remainder of the season. There are also a variety of nicked up players heading into the ND game. While most are expected to play, Devin Funchess, Taylor Lewan, and Joe Reynolds all head into the week of practice with bumps and bruises.
Central Michigan suffered even heavier losses, losing starting QB Cody Kater to a broken collarbone while starting RB Zurlon Tipton broke his ankle early in the first quarter.
Two ugly first half interceptions by Devin Gardner mar what was expected to be a banner day through the air. Too many forced ball and bad decisions, such mistakes will cost Michigan games against high quality opponents.
The Wolverines displayed an abundance of riches in the backfield. Fitz along with the young freshmen will likely separate themselves from the back as the season continues based on pure talent. Fitz appears to be 100% and ran as hard as he did in 2011.
Newly constituted interior had its share of ups and downs, especially on power plays that required pulling. Taylor Lewan appears to have improved significantly which is a scare proposition for opponents.
Pressuring the QB has been a goal all off season and a number of players on the line rose to the occasion. Getting to the QB was less of an issue when the Wolverines rushed just 4 and the tackles were stout against the run.
As athletic a looking unit as Michigan has sent out in years. Cam Gordon was an animal both in the open field and rushing the QB.
Great in run support. Unit still had issues identifying players and was often a step slow. Raymon Taylor appears to have taken the leap forward many were hoping for. The return of Thomas Gordon from suspension should help greatly.
Special teams: A
The placement of talented freshman on the special teams is already paying dividends. A blocked punt kicked off what ended up a nearly flawless day on special teams.
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.