2012 Michigan Football Linebacker Preview

Depth Chart:

SAM
Strongside
Linebacker
Jake Ryan Cameron Gordon - Toledo Blade
  Jake Ryan Cameron Gordon 

MIKE
Middle
Linebacker
Kenny Demens - Scout.com Mike Jones Joe Bolden
  Kenny Demens Mike Jones Joe Bolden 

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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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Grading The Performance: Northwestern

Quarterback

Inconsistency was the word of the day for Denard. Denard can go from pinpoint accuracy to complete terror in the span of two plays. 95% of the passes he threw were right on the money, the other 5% were way off the mark While it may seem unfair to judge a QB based on only 5% of his passes but that 5% can lose you games. Eventually the turnovers Devin Gardner8are going to catch up with Michigan. The law of averages makes it inevitable. While Denard seems to be a lock to lead the Big 10 in interceptions, it’s also likely that he will lead in total yards as well after racking up another 500yd day (129yds on the ground, 337 in the air). Once again his poor throws and decisions came on plays where he didn’t set his feet and step into the throw. Whatever was said at halftime worked as Denard came out white hot in the 2nd half, didn’t turn the ball over, and quickly led Michigan on scoring drives.

Devin Gardner was called into relief action for the first time this season and the offense didn’t seem to miss a beat. Devin zipped in a very nice pass on the run plus added a TD run of his own. This game will likely not be his only meaningful action as Michigan State is sure to have a bounty out on Denard’s head.

Grade: B

Running Back

Not a good day for the backs. I would like to blame it all on the offensive line but that would be unfair. Good backs are able to make guys miss in the hole and extend plays on occasion. The running game got no such production from the starting backs. Despite 14 carries Fitz was only managed 30yds, a 1.8ypc average. The only effective back in the game was Mike Shaw who was only inserted late the 2nd half after the other backs proved ineffective. Shaw has become the forgotten man despite having done nothing to lose the preseason form that had him named the starter out of camp. Even the protection from the backs was spotty at times, though the backs did a decent job of blocking for Denard on run plays.

Grade: C-

Wide Receivers

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Grading The Performance: Eastern Michigan

Quarterback

This one is pretty easy. The rushing performance by Denard was great, while the Denard Robinson (16) unleashes a passpassing performance left a lot to be desired. Denard’s 55 yd run really sparked an offense that was stagnant up until that point. The 198 rushing yards that Denard piled up is nothing to sneeze at, even against Eastern Michigan. Denard still has a lot to work on in the passing game though. 95 yds passing and a pick against a lackluster Eastern defense is not something you like to see. Once again Denard’s footwork and fundamentals were spotty leading to passes that were late or overthrown. There were 2 TD passes, but both very easy throws. This marks the second time this season that Denard has thrown for under 100 yds in a game. For much of the game Denard looked like the same passer we saw as a true freshman. From here on out Denard is not going to be able to be as inaccurate as he has been without it costing Michigan games.

Devin Gardner did get in late and had a nice 7 yd run but did not attempt a pass.

Grade: C+

Running Back

This was the best game the backs have had by far. The combined 22 carries is less than most probably expected against an opponent like Eastern, but the backs took advantage of the opportunities they were given. Vincent Smith had a great game bothVincent Smith (2) tackled by an EMU defender running and blocking. Smith has likely played himself ahead of Shaw on the depth chart. Fitz had several very tough runs in his return to the lineup, Hopkins has to be in the doghouse after his short yardage fumble from a week ago. True freshman Thomas Rawls made his debut in a Michigan uniform but did not receive enough carries to judge his performance. Granted it was only Eastern but if Michigan can get this kind of performance out of the backs the rest of the way this offense will be in decent-good shape. The coaches appear to have abandoned the idea of riding one back throughout games.

Grade: B+

Wide Receivers/TEs

Another slow day for the receivers which isn’t a surprise considering how poor the passing game was. Kevin Koger finally recorded his first TD of the season, but the two heroes of the Notre Dame game, Roundtree and Hemingway, didn’t get many chances. The blocking is really all there is to judge the WR core on.

Grade: B

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Grading Brady Hoke’s First Three Games

By Contributing Writer Clint Derringer:

I understand that it’s tough to gauge a coaching staff’s impact, or level of success, in such a short time span. However, 3 games (or 2.75 games) do provide enough data to begin toDenard Robinson - UMass look for patterns, both positive and negative. Here is what I have come up with (grades in the parentheses reflect my thoughts on the COACHING, regardless of what I view as talent issues):

Offensive Staff (C)

Pluses

A huge plus for Al Borges has been his willingness to put Denard Robinson into shotgun/spread situations, where he is more comfortable. Being inflexible in this regard would have spelled a disastrous start for Michigan. Additionally, adequate protection from the O-Line, and Denard’s quick feet, have combined to allow only one sack. Another noticeable factor is Michigan’s improved ball security. Although Michigan has committed 4 turnovers, they have won the turnover battle in each game. That, in my opinion, is the most critical reason that the Wolverines are 3-0.

Minuses

Borges definitely needs to continue to integrate his pro-style offense more as we progress through the season. However, expecting Robinson (5′ 10") to be able to stand tall in the pocket and throw intermediate routes is a recipe for trouble. Once the Michigan running backs are producing more from the "I" formation, the play-action passing game will allow Denard to bootleg and be out of the pocket, where he will have improved vision and (theoretically) better accuracy. This facet of the playbook will also make defenses commit a player to be responsible for Denard just taking off once he is out of the tackle box.

Defensive Staff (C+)

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