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.
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.
Note: As usual we include Notre Dame in B1G Rankings as they recruit same area and are a common opponent.
Biggest Get – Jalin Marshall (ATH-WR). Marshall is a special, explosive athlete who will thrive in Urban Meyer’s offense.
Biggest Miss – James Quick (WR). Quick is one of the most explosive receivers in the country and ended up choosing the hometown Louisville Cardinals over the Bucks.
Sleeper – Jayme Thompson (S). It’s hard to call a borderline 4 star kid a sleeper, but in a class full of highly rated DB’s Thompson is exactly that. While a bit raw, his athleticism makes his ceiling very high.
Biggest Get – Shane Morris (QB). Any time you can get a five star talent at quarterback you are doing very well. Morris has the biggest arm in the country and was an exceptional recruiter for Michigan.
Biggest Miss – Laquon Treadwell (WR). During the summer it seemed as if Treadwell was a near certainty to commit to Michigan, but in the end he chose to go elsewhere. Treadwell would’ve filled a pretty big need.
Sleeper – Channing Stribling (CB). A virtual unknown, Stribling came to Michigan’s camp this summer and completely shut down the competition over a five day period and earned an offer.
3. Notre Dame
Denard 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.
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.
We enter the home stretch in the B1G season, as the Wildcats of Northwestern travel to the Big House.
While the status of Denard Robinson is up in the air, my personal opinion is he won’t play unless absolutely necessary. It’s merely an educated guess, but given Devin Gardner’s performance last week in Minneapolis, there’s growing confidence he can get the job done. At the end of the day, the staff has to feel they need him more in Columbus than any other game left on the schedule, and making sure he’s as close to 100% as possible for November 24th has to be the goal. Nobody really knows…
On to defense. What can be said about the performances, week in, and week out, that the Michigan defense has come up with this season. An expected weakness (at least in the front 4) has actually proven to be a strength, and kept Michigan in many games (see MSU, ND and others). Expect Michigan to stack the box against Northwestern, who runs nearly 2/3 of the time, and force them to throw. Veneric Mark is a heck of a tailback (one of the 3 B1G finalists for the Doak Walker award) but NU hasn’t played a defense as stout as Michigan’s. He’s capable of taking it the distance every time he touches it. Gap integrity is of utmost importance.
When Michigan has the ball, assuming Gardner takes the reigns again, expect to see a gameplan that mirrors last week. With the weather being so good tomorrow, you may even see Michigan attempt to take advantage downfield a bit more, with a very capable passer in Gardner in the lineup. Its imperative that the offensive line makes strides, because frankly, in the vast majority of the season, it may be the teams biggest disappointment. We’re hearing Jack Miller and others have gotten some run with the first team, as the interior of the line continues to struggle. Not sure if they’ll pull the trigger and make a change, but if they continue getting blown up too frequently up the middle, don’t be shocked.
Michigan holds Northwestern to a few field goals in the red zone, performs well enough to pull it out, Michigan 27, Northwestern 16.