Editor’s Note: Most of our regular readers will recongnize DeepTeaKup, our resident Michigan fan. His snark is matched only by his (former) Canadian-ness, which means he’s been welcome here most any time, except those times when Michigan beats Notre Dame, which means he’ll be welcome here all the time in the forseeable future. And once again, he’s gone done a preview of Michigan for us, because every time we look at Michigan, we can’t see past their Enron executive of a head coach. If you know DTK, you know he’s a great guy, which makes it all that much more difficult to explain his loyalty to the skunkbears. Ah well, take it away, DTK…
Welcome back HLS readers, to the fifth annual DeepTeaKup Michigan Football preview. This is truly an honor. I really do enjoy this site, in spite of the Biscuit, and itâ€™s been fun to see it grow over the years.
Although I enjoyed the UConn game tremendously, now that Iâ€™ve had a few days to let it sink in Iâ€™m not quite sure what Iâ€™ve learned about this yearâ€™s UM team. The offence, by which I mean Denard Robinson, was a pleasant surprise. The defense was okay at times but they are going to give up some serious points this year. Most likely not a BCS team this year but feeling a bit better about winning the bet with the Biscuit.
Quarterback: For the third year in a row under Rich Rodriguez UM started this season with a new QB, itâ€™s safe to say Denard Robinson had by far the best debut of them all. 19-22 passing (guess he learned to throw a bit, huh Biscuit?), NCAA leader in pass efficiency, almost 200 yards rushing, no turnovers. I think itâ€™s safe to say weâ€™ll be seeing him on the stage at the Downtown Athletic Club in December. Okay, that might not be realistic but he did look great in his debut. The running ability was a given but it was great to see the improved passing, pocket presence, but most impressive of all the decision making and looking comfortable in the offence. Really wish he would slide a bit more at the end of some of these runs, donâ€™t think he can hold up all season taking hits like that. Devin Gardner is, for now the backup, and is getting hype as the QB of the future. Tate Forcier is the third string, and will be called upon at some point this year to help the team out. Iâ€™m not going to waste time going into the ongoing Forcier drama except to say he needs to grow up. Consider the example of Brian Greise, started in 95, demoted to second string QB/pooch punter in 96, NC winner in 97. Thereâ€™s a lesson in there somewhere, probably something to do with shutting up, working hard.
Running Back: For me, this is the position group that needs to improve most for UM to win at South Bend this weekend. There are two distinct groups of RBâ€™s here, speed and power backs, weâ€™ll go through the speed backs group first.
Michael Shaw was the nominal starter, looked okay at times, still needs to work on getting north-south more quickly and learn that sometimes itâ€™s better to take a 1-2 yard gain instead of 3-4 yard loss while trying to make a big play. Vincent Smith, listed at about 5-7 170, is right now the best all around back, heâ€™s a threat as a receiver and runs tougher than his size, he can not be arm tackled. I would love to see him get the bulk of the speed back snaps this week. Fitzgerald Touissant got some hype coming out of spring/fall but is hurt and may not play this week.
Contrary to the â€œRich Rod only likes smurf type RBâ€™sâ€ meme, there is a role for the power RB in this offence. Mike Cox, according to coaches and other people on the team, may the best athlete on the team. The issues with him are, apparently, mental, but in his limited time on the field he has shown some flashes. Stephen Hawkins is a true frosh, not really counting on him to do much this year, but is getting some practice hype as a tough runner.
Receivers: There are three distinct groups here, the prototypical outside WR, the slots and the TEâ€™s. The true WRâ€™s most likely to play on Saturday are Darryl Stonum, ND fans should be somewhat familiar with his playmaking ability. He looks like heâ€™s becoming a better WR at this point too, he got contacts in the offseason which should help with his drops. Martavious Odoms started in the slot last year, but is playing outside this year because of his blocking ability, in all seriousness the blocking from the receivers was outstanding against UConn, made the difference on several of Denardâ€™s big runs. Jeremy Jackson (RB coach Fred Jacksonâ€™s son) also played against UConn, and may play a bit against ND. IMO, heâ€™s going to grow into a TE by the time heâ€™s a JR. Junior Hemmingway, who played against ND last year, has been hurt is not expected to play this year in South Bend. At slot, there is Kelvin Grady, Terrrance Robinson, Jeremy Gallon, all of whom can make plays from the position. Kevin Koger and Martell Webb are both great athletes at TE, Webb looks like the better blocker, Koger the better receiver.
Offensive Line: My initial thought as I watched the game on Saturday was that the OL just looked dominant, but as I see the highlights I wonder if it was more Denard than anything else. The pass protection was very good but the run blocking needs to be improved. The best player on the line is OC David Molk, does not have great physical measurements but he is the heart and soul of the line. At OG Steve Schilling will play on Sundays next year and Patrick Omameh seems to be developing much quicker than expected. The OT are the weakest part of the group, one of Huyge or Dorrenstein will most likely be replaced by Taylor Lewan by the end of the year.
Defensive Line: Despite losing Brandon Graham, this is still the strength (relatively speaking of course) of the defense. Similar to ND, UM is running a 3 man line this season. Mike Martin is the NT in this set up, I think heâ€™s a better pass rusher than a run stopper, but he has all B10, first day NFL draft type potential. Will Campbell seems to be stuck on the bench this year but did show some good (and lots of bad) last season. The DEâ€™s (Ryan Van Bergen, Greg Banks) are not going to get a ton of sacks but they are decent in run support which is what you hope for in a 3 man line. I think Jibreel Black, true
Linebackers: UM is running a 3-3-5, so they feature two middle backs. Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton are once again teasing UM fans with their potential. They both looked okay against UConn, but I want to see them do it week to week. Craig â€œDeath Rohâ€ Roh is without a doubt the best pass rusher on the team, I expect him to give Crist some problems on Saturday. There is not a lot of quality depth at the LB positions. Mark Moundros is a converted FB and will probably will play more of a factor against Iowa and Wisconsin type teams. If Kenny Demens or JB Fitzgerald is getting significant playing time, itâ€™s probably bad; Either Ezeh or Mouton is hurt and/or not playing well.
Defensive Backs: Iâ€™m scared to say much of anything here; god knows whoâ€™s going to get hurt between now and Saturday. If I have to go into this, the CBâ€™s are JT Floyd and James Rogers. They were not really tested last week. That will change this week. I expect Floyd to start his AA campaign this week. Rudolph will probably also move up a few draft spots on this game alone. I also expect Cullen Christian and Terry Talbott, both true FR, to play a lot this week as I think ND will go 4-5 wide a lot. At safety, Jordan Kovacs, former walk on and UMâ€™s own Rudy, made his debut against ND last year and has not been beaten out of the line up yet. He is good to great against the run and maybe the best one on one tackler on the team, but he will get abused in pass coverage. I expect to see Marvin Robinson take some of his snaps by the end of the year. The deep safety is Cam Gordon, first year starter, made some good hits against UConn but also had a couple of whiffs and was not really tested in pass coverage.
This was not really a factor against UConn. UM only punted once so I canâ€™t really say how well Hagerup replaces Mesko but he looks the part. I guess the new typical UM punter is about 6â€™4 and 210. Brendan Gibbons is the PK, missed a longish FG on a windy day and shanked an XP (which upon further review appeared to be a problem with the hold), hopefully the game does not come down to a FG for UM. Nothing of note happened in the return game but UM covered kicks pretty well. Bottom line, I just hope UM covers kicks well, does not have a turnover in the return game, and fields kicks cleanly this weekend.
Just a note, I will not be able to be in the shoutbox this weekend either during the game of after. I know it will be a disappointment for those of you looking for my ongoing commentary as Denard shreds ND for 125 rushing and 210 passing but I will be in New Bern, NC doing the MS 150 bike ride. This is part of my two pronged campaign to complete an Ironman by the time Iâ€™m 40 and to shame domer into getting back into shape.
(I’m in shape – a shape – and a 45 lbs. smaller shape than last season, dammit. – dmq)
- Denard stays a darkhorse Heisman contender for another week.
- Crist throws for 300.
- Floyd goes over 100, Rudolph gets real close.
- Vincent Smith goes over 100 rushing, 50 receiving.
- Craig Roh gets 2 sacks.
- I donâ€™t know what the record for single game combined total yardage in this series is, but a new record will be set Saturday.
Final Score: UM 38 ND 34.