Long-time, regular readers know of DeepTeaKupp, our resident Michigan fan. He pops up now and then to troll the other regulars and remind me of the unfortunate months we spent working together in Detroit. He’s actually just a good guy with horrible taste in college football programs, and he’s once again agreed to provide us with a Michigan scouting report. Enjoy?
HLS nation, thanks once again to Matt, biscuit and the rest of the HLS crew for allowing me the opportunity to provide my genius insights into the ND-UM game. This marks the 5th year that I’ve been able to do this, and I’m 4-1 straight up to date, so pay attention some of this might actually be worth while.
Based on last week’s game, it’s kind of tough to get a good feel for this UM team but god help me if it doesn’t feel like “morning in Ann Arbor”. The RichRod era has ended, and I would feel remiss if I did not take this chance to express some thoughts. Yes, Rich Rod deserved to be fired, but much like many of ND’s fans I can’t help but still like the guy on some level. Yes, he absolutely was “punching above his weight” as the HC of a top 10 program (in terms of prestige of the job, not results obviously) but so many things both of in his control and not seemed to work against him. On the bad side whether it was questionable recruiting or inability to let someone competent completely run the defense or the horrible decision to let Kevin Grady play, it seemed sometimes like he just couldn’t get out of his own way. On the flip side, he was pretty much the only D1 coach to promise Denard a chance to play QB or that he brought in a group of kids (the Pahokee kids) that I will turn Brian Kelly shades of purple rooting for both on the football field and in life and there is a small, small part of me that wonders what would have happened if he had gotten the 4th year. Ultimately what sealed his fate for me was tearing up while playing Josh Groban (and the horrible bowl performance vs Miss State).
So now we enter the Brady Hoke era, a promise of the return to old style UM, complete with fullbacks, tight ends and wasted potential on defense (hopefully not on that one). I like Hoke, he comes from a DL background (IMO, along with QB the most important position in CFB) and so far has shown that he can delegate those areas of the game that are not his strongest to capable, empowered assistants, which was Rich Rod’s biggest undoing IMO (last mention of Rich, promise).
I think they ran about 8-10 different plays against WMU, kind of hard to get a good read but once again but it seems like as long as Denard is available there will be elements of the old spread and new power looks.
Quaterback: Denard, not much more to say. ND fans know him all too well, I doubt he will repeat his video game like numbers from last year, due to the fact that the O will not be as up tempo and just , like, damn how could you possibly ask someone to do THAT again. If Denard goes out Devin Gardner will come in. I guess the closest comparison I could give to Devin would be Dayne Crist, strong-arm, dangerous enough with his legs to make you sweat on D. Of course, there is no evidence that Devin is the the turnover machine that Dayne is, but we don’t really have a big enough sample size to be sure.
Running Backs: UM may actually have a one in Fitzgerald Toussaint. He’s battled injuries during his brief time at UM but last week got the start and showed some speed, shiftiness and power in varying degrees. Right now he seems like a poor man’s version of a faster Mike Hart, we’ll see what he can do against ND’s line. Mike Shaw is fast, does not always hit the right hole though, if he gets into space though, he’s a threat to go all the way. Vincent Smith seems to be evolving into a 3rd down, 8-10 carries a game type of back. Not a huge big play threat, but a good blocker and pass catcher. Stephen Hopkins is back from suspension, for reasons unknown, and provides the more prototypical power back look. John McColgan is the “make hulk want to smash” type fullback this future O will rely on more heavily.
TEs: Kevin Koger can make the great catch, drop the easy one. He’s a decent deep threat for a TE, needs to step up the blocking for ND. Not a lot of depth at TE though, Brandon Moore has not played a lot.
WRs: Stonum is red-shirting (suspended) this year, that loss hurts in the KR and WR positions. In his place, Roy Roundtree and Junior Hemmingway need to be able to stretch the ND D vertically a bit. Neither are true blazers but are both potential All Big Ten 2nd team type of guys, Roundtree the more reliable target Hemmingway the big play guy. Again, not a lot of depth here at WR, some slots (Drew Dileo, Kelvin Grady, Tay Odoms) keep the chains moving and help out at PR and KR.
O-Line: I would put UM’s top 6 of Lewan, Barnum, Molk, Omameh, Huyge and Schofield up against any line in the Big 10, but again like many other positions on this roster there does not appear to be a lot of quality depth. It will be interesting to see how the interior line for UM matches up against the hype of ND’s supposedly superoir DL.
What else can I say, the coaching change in this group alone should be able to change this group from disasterous to maybe adequate this year. One thing I do like about Hoke, he seems to have a pretty high set of standards for this D, even in its current state.
DL: Mike Martin is a beast, potential NFL 1st rounder. Rumor is that he is dinged up a bit, seemed to come off the field a lot against WMU, thing to watch here is how much does he play against ND. If it is less than 75-80% of snaps, I will be worried, not only for this game but the rest of the year. William Campbell was once upon a time a very highly touted recruit who has just not lived up to expectations. Like Vince Vaughn in Rudy, hopefully there is some magic left in his remaining years at UM. Ryan Van Bergen will not fill the stat sheet, but will take on double teams and generally do what is expected of him to keep OL off of the LB’s. Craig Roh needs to step up and regain some of his pass rush magic he had as a FR. Jabreel Black has shown flashes, needs to be better against the run. True freshman Frank Clark also showed a litle bit at Rush End last week. Nathan Brink and Will Heininger are both former walk-ons who fill in some depth.
LBs: A worrisome group, as there already seem to be some injuries here. Kenny Demens is the only somewhat surething as a starter here, plays a decent MLB. Brandon Herron was the team’s leading scorer last week, hopefully that trend can continue this week. Looks like a much improved player under the new staff. Jake Ryan, looks like an All Big Ten type of player in a year or two, great motor, tenacious. Many other LB’s have been hurt, not sure who else will fill out the rotation this week but Brennan Byer (another true FR) may play a bit.
CBs: Suprsisingly a bit of depth here. I don’t think one of them is going to lock down Mike Floyd but I expect them to make a few plays here and there. Troy Woolfolk (please stay healthy) and Courtney Avery seem to be starters for now, JT Floyd and Blake Countess the primary backups.
Safety: Before the WMU game, the only way I think SS Jordan Kovacs could have been a more polarizing figure would be if his name were Barack Bush. UM fans seemed pretty evenly divided into love or hate for Jordan. Last week was a true revalation, made some big hits and generally acted as the captain of the DB’s, making audibles and checks like I never would have thought possible. I still worry about him in pass coverage but wow, what an improved player he seems to be. Thomas Gordon is the FS, did not see enough of him last week to form an opinion one way or the other. If there is a UM equivalent for LNIII (hyped recruit, adored by the internet fan base, unreal expectations) it is Marvin Robinson. May ultimately be headed to LB but a great athelete in the backfield for now.
UM needs to improve in a big way this week. KO coverage was horrible, at least 30 yards per return. Will Hagerup is a great punter, unfortunately suspended for the first 4 weeks. Wile did okay in his place, but Hagerup is a weapon. FG’s have been an adventure for a while, but I think this week Brendon Gibbons actually hits one. The returners are all the aforementioned slots, the seem average to above average, doubt they break one though.
Please remember that I am 4-1 straight up in these prediction columns, so don’t discard this out of hand. 🙂
DRob goes for 130 rushing, 200 passing
Fitz goes for 80 yds on the ground, Shaw for 50.
Floyd goes over 100 in the 1st half, only picks up 20-30 in the second.
UM D gets at least 2 TO’s
UM 31 ND 27
- UM and ND don’t play next year, there may or may not be an actual signed contract for this series. Also UM opens with Bama next year, they may look to soften the schedule a bit. 7-1 odds
- Texas never joins the Big 10, but ND does in the next 3 years. 3-1 odds
- Biscuit and I rent an RV and tour around the country with our families promoting a feeling of goodwill between ND and UM fans. 1000000000000-1 odds.