Brew Briefs: Sophomore Zak Irvin thriving during Italy trip

August 19, 2014 by  
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Although it is not against Big Ten-quality talent, sophomore forward Zak Irvin has been efficient when it counts during Michigan Basketball's trip to Italy.

They're no national championship contending team, but the Vicenza All Stars still count as competition. One player in particular is treating this trip to Italy as a business trip.

Coming off a 27 point performance on Sunday and going 100% from the 3-point line, sophomore forward Zak Irvin followed up with another efficient game on Tuesday leading the Michigan basketball team in a 93-53 thrashing of the Vicenza All Star squad.

Irvin missed one shot all night, a 3-point attempt, and finished with an efficient shooting percentage of 87% and also boasted an 80% shooting percentage from the 3-point line where he drained four of them.

"I'm really in a great rhythm right now," Irvin said to reporters after the game on Tuesday. "The ball has been falling in warmups, but I have to give credit to my teammates who keep finding me when I'm open. They're the ones helping me knock down these shots."

Irvin also added six assists to his night as well. Although the team hasn't played like it, Michigan will be very young once again and will have to adjust as the competition becomes more physical.

The most important thing to Irvin is that his team did what it had to do to win.

"I think watching film earlier today helped out a lot," Irvin said. "We have a growing team, so we know we have freshmen that are still learning the game and the way we play. Also, the team we played against today played like they knew more about the game, being an older team. They were physical, but we came out with a win."

VIDEO: Michigan Stadium behind the scenes with Campus Insiders

August 19, 2014 by  
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What's it like to strap on the winged helmet and wear the maize and blue? Wolverines' Cornerback Coach Roy Manning gives Campus Insiders' Bonnie Bernstein a behind the scenes tour of Michigan Stadium.

Inside the Numbers: When Will Michigan Be Michigan Again, Fergodsakes?

August 19, 2014 by  
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Michigan has not been "Michigan" in nearly a decade. Will 2014 be the year that Michigan begins its ascent back to the top of the college football pyramid? The Maize n Brew debut of "Inside the Numbers" dives in.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is Drew Hallett's first stat-based column with MnB. Please help me welcome Drew to the site.

This is Michigan, fergodsakes.

These were the words vocalized and emphasized by Brady Hoke at his introductory press conference in January 2011 when he was formally announced as Michigan's new head football coach. These words resonated with a Michigan fan base that had just endured an excruciatingly painful three-year experiment with Rich Rodriguez. They were a reminder that Michigan's prestigious, tradition-rich program has the most wins all-time in college football (910) and the most Big Ten championships (42). And they became Michigan's mantra, repeated endlessly by coaches, players, athletic department marketing campaigns, and fans alike, to signal to the rest of the country that Michigan still has an elite football program.

This is Michigan, fergodsakes.

There was a time when this was true, when the sight of maize-and-blue, winged helmets on the football field intimidated opponents and Michigan expected to emerge from every game victorious. There was Fielding H. Yost's "Point-A-Minute" dynasty. There was the "Benny-to-Bennie Connection." There were the Mad Magicians. There was the historic Ten-Year War, during which Michigan was 5-4-1 vs. Ohio State, was 91-11-2 vs. non-Ohio State schools, clinched a share of eight Big Ten championships, and appeared in five Rose Bowls. There was the period from 1985 to 1992 when Michigan owned a 76-16-5 record, lost to Ohio State only once, won six Big Ten titles including five in a row, and finished in the top 10 in the final polls seven times.

And then there was the first decade of Lloyd Carr's tenure from 1995 to 2004, which was quite impressive, too. Michigan may have had its share of four-loss seasons, which caused some angst among the fan base, but Carr's Wolverines still won five conference titles and their first national championship in nearly 50 years. As the chart below indicates, during this span, Michigan and Ohio State were the two best teams in the Big Ten by a considerable margin, with the Wolverines and Buckeyes each winning about 77 percent of their games and no other Big Ten school winning more than 64 percent.

B1g_schools_win__1995-2004_medium

This was the norm for Michigan. Essentially every year for decades, the Wolverines would win no fewer than nine games and battle the Buckeyes for Big Ten titles, Rose Bowl berths, and national championships. Any season that did not have this outcome was considered a deviation or an outlier. It was tossed away as an anomaly. There was no concern that the Wolverines may lose their place among the nation's elite because next season would guarantee a return to their winning ways. This was the expectation.

This is Michigan, fergodsakes.

However, since its last Big Ten championship in 2004, Michigan has not resembled Michigan. Not even close. There was Michigan's 7-5 season in 2005, which at the time many believed was rock bottom for the Wolverines. Oh, were they so, so wrong. The Horror happened. Dennis Dixon happened. Toledo happened. Illinois' goal-line stand happened. Purdue's onside kick happened. Greg Robinson happened. Rich Rodriguez in Ohio Stadium happened. Twice. Alabama in Jerry World happened. Four straight interceptions happened. Denard Robinson's ulnar nerve happened. South Carolina's five verts happened. Four overtimes happened. Negative rushing yards happened. Two weeks in a row. And the failed two-point conversion happened.

It is an absolutely gut-wrenching list. And it all has happened in the past decade. Most importantly, though, the Wolverines are not losing only in puzzling and often heartbreaking fashion. They are just losing in general. And they are losing more than they have in quite some time. In the past nine seasons, Michigan has been victorious 68 times in 114 games played. This is a win percentage of 59.65 percent. The last time Michigan had a nine-year stretch during which it had a win percentage this low? 1961 to 1969 when Michigan won only 57.95 percent of its contests. Yes, this undoubtedly has been the worst stretch of football Michigan has played in the past half-century.

It should be no surprise then that Michigan has failed in its quest for a Big Ten championship each of the past nine seasons. There were a few years when Michigan was on the precipice of ending this drought. If the Wolverines had beaten Ohio State in 2006 or 2007, Michigan State in 2011, or Nebraska in 2012, this column likely never would have been written. But, alas, Michigan did not, and here we are.

The real problem, though, is that the Wolverines have slid from being one of the two best teams in the Big Ten to the middle of the pack. Warning: the following chart may induce vomiting, eye-gouging, and uncontrollable fits of weeping for Michigan fans.

B1g_schools_win__2005-13_medium

Yes, this chart is accurate. No, your eyes are not trying to trick you. What you see is just how far Michigan has fallen in the Big Ten and college football ranks. We could focus on the fact that, in the past nine seasons, Ohio State has won over 80 percent of its games while Michigan has failed to win 60 percent. We could focus on the fact that Wisconsin, Penn State, Nebraska, and Michigan State all have better records than Michigan since 2004. Or we can focus on the fact that Rutgers--yes, the same Rutgers whose best season ever ended with an appearance in the Texas Bowl--owns more victories than Michigan in this span. No, it does not matter that Rutgers was in the Big East or AAC and faced weaker competition during this time. We are talking about Rutgers!

Hoke can continue to stand at the podium and pound away that Michigan still has an elite football program. However, the truth is that this claim no longer is accurate. At least not at this moment or for the past decade. Michigan may have the prestige, tradition, resources, facilities, and fan base to be elite, but the requisite on-the-field results are nowhere to be found. Only two seasons with a minimum of nine regular-season wins in the past nine years? This is not the mark of one of the best college football programs in the country.

This is Michigan, fergodsakes.

So how much longer will fans need to wait before Michigan is Michigan again? How much longer will Michigan be mired in mediocrity? Is Hoke the coach that can pull Michigan out of its funk? According to multiple members of the national media, Hoke needs to do it this season or else he may find himself without a job. I disagree. Hoke's seat may be a bit toasty, but Michigan will retain him unless this fall is an utter catastrophe and Michigan fails to be bowl-eligible. The good news for Hoke and Michigan, though, is that none of this should matter by season's end.

The Wolverines should begin their return to national prominence in 2014. Hoke's roster finally is stocked with his heralded recruits. The members of his 2012 and 2013 recruiting classes, which were ranked the sixth- and fourth-best in the nation, respectively, by 247 Sports, have been in the program for at least one year. Plus, there is this incoming freshman named Jabrill Peppers that is supposed to be okay. I think you may have heard of him or seen his highlights. For the first time during Hoke's tenure, the Wolverines have talent and depth at every position--except, you know, the big one up front. The defense has the potential to be one of the, if not the, best in the Big Ten. If the offensive line can come together and be just an average unit, a nine- or 10-win season could be in the works for a Michigan team that plays a relatively light schedule, despite traveling to South Bend, East Lansing, and Columbus in the same season for the first time in program history.

This does not mean fans should expect the Wolverines to go all gangbusters and capture a Big Ten championship in 2014. Is it possible? Sure. But unlikely. Nonetheless, Michigan should still take a big step in the right direction. Progress should be noticeable and provide a stepping stone for Michigan to launch off of in 2015. In 2015, everything--talent, depth, and schedule--should be in perfect alignment for what could be a magical season that propels the Wolverines back to the top of college football. It should be in 2015 when Michigan expects to beat every opponent it faces once again. It should be then when Michigan becomes the Michigan to which Hoke always refers.

However, Michigan must improve in 2014 first. If Michigan remains stagnant or, worse, falls flat on its face, it would be another disappointing season in what has been a dismal decade for Michigan football. It would be further evidence that Michigan is not elite anymore. No longer would fans expect Michigan to bounce back and ascend to the top any time soon as they did for decades and decades. Instead, they would begin to wonder...

Is this Michigan, fergodsakes?

2014 Michigan Football Preview: The Defense

August 19, 2014 by  
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Michigan's offense might be slow out of the gates in 2014, but its defense isn't going to disappoint.

Remember when Michigan brought in Brady Hoke, who immediately went out and pulled Greg Mattison out of thin air? Remember that? Sure you do. Michigan has the coach, now it just needs the talent, you thought. Then three seasons of respectable but not fantastic defense passed, capped by a poor showing against an erratic Kansas State offense, and you began to wonder if that elite defense was just a figment of your imagination.

Nope. As it turns out, Michigan was dealing with major roster deficiencies from 2011 through 2013. Lack of depth at the corner and safety positions haunted the Wolverines for years before Hoke and Mattison arrived in Ann Arbor, and undersized defensive lineman poured through the program long after.

Four Hoke recruiting classes later, Michigan has a defensive depth chart deep enough to give me fits as I tried to put the playing time picture together, and it promises to get deeper. The cornerback depth alone is enough to make you look twice. Three linebackers could be swept away by a sharknado and Michigan would still have linebacker depth. On second thought, the sharknado would go after the offensive line first, but I digress.

This defense has a chance to be something special, and the reasoning for it stretches beyond the amount of raw talent currently on the roster. Greg Mattison saw the depth at corner and defensive tackle and scrapped the 4-3 under for an ultra-aggressive 4-3 over – a scheme that ripples the effects of the new found talent at defensive tackle all the way back to the corners. Mattison is trading Jibreel Black for a healthy Ondre Pipkins, and he might just be trading Blake Countess and Raymon Taylor for Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers. In between the first and last layers stand Joe Bolden, James Ross, Desmond Morgan and a former edge terror turned blitz aficionado.

In short, Michigan is challenging you to throw the ball over a plethora of elite talents or meet Jake Ryan in the A-gap. Choose wisely.

The Front Four

Moving from a 4-3 under to a 4-3 over is no small change, and it should impact the front four more than any other position group. The weak- and strong-side defensive ends are now more similar to each other than before; no more constantly facing double-teams for the once overwhelmed Brennen Beyer. Both Beyer and his counterpart Frank Clark should see more rushing lanes as a result of the scheme change, and we all saw flashes of greatness from Clark when offenses couldn't key on him.

The tackles won't benefit quite as much, but their loss is Jake Ryan's gain. Although the three-technique's role doesn't change drastically, the nose tackle will be put under more pressure to protect the roaming Ryan from guards who could reach the second level and keep Ryan from penetrating – or even block him into his backside linebacker friend. Greg Mattison has placed his chips squarely on the shoulders of Ondre Pipkins, Willie Henry and Bryan Mone.

Weak-Side Defensive End
# Player Class Height / Weight Playing Time
57 Frank Clark Senior 6'2" / 277 Locked starter
53 Mario Ojemudia Junior 6'3" / 251 Backup contributor
93 Lawrence Marshall Freshman 6'4" / 241 Backup contributor

The weak-side ends, otherwise known as rush ends, should improve this season. Frank Clark holds the top spot by a wide margin and won't relinquish it; he showed spurts of elite ability in 2013 when given the opportunity to go one-on-one against offensive tackles. Weight used to be an issue for Clark, but he's now up to a solid 277 pounds and should be more consistent against the run game because of it. Expect his tackles, hurries and sacks to peak in his senior season.

Depth won't be much of an issue here, but I'm not convinced that junior Mario Ojemudia has the backup role locked down. Although he is seasoned in comparison to true freshman Lawrence Marshall, he has been underwhelming and doesn't possess any one great physical trait. Marshall, on the other hand, has the length and explosiveness to become an elite pass rusher. Don't be surprised if he is used as an extra edge rusher on long downs.

Strong-Side Defensive End
# Player Class Height / Weight Playing Time
97 Brennen Beyer Senior 6'3" / 256 Probable starter
33 Taco Charlton Sophomore 6'6" / 275 Backup contributor
7 Henry Poggi Freshman* 6'4" / 270 Backup

Brennen Beyer finds himself in more of a battle than Frank Clark, but he's fully expected to begin the season as the top strong-side defensive end. Similar to the dynamic between Ojemudia and Marshall, Beyer lacks the elite physical tools that his main competitor doesn't. Beyer is one of the most consistent run defenders on Michigan's defense but hasn't produced as many hurries and sacks as the Michigan staff would have liked. Then again, he had a solid season in 2013 despite being played out of position for a good portion of it, so he could come out and make Charlton wait for another year.

Maybe he won't. Take one good hard look at Taco Charlton and you'll see why some believe he'll eventually push Beyer for the starting role. He's 6'6", long enough to fend off future NFL tackles and explosive enough to jump over tackling dummies. He has yet to develop the ability to disengage from blockers in the run game but will certainly see the field on long downs, where he'll hopefully use his speed and length to help improve Michigan's average pass rush. The defense goes from great to elite in a flash if he makes the metaphorical leap.

Rounding out the position is redshirt freshman Henry Poggi. Poggi came to Ann Arbor a hyped recruit holding offers from the best programs in the country, but he looks like an awkward fit at defensive end and could eventually end up sliding into the massive party at the three-tech. He's technically sound for his age and might contribute as a run-stopper but doesn't have the same ceiling as players such as Charlton or Wormley.

Three-Tech

# Player Class Height / Weight Playing Time
43 Christopher Wormley Sophomore* 6'4" / 295 Starting rotation
73 Maurice Hurst Jr. Freshman* 6'2" / 282 Starting rotation
99 Matt Godin Sophomore* 6'6" / 286 Backup contributor
50 Tom Stroebel Sophomore* 6'6" / 268 Backup
96 Ryan Glasgow Sophomore* 6'4" / 296 Backup
54 Brady Pallante Freshman 6'0" / 263 Redshirt

I said there's a party at the three-tech and really meant there's a party at the three-tech. Christopher Wormley, Maurice Hurst Jr. and Matt Godin have all made strides to go with your typical young-man mistakes, but whoever comes out of the party will be primed to wreak havoc – or at least play well enough to make this one of the best defensive lines in the conference.

Who wins the job? I'm going with Wormley if I have to choose one man. He's the best combination of length, burst and strength at a position that should have its chances to explode into the backfield in this new 4-3 over scheme. He also happens to have more game experience than anyone else at the position. That said, this is a field of golfers: Always put your money on the field over the favorite. Hurst has been receiving praise since last season; the same can be said for Godin, who is probably the best technician of the bunch. Hell, even Stroebel and Glasgow are capable of stealing snaps. Expect true freshman Brady Pallante to spend a year in the weight room before competing next season.

Again, whoever takes this spot will be battle-tested and ready to fill in the only uncertain spot on the defensive line. A healthy rotation will be used throughout the season, and a healthy rotation is always a good thing.

Nose Tackle
# Player Class Height / Weight Playing Time
56 Ondre Pipkins Junior 6'3" / 306 Starting rotation
69 Willie Henry Sophomore* 6'2" / 293 Starting rotation
90 Bryan Mone Freshman 6'4" / 312 Backup contributor

Nose tackle and strong safety are the two crucial pieces to the 2014 defense. The nose tackle in the 4-3 over is the linebackers' best friend and absolutely has to have great size and strength; there's no way 2013 Michigan pulls this off with Jibreel Black manning the center of the front. Thankfully Michigan gets Ondre Pipkins back from an ACL tear, returns super strong Willie Henry and gained a commitment from a Utah native who easily could have committed to play for a 3-4 front.

This is a healthy rotation that might not ever see one man jump ahead of the others, and that's quite alright. Ondre Pipkins looks just as quick as he did before his knee injury and Willie Henry is still ridiculously strong, giving Michigan an hilarious thunder and lighting combination of 300-pound men.

The real wildcard is Bryan Mone, who has done plenty enough to make a burned redshirt worthwhile. He's cleaning up his frame and should only look progressively better as the season moves along, but will his technique improve enough for him to challenge the two veterans ahead of him? Maybe, but probably not. It doesn't matter because Michigan is in great shape with or without him, so any production whatsoever turns him into a 312-pound cherry on top of the Michigan Defensive Sunday.

Middle Men

Mattison's art is linebacking. He's about to paint his masterpiece.

Weak-Side Linebacker
# Player Class Height / Weight Playing Time
35 Joe Bolden Junior 6'3" / 231 Possible starter
48 Desmond Morgan Senior 6'1" / 232 Possible starter
19 Jared Wangler Freshman 6'1" / 219 Redshirt

The WILL linebacker position embodies Michigan's defensive progression. Rising junior Joe Bolden came out of high school as an elite prospect who needed to play more instinctively; Desmond Morgan is a true senior who hasn't ever had problems diagnosing plays but lacks the kind of physical tools Bolden possesses. Mattison praised Bolden during the spring; but many didn't believe the hype, continuing to write him off for the polished Morgan. Then fall camp rolled around, Mattison continued to praise Bolden for his vocal leadership and improving instinctual play, and Zach Travis began to realize that my long-term bet on Bolden might eventually pay off (had to do it).

While I'm actively pulling for Bolden to win the position – he's the easy choice if he truly is mentally matured – both he and Morgan are worthy of the spot, which is why they could both end up starting. Hoke and Mattison have really pushed the best-players-play button during camp, and they'll slide one of these two over to SAM if they're both playing too well to stand on the sidelines.

I know. Depth. Talent. Multiple players pushing so hard for playing time that we're arguing over who would be really good instead of just good. It's amazing.

Middle Linebacker
# Player Class Height / Weight Playing Time
47 Jake Ryan Senior* 6'3" / 236 Locked starter
42 Ben Gedeon Sophomore 6'3" / 240 Backup contributor
9 Michael McCray Freshman* 6'4" / 241 Backup
51 Michael Ferns Freshman 6'3" / 239 Redshirt
59 Noah Furbush Freshman 6'4" / 210 Redshirt

Yes, nose tackle and strong safety play will make this defense a well-rounded machine, but Jake Ryan could turn that machine into a fire-spitting death machine – or look lost and and promptly be turned into a long-down rush end. While the concerns over Ryan's inconsistent play diagnosis are legitimate, they're largely overblown. Greg Mattison is serious about his commitment to playing aggressive football, and Ryan will be living proof. Expect to see him blitz and stunt with regularity, and pray that the defensive tackles aren't as advertised if you're a fan of an opposing school. Assuming Michigan's aggression pays off, opposing offenses will be constrained and Ryan's reads will become simpler, further fueling a player who's already explosive enough to come back from a torn ACL in record time.

The MIKE backups are also talented and probably more naturally suited for the position than Ryan, albeit without the same ability to wreak havoc. Ben Gedeon will see his share of snaps and has an outside chance at starting should the Jake Ryan experiment fail. Michael McCray has also received praise throughout fall camp, but he's more likely to see garbage time and come back to compete in 2015. The two true freshman are both likely to be redshirted.

Strong-Side Linebacker
# Player Class Height / Weight Playing Time
15 James Ross III Junior 6'1" / 227 Probable starter
52 Royce Jenkins-Stone Junior 6'2" / 234 Backup contributor
12 Allen Gant Sophomore* 6'2" / 223 Backup
58 Chase Winovich Freshman 6'3" / 220 Redshirt

Three linebacker positions, three talented depth charts. James Ross has been good to great for two years now, but again, his competition is more athletic and rounding out his mental game. I don't seen the 'loser' of the Bolden/Morgan battle stealing this position simply because Ross and Jenkins-Stone are both more suited to taking on lead blockers and making the physical play, meaning whoever wins between Ross and Jenkins-Stone will play for quite some time. Ross is the better run-stuffer; Jenkins-Stone is more likely to win the job if it's ever called on to blitz and get in the quarterback's face. Maybe play Ross on the first two downs and RJS on the third? I love playing this game.

Talent isn't fantastic past the two favorites. Allen Gant has been moved more than once and isn't ever going to see real playing time at linebacker, and Chase Winovich is far too prone to meeting blockers with his chest perpendicular to the ground. Gant sits and Winovich hits the weight room before competing in the long haul.

The Back Four

The only way Michigan's new scheme works is if the corners hold up in man coverage and the deep safety stays disciplined. The Wolverines have the bodies to pull it off.

Cornerback
# Player Class Height / Weight Playing Time
2 Blake Countess Junior* 5'10" / 180 Possible starter
26 Jourdan Lewis Sophomore 5'10" / 175 Possible starter
6 Raymon Taylor Senior 5'10" / 184 Possible starter
5 Jabrill Peppers Freshman 6'1" / 202 Possible starter
24 Delonte Hollowell Senior 5'9" / 178 Backup contributor
8 Channing Stribling Sophomore 6'2" / 178 Backup contributor
13 Terry Richardson Sophomore* 5'9" / 170 Backup
30 Reon Dawson Freshman* 6'2" / 178 Backup

This is where the term depth is redefined. Depth: When your roster has four capable all-conference types and two more who could play and keep the coordinator from worrying.

What would you do with all of this talent? Play the veterans and use the greatest recruit in your program's history as a world destroyer at nickel? Play the world destroyer at corner and put the former All-Big Ten performer at nickel? Scrap both veterans for a pair of more highly-touted youngsters? Choose. You're correct.

What would I do? I'd choose the final option above: scrap the two veterans. I have great respect for both Raymon Taylor and Blake Countess, but Jabrill Peppers is physically talented enough to close the gap yesterday and I've had three different Michigan writers tell me that Jourdan Lewis' hype is warranted. The youngsters are more capable press defenders, and Michigan insists that it's going to challenge your receivers with everything it has. To me, Peppers and Lewis are the best options.

Blake Countess will have to settle for (basically) still starting at the nickel, and Channing Stribling might not ever start despite an extremely high ceiling. Such is the price of depth.

Safety
# Player Class Height / Weight Playing Time
22 Jarrod Wilson Junior 6'2" / 205 Locked starter
34 Jeremy Clark Sophomore* 6'4" / 205 Possible starter
44 Delano Hill Sophomore 6'0" / 205 Possible starter
25 Dymonte Thomas Sophomore 6'2" / 193 Backup contributor
28 Brandon Watson Freshman 5'11" / 188 Possible redshirt

Jarrod Wilson rounds out your relatively short list of guaranteed full-time starters. The junior is talented and has received ample praise for his leadership throughout the off-season; why he was yanked from the lineup in 2013 remains a mystery.

There's also a mystery at the other safety spot, where a trio of less experienced players are battling for the starting nod. Tall, rangy freak Jeremy Clark is your current leader for the spot; he'll have to fend off former leader Delano Hill, who was supplanted when he hurt his jaw in practice. Dymonte Thomas is the last of the real contenders here, but he's still too lanky and I haven't heard much of anything about his ability to diagnose plays or play instinctively. True freshman Brandon Watson is competing but won't win the spot.

And the mystery of the other safety spot doesn't end there. Jarrod Wilson was expected to be the ball-hawking free safety of the defense, with the other safety rolling into the box to stop the run and knock receivers off of their routes. That might not end up being the case, as Wilson has been asked to step into the box just as often as his younger teammates. Having Jeremy Clark or Delano Hill as the last line of defense scares me, so I'm praying that Wilson eventually settles into a deep-man role.

Finishing the Puzzle

By now it's clear that talent and depth are no longer major issues. It's time to put out an elite product.

Still, Michigan isn't elite at every position. The safety who plays opposite Jarrod Wilson will be prone to the occasional mistake. Frank Clark has improved steadily from year to year at his rush end position, but he isn't guaranteed to make the senior jump to elite status. Much of the assumption that the defense as a whole will make a leap depends on the improvement of the pass rush, which puts pressure on Clark and Beyer to stay disciplined in the run game and still get into the passer's face.

The same can be said for the defensive tackles and the man they'll be protecting. I'm extremely confident in the nose tackles, but there remains a chance of the three-techs making a lateral move from 2013 to 2014. This might force Mattison to stretch the nose depth thin by moving Henry over, which puts more pressure on true freshman Bryan Mone. An unlikely scenario, but possible nonetheless.

And the aforementioned Ryan experiment. Does Michigan use him as aggressively as I project they will, or do they use him passively and watch as he struggles to make reads? A failure here doesn't move the defense back – Bolden, Morgan, Ross, RJS, Gedeon and McCray all but guarantee this – but it does keep it from making an incredible leap forward.

Now, think about what happens if the majority of the improvement that should come with an aggressive scheme and plenty of depth actually materializes. Michigan then fields a defense that is extremely difficult to run on because of disciplined and talented defensive line play, bolstered by a play-making MIKE and instinctual outside linebackers. Quarterbacks struggle to beat the deepest set of corners in the conference and don't have enough time to take advantage of what could be the only true weak link in the chain: a sophomore safety.

We'll take those odds.

11 Days to Michigan Football

August 19, 2014 by  
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College football returns in 11 short days.

Senior Delonte Hollowell, DB

Number: 24

Hometown: Detroit (Cass Technical)

Height/Weight: 5' 9" / 178 lbs.

Three One Thing to Know About Delonte

Last year, it looked like Delonte was going to secure a starting corner spot, but he spent much of the season on special teams. He's definitely a competitive guy, so things could change in the short time before the upcoming season starts, but look for Hollowell on the kick coverage team.

Tuesday Morning Brews (8/19/14)

August 19, 2014 by  
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Inside The Process

They always, always catch up to you. That's why a Hall of Fame career is so impressive, especially for a coach who lasts thirty years. It says they were flexible. It says they worked harder than 90% of the other work addicts. It says they were smart enough to do things differently, and what they did worked. But still, they always catch up to you.

Nick Saban has probably already punched his ticket to the College Football Hall of Fame. He's earning a little under $7 million now, which is definitely more than the President and the second-highest paid coach combined. But his coaching story isn't quite set in stone, and the rest of the league has started catching up to Nick Saban. Following the November 5th, 2011 game that Saban's team lost, 9-6, the upper echelon of the SEC has diversified. No longer is it LSU and Alabama, defensive juggernauts and first-round picks, fighting battles at the line of scrimmage. In the two seasons since that game, Auburn, Missouri and Texas A&M have all notched 11-win seasons by trying to find a way around those dominant, physical front sevens.

But this is still college, not the pros, and maybe it's not entirely true that they always catch up to you. Alabama is still Alabama. Of course, it was Alabama in 2007 too, when they went 7-6. But even when other teams have caught up to you on the field, programs that have establishing a winning standard gain a certain panache. The fact of the matter is the Tide's three championships from 2009-12 are still resonating around the country. From Forbes:

That on-field success generates financial prosperity, as detailed below, and also makes Alabama a top choice for students and athletes alike. In 2007, Alabama had an acceptance rate of 77%. Today, rivals like Auburn and LSU are still at that near-80% rate; Alabama now accepts just 53% of applicants.

Obviously, college football is a juggernaut. How long will this last, for Alabama? USC was dominant in the 2000s, going 82-9 with two AP championships in 2003 and '04. Texas was dominant under Mack Brown, until, somehow, it wasn't. How UA replaces Nick Saban, or how long this period of success will last, is uncertain. Some very talented people are trying to catch up to him. But still, Saban's done a little more than just win. He'll be the first to tell you that.

"The approach is to challenge the players to play every play in the game like it has a history and a life of its own. And try to take the other team out of the game and make it all about us. It really is the simple way to do it, and it's the best way to do it." Take the other team out of the game, and make it all about us. Not only have they won, but they have, steadily, flipped that into free coverage on 60 Minutes, NFL Draft Day, and Fortune Magazine. Nick Saban's team didn't make the championship game this year, so he appeared at halftime as an analyst. All of this came from the initial work and success, and it avalanched from there. And Saban, more than any other coach, has known how to expedite and encourage that avalanche. If he is qualified to build up a champion, he is even more qualified to sustain one.

"The process of repeating as national champion requires more attention. It can't be about trying to prove something, because you've kind of already done that. It needs to be about: Do you want to be the best you can be? Are you driven to be the best player you can be? Are you driven to have the intensity, the sense of urgency, the intelligence. Are you going to work to do the things you need to do to be your absolute best? And that's not normal. Everybody thinks it's normal, but it's not normal."

Now, he is reaping the benefits of that hard work, of putting himself and his players in positions to succeed. Like Belichick's Patriots before him, Saban is trying to lead a three-time champion into the promised land once again, and he seems uniquely qualified to do it. For one, even Belichick himself will ask Saban for advice. For another, Saban has turned his success into a recruiting machine that outstrips even his SEC brethren - thanks to the aura he has built up around the program. And all of it started with the Process.

*

What is the Process? Says Andy Staples: "In its most basic form, the Process is Saban's term for concentrating on the steps to success rather than worrying about the end result. Instead of thinking about the scoreboard, think about dominating the man on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage." It was born in Saban's time at Michigan State, when in the week leading up to a game against the unbeaten and top-ranked Buckeyes, Saban confided in a psychiatrist that he didn't know what to tell his team. The psychiatrist said, "Tell them the score doesn't matter."

Saban remembers the way his Michigan State players reacted that week of the Ohio State game when he told them to forget the score and think only about doing their job for one play. They got it. They liked it. Maybe the message wasn't very different from what he was trying to say before, but telling them the scoreboard was irrelevant somehow caught their attention. The process captured their imagination. ... "Funny things happen in football," Saban told reporters after that Ohio State game, "when a team plays possessed."

State beat OSU, 28-24. The next year Saban's Spartans jumped from 6-5 to 10-2, and Saban himself was off to coach the Tigers. He has carved out his career, not so much with any different X's and O's, but by motivating his players, and then by recruiting more elite talent and motivating them, too. Alabama doesn't do anything that different - they're conservative on both sides of the ball. Alabama has succeeded, though, by first maximizing what they have (that's where the Process comes in), and then trying to separate themselves from their competition talent-wise to improve their future odds. Steve Spurrier this off-season called Nick Saban "the greatest recruiter in the history of college football... if the recruiting services are correct." It was seen as a jab at Saban (and it was), but there was a lot of truth in there as well.

*

When Nick Saban was 11 years old, he would wash cars for his dad's business in West Virginia. Every time he had missed a spot, his dad would catch it on inspection, and tell him to wash the whole car again. Not the spot, the whole car. Little Nick (his dad was Big Nick) tells this story a lot as an example of reinforcing both work and perfection. It's a story that sums up how he runs his program - business-like, driven, forward-thinking, efficient. He is, as Fortune Magazine says, a businessman.

Fisher explained that since taking over, he had hired a nutritionist to monitor what players ate. He had contracted a mental-conditioning coach to change how players thought. He had inherited two strength-and-conditioning assistants, then hired six more and was on the verge of bringing on a seventh to ensure that players received more individual attention in the weight room. Fisher then asked the boosters to dig deep because he needed more. He wanted better dorms for the players and an indoor practice facility. Basically, he wanted everything his old boss, Nick Saban, had at Alabama.

More than any other coach, Saban has understood and managed the business of college football. His new $7 million contract came not just from the wins he collects, but from the money he's made the university. Alabama chancellor Robert Witt called Saban "the best financial investment in the school's history." And indeed, from enrollment to profits, the university has never been better. It's that financial quarter that has brought state-of-the-art facilities that woo athletes, including new technology like vision training equipment, which helps players improve reaction time. If there is any advantage Saban can find - karate, for leverage, pilates, for body control - the program will incorporate it. And it has, to great success.

This efficient, business-like, self-advertising and highly profitable system is the fuel that makes the Process go. At a potential turning point in college athletics, with questions about reimbursement and the very business model that Alabama executes so well, the Crimson Tide have given their athletes everything under the sun to reward them and help them succeed. If there is one last takeaway from Saban's impressive business model, it is the value of an organization's middle class - the "product," as he calls them. More than just speeches, Saban has motivated his players with goals, support, emotional tools for success, and stiff competition. And perfection. Always while eyeing perfection.

Money

What can be said about the quarterback that hasn't been said already? It's the Playboy position, the one that gets all the attention. More people can name a team's starting quarterback than its best player on defense, or the coach who leads the team. But it's also an integral part to everything a team does on offense.

From 2006-2012, the SEC's streak of championships, not one of the championship team's quarterbacks threw for 3,000 yards in that season. They did, however, throw very few picks.

SEC Championship Quarterbacks

Passing Rushing Touchdowns Interceptions
2006 Chris Leak 2,950 30 23 13
2007 Matt Flynn 2,407 215 21 11
2008 Tim Tebow 2,746 673 30 4
2009 Greg McElroy 2,508 83 17 4
2010 Cam Newton 2,854 1,473 30 7
2011 A.J. McCarron 2,634 0 16 5
2012 A.J. McCarron 2,933 0 30 3

This year, the SEC will seek to reclaim the crystal football without many proven commodities at signal-caller - Ole Miss' Bo Wallace is the only returning QB who threw for 2,000 yards a year ago. But that hasn't stopped them before.

A few people, including ESPN's Rece Davis, has called Mississippi State's Dak Prescott the best quarterback now in the SEC. Prescott's numbers are almost identical to Nick Marshall's, and he brings a heavier punch at 229 pounds. Still, I'd expect a bigger season from Marshall, who Malzahn is wanting to utilize more through the air, or Ole Miss' Bo Wallace, who is the old hand on a largely youth-driven and talented team. Late-season injuries to Wallace helped cause 5 interceptions in the final three games, but his play has been erratic regardless. He's hoping that his work in the off-season on his mechanics will help produce a more consistently productive season.

Preseason Watch List (Quarterbacks)
Conf. School Sacks % TD/INT Yards
ACC FSU 27 Jameis Winston 66.9% 40/10 4,057
B1G MSU 16 Connor Cook 58.7% 22/6 2,755
B1G MICH 34 Devin Gardner 60.3% 21/11 2,960
B1G OSU 21 Braxton Miller 63.5% 24/7 2,094
B1G PSU 21 Christian Hackenberg 58.9% 20/10 2,955
Big 12 OKLA 4 Trevor Knight 59.0% 9/5 819
Big 12 BAY 17 Bryce Petty 62.0% 32/3 4,200
Big 12 TEX 4 David Ash 60.9% 7/2 760
Big 12 TTU 7 Davis Webb 62.6% 20/9 2,718
Pac-12 UCLA 35 Brett Hundley 66.8% 24/9 3,071
Pac-12 ORE 18 Marcus Mariota 63.5% 31/4 3,665
Pac-12 ASU 39 Taylor Kelly
62.4% 28/12 3,635
Pac-12 ORST 25 Sean Mannion 66.3% 37/15 4,662
Pac-12 USC 30 Cody Kessler
65.2% 20/7 2,967
SEC MISS 24 Bo Wallace 64.8% 18/10 3,346

Elsewhere, the Pac-12 can indeed claim the country's best collection of quarterbacks. Oregon State's Sean Mannion returned for his senior year, hoping to improve on a third-round draft grade. He also had some late-season struggles, throwing 11 interceptions during a 5-game season-ending losing streak. He had started the year 29/3 on touchdowns and interceptions. Kelly, another under-the-radar player, went from a two-star recruit to a redshirt freshman, 29/9, 3,000-yard thrower, then followed it up with a slightly better season statistically while the offense leaned on him more. He's also a proven runner, getting almost 1,500 rush yards over the two years.

Both the Big 12 and the Pac-12 feature better premier options than the Big Ten - but the Big Ten East is still a tough division to be a defensive back in. Also, two Texas schools, UT and Texas Tech, will be leaning heavily on their starters to stay healthy. Ash was recommended to give up the game by his doctors, but he's back for his senior year and Charlie Strong will try to keep him upright and healthy.

Hitting the Links Builds Up The Program

Braxton Miller May Miss 2014

Gigantic news out of Columbus. There will be MRIs today to know more precisely what's going on, but Miller re-injured it during a routine throw during practice. He had had surgery during the off-season to help repair the damage that Clemson's defensive line wrought upon him in the Orange Bowl, but he was on pace to start the season opener.

Oklahoma's New Defense

This talks about Oklahoma's 3-4 and how they are poised to thwart both spread offenses of the Big 12 and, well, everybody else.

Kenny Hill Named the Aggies' QB

This was one of the more interesting quarterback battles, even if you think the defense will hold the Aggies back from being a contender. In some other quarterback battle news, everyone had expected Florida State transfer Jacob Coker to take over the job quickly in Tuscaloosa, but he's been behind Blake Sims for the #1 spot because Sims has had more time in the program and is "a little faster right now," according to Saban. Also, Purdue has named Danny Etling the starting quarterback over Austin Appleby. Gary Andersen indicated that Wisconsin will not reveal the team's starter before its season opener. Very clever, Mr. Andersen.

Sophomores Key to Ole Miss' Success

It was interesting hearing Tunsil's, Treadwell's, and Nkemdiche's thoughts about building up a program to challenge Alabama and LSU.

NFL: Nickel Defense More Important Than Ever

A larger issue that I haven't really mentioned has been the disparity of talent between offense and defense. Usually, a team's third wide receiver is going to be less of a drop-off than a defense's third corner, and a top wide receiver is a lot easier to find than a shutdown corner. This is starting to change - defenses are getting more athletic to catch up to their offenses.

SI's B1G Preview

The "How They'll Finish" section seems lazy to me, and I'd also nitpick the sentence that Braxton Miller's working with an "almost entirely new set of skill-position players," but I'm probably just being grumpy.

SI's ACC Preview

I haven't mentioned Virginia, but they are in an interesting situation. Mike London was retained for a fifth year because of his recruiting prowess, signing a pair of in-state five-stars in the 2014 cycle and another in 2013. Still, his 0-8 conference record last year makes for a steep climb back. He went 8-5, 5-3 in 2011.

SI Feature on Trae Waynes

Being a DB demands a short memory and, even better, being impervious to what fans call "momentum." Waynes giving up a 43-yard completion at the start of the Rose Bowl got Kirk Herbstreit talking up Stanford with a good old "they don't see athletes in the Big Ten," but Waynes kept at it and got a key 3rd quarter interception.

Leadership Lessons From Nick Saban

If you read only one thing about Saban in your life, this would be the thing to read. It's long and starts slowly, but it's definitely worth at least a browse.

SB Nation's Alabama PreviewLSUGeorgia | South CarolinaAuburn

SB Nation's previews are all concluded for another year. The SEC West is loaded, but the East looks a little barren after Georgia and South Carolina.

The Illustrious Eric Murray

Murray should have gotten more accolades last season, but that should change this time around.

Wisconsin's Concerns at Nose Guard

I've been very impressed with Coach Andersen and his whole staff, both in technical knowledge and in being supportive of the players. He puts his players in positions to succeed.

Wisconsin's Lack of Concerns at Wide Receiver

While we're on that topic, here's UW's receivers coach talking up his position group.

Bringing the Option to Madison

The offense will also feature some option, which will help stretch the defense horizontally. The UW quarterback battle has been shaking out a little bit in camp, and Joel Stave is leading. Tanner will see a lot of game-action, though - the coaches are building a portion of the offense just for him. Again, these coaches are good.

Larry Fitzgerald Brings His Skills to Minnesota

This was an awesome read on Larry Fitzgerald and other NFL players practicing at Minnesota's facilities in the off-season.

Nebraska DT Aaron Curry to Transfer

The last few weeks haven't been very kind to Nebraska's D.

Mario Edwards Brings More Than Sacks

Edwards is one of the more recognizable stars on the team after Jameis Winston; as Fisher said, he's probably going to be starting on Sundays.

Top Ten SEC Quarterbacks

This will get you caught up on all the new faces.

Maty Mauk: The Next Johnny Football

Missouri's QB is an interesting character; unfortunately, he will also be working with a very different receiving corps, without Dorial Green-Beckham (883 yards), L'Damian Washington (893), and Marcus Lucas (692). All told, six of the nine most-targeted pass-catchers a year ago are gone.

Missouri Touchdown

Missouri got a lot of mileage from their big, athletic receivers.

Nick O'Leary Run

Fisher has talked about the value of tight ends, and how the NFL is also using them more. O'Leary will make a lot of plays for FSU this year.

Mauk to Washington, TD

Great play against South Carolina. Washington, who went undrafted, is now on the 49ers.

Bob Stoops Treats His Players to Ice Cream

Hey, it can't all be work.

Csont’e York dismissed from the Michigan Football program

August 18, 2014 by  
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Suspended receiver Csont'e York has been dismissed from the Michigan football program.

Brady Hoke made the call earlier to suspend him, now the decision is final.

Michigan announced Monday that wide receiver Csont'e York has been dismissed from the Michigan football program due to the involvement is an assault case. York allegedly threw a punch at a man that security footage recorded.

His pretrial hearing was pushed back to Sept. 8.

"Csont'e York has been dismissed from the Michigan football program," Hoke said in a statement. "Representing the University of Michigan is a privilege and, while second chances are certainly deserved, sometimes it's better for everyone if that happens somewhere else. Overall, I have been proud of how responsible our team has been this offseason and how hard they've worked to prepare for the season."

York is the second player dismissed from the program during Hoke's time at Michigan.

For more news and notes regarding Michigan Football, follow Maize n Brew's Joshua Henschke on Twitter: @JoshuaHenschke.

VIDEO: Why Brady Hoke is concerned about big 5 conference autonomy, what’s on Hoke’s iPad?

August 18, 2014 by  
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Campus Insiders' Bonnie Bernstein sat down with Michigan head coach Brady Hoke to discuss autonomy, lessons from Bo Schembechler and what's on his iPad.

2014 Michigan Football Preview: The Offense

August 18, 2014 by  
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Michigan will take the field again soon. We'll look at what the offense has in store.

At Washington, Doug Nussmeier inherited an offense that was ranked 118th and a team that went 0-12. He almost doubled the offense's production in his first season, and by the time he left three years later, the Huskies' attack was 25th in the nation. At Alabama, his teams averaged 38.5 points a contest, and in his two years there he produced the second- and third-best offensive seasons ever in Crimson Tide history. He's been called a player's coach by the players, an innovative recruiter by Jeff Hecklinski, and a great quarterbacks coach by Nick Saban. But he's also just a great offensive coordinator.

It takes more than that, though. The players are and always will be the heart and soul of the team. So, all this week we'll be taking a closer look at Team 135, including a position-by-position breakdown today and tomorrow. Today, we'll cover Nussmeier's side. Michigan lately has not looked like the Michigan of old, but the closer that Nussmeier can return them to that standard - with powerful downhill running, smart and aggressive passing, and dominating wide receivers - the closer Michigan will be to #43. All right, let's get to it.

Quarterback, Devin Gardner

A lot of people around the country and in the Big Ten aren't as high on Gardner as I am. Last year's roller coaster was just that, but DG's turnover problem was something that got fixed about two-thirds of the way through the year. He's athletic, throws an accurate deep ball, and is (in my opinion) one of the ten or fifteen best quarterbacks in the country. It's rare to combine someone with almost as much speed as Denard Robinson and the kind of downhill throwing that you see from Devin.

Whether he can read his progressions and settle in to a new group of receivers is another matter. He's shown a lot of favoritism to receivers he trusts can make plays, and he also seemed to try and do it all on occasion, maybe out of frustration with the situation the offense was in. He's a smart guy, and a fierce competitor. I'm looking forward to seeing what Devin does this year, especially if he gets comfortable with more receivers. I believe he will.

Behind him, Shane Morris is ready and waiting. Every year in college, I know I grew by leaps and bounds; even if Morris isn't ready to supplant Gardner this season, having another go-round under the bright lights and standing right next to the big stage will do wonders for him. He's another downfield thrower with athleticism; I'm looking forward to seeing him throw a lot of slant routes and post routes to wide, rangy athletes.

Offensive line, Cole, Magnuson, Miller, Glasgow, Braden

Hoke has been accused of favoring seniors a time or two, but - well, at least there aren't any of those where the line is concerned. Cole is a young guy who's pushing other people out of the lineup, and he's doing so in part thanks to an almost 20-pound gain over the summer. "He's developed faster than I've seen a kid develop at 18," Frank Clark said in April. In fact, when Mason actually made it on campus, he was amazingly still 17. And he might be a starter on Day 1. He would be the first freshman left tackle in Michigan history.

The lineup above will not be what Michigan fields in Week 1, with Graham Glasgow's suspension, and the 2014 season still has some vibes of '13, when different lineups were shuffled through constantly (or I'm still just having nightmares). What has improved is the line's depth, and this is a key that will help us enter the fight with two hands. This line might be erratic, or penalty-prone. Mason Cole could struggle against elite pass-rushers - and the Big Ten has a few. They might struggle with combo blocks or exotic blitzes. They might not be good at the point of attack. But I doubt that this unit will fall apart at the seams like last year's did, and some games, some of the season, it should be pretty darn good.

Footwork and technique are always necessary for good O-line play, but it becomes even more important when you're as tall as most of our guys are - Mason Cole is the short guy among the starters at 6'4". While this is encouraging in a long-term sense, the night practice was obviously the opposite of encouraging. But if this unit gels, especially that 633-pound right side of Glasgow and Braden, I could see us flipping the switch from bad to very good pretty quickly.

I am more optimistic about the interior of the line than last year. Jack Miller apparently struggled with getting the center's calls right, prompting the change to Graham Glasgow. He'll have worked on his game, and he also bulked up to 299. Graham Glasgow is probably our best lineman, and Erik Magnuson, a little light but chiseled at 294 pounds, will help protect the weak side. The inside is now the experienced part, and hopefully it shows.

I also like our second unit, even if it's not ideal for the lineup to be changing. Kalis, Bosch, and Dawson all fought for starting spots, and they could be one of the more interesting backup units in the conference. There's a number of young linemen coming up behind them, as well. There's potential, in short, and a lot of mediocrity until that potential is realized. It's basically what you'd have if there were a lot of players like Taco Charlton leading your defense: upside, and headaches. We'll see what this means for 2014.

Running backs, De'Veon Smith, Drake Johnson, & Derrick Green

The power running game Michigan had was usually a slow-developing one; it didn't help, on top of everything else, that a lot of the running plays featured the back setting up a full 7.5 or 8 yards behind the line of scrimmage (example). Derrick Green, for what it's worth, had solid speed for a 240-pound back, but he couldn't cut decisively, and when he did get open space, he wasn't strictly punishing defenders like a 240-pound (in-shape) fullback would. Michigan was taking the downsides of a power run game without the upsides, and that was why they needed Devin to run as much as he did.

There are a lot of reasons for optimism in 2014: one is Nussmeier, and another is the chance for some more speed. Drake Johnson has the potential to be a valuable cog in the running game, thanks to his more speed-based game while also bringing a 211-pound punch (which is almost 20 pounds more than Justice Hayes). I feel like Green can embody what the staff is looking for, but we would be fine with Smith and Johnson.

The staff is building its offense on inside zone, and they'll want runners who can take on linebackers. At the same time, a little more speed means that runners can also bounce a play outside that was intended to be between the tackles and still get positive yards. Smith, who had the best combination of speed and strength of the Fitz-Green-Smith trio, also had the best yardage numbers of the three backs last season by at least a yard. This year, all the runners look more like Smith (no, not that Smith): Green is rejuvenated and Drake Johnson is healthy. We'll see if they can take on the inevitable blitzes and also catch the ball a little better, however.

Wide receivers, Funchess, Darboh, Chesson, Canteen, Norfleet

The wide receiver situation has solidified in fall camp: Darboh and Chesson will battle for the #2 receiver spot, and Canteen will battle Norfleet and Ross Douglas in the slot. If this holds, Michigan will have a 6'5", a 6'2", and a 6'3" receiver with speed on the outside, fighting for 20-yard gains, or else going through the middle, challenging defensive backs to keep up and work through their assignments.

There was a lot of passing at this weekend's night practice, and that may be how the team succeeds in 2014. Once teams felt their blitzes would always get home, Part II of Michigan's horrible season was underway. The running backs haven't shown the ability to pass protect or catch the ball, but we have much better options now than Drew Dileo at the slot (sorry, Drew). Also, all the running backs should at least know the pass protection schemes. Mattison's been hammering home a lot of blitzes, so even if this is a hurricane, we'll be comfortable playing in the hurricane. And with any amount of time, Gardner has terrific options deep.

Tight ends, Jake Butt, A.J. Williams, & Keith Heitzman

JB, who missed four games to injury a year ago, came on late in the year. From Nebraska onward, he corralled 13 catches for 168 yards in four games played - almost three-quarters of his production on the year. Even though he came physically prepared (Al Borges was amazed at how much he had worked to be ready), he still needed most of the season to settle in to the offense. The Funchess-Williams Jeckyll-and-Hyde situation of a year ago looks distinctly improved, and I'm happy with having two (hopefully mauling) blockers on the line until JB returns. Any pass-catching abilities they add will be gravy.

Michigan was showing a lot of two-tight end looks in the night practice, which makes sense. Offense is built on being multiple, and I have a sneaking suspicion that both Williams and Heitzman will be called on to catch some bail-out passes in the flat - and they'll be ready to do it. Also, having one or two tight ends on hand stretches the box out a little and lets the offense dictate the game a little more. I think this is one of Nussmeier's strategies for dealing with a funky line.

*

So, where does this leave us? Obviously, the story is strewn with picking up the pieces from a nightmare campaign, and something of a nightmare decade, now, for Michigan fans. Is the will to win back? Are the pieces in place? In some sense, that's only something we can find out on the field, for as Bo said, those who stay will be champions. The players who put in the work, when the bright lights were gone and no one was watching, will show what they can do. If the desire to prove naysayers wrong is enough, then we will see a highly motivated team take the field on August 30th. And that, more than even the talent or the coaching, is what we need.

Go Blue.

Monday Michigan Recruiting Roundup: Asmar Bilal Trending to the Wolverines?

August 18, 2014 by  
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The MRR updates you on the latest with Michigan football recruiting. In this edition, Asmar Bilal to Michigan is starting to look more likely, LaVert Hill visits over the weekend, Jon Runyan Jr. is bigger and stronger going into this year, and a brief profile on Keisean Lucier-South

Asmar Bilal trending towards Michigan?

Four-star 2015 linebacker Asmar Bilal (Indianapolis, IN) should be deciding between Michigan and Notre Dame soon, but in the wake of recent events, it appears he may be trending the way of the Wolverines.

Over the weekend, news came out that the Fighting Irish may be caught up in an academic dishonesty scandal that could potentially rock the football program to its very core. This certainly could affect the status of head coach Brian Kelly and more going forward.

It is not certain how exactly this could impact Bilal's decision, but it certainly is not a good look for the program and it creates a scenario where Michigan should be able to swoop in and take charge of his recruitment.

Bilal did want to decide before his senior year, but it looks like he is just going to wait until it feels right to pull the trigger. He spoke with 247's Steve Wiltfong over the weekend to update the recruiting process. ($)

While he says that he is still torn between the Wolverines and Irish, the 247 Crystal Ball predictions took a big swing in the direction of Michigan in the last few days. 79 percent of the predictions now have Bilal headed to Ann Arbor.

I have felt pretty comfortable saying that Michigan looks like a likely landing spot for him for awhile, and the news of this scandal over the weekend solidifies that.

LaVert Hill visits Michigan

LaVert Hill (Detroit, MI), 2016 defensive back and brother of current Wolverine Delano Hill, visited the University of Michigan over the weekend with 2015 running back commit Mike Weber (Detroit, MI) for the scrimmage that took place at the Big House. Both are students and Cass Tech.

It was Hill's third visit to Michigan in about a month, with a fourth to follow on Aug. 30 for the opener against Appalachian State.

Hill had this to say to 247's Clint Brewster on the visit:

"It was a real cool visit," Hill said. "I got a lot of love from the crowd which really made me feel good. I didn't know they would even know who I was, but they did. I got to talk to the coaches too but only for a bit before the scrimmage."

Hill's Crystal Ball is entirely in favor of Michigan right now, but it is still early in the process and anything can happen. With his brother in tow and being a local product, though, he looks bound for Ann Arbor, at least for now.

Jon Runyan Jr. bulks up

Three-star 2015 offensive lineman Jon Runyan Jr. (Philadelphia, PA) was one of Michigan's first commits in the 2015 class. If the name sounds familiar, it's because he is the son of former Wolverines offensive tackle Jon Runyan, who went on to have a lengthy NFL career.

Runyan has made big strides going into his senior year, bulking up nearly 30 pounds and becoming stronger. He has the frame to be a beast up front, but he needs some work fine tuning his game. He certainly has the pedigree to suggest he will get it done.

He spoke with Scout's Brian Dohn over the weekend following a scrimmage about his off-season and what he has changed going into this year. That can be found here. ($)

Taking a brief look at Keisean Lucier-South

Five-star defensive end Keisean Lucier-South (Orange, CA) is one of the best players in the entire 2015 class and has strong interest in the University of Michigan. If there is one "must-get" player in this cycle for them, this is the guy. He is one of the best pure pass rushers in all of the country and is a very versatile player.

Some that do not follow recruiting that closely may not know much about him, though, so a long while back I decided to do a profile on him for The Big House Report. KLS' profile can be found here. (FREE)

That's it for Monday. Check back in with us on Wednesday for the latest in Michigan football recruiting news.

Be sure to follow Maize n Brew's Anthony Broome on Twitter, @anthonytbroome.

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