Preview: Michigan at Utah

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3Sep 2015
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Preview: Michigan at Utah

Utah girls
Rush Offense vs. Utah Rush Defense

Michigan returns five offensive linemen with significant starting experience, although a few of them are playing new positions and last year’s starting center left with a year of eligibility remaining. From left to right, we should see sophomore Mason Cole (12 career starts), redshirt junior Ben Braden (12), fifth year senior Graham Glasgow (24), redshirt junior Kyle Kalis (16), and redshirt junior Erik Magnuson (13). That’s 77 combined starts on the line, and while Glasgow played guard last year, he started nine games at center during the 2013 season. New offensive line coach (and offensive coordinator) Tim Drevno should make a positive difference. Michigan’s offensive linemen have talked about running a lot of zone, but it would be a surprise if they don’t work in some traps and powers, let alone an occasional counter. On the other side, Utah’s best defensive unit is their line, but they were more effective at rushing the passer than they were at stopping the run. Junior defensive end Hunter Dimick made 14.5 tackles for loss, and sophomore defensive tackle Lowell Lotuleilei is stout in the middle. Senior linebacker Jared Norris is the star of the back seven after making 116 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and 4 sacks last season. Michigan has to improve its running game, and I think they will with the improved offensive line and a solid stable of running backs.
Advantage: Michigan

Hit the jump for the rest of the Utah preview.
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2Sep 2015
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2015 Season Countdown List

Phew! This all started on May 31st with John O’Korn, and now I can breathe a sigh of relief. After 91 profiles of Michigan football players, yet another season of the countdown is complete. Some players have disappeared (Dennis Norfleet, Ondre Pipkins, Dan Samuelson), some have suffered injuries (Bryan Mone), and some have already seemingly outplayed their rankings in practice. In the meantime, I spent a couple weeks on vacation, started two-a-day football practices at the beginning of August, and launched the new website. Way back in May, I scheduled this post to go up on September 1 – here it is 24 hours late. I hope you enjoyed the countdown, and Go Blue!

(Due to the length of the post, please hit the jump and click on any of the names for their individual profiles. Profiles #21-61 will take you to the old site due to some technical issues with the transfer.)
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2Sep 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #1 Jake Rudock

Jake Rudock


Name:
Jake Rudock
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 208 lbs.
High school: Fort Lauderdale (FL) St. Thomas Aquinas
Position: Quarterback
Class: Fifth year senior
Jersey number: #15
Last year: Rudock was a redshirt junior at Iowa. He started twelve games and went 213/345 for 2,436 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions; he also ran 67 times for 176 yards and 3 touchdowns.

I wrote up a post on Rudock when it was announced he was coming to Michigan back in April (LINK). He was Iowa’s starter for the past two years, but in the early off-season, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz named C.J. Beathard the starter. Rudock started thinking about playing his final season elsewhere. Michigan’s coaching staff was initially not interested until they got a firsthand look at what the current roster of quarterbacks offered; spring practice convinced them they needed another option.

Hit the jump for the rest of the post on Rudock.
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1Sep 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #2 Jake Butt

Jake Butt

Name: Jake Butt
Height: 6’6″
Weight: 248 lbs.
High school: Pickerington (OH) North
Position: Tight end
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #88
Last year: I ranked Butt #11 and said he would be the starting tight end with 20 catches, 200 yards, and 3 touchdowns. He caught 21 passes for 211 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Well, that wasn’t a bad prediction for last year. Butt was 1 catch, 11 yards, and 1 touchdown away from hitting my mark. I would have expected more from Butt if not for the fact that he was coming off of a torn ACL he had suffered in the off-season. He played in just ten games last year and started only five as the coaches tried to work him back into the lineup gradually. Other than an early-season demolition of Miami-OH (3 catches, 59 yards, 1 touchdown for Butt in a 35-10 win), Butt was relatively quiet on a weekly basis until he caught 8 passes for 53 yards and 1 touchdown over the final two weeks of the season (against Maryland and Ohio State).

I have high hopes for Butt this season in an offense that will certainly look to take advantage of tight end mismatches, multiple tight end sets, and the play action pass. Jim Harbaugh does a very good job of developing tight ends, but his tight ends at Stanford were not extremely prolific. Coby Fleener’s best season under Harbaugh was as a senior in 2010, when he caught 28 passes for 434 yards (15.5 yards/catch) and 7 touchdowns. The thing to note about those statistics is the yards per catch and the touchdowns, the latter of which counted for 25% of Ertz’s receptions. (Also noteworthy is that backup Zach Ertz had 16 catches for 190 yards and 5 touchdowns that year.) The tight ends are a big part of the offense all over the field, but they become especially prominent in the red zone. I think Butt is a player who could flourish under Harbaugh and with the right quarterback at the helm (which should be Jake Rudock, in my opinion).

Butt is a solid blocker, runs good routes, has plus speed, and has shown soft hands. He could be an All-Big Ten player, and perhaps an All-American if he gets enough targets. Michigan should establish the running game early in the year, and since Butt is a three-down tight end, he can be a threat in almost any situation. Throwing to tight ends takes some extra touch and recognition of defenses, and I think Shane Morris would struggle to find Butt more than Rudock would. We should see an emphasis on the tight end that we have not seen since Bennie Joppru wore the winged helmet in 2002 (53 catches, 579 yards, 5 touchdowns).

Prediction: Starting tight end; 40 catches, 550 yards, 6 touchdown

31Aug 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #3 Jabrill Peppers

Jabrill Peppers (image via MGoBlog)

Name: Jabrill Peppers
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 205 lbs.
High school: Paramus (NJ) Catholic
Position: Defensive back
Class: Redshirt freshman
Jersey number: #5
Last year: I ranked Peppers #23 and said he would be a backup cornerback before starting at strong safety, and he would also play at returner and some on offense. He played in three games, making 8 tackles and 1 punt return for 6 yards.

Representative of how Michigan has been so disappointing in the last few years, Peppers was Michigan’s top recruit since the year 2000 (LINK) . . . and promptly got hurt. An Appalachian State player rolled into his ankle in the season opener, and a later knee injury caused him to miss the rest of the year. He got a redshirt, but it was disappointing for him, the team, and the fans, who were expecting big things. Michigan had good depth at cornerback, but playmakers were lacking at safety and on offense. He could have helped in many ways, but he didn’t.

Hit the jump for the rest of the writeup on Peppers.
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