Citrus Bowl Preview: Special Teams, Intangibles, and Predictions

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1Jan 2016
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Citrus Bowl Preview: Special Teams, Intangibles, and Predictions

Antonio Callaway

I previously previewed:

SPECIAL TEAMS
Michigan kicker offer Kenny Allen has the Wolverines at #40 in touchback percentage (47%). He is generally pretty good at his job. He is also pretty good at placekicking, where he is #34 nationally on field goals (16/20, 80%) and tied for #1 on extra points (41/41, 100%). He might need to revisit his punting skills, though, because starting punter Blake O’Neill is rumored to be out with a knee injury. O’Neill was #63 in punting average, but he was excellent at pinning opponents deep. Allen has punted just once in his career, a 51-yarder in 2013. Considering Florida’s defense, he should get several opportunities to prove his ability to do a third job. Michigan is #3 in kickoff return average at 28.4 yards/return. Jabrill Peppers is a capable returner, but he will probably miss the game due to injury. And anyway, the majority of kickoff returns have been handled by Jourdan Lewis (25.2 yards/return), while the lone return TD was by Jehu Chesson (46 yards/return on 3 attempts). Whether it’s Lewis, Chesson, or someone the coaching staff deems even better, the Wolverines are pretty solid. (Aside: Did you know that 63 teams – or about half of FBS teams – do not have a kickoff return of 60+ yards?) Meanwhile, Peppers is the only player to have handled even a single punt this season and averaged 11.4 yards/return, which was #21 nationally. I imagine that we might see Lewis back there, although Amara Darboh has experience at just being a sure-handed punt returner with little big-play ability.

Hit the jump for the rest of the preview.

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31Dec 2015
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Citrus Bowl Preview: Michigan Offense vs. Florida Defense

Jonathan Bullard (#90)

If you got an Amazon gift card for Christmas and are looking to spend it, please considering helping out the blog by following this link (LINK).


 

Yesterday, I posted the preview on Michigan’s Defense vs. Florida’s Offense.

Michigan Quarterbacks/Tight Ends/Wide Receivers vs. Florida Defensive Backs
Michigan fifth year senior QB Jake Rudock (6’3″, 208) had a rocky start, but his finish to the regular season was outstanding until he injured his shoulder against Ohio State in the finale. In the final month, Rudock completed over 67% of his passes for 1,296 yards on 9.2 yards/attempt with 11 TDs and just 2 INTs. He settled in to become comfortable with the offense, and he started reading the whole field rather than the half of the field that he was limited to during his struggles. That emergence was coupled with redshirt junior WR Jehu Chesson’s (6’3″, 207), who had 25 catches for 423 yards (16.9 yards/catch) and 6 TDs during that stretch. Classmate WR Amara Darboh (6’2″, 216) led the team in receptions, though his yards per catch were lower than Chesson’s or starting TE Jake Butt’s (6’6″, 249). Butt was the conference’s best tight end with 48 receptions, 620 yards, and 3 TDs. The only other TE or WR with double-digit receptions was senior TE A.J. Williams (6’6″, 285), who had 12 catches for 129 yards. We should also see a fair amount of freshman slot receiver Grant Perry (6’0″, 185) and TE Khalid Hill (6’2″, 270), who have 12 catches for 124 yards between them. If Rudock goes down, the backup is a very unproven redshirt freshman Wilton Speight (6’6″, 235), who threw the game-winning TD against Minnesota but otherwise is 9/25 for 73 yards and 1 INT. Rudock is expected to be healthy-ish for the bowl game, but if he re-injures that shoulder, Michigan could very well be done for if they don’t already have a lead.

Florida has one of the best secondaries in the country, led by an excellent cornerback duo of junior Vernon Hargreaves III (5’11”, 199) and sophomore Jalen Tabor (6’0″, 191); each of them has 4 interceptions, and Tabor is #13 in the country with 14 pass breakups. Florida spends a lot of time in a nickel, three-safety look. Senior safety/slot corner Brian Poole (5’10”, 211) has broken up 10 passes of his own, junior safety Keanu Neal (6’1″, 216) is third on the team with 84 tackles, and junior safety Marcus Maye (6’0″, 207) is fourth with 73. All of those guys can come up and tackle, and they act as extra linebackers. However, they are not the most athletic, ballhawking group of safeties, and the middle of the field can be taken advantage of in the passing game. Florida finished #10 in passing yards allowed (175 per game) and #11 in passer rating defense. This is still a tough matchup for a largely unimposing group of wideouts.

Advantage: Florida

Hit the jump for the rest of the preview.

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30Dec 2015
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Citrus Bowl Preview: Michigan Defense vs. Florida Offense

Treon Harris (#3)

Michigan Defensive Line vs. Florida Offensive Line
Michigan’s defensive line was destroying opponents early in the season until injuries and the resulting lack of depth wore them down. Perhaps the most consistent contributor, NT Ryan Glasgow, was lost for the year with a pectoral injury, and his likely primary backup, Bryan Mone, hasn’t played at all this year after breaking his leg in pre-season practices. Meanwhile, DE Mario Ojemudia was lost for the year with an Achilles injury. Still, it’s a formidable group to face if you don’t run a hurry-up offense that prevents them from subbing and catching their breath. Redshirt junior DT Chris Wormley (6’5″, 300) has looked unstoppable at times, racking up 39 tackles, 12 TFLs, and 5 sacks. He is joined by classmate Willie Henry (6’3″, 311) at strongside end, who had 10 TFLs and led the team with 6.5 sacks in the regular season. Replacement NT Maurice Hurst, Jr. (6’2″, 282) has been solid (6.5 TFLs, 3 sacks), but he was more effective as a change-of-pace guy to Glasgow; Hurst has the quickness to disrupt things in the backfield and rush the passer, while Glasgow used strength and leverage to be a force in the run game. At the weakside end/outside linebacker position, senior Royce Jenkins-Stone (6’2″, 240) is just a guy; he can get overpowered in the run game and doesn’t do great in the pass rush. Junior backup DE Taco Charlton (6’6″, 273) came on strong to finish with 8.5 TFLs and 5.5 sacks, and he’s basically playing like a starter now. The other notable backup is redshirt junior “NT” Tom Strobel (6’6″, 270), who converted to the defensive line from the offensive line late in the year; he is susceptible to, well, just about anything since he’s undersized and has just 3 tackles to his name. The best four players are Wormley, Henry, Hurst, and Charlton, so we will see whether Charlton gets inserted into the starting lineup. The Wolverines were ranked highly early in the year, but late-season struggles due to injuries dropped them to #18 in rushing defense (123 yards allowed/game) and #25 in rushing yards allowed/carry (3.59).

On Florida’s end, they are also lacking pieces, although not due to injury. Starting RT Mason Halter is ineligible for the bowl game, so freshman Fred Johnson (6’6″, 312) is expected to start. Fifth year senior RG Trip Thurman (6’5″, 312) is the only returning starter on the unit from 2014. Michigan native Cameron Dillard (6’4″, 308), a redshirt sophomore, starts at center. The Gators also have a freshman starting at LG in Martez Ivey (6’5″, 311) and a sophomore LT in David Sharpe (6’6″, 355). It is an inexperienced group, and it shows. Florida is #89 in Adjusted Line Yards and #121 in Adjusted Sack Rate. The primary backup is freshman C/OG Tyler Jordan (6’4″, 292). They are better than Michigan’s 2013 group, but not by a great deal. Watching some of Florida’s film, Sharpe looks like a significant weak point, which is not surprising, considering his size. He is clunky and seems to telegraph plays with his stance, although Michigan does not have a great edge rusher to really mess with him in the passing game.

Advantage: Michigan

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29Dec 2015
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Self-Indulgent Post: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (spoilers!)

Am I the only one who things Kylo Ren looks badass?

Amidst all the holiday hoopla, I found some time to go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Monday. I went to a 2:30 p.m. showing, got there 45 minutes early, and still found myself at the end of a very long line. There were some stragglers who came in behind us, but it was a jam-packed auditorium after another 15 minutes. For some reason, there were a couple drunk guys next to me. They were entertaining, but being drunk by 1:45 p.m. on a Monday takes a special kind of dedication.

Hit the jump (only if you’re okay with SPOILERS). I have avoided all written reviews and discussion of the movie so I wouldn’t spoil it for myself, so I apologize if some of this material has been discussed ad nauseum by now.

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28Dec 2015
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Recruiting Update: December 28, 2015

Jake Raulerson

ADDED TO THE (NON-EXISTENT) BOARD: GRAD TRANSFERS
Texas center Jake Raulerson announced his plans to transfer. Although he’s just three years out of high school, he will have his degree and be a grad transfer, so he has two years of eligibility remaining with an opportunity to play immediately. He started five games in 2014, and he played in eight games in 2015 with no starts. He plans to take an official visit to Michigan on January 15. On Michigan’s end, the only loss this off-season is starting center Graham Glasgow. If Raulerson were to choose Michigan, he would mark the fourth grad transfer in Michigan history, joining QB Jake Rudock, safety Wayne Lyons, and punter Blake O’Neill.

ADDED TO THE BOARD: 2016
Miami (FL) Columbus defensive end Joshua Uche was offered by Michigan. He’s a 6’2″, 212 lb. prospect with offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Miami, and North Carolina, among others. He’s a 247 Composite 3-star, the #47 weakside end, and #707 overall. As a senior in 2015, he made 50 tackles, 14 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 3 pass breakups. Uche is being recruited by new defensive coordinator Don Brown, and he has an opening for an official visit during the weekend of January 15. Michigan is also recruited Uche’s 2017 teammate, cornerback Trajan Bandy.

Hit the jump for a prospect who committed elsewhere and some random bits.

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