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7Sep 2018
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Preview: Michigan vs. Western Michigan

RUSHING OFFENSE vs. WMU RUSHING DEFENSE

Senior running back Karan Higdon (21 carries, 72 yards, 1 TD) dominated the carry count last week against Notre Dame; the only other running back to carry the ball was Chris Evans (2 carries, 1 yard). The offensive line’s blocking was okay against a solid Notre Dame front, but they weren’t getting to their second-level blocks and Higdon didn’t do the team many favors by missing a gaping hole and failing to break tackles. His longest carry went for 9 yards. Michigan’s line will likely remain the same as last week, meaning left tackle Jon Runyan, Jr. and right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty will still have something to prove. Western Michigan’s defensive line consists of light defensive ends (240 and 235 lbs.), a decent sized nose tackle (converted offensive lineman Wesley French, who’s 6’5″, 295), and a light 3-tech (Ralph Holley, who’s 6’2″, 270). Free safety A.J. Thomas led the team in tackles last week against spread-happy Syracuse, but junior linebacker Alex Grace (6’1″, 220) is the front seven’s most effective tackler. Syracuse allowed 334 rushing yards to the Orange last week.
Advantage: Michigan

Hit the jump for the rest of the preview.

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6Sep 2018
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2020 Recruiting Update: September 6, 2018

Fairfield (OH) Fairfield RB Jutahn McClain (image via Hudl)

ADDED TO THE BOARD: 2020

Henry Gray – CB – Miami (FL) Central: Gray is a 5’11”, 172 lb. prospect who committed to Miami back in March. He’s a 4-star, the #5 cornerback, and #56 overall. There’s no indication that he’s intending to flip at this point.

Jordan Johnson – WR – St. Louis (MO) DeSmet: Johnson is a 6’2″, 180 lb. prospect with offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Notre Dame, and Ohio State, among others. He’s a 4-star, the #8 wide receiver, and #50 overall.

Jutahn McClain – RB – Fairfield (OH) Fairfield: McClain is a 5’10”, 175-pounder with offers from Kentucky, Louisville, and Maryland, among others. He’s a 247 Sports 3-star, the #5 all-purpose back, and #649 overall. He scored 7 touchdowns in the season opener two weeks ago and is a teammate of 2019 Michigan tight end commit Erick All.

Hit the jump for several more 2020 updates.

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6Sep 2018
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What I’ve Been Reading: The Road to Ann Arbor

There aren’t a ton of perks to being the author of Touch the Banner, but one of them is the occasional chance to get an advance copy of a Michigan-related book. One of those chances popped up a couple weeks ago when I received a copy of Tom VanHaaren’s new (and first!) book: The Road to Ann Arbor, which was released yesterday on September 4.

The Road to Ann Arbor is a piece separated into chapters detailing the stories of how many Michigan greats (and some guys still making their mark) were recruited to Michigan. Each chapter is dedicated to a lone player, and many of them are from the pre-Rivals and pre-Scout eras. All-timers like Mark Messner, Desmond Howard, and Jarrett Irons lead all the way up to Rashan Gary and Aubrey Solomon.

If you’re reading this site, you’re probably pretty familiar with how recruiting works here in 2018. You see it develop on Twitter, you see the commitment videos, and you see players pick a hat at All-America bowls. In the days of yore, recruiting was done by sending out surveys (not requesting Hudl film) and sending handwritten letters (not trendy Photoshop edits). It’s funny and nostalgic to see how much times have changed, but the attitudes are the same among the players. Jarrett Irons, for example, knew he was a big-shot football player and had some demands for anybody recruiting him.

Among my favorite anecdotes are stories of Bo Schembechler, Chris Spielman, Mark Messner, and Desmond Howard. (Yes, I said Chris Spielman.) High school highlight films of those players aren’t widely available like they are now, so it’s fun to read about their high school exploits. For example, I wasn’t aware that Howard was a high school running back and safety before becoming a superstar wide receiver at Michigan.

Overall, The Road to Ann Arbor is just a good, fun piece of Michigan nostalgia. It’s uplifting to read stories about kids’ dreams coming true, especially from a time when football recruiting seemed more pure. It was about relationships and football, not necessarily TV deals, flashy uniforms, and making a big splash. And TomVH has a way of conveying Michigan stories without being too sappy. If you’re a fan of TTB, I think you’ll enjoy it.

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