Explanation of the Countdown

Tag: 2009 Season Countdown

16Jul 2010
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Explanation of the Countdown

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Brandon Graham was Michigan’s MVP last year.

As I started the 2010 Season Countdown, I assumed (wrongly) that people would remember the series from last year. But after fielding several questions on the topic, I realized that . . . well . . . nobody really read my blog last year. This still isn’t an extremely popular destination, but hey, 1,700+ hits for a full-time teacher and coach isn’t bad.

On to the explanation . . .

The countdown is designed to highlight each player and offer some opinions and analysis on each one. They are listed in order of “Least Important” to “Most Important” for the 2010 season. In other words, Christian Pace is at the bottom of the list because he’s the most likely to redshirt. Therefore, his impact on Michigan’s 2010 performance will be almost nil.

Last year’s 2009 Season Countdown had the following players in the top five:

1. Brandon Graham
2. Tate Forcier
3. Donovan Warren
4. Obi Ezeh
5. Brandon Minor

Now imagine if Brandon Graham had been lost to injury – Michigan would have lost 10.5 sacks and its defensive leader, and perhaps former walk-on Will Heininger would have drawn into the lineup. More likely, Ryan Van Bergen would have moved to defensive end full-time and Renaldo Sagesse, Greg Banks, or Will Campbell would have played 3-tech defensive tackle. Yeah . . . trading in Brandon Graham for Renaldo Sagesse – albeit a serviceable player – scares me, too.

Think about this: if Tate Forcier had been lost to injury and Denard Robinson had made the same number of passing attempts (281), Robinson’s 12% interception rate would have translated to approximately thirty-three (33!) interceptions. Michigan fans would have been clamoring for Nick Sheridan.

Without Warren (and Boubacar Cissoko, who got booted off the team), imagine potentially having J.T. Floyd and Teric Jones as your starting corners. Yikes!

It turns out, Obi Ezeh was injured in 2009, which partly caused him to have his worst season as a starter. In his stead, Michigan played redshirt sophomore, 206 lb. Kevin Leach.

I probably overestimated Brandon Minor’s importance to the team, since there were other running backs to pick up the slack. I still maintain that Minor was Michigan’s best back for the past two seasons, but the drop-off between Minor and Carlos Brown isn’t nearly as significant as, say, Brandon Graham to Will Heininger or from Forcier’s 13 interceptions to Robinson’s estimated 33 picks.

So I’m presenting the 2010 Season Countdown. On average, one player will be revealed each day until the beginning of the season, and the #1 guy is – in my estimation – the most important player for Michigan’s success this coming season.

6Jul 2010
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2010 Countdown: #59 Jeremy Gallon

Name: Jeremy Gallon
Height: 5’8″
Weight: 171 lbs.
High school: Apopka High School in Apopka, FL
Position: Slot receiver
Class: Redshirt freshman
Jersey number: #10
Last Year: I ranked Gallon #52 and suggested he’d help out on returns. He redshirted.

Gallon, a high school single-wing quarterback, came to Michigan with a lot of hype but was reportedly out of shape as a freshman. He’s an excellent athlete and a strong, slippery runner. But he’s also somewhat new to the job of running routes and catching the ball, having been almost exclusively a ballcarrier in high school.

Gallon is now a member of perhaps the strongest, deepest position on the team – slot receiver. Starters Martavious Odoms and Roy Roundtree return, and Kelvin Grady contributed 10 receptions; Terrence Robinson will also be vying for playing time after playing sparingly as a redshirt freshman. With all of that depth, one backup is almost indistinguishable from another. While I think Gallon will be a very good player before all is said and done, he doesn’t figure to earn a ton of playing time in 2010. Once again, his best opportunity to see the field will be returning kicks and punts. But it remains to be seen how big of a need that will be, since Darryl Stonum set a record for kick return yardage in 2009. Gallon will likely play some role in returning punts and kickoffs, but that contribution may be minimal.

Prediction for 2010: Part-time returner, spot duty at slot receiver

4Jul 2010
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2010 Countdown: #61 Quinton Washington

Name: Quinton Washington
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 307 lbs.
High school: Timberland High School in St. Stephen, SC
Position: Offensive guard
Class: Redshirt freshman
Jersey number: #76
Last year: I ranked him #80 and said he’d redshirt. He redshirted.

Washington is a mammoth offensive guard, weighing more than all but two of his teammates – nose tackle Will Campbell (324 lbs.) and fellow guard Elliott Mealer (310). As evidence that Rich Rodriguez is embracing larger offensive linemen, there are now five 300-pounders; there were only two in 2009. With several guards ahead of him on the depth chart last season, Washington’s services weren’t needed . . .

. . . and they probably won’t be needed again this year. David Moosman was the only guard to graduate in 2009. Steve Schilling returns at left guard, and last year’s part-time starters at right guard (Patrick Omameh and Mark Huyge) also return. Mealer, Ricky Barnum, and part-time 2008 starter John Ferrara also return. There have also been reports from practice that Washington has been developing slowly. That’s not a concern at this point, considering that he’s only one year removed from high school. But Michigan fans shouldn’t be expecting to see Washington on the field much this season. Perhaps he can push for the guard position that Schilling will be vacating after this season.

3Jul 2010
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2010 Countdown: #63 Steve Watson

Name: Steve Watson
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 257 lbs.
High school: Mullen High School in Cherry Hills Village, CO
Position: Defensive end
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #81
Last year: I ranked Watson #64 and said he’d contribute on special teams and see spot duty on defense. He was mainly a special teams player and made 5 tackles.

Having been buried on the depth chart behind Kevin Koger, Martell Webb, and Brandon Moore, Watson switched to defense during the spring of 2009. Greg Robinson was a new defensive coordinator then and needed a few players to play the defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid role that was eventually locked down by freshman Craig Roh. Brandon Herron was Roh’s primary backup, and Watson settled for mop-up duty against teams like Delaware State and Illinois. He finished the season with 5 total tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 pass breakup as the third-string OLB. He was also a part-time contributor on special teams, but only against the B-list teams on Michigan’s roster.

For spring of 2010, Watson switched roles again to 5-tech defensive end. Assuming no further position changes, he’ll be playing exclusively with his hand on the ground. Despite the position change, Watson will probably still be no higher than third on the depth chart. The starter will likely be Ryan Van Bergen with Anthony Lalota as the primary backup. A freshman like Jibreel Black could also work himself into the mix. Buried on the depth chart at yet another position, I expect 2010 to be Watson’s final campaign as a Wolverine. He probably won’t be offered a fifth year of eligibility by the coaching staff.

Prediction for 2010: Special teams contributor, spot duty on defense

2Jul 2010
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2010 Countdown: #65 Isaiah Bell

Name: Isaiah Bell
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 237 lbs.
High school: Liberty High School in Youngstown, OH
Position: Middle linebacker
Class: Redshirt freshman
Jersey number: #26
Last year: I ranked him #75 and said he would redshirt. Bell redshirted.

Bell is in his second year of the program and making an adjustment from playing high school safety to playing college inside linebacker. Up to this point, he hasn’t really made his mark on the team. Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton are the presumed starters at the inside linebacker positions, and J.B. Fitzgerald, Kenny Demens, and Mike Jones are scheduled to be the first ones off the bench.

I’m a little surprised that Bell was bumped to inside linebacker rather than Steve Brown’s hybrid role, but at 237 lbs., Bell has put on enough weight that the hybrid position would no longer be an option. In the pictures I have seen, Bell still looks a little bit soft, so I think he’s still got some work to do with his conditioning and nutrition habits. But I stand by my assessment from last year that Bell will be a good player in college – it just won’t be this year. Bell could be a contributor on special teams this year, and we might also see him at linebacker against teams like UMass or Bowling Green. Otherwise, I don’t expect to see #26 on the field much this year.

Prediction for 2010: Special teams action; limited linebacker reps