2011 Final Countdown

Tag: 2011 Season Countdown

31Aug 2011
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2011 Final Countdown

Hooray!  It’s finally over.  The countdown was a lot of fun to do, but it took a ton of time.  That’s 89 consecutive days of player profiles.  Now that football season has started, it took some serious devotion to churn out these last several profiles between practice, work, and plain old real life.  I hope you enjoyed it.  In order to celebrate, here’s a picture of a hot girl named Ari Brugh:
Ari Brugh
Here’s the list all in one place, so you can see where each player ranks and debate the placement if you’d like . . . and we’ll do it all over again next year.
  1. Mike Martin, DT
  2. Denard Robinson, QB
  3. Kenny Demens, LB
  4. Taylor Lewan, OT
  5. David Molk, C
  6. Kevin Koger, TE
  7. Patrick Omameh, OG
  8. Junior Hemingway, WR
  9. Troy Woolfolk, CB
  10. Ryan Van Bergen, DE
  11. Roy Roundtree, WR
  12. Carvin Johnson, S
  13. Jordan Kovacs, S
  14. Will Hagerup, P
  15. William Campbell, DT
  16. Ricky Barnum, OG
  17. Craig Roh, DE
  18. Martavious Odoms, WR
  19. Cameron Gordon, LB
  20. Mark Huyge, OT
  21. Drew Dileo, WR
  22. Courtney Avery, CB
  23. Jibreel Black, DE
  24. Michael Cox, RB
  25. Devin Gardner, QB
  26. Marell Evans, LB
  27. Jake Ryan, LB
  28. Matt Wile, K
  29. Stephen Hopkins, RB
  30. Michael Shaw, RB
  31. Marvin Robinson, S
  32. Quinton Washington, DT
  33. Mike Jones, LB
  34. John McColgan, FB
  35. Darryl Stonum, WR
  36. Thomas Gordon, S
  37. J.T. Floyd, CB
  38. Rocko Khoury, OG
  39. Tom Pomarico, LS
  40. Jerald Robinson, WR
  41. Je’Ron Stokes, WR
  42. Michael Schofield, OT
  43. Vincent Smith, RB
  44. Brandon Moore, TE
  45. Kelvin Grady, WR
  46. J.B. Fitzgerald, LB
  47. Richard Ash, DT
  48. Jeremy Jackson, WR
  49. Ricardo Miller, TE
  50. Seth Broekhuizen, K
  51. Jeremy Gallon, WR
  52. Josh Furman, S
  53. Fitzgerald Toussaint, RB
  54. Will Heininger, DE
  55. Steve Watson, TE
  56. Thomas Rawls, RB
  57. Ken Wilkins, DE
  58. Elliott Mealer, OG
  59. Blake Countess, CB
  60. Brandon Herron, LB
  61. Tony Anderson, CB
  62. Brandin Hawthorne, LB
  63. Terrence Robinson, WR
  64. Kellen Jones, LB
  65. Tamani Carter, S
  66. Raymon Taylor, CB
  67. Erik Gunderson, OT
  68. Greg Brown, CB
  69. Christian Pace, C/G
  70. Jared Van Slyke, S
  71. Terrence Talbott, CB
  72. Isaiah Bell, LB
  73. Antonio Poole, LB
  74. Terry Talbott, DT
  75. Jordan Paskorz, LB
  76. Brendan Gibbons, K
  77. Teric Jones, RB
  78. Desmond Morgan, LB
  79. Delonte Hollowell, CB
  80. Frank Clark, LB
  81. Brennen Beyer, DE
  82. Chris Barnett, TE
  83. Chris Bryant, OG
  84. Russell Bellomy, QB
  85. Chris Rock, DE
  86. Justice Hayes, RB
  87. Keith Heitzman, DE
  88. Tony Posada, OG
  89. Jack Miller, C
30Aug 2011
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2011 Countdown: #1 Mike Martin

Mike Martin

Name: Mike Martin
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 304 lbs.
High school: Catholic Central High School in Redford, MI
Position: Nose tackle
Class: Senior
Jersey number: #68
Last year: I ranked Martin #4 and said he would have 60 tackles and 4 sacks.  He had 37 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks.

As you can tell by my ranking of Martin, he has a chance to be a big-time player for Michigan this season.  Of course, if he struggles with injuries like he did last season, this defense could go down the tubes.  Martin started 12 out of 13 games last season, but he was hampered by ankle injuries for the majority of the season, spraining both of them at different times.  He still managed to put up decent numbers for a nose tackle and be named Second Team All-Big Ten, but it wasn’t quite the performance that most expected.  He had 51 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss back in 2009, so it was a step back for the then-junior.

Part of that can be attributed to the 3-3-5 that was ineptly installed by Rich Rodriguez and Greg Robinson.  The defense is designed so that eight men are in the box and any (or all) of them could rush the passer at any given point.  That would confuse offensive linemen and quarterbacks, thus freeing up any number of defenders to make plays.  Unfortunately for the Wolverines, Robinson blitzed only occasionally and allowed opposing offensive lines to devote at least two blockers to Martin on every play.  So despite having a defensive tackle who has been All-Big Ten worthy for the past two seasons, Michigan’s coaches have seen his sack totals remain steady at 2, 2, and last season . . . 2.5.  Meanwhile, Michigan’s sack totals have dropped steadily since 2006 from 43 to 33 to 29 to 22 to a low of 18 in 2010.  In other words, this team was getting almost 3.5 sacks a game five years ago . . . and only got 1.5 per game last season.  Remember when we all thought Ron English was a bad coordinator?

Anyway, Michigan finally has another coach (well, coaches) who understands the importance of creating havoc with the defensive line, and they plan to move their best lineman around to give him a chance to make plays.  In the spring and during August practices, Martin has been sliding all around the front seven, playing nose tackle, defensive tackle, defensive end, and outside linebacker.  There’s even a clip of him playing outside linebacker, picking off Denard Robinson, and taking it to the house.  This is good.  Not because Denard Robinson is throwing picks to 300-pound linemen, but because Michigan’s defensive coaches have the creativity and confidence to throw wrinkles at quarterbacks that they don’t expect.

Martin ranks this highly on the list because there’s nobody else on the team like him.  Aside from having a depleted defensive line from a numbers standpoint, the rest of Michigan’s defensive tackles are relatively stationary, with 319 lb. William Campbell, former offensive guard Quinton Washington, and redshirt freshman heavyweight Richard Ash.  When Martin went down in the Iowa game last season, his replacement, Adam Patterson, got pushed diagonally for about 10 yards while the Hawkeye running back ran in the opposite direction.  I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a Michigan defensive lineman get handled so easily.  With unproven linebackers and solid-but-unspectacular defensive backs, Michigan’s defensive line must  be stellar this season.  If they struggle to hold at the point of attack, bad things will happen.  After being increasingly beaten, battered, and embarrassed, this defense needs a shot of confidence.  Hopefully Martin can help with that.

Prediction: 50 tackles, 4.5 sacks; First Team All-Big Ten

29Aug 2011
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2011 Countdown: #2 Denard Robinson

Denard Robinson (#16) targets Roy Roundtree

Name: Denard Robinson
Height: 6’0″
Weight: 193 lbs.
High school: Deerfield Beach High School in Deerfield Beach, FL
Position: Quarterback
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #16
Last year: I ranked Robinson #5, said he would be the backup quarterback, and pegged him for 800 yards rushing, 900 yards passing, and 18 total touchdowns.  Boy, was I wrong.  He started every game, went 182/291 passing for 2,570 yards, and had 18 passing touchdowns with 11 interceptions.  He also rushed for 1,702 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Name a record and he set it, name an award committee and they voted him the winner.  Robinson set multiple Michigan records, including total yardage, and rushed for more yards than any quarterback in NCAA history.  He also was named team MVP, Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Big Ten MVP, All-American, my high school’s homecoming king, American Idol, and America’s Next Top Model.  It was a pretty good year.

Rather than trying to summarize what he did in words, just take a look at Robinson’s weekly box scores:

UConn: 19/22 passing, 186 yards, 1 touchdown; 29 carries, 197 yards, 1 touchdown
Notre Dame: 24/40 passing, 244 yards, 1 touchdown; 28 carries, 258 yards, 2 touchdowns
UMass: 10/14 passing, 241 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception; 17 carries, 104 yards, 1 touchdown
BGSU: 4/4 passing, 60 yards; 5 carries, 129 yards, 2 touchdowns
Indiana: 10/16 passing, 277 yards, 3 touchdowns; 19 carries, 217 yards, 2 touchdowns
MSU: 17/29 passing, 215 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions; 21 carries, 86 yards, 1 touchdown
Iowa: 13/18 passing, 96 yards, 1 touchdowns, 1 interception; 18 carries, 105 yards
PSU: 11/23 passing, 190 yards, 1 touchdown; 27 carries, 191 yards, 3 touchdowns
Illinois: 10/20 passing, 305 yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions; 19 carries, 62 yards
Purdue: 13/21 passing, 176 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions; 22 carries, 68 yards
Wisconsin: 16/25 passing, 239 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception; 22 carries, 121 yards, 2 touchdowns
Ohio State: 8/18 passing, 87 yards; 18 carries, 105 yards
Mississippi State: 27/41 passing, 254 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception; 11 carries, 59 yards

He had nine 100-yard rushing games and seven 200-yard passing games.  He averaged 6.6 yards per carry, which is an outstanding average when one considers that Michigan’s running backs were mostly average and rarely a threat to do anything but get injured.

The coaching change is bound to take away some of Robinson’s impressive stats.  Including yours truly, many people were concerned that giving that ball to a 6’0″, 190 lb. kid twenty times a game was a bad idea . . . especially when the season’s outcome not only relies on that kid’s legs, but also his shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, and fingers.  Robinson missed time in several games last season due to injury, and the new coaching staff won’t put him at risk that often.  That also means cutting into his rushing statistics, but with an improved defensive philosophy and – hopefully – a new commitment to getting production from the running backs, Robinson should be a little healthier throughout the year.

When Brady Hoke was hired back in January, he emphasized a commitment to the “power run” which is a play usually designed to be run from the I-formation.  I expect Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges to run a good deal of power from the I-formation, and that means a handful of other plays out of the “I” as well.  However, I think Hoke and Borges will realize that Robinson works best from the shotgun, where he can see the field a little more clearly and read running and passing lanes a little more easily.  After the first few games, the coaches ought to be able to figure out their “bread and butter” plays and adjust their offensive philosophy from there.  I expect to see several designed quarterback runs each game, along with a light dose of zone read option plays, bootlegs, and bubble screens.

Not to be Debbie Downer, but I doubt that the country will see such an explosive offense as last season.  Robinson will make his fair share of nice runs – designed or not – and his running ability will open up some big plays in the passing game, too.  But I still have my doubts about Robinson as a passer.  He’s not extremely accurate and he won’t be able to rely on coaches making playcall adjustments from the sideline in the same no-huddle manner as we’ve seen from Michigan, Northwestern, and Oregon in recent years.  Last season Robinson struggled to throw an accurate deep ball consistently, and even some of his short throws (bubble screens, hitches, etc.) were inaccurate.  There were several instances where guys like Darryl Stonum and Junior Hemingway openly showed their frustration when short passes were thrown at their feet and they couldn’t do what that pass aims to do, which is allow for yards after the catch.  It will no doubt be an exciting season for Robinson and Michigan fans, but I’m not expecting another Heisman campaign.

Prediction: 2,700 yards passing and 900 yards rushing, 28 total touchdowns; First Team All-Big Ten

28Aug 2011
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2011 Countdown: #3 Kenny Demens

Kenny Demens

Name: Kenny Demens
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 248 lbs.
High school: Detroit Country Day School in Oak Park, MI
Position: Middle linebacker
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #25
Last year: I ranked Demens #35 and said he’d be the backup MIKE.  He started the final seven games of the year and finished with 82 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and 1 pass breakup.

Demens was a pleasant surprise in 2010.  After much practice hype, he actually lived up to it . . . belatedly.  Despite a frustrating lack of production and progression from a returning starter in Obi Ezeh, Demens sat on the bench for the first several games and watched Ezeh give away all kinds of yardage.  He stepped into the starting lineup against Iowa in the seventh game of the season and never looked back, making 71 tackles in his seven starts (Ezeh had 42 tackles in his 7 starts).  He was a hard-hitting, run-stuffing tackling machine who made every Michigan fan giddy, unless it was a pass.  The 248 pounder, who has put on four lbs. since last season, seemed a little bit stiff and unaware in pass coverage, things which should improve with experience.

Demens will no longer have to battle an undeserving upperclassman for the starting middle linebacker job, which means he looks like the de facto starter at MIKE.  As a 4-3 middle linebacker with the weakside end and the strongside linebacker funneling running backs to the middle of the field, Demens should put up some excellent numbers this fall.  Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, previously of the Baltimore Ravens, had a Pro Bowl middle linebacker in the form of Ray Lewis.  If you take a look at measurements of both Demens and Lewis, both play the same position, both are 6’1″, and they’re within two pounds of each other (Lewis is 250).  Certainly I’m not saying that Demens is the second coming of Ray Lewis, but Demens flashed the ability to stop the run like the former Miami Hurricane by playing downhill and delivering a solid blow to the ballcarrier when he arrived.  For the first time in a few years, Wolverines fans have a reason to be optimistic about their middle linebacker.

Prediction: Starting middle linebacker; 100 tackles

27Aug 2011
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2011 Countdown: #4 Taylor Lewan

Taylor Lewan (#77) protects Denard Robinson
(image via AnnArbor.com)

Name: Taylor Lewan
Height: 6’8″
Weight: 302 lbs.
High school: Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, AZ
Position: Offensive tackle
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #77
Last year: I ranked Lewan #28 and said he would be a spot starter at left tackle.  He started 9 games at left tackle.

Lewan was one of the most exciting players to watch on the football field in 2010.  I had been anticipating his debut since he was recruited, but his slight frame (he was listed at only 283 lbs. last season) made it seem as if he was still a year or two away from being ready for Big Ten football.  When he got on the field, though, it was clear that he belonged.  For the first time in the Rich Rodriguez era, it seemed that an offensive tackle was on the field because he was good and not just because there weren’t any other options.  Between driving linemen and linebackers downfield, Lewan did struggle with false starts that occurred a bit too frequently; however, Lewan gave Michigan fans high hopes for what might be coming in the next few seasons.

Now that part-time starter Perry Dorrestein has graduated, Lewan’s importance to the team has increased dramatically.  The starter on the opposite side looks like it will be Mark Huyge, a serviceable but nondescript lineman.  After that the depth chart goes to redshirt sophomore Michael Schofield, who has barely played, and then a bunch of walk-ons.  With fragile superstar quarterback Denard Robinson setting up in the pocket, it’s imperative that Lewan and Co. keep him healthy.  Big #77 put on approximately 20 lbs. in the offseason and while he probably doesn’t have the name recognition or team profile to warrant many accolades this season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him contend for All-America honors in the years to come.

Prediction: Starting left tackle; Second Team All-Big Ten