2012 Season Countdown List

Tag: 2012 season countdown

30Aug 2012
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2012 Season Countdown List

Here’s the final list of the 2012 Season Countdown.  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading all 89(!) entries.  I succeeded in posting one each day for about the last three months, and now I’m going to have surgery for carpal tunnel.

1. Denard Robinson
2. Ricky Barnum
3. Taylor Lewan
4. Fitzgerald Toussaint
5. Jordan Kovacs
6. Craig Roh
7. William Campbell
8. Patrick Omameh
9. Blake Countess
10. Thomas Gordon
11. Michael Schofield
12. Jake Ryan
13. Roy Roundtree
14. Kenny Demens
15. Devin Gardner
16. J.T. Floyd
17. Jibreel Black
18. Thomas Rawls
19. Jeremy Gallon
20. Desmond Morgan
21. Stephen Hopkins
22. Brendan Gibbons
23. Vincent Smith
24. Brennen Beyer
25. Courtney Avery
26. Elliott Mealer
27. Brandon Moore
28. Cameron Gordon
29. Ondre Pipkins
30. Jerald Robinson
31. Joey Burzynski
32. Frank Clark
33. Jareth Glanda
34. Marvin Robinson
35. Brandin Hawthorne

36. Drew Dileo

37. Jeremy Jackson
38. Terrence Talbott (left team)
39. Richard Ash
40. Nathan Brink
41. Quinton Washington
42. Jack Miller
43. Keith Heitzman
44. Chris Bryant (out for season, broken tibia)
45. Kyle Kalis
46. Joe Bolden
47. Jehu Chesson
48. Raymon Taylor
49. Russell Bellomy
50. Josh Furman
51. Will Hagerup
52. Matt Wile
53. Devin Funchess
54. Delonte Hollowell
55. Amara Darboh
56. Jarrod Wilson
57. Dennis Norfleet
58. A.J. Williams
59. Justice Hayes
60. Antonio Poole
61. Mario Ojemudia
62. James Ross
63. Ricardo Miller
64. Mike Kwiatkowski
65. Chris Wormley (out for season, torn ACL)
66. Royce Jenkins-Stone
67. Ben Braden
68. Mike Jones
69. Joe Kerridge
70. Erik Magnuson
71. Kenny Wilkins
72. Matt Godin
73. Terry Richardson
74. Erik Gunderson
75. Jordan Paskorz
76. Jeremy Clark
77. Kaleb Ringer (out for season, knee surgery)
78. Tamani Carter (left team)
79. Floyd Simmons
80. Graham Glasgow
81. Allen Gant
82. Tom Strobel
83. Chris Eddins
84. Drake Johnson
85. Willie Henry
86. Sione Houma
87. Blake Bars
88. Jack Kennedy
89. Steve Wilson

29Aug 2012
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2012 Season Countdown: #1 Denard Robinson

Denard Robinson

 Name: Denard Robinson
Height: 6’0″
Weight: 197 lbs.
High school: Deerfield Beach (FL) Deerfield Beach
Position: Quarterback
Class: Senior
Jersey number: #16
Last year: I ranked Robinson #2 and said he would pass for 2,700 yards, rush for 900 yards, and score 28 total touchdowns; I also pegged him for All-Big Ten First Team.  He went 142/258 passing (55%) for 2,173 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions.  He also ran 221 times for 1,176 yards (5.3 yards per carry) and 16 touchdowns.

Last year I took some flak for ranking Robinson #2, placing him behind nose tackle Mike Martin.  Considering the defense’s turnaround and Martin’s extremely productive season (64 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks), I feel justified in having made that decision.  The offense was already good, but the defense needed to make some huge strides and Martin was a stud in the middle of that defense.

Meanwhile, it’s tough to say that Robinson needed to have a good season for Michigan to be a good team, because Robinson struggled at times.  His final numbers were very good in lots of areas (passing yardage, rushing yardage, touchdowns, wins, etc.), but he struggled passing the ball early in the season.  Those final numbers included 15 interceptions and a completion percentage of 55%.  Out of the top 100 passers in the FBS last season, he tied for the sixth-most interceptions and had the eighth-worst completion percentage.  Especially early in the season, he struggled with the transition to a pro-style offense and looked very uncomfortable dropping back from under center.

In the second half of the year, however, offensive coordinator Al Borges started to get a better feel for Robinson’s skills and seemed to simplify the offense for him.  Borges seemed to run more shotgun plays while still using multiple tight ends, and Robinson seemed to have a little more consistency and a higher comfort level in the pocket.  And while he wasn’t quite as explosive in the running game, he still was the second-best rushing quarterback in yards per game (behind Chandler Harnish from Northern Illinois).  He had quite possibly the best performance of his career against Ohio State in November when he was 14/17 passing for 167 yards and 3 touchdowns to go along with 26 carries for 170 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground.  His raw numbers were arguably better against teams like Notre Dame and UConn in 2010, but his game management in putting up 40 points and 5 touchdowns against the Buckeyes was outstanding.

This year Robinson is clearly the most important player on the team.  The new starters along the defensive line mean that the defense as a whole might take a step back, and that means the offense needs to take a step forward for Michigan to maintain its trajectory toward an elite level.  The good thing is that Borges understands him better now and should start the season with better offensive play calls.  The bad thing is that Robinson lost his favorite target in Junior Hemingway, a solid guy in Martavious Odoms, and a pretty good tight end in Kevin Koger.  Those players are being replaced by Roy Roundtree (likely a step down from Hemingway), Drew Dileo (a step down from Odoms), and a combination of Brandon Moore/Devin Funchess (Moore is a step down, while Funchess might provide a spark in the passing game).  He does have a couple wild cards in Jeremy Jackson, who could catch some of those jump balls downfield but doesn’t have much speed, and backup quarterback/part-time receiver Devin Gardner, who has oodles of talent but zero experience at wide receiver.

So.  What happens in 2012?  Robinson should cut down on those interceptions because he understands the offense better, even though he’ll still probably toss up some jump balls that come down in the hands of guys wearing different-colored jerseys.  He will still be fast and run the ball a lot.  Along with Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, Robinson is one of two preseason Big Ten favorites to enter the Heisman race.  He will probably throw too many picks and lose too many games to win the award, but he’s clearly the biggest star quarterback in the conference.  Very good things will happen.  Great things probably won’t.  There’s probably no national championship or Heisman coming this season, but Robinson will solidify himself as an all-time Wolverine great, if he hasn’t done so already.

And if Robinson gets hurt for any significant portion of the season, the whole thing goes plop.  Gardner has a lot of talent but makes questionable decisions, and #3 quarterback Russell Bellomy looks like he’s a year or two away from being a Big Ten-quality starter.

Prediction: Starting quarterback; 2,400 yards passing; 1,200 yards rushing; 34 total touchdowns, 10 interceptions; First Team All-Big Ten; Second Team All-American; Heisman finalist

28Aug 2012
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2012 Season Countdown: #2 Ricky Barnum

Ricky Barnum

Name: Ricky Barnum
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 296 lbs.
High school: Lakeland (FL) Lake Gibson
Position: Center
Class: Redshirt senior
Jersey number: #52
Last year: I ranked Barnum #16 and said he would be the starting left guard. He started three games at left guard before suffering an ankle injury.

Much like the recently profiled Fitzgerald Toussaint, Ricky Barnum has consistently been injured throughout his career.  Of course, Toussaint stayed mostly healthy last season and had a stellar season.  Despite being a fifth year senior, Barnum has played in just nine career games – two in 2009, three in 2010, and four in 2011.  He started three games last year, but he suffered an ankle injury that saw him replaced by Michael Schofield, who never relinquished the job.  Barnum has never been outstanding, but the coaches like him and he’s a solid player.

Barnum has practiced snapping the ball throughout his college career after playing center in high school; but he has never taken a snap in college.  However, with the departure of Rimington Award winner David Molk and no clear heir, the coaches asked Barnum to move from left guard to center.  He’s fairly short and quick for a lineman, so both of those traits bode well.  Unfortunately, if recent trends continue, he’ll only be healthy enough to play in five games this season.  His backups are even less experienced.  First off the bench will likely be redshirt freshman Jack Miller, who is just 6’4″ and 288 lbs., so he’s a little slight.  Other options at center include former walk-on Joey Burzynski, who is also competing for the left guard position; and redshirt senior Elliott Mealer, who has been starting at left guard in recent days.  Both have played center in practice at times over their careers.  I hesitated to place Barnum this high on the list, but Michigan fans have seen what happens when the starting center leaves the game, most recently in the first series of the Sugar Bowl when Rocko Khoury replaced Molk.  Barnum can be an adequate player this season, but if/when he gets injured, it could seriously hamper the timing and effectiveness of Michigan’s offense.

Prediction: Starting center

27Aug 2012
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2012 Season Countdown: #3 Taylor Lewan

Taylor Lewan (#77)

Name: Taylor Lewan
Height: 6’8″
Weight: 309 lbs.
High school: Scottsdale (AZ) Chaparral
Position: Offensive tackle
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #77
Last year: I ranked Lewan #4 and said he would be All-Big Ten Second Team.  He started all thirteen games and was named All-Big Ten Second Team by the coaches.

Lewan had an excellent season in 2011.  He started every game at left tackle as a sophomore after starting nine games there as a freshman.  He has continued to improve in almost every facet of the game, including leadership and cutting down on the mental errors.  Last year he was one of two stellar offensive linemen on the team, along with David Molk (pictured above), and those two paved the way for two 1,000-yard rushers in Denard Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint.  Lewan also has the quick feet and long arms that programs covet for their left tackles.

Along with running back Toussaint, Lewan will be one to watch as a potential early entrant to the NFL Draft.  Now approaching 310 lbs. and with his resume and steady improvement, there’s good reason to believe that this could be his last season in Ann Arbor.  Size has been a little bit of a question mark because he was very thin coming out of high school, but he has consistently put on weight from season to season and now has the bulk to approach the elite level of college tackles.  I try to remain objective when it comes to Michigan players, but he looks like a future first round draft pick and a potential franchise left tackle.  I can’t picture NFL teams passing up on a guy like him; or perhaps I should say, you don’t see guys like this get drafted in the second or third round.  Some people might want Lewan higher on this list, but he has a capable backup . . . in the form of starting right tackle Michael Schofield.  If Lewan were to get injured, Schofield would slide over to replace him; a right tackle is easier to replace than a left.  But as long as Michigan State’s William Gholston doesn’t go all Ronda Rousey on Lewan, then hopefully he can stay on the field and protect Robinson’s blind side.

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

26Aug 2012
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2012 Season Countdown: #4 Fitzgerald Toussaint

Fitzgerald Toussaint

 Name: Fitzgerald Toussaint
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 202 lbs.
High school: Youngstown (OH) Liberty
Position: Running back
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #28
Last year: I ranked Toussaint #53 and said he would be a backup running back and kick returner.  He started eleven games at tailback and had 187 carries for 1,041 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and 9 touchdowns.  He also caught 6 passes for 28 yards (4.7 yards per catch) and 1 touchdown.

If I awarded an annual Underranked Player of the Year trophy, it would go to Fitzgerald Toussaint.  It wasn’t that I was down on Toussaint’s abilities, but I didn’t expect him to stay healthy.  There always seem to be a couple players who suffer from perpetual injuries, and he was one up to that point.  Toussaint took over the starting running back job and rushed for 120+ yards in four out of the last six games.  His best performance came against Illinois, when he rushed 27 times for 192 yards and a touchdown.  He’s got the best of both worlds, because he’s part Jitterbug and part Mini-Plow; he can make you miss and gain some tough yards.

Naturally, once he rid himself of the injury bug, he caught the Grady-Stonum bug and got picked up by the police for driving under the influence of things that should not have been influencing him.  It’s unclear how soon he will be cleared to play, although he missed some practice time and most people (including me) think he should miss at least the first half of the opener against Alabama, if not more.  The loss of Toussaint for the Alabama game could potentially be disastrous.  The coaches like Thomas Rawls and so do a lot of analysts and fans, but he only has 13 carries under his belt and does not have the elusiveness of Toussaint.  Rawls is going to have to break tackles that Toussaint would likely avoid, and that’s going to slow down the offense.  Whenever #28 returns to action, he should pick up where he left off and have another great performance this season.  A missed start or two could cost him some end-of-season accolades within the Big Ten, and the presence of guys like Montee Ball, Rex Burkhead, and Le’Veon Bell in the conference could drop him to All-Big Ten Honorable Mention or even off the list altogether.

Prediction: Starting running back (whenever he returns); 180 carries, 1020 yards, 10 touchdowns

Poll results: Ricky Barnum got 69% of the vote for the #3 spot, while Toussaint got 30%.