Michigan at UConn Awards

Tag: Akron

23Sep 2013
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Michigan at UConn Awards

I like this Willie Henry kid.

Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Chris Bryant. Michigan needs to figure out what kind of team they are. Are they a zone team or are they a power/iso team? Personally, I believe their personnel is better suited for a power/iso scheme, which means redshirt sophomore center Jack Miller’s quickness isn’t quite as valuable. If redshirt freshman left guard Graham Glasgow has the ability to snap and make line calls, I would like to see him bump over to center and let redshirt sophomore Bryant step in at left guard. I really believe that power blocks with All-American left tackle Taylor Lewan and Bryant could be deadly, and the poor blocking of the tight ends would be somewhat mitigated by that double-team and the ease of reading the block. Power and iso are very simple blocking schemes.

Let’s see less of this guy on offense . . . Devin Funchess as a blocking tight end. I think Funchess can play H-back, in the slot, run routes, etc. But his blocking at the point of attack, especially the zone stretch, hangs running back Fitzgerald Toussaint out to dry too often. Michigan needs to find a second blocking tight end, whether it’s redshirt junior Jordan Paskorz, freshman Jake Butt, or a walk-on.

Let’s see more of this guy on defense . . . Willie Henry. The redshirt freshman defensive tackle has played pretty well the past two games, and I’m hoping he’s in the process of locking down the backup 3-tech spot. He was my pick for this “award” last week, and I liked what I saw.

Let’s see less of this guy on defense . . . nobody. I thought the defensive rotation was pretty solid. No complaints here.

Play of the game . . . Desmond Morgan’s one-handed interception. When Michigan was trying to ignite a comeback win, they needed a big play on defense. UConn quarterback Chandler Whitmer tried to throw the ball on a line to a receiver on a post, but Morgan got to his drop, leaped up, and reeled in the pass with his right hand. He then tucked the ball in, showed some decent open-field running ability, and brought the ball back 29 yards to the Huskies’ 12-yard line.

MVP of the game . . . Fitzgerald Toussaint. Toussaint was maligned last week for his game against Akron, but there shouldn’t be the same kinds of comments this time. Nobody had a stellar game, but Toussaint had a 35-yard touchdown on an option pitch and a 12-yard zone stretch touchdown. He finished the night with 24 carries for 120 yards and 2 touchdowns, plus 1 reception for 7 yards.

16Sep 2013
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Michigan vs. Akron Awards

Jehu Chesson

Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Chris Bryant. If Michigan wants to run zone stretch, then perhaps Bryant isn’t the guy. But I do think he’s more powerful than Graham Glasgow, giving the team a bigger advantage on the power runs. And pass protection could afford to be improved at either guard position; both Glasgow and Kyle Kalis get confused too easily.

Let’s see less of this guy on offense . . . Jeremy Jackson. In the past two seasons, I have seen a couple interceptions thrown at least partly because Jackson is so slow and defensive backs can bait quarterbacks into thinking he’s open. On Saturday, Jackson was crossing toward the right sideline in the endzone, and Gardner tried to hit him on the run; Jackson was easily undercut by an Akron defensive back. I don’t mind seeing Jackson on running downs, but Michigan has numerous more athletic players for the passing game. Even if Michigan has to burn the redshirt of someone like Da’Mario Jones, I think Jackson’s playing time should diminish.

Let’s see more of this guy on defense . . . Willie Henry. Henry played more against Akron than any other team this year, and he acquitted himself pretty well. He’s built low to the ground and very stout, and he’s capable of creating penetration on running downs that I just don’t see from the other 3-tech rotation players. From what I saw on Saturday, I might even suggest Henry as the starter over Jibreel Black. Black is a better pass rusher but often a liability against the run because he’s so undersized.

Let’s see less of this guy on defense . . . Chris Wormley. Maybe it’s the ACL or his age or lack of experience or whatever, but every time I see Wormley on the field, he’s just not doing anything productive. He’s not powerful enough to bull rush guys, and he’s not quick enough to run around them. The 3-tech/5-tech rotation should consist of some combination of Keith Heitzmann, Black, Henry, and Matt Godin, with guys like Wormley and Ryan Glasgow playing only when absolutely necessary.

Play of the game . . . Devin Gardner to Jehu Chesson for a 33-yard touchdown. There weren’t many plays that stood out a great deal – no sacks, the interceptions weren’t spectacular, Jeremy Gallon didn’t make a highlight-reel grab for once, etc. I strongly considered Gardner’s 48-yard touchdown pass to Devin Funchess, which was perhaps more impressive but not quite as clutch. Michigan was scuffling throughout the game, and it showed no signs of going away. Chesson grabbed a short pass over the middle, shucked a guy, sprinted toward the sideline, and ran through a [piss poor] tackle attempt by an Akron defensive end before zipping into the endzone. That put Michigan up 21-10 in the third quarter. Obviously, the Wolverines continued to struggle, but the speed of Chesson showed me that he could do some big things before he leaves Ann Arbor.

MVP of the game . . . Fitzgerald Toussaint. Gardner put up 248 passing yards and 103 rushing yards, but he also turned over the ball four times. Toussaint looked like the running back of old on his way to 19 carries for 71 yards and 1 touchdown, along with 1 reception for 27 yards. His numbers would have been better if a couple runs wouldn’t have been called back for holding (probably closer to 21 carries for 120 yards). One thing I have also noticed with Toussaint is an improvement in pass protection. He did noticeably whiff on a blitzing linebacker, but he’s much more physical than he used to be.

15Sep 2013
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Michigan 28, Akron 24

Devin Gardner

A win is a win. A hundred years from now, nobody will remember this day. So there’s that. Otherwise, this was ugly. Good teams struggle sometimes. Is Michigan a good team? I think they’re pretty good. There’s still hope that this season will end magically, but let’s be honest – with a questionable interior line and wide receivers, an injury to the best defensive player, and no real stars on defense, perhaps Michigan fans should re-calibrate. That’s not say that things like this are okay, but poop happens.

The list of people who need to step up is long. I feel like this post could turn into a long list of complaining, but I’m going to try to make it brief:

  • Devin Gardner. Gardner (16/30, 248 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 1 fumble lost; 10 carries, 103 yards, 1 touchdown) was forcing throws all day long. Even some of his early completions were hotly contested. He ran the ball well, but he seems overconfident in the abilities of himself and his receivers, as if every one of his throws should be completed just because their helmets have wings.
  • Graham Glasgow, Jack Miller, Kyle Kalis, and Michael Schofield. Glasgow and Miller are getting physically overpowered by guys who aren’t 5-star Notre Dame recruits, and Glasgow is making some poor blocking reads in the run game. Glasgow and Kalis look lost out there against twist stunts, and even the redshirt senior Schofield had some whiffs.
  • Joe Bolden. I used to be on the Joe Bolden bandwagon by suggesting he’s a starter-quality inside linebacker, but I’m not sure if that’s true. I don’t think it’s an indictment of his entire career, because it’s still early in his true sophomore year. However, I think it’s clear that James Ross III and Desmond Morgan are significantly ahead of Bolden, who struggles in pass coverage and is inconsistent stopping the run.
  • Raymon Taylor. Taylor gets picked on quite a bit, and I don’t see him responding in terms of his coverage. He’s a feisty player and a decent tackler, but teams throw on him short and deep.
  • Matt Wile. The punter should be Will Hagerup, of course, but Hagerup likes to get himself suspended. Instead, Wile is out there, and he’s been inconsistent. Yesterday included 21- and 22-yard shanks. On four punts, he averaged just 33 yards/attempt.
  • Dennis Norfleet. Norfleet still overestimates his strength. Sometimes he cuts upfield into traffic when he could run laterally for another step or two and outrun the defender. Normally, I wouldn’t promote running laterally. However, Norfleet is a space player, and he’s put in space on special teams and by Al Borges’s play calls; he has room to run, but he thinks he’s still in high school where he could run through some tackles. Plus Norfleet still takes too many chances on punt returns.
Good for Akron. Amidst all this, I feel like I’ve neglected to mention Akron’s hard play and their game plan. If I’m a MAC opponent, I’m going to beat pressure and the soft defense by throwing quick slants, hitches, etc. and hope I can keep the chains moving. They also capitalized on some deep throws, which you have to take once in a while. Defensively, I thought Akron did a good job of causing trouble for Michigan’s interior line with stunts and disguising some coverages.

By the way, Akron maybe should have won. Thomas Gordon was beaten on the final play of the game. Akron receiver Zach D’Orazio tried to pull a version of the Drew Dileo touchdown against Notre Dame. Fortunately, Michigan put pressure on quarterback Kyle Pohl, who overthrew the ball by a foot or two. D’Orazio was begging for pass interference, but that seemed desperate. Hell, Gordon probably should  have grabbed D’Orazio to potentially save the game, but there was barely any contact. If Pohl had a fraction of a second longer to wait, we all would have been very sad.

On the plus side. I like that Al Borges and Devin Gardner decided to involve Jehu Chesson, who looks like he might have game-changing speed at some point. In the open field, that kid is going to be tough to catch. He burned some people on punt coverage, caught 1 pass and broke some tackles for a 33-yard touchdown, had an end-around for 2 yards, and returned 1 kickoff for 19 yards and showed a nice burst. I also liked what I saw from defensive tackle Willie Henry, who got some penetration and Jarrod Wilson, who seems to be moving in the right direction toward being a solid safety. Those are some up-and-comers. Fitzgerald Toussaint had 19 carries for 71 yards and 1 touchdown, but a couple nice runs were called back for holding; he also has improved his pass protection.

What it means for UConn. The Huskies are 0-2 after losing 33-18 to Towson and then 32-21 to Maryland. Despite the record, Michigan should have learned from the Akron game that they can’t take anyone lightly. The game will be at 8:00 p.m. next Saturday. If Michigan comes out with another lackluster performance, then I’ll be greatly concerned. If the Wolverines win by 25 points, then maybe this was just a blip on the radar.

13Sep 2013
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Preview: Michigan vs. Akron

Rush Offense vs. Akron Rush Defense
Michigan running backs managed just 71 yards on 24 carries against Notre Dame last week, which wasn’t very impressive. But Notre Dame has a very good defensive line, so that was somewhat expected. The majority of Michigan’s rushing yards came from quarterback Devin Gardner, who had 82 yards altogether. Starting running back Fitzgerald Toussaint looks like his quickness and cutting ability have returned, and his vision was a little better from week one to week two. Primary backup Derrick Green had just 1 carry for 1 yard last week, although he led the team with 58 yards on the ground against Central Michigan in the opener. Up front the starters will likely remain the same for Michigan, although guards Graham Glasgow and Kyle Kalis struggled last week. Meanwhile, Akron allowed 187 yards on 40 non-quarterback carries against FCS team James Madison, which averages out to about 4.7 yards/carry. Defensive ends Nordly Capi and C.J. James are both 6’3″, 250 lbs. and defensive tackles Nico Caponi and Cody Grice average 280 lbs. The linebackers are similarly undersized (compared to the Big Ten) at an average of 6’0″, 221 lbs. If Michigan can’t run the ball against the Zips, the Wolverines are in trouble down the road.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Offense vs. Akron Pass Defense
Quarterback Gardner and wideout Jeremy Gallon put on a clinic against Notre Dame last week, the latter going for 8 catches, 184 yards, and 3 touchdowns. While there are no other outstanding receivers for Michigan, Gardner can spread the ball out to Toussaint, tight end Devin Funchess, slot receivers Drew Dileo and Dennis Norfleet, and wideouts Jeremy Jackson, Joe Reynolds, and Jehu Chesson. Offensive coordinator Al Borges likes to use play action and bootlegs to suck up linebackers, open up the middle of the field, and run slow-developing routes. In week one, Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles completed 18/24 passes for 314 yards and 3 touchdowns; JMU also went for 310 yards and 3 touchdowns, although they threw one pick. In the defensive backfield, the Zips start seniors at Rover and both cornerback positions, while the free safety is 5’9″, 187 lb. junior Johnny Robinson; they combined for zero interceptions in 2012, and just one this year from rover Anthony Holmes. If Michigan isn’t satisfied with just running on the Zips, Gardner should be able to find plenty of holes in the defense.
Advantage: Michigan

Rush Defense vs. Akron Rush Offense
The offensive line for Akron has decent size with senior left tackle Jarrod Pughsley (6’5″, 313 lbs.), Florida State transfer left guard Henry Orelus (6’2″, 297 lbs.), center Travis Switzer (6’2″, 296 lbs.), right guard Dylan Brumbaugh (6’5″, 310 lbs.), and Pitt transfer right tackle Zenel Demhasaj (6’6″, 331 lbs.). Starting running back Jawon Chisholm (6’1″, 206 lbs.) averaged 5.3 yards/carry last year when he went for 953 yards and 5 touchdowns; this year, however, he has just 22 carries for 97 yards, including a 55-yarder. If you do the math, that’s 21 carries for 42 yards, aside from the lone long run. Backup running back D.J. Jones (5’8″, 191 lbs.) is the little, quick bugger who comes in and has 7 carries for 62 yards on the year. Michigan has allowed just 162 yards rushing in two games, although that takes into account a few sacks of Central Michigan’s quarterbacks in week one. The Fighting Irish had success running up the middle out of the pistol last week, but Akron’s offensive line is smaller and less powerful. The Zips like to work from shotgun and the pistol almost exclusively, but I expect the defensive linemen to have big days in stopping the run. For some reason, I think this will be Keith Heitzman’s breakout game.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Defense vs. Akron Pass Offense
Sophomore Kyle Pohl (6’3″, 213 lbs.) is Akron’s starting quarterback and has actually put up okay numbers. So far on the year, Pohl is 30/43 passing (70%) for 241 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Freshman slot receiver Fransohn Bickley (5’6″, 138 lbs., not a typo) leads the team with 6 receptions, totaling 61 yards. He’s followed by an array of average receivers with 3-5 catches each. There are a couple tall guys (Andrew Pratt and Jerrod Dillard are 6’5″), but generally, it’s an unimposing crew. Meanwhile, the offensive line allowed 4 sacks to JMU last week. The Wolverines have an improving pass rush with 5 sacks so far (led by SAM linebackers Cam Gordon and Brennen Beyer with 2 each), and cornerback Blake Countess made 2 interceptions last week against the Fighting Irish. Michigan has a habit of playing back a little bit to prevent the big play, and they are capable of allowing short completions; Central Michigan tried that tactic to stay on schedule, but their quarterbacks were a notch below Akron’s. I expect Akron to try to hit some short passes and then try a couple deep throws, altogether resulting in a couple more picks for Michigan’s secondary.
Advantage: Michigan

Roster Notes

  • Former Ohio State Buckeye (and Michigan offeree) Se’von Pittman is now a redshirt freshman on the Zips’ roster.
  • Former Ohio State Buckeye signee Jamel Turner is a redshirt sophomore linebacker for the Zips.
  • Players from the state of Michigan include WR Jerrod Dillard (Adrian), RB Bryan Green (Farmington), and DT Keontae Hollis (Pontiac).
  • Former Florida State and NFL cornerback Terrell Buckley is Akron’s cornerbacks coach. Buckley had a big game against Michigan in the Elvis Grbac years, taking back a pick 40 yards for a touchdown when #1 FSU beat #3 Michigan.
  • Akron’s Assistant Director of Football Operations, Mark Ouimet, previously held a job in Michigan’s operations department.
  • Akron’s Head Coach of Strength and Conditioning for Football, Dan Webb, worked as an intern and assistant strength and conditioning coach at Michigan from 2008-10 under Mike Barwis.

  • Keith Heitzman has his first significant production with a few tackles and a sack.
  • Michigan grabs 3 interceptions, including one for Jarrod Wilson, one for Countess or Taylor, and another for Channing Stribling
  • Now that the pistol’s out of the bag for Michigan, Toussaint and the other running backs have a field day with the zone stretch
  • Shane Morris throws his first touchdown pass
  • Michigan 45, Akron 6