Highlights: Michigan 59, Central Michigan 9

Tag: Central Michigan

2Sep 2013
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Michigan vs. Central Michigan Awards

Devin Gardner’s second rushing touchdown against Central Michigan (image via AnnArbor.com)

Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Derrick Green. Green is not a game changer at this point, and he does look a few pounds overweight. If he’s the listed 240 lbs. right now, I think he could afford to play at 225-230. But he did look faster than the guy who was #2 on the depth chart, Drake Johnson. Johnson sprained his knee and may have to miss some time, anyway, but Green looked to me like the second-best back on the roster and led the team in rushing yardage with 11 carries for 58 yards and 1 touchdown.

Let’s see less of this guy on offense . . . Graham Glasgow. I thought redshirt sophomore former walk-on left guard Glasgow was the weak link on the offensive line. He had two false starts and didn’t seem to get much push. Word was that redshirt sophomore Chris Bryant would have started if not for getting his knee drained last week, but when healthy, I think Bryant should be ahead of Glasgow.

Let’s see more of this guy on defense . . . Cameron Gordon. Gordon is the starting SAM linebacker while Jake Ryan is injured, and the former ended this game with 4 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 1 pass breakup. He should continue to start until Ryan returns, but once that happens, Greg Mattison needs to find a way to get both Ryan and Gordon on the field. Gordon is too good of an athlete and a playmaker to keep on the bench. If that means putting Frank Clark at strongside end, Ryan at weakside end, and Gordon at SAM on passing downs, so be it.

Let’s see less of this guy on defense . . . Josh Furman. Furman started at strong safety in place of the suspended Thomas Gordon, and while Furman did a fair job of keeping things in front of him, he’s just somewhat slow at reading plays. He showed some nice makeup speed on plays to the sideline in Cover 2, and he helped hunt down a running back near the sideline deep in Michigan’s territory to prevent a touchdown. But ultimately, Gordon is the better safety at this point, and he needs to be on the field first.

Play of the game . . . the punt block for a touchdown. At the end of Central Michigan’s first possession, Michigan overloaded CMU’s right side and went for the punt block. True freshman safety Dymonte Thomas exploded off the line, came around the corner, and made a textbook block by laying out for the ball and aiming right for the toe of the punter. Former walk-on wideout Joe Reynolds picked up the ball and took it 22 yards for a touchdown to start the scoring.

MVP of the game . . . Devin Gardner. Gardner finished 10/15 for 162 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions, plus 7 carries for 52 yards and 2 touchdowns. He wasn’t entirely focused early, which resulted in those two picks. In the end, though, he accounted for three touchdowns and kept plays alive with his feet. His two rushing touchdowns included some smooth cuts to juke defenders, and he also threw a great deep ball to Joe Reynolds on a play action pass on which he turned his back to the defense for an uncomfortably long time.

1Sep 2013
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Michigan 59, Central Michigan 9

Cam Gordon almost had a touchdown on the ball he tipped up in the air (image via MGoBlog)

The offensive line is not terrible. The most scrutinized position group entering the new season, Michigan did fairly well up the middle. Busted assignments were few, the pass protection was solid, and they opened some holes. It was far from dominant on the interior and the opponent was a MAC team, but that MAC team had some decent size up the middle. The biggest question mark for me is still redshirt sophomore left guard Graham Glasgow. While he looked better pulling than he has in the past, he had two false starts and struggled to stay low, in my opinion. That will be the biggest position to watch going forward.

Running back by committee. Granted, it was almost a fifty-point blowout, but the reps at running back were spread out a lot. The depth chart to begin the week was thrown out the window by Saturday. In order, the running backs to get carries were Fitzgerald Toussaint, Drake Johnson, Derrick Green, De’Veon Smith, Thomas Rawls, and Justice Hayes. Toussaint (14 carries, 57 yards, 2 touchdowns) looked to have his 2011-level burst back, but he looked rusty with his footwork and didn’t seem to show the same lateral mobility; there were a couple times where he needed to pick up his feet through traffic or sidestep guys on the ground, and he just failed to do so. Johnson (2 carries, 9 yards) looked uninspiring to me before spraining a knee. Green (11 carries, 58 yards, 1 touchdown) also needs to pick up his feet in traffic, but he showed decent vision and burst. Smith (7 carries, 12 yards) broke some tackles but didn’t show the same speed as the guys ahead of him. Rawls (3 carries, 12 yards, 1 touchdown) looked quicker than last year, and Hayes (1 carry, 7 yards) is still a scatback type without elite burst or an ability to break tackles. It’s a well rounded group, but none of them looked outstanding.

Cameron Gordon looked very good. I thought Gordon was Michigan’s best defensive player on Saturday. He had 4 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 1 pass breakup, which he deflected in the backfield and almost caught it in the endzone for a defensive touchdown. His added size in the offseason makes him a more imposing figure, and his athleticism for a linebacker is well above average. When Jake Ryan returns from injury, Michigan needs to find a way to get both Ryan and Gordon on the field at the same time.

The quarterback situation. Starting quarterback Devin Gardner looked shaky early with an interception deep in Michigan’s own red zone, and then another long interception that never should have been thrown. Altogether, he was 10/15 for 162 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 picks through the air, plus 7 carries for 52 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. I’m not concerned about those somewhat paltry passing numbers, because Michigan didn’t need to throw the ball to win, and I think Gardner was pressing a little bit to try to get some explosive plays. The deep interception was a well overthrown ball to Jeremy Gallon, who never got on top of the cornerback. We all know that Gallon is going to be Gardner’s main target, but especially in a game against teams like Central Michigan, you might as well check it down and let your superior athletes drive the ball down the field or make plays with the ball in their hands. True freshman Shane Morris entered the game in the fourth quarter, and he finished 4/6 for 59 yards and 1 interception. He also looked a little jumpy, which is fine for a kid his age, and the interception wasn’t a bad one. But the offense was toned down by the time he entered, and I would still be very worried if Gardner got hurt.

The defensive backfield is wacky. I don’t know why, but it seems to me that defensive back is the position that’s always in the most flux at Michigan. It was announced before the game that fifth year senior strong safety Thomas Gordon was suspended for the game for breaking team rules. Potential starting free safety Courtney Avery had arthroscopic knee surgery last week and will be out for a couple weeks. Redshirt sophomore Blake Countess returned after tearing his ACL in the 2012 season opener, but he looked a half step slow. In recent years, Josh Furman and J.T. Floyd have been suspended, Floyd and Troy Woolfolk both suffered terrible lower leg injuries, and there have been numerous transfers/quitters (Terrence Talbott, Greg Brown, Cullen Christian, Vladimir Emilien, Ray Vinopal, Tamani Carter, etc.). Down two returning starters and featuring a guy who missed virtually all of 2012, the starters in the backfield were Countess, junior Raymon Taylor, sophomore Jarrod Wilson, and redshirt junior Furman.

Freshman fun time. Redshirts have been burned for TE Jake Butt, DE Taco Charlton, LB Ben Gedeon, RB Derrick Green, S Delano Hill, CB Jourdan Lewis, QB Shane Morris, RB De’Veon Smith, CB Channing Stribling, S Dymonte Thomas, and WR Csont’e York. That leaves OG Kyle Bosch, OG David Dawson, FS Reon Dawson, CB Ross Douglas, WR Jaron Dukes, OT Chris Fox, TE Khalid Hill, DT Maurice Hurst, Jr., WR Da’Mario Jones, C Patrick Kugler, LB Mike McCray, DT Henry Poggi, OG Dan Samuelson, FB Wyatt Shallman, LS Scott Sypniewski, and OT Logan Tuley-Tillman as the kids on track to redshirt. Redshirt freshmen OG Blake Bars, OT Ben Braden, WR Jehu Chesson, S Jeremy Clark, QB Bryan Cleary, WR Bo Dever, DT Ryan Glasgow, DE Matt Godin, DT Willie Henry, TE Michael Jocz, RB Drake Johnson, OT Erik Magnuson, OG Ben Pliska,  DT Tom Strobel, and DE Chris Wormley also played for the first time. (Redshirt sophomore Chris Bryant hit the field for the first time after breaking his tibia last year.)

Freshman fun time, part two. Of those true freshmen listed above, Dymonte Thomas blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown by fifth year senior Joe Reynolds. Butt looks bigger and improved since the spring, Gedeon looked college ready from the start, and Stribling already looked solid. Delano Hill also made a heads-up play by recovering a punt that sophomore Dennis Norfleet muffed, but Hill looks huge for a safety. I wouldn’t be surprised if he grows into a linebacker eventually.

Speaking of Norfleet . . . I mentioned this when he committed, and people bashed me for it. I still get occasional snide remarks about it over on MGoBlog. Here’s what I said on February 1, 2012:

I’m not a big fan of the way Norfleet finishes plays. He jogs into the endzone too often, which rubs me the wrong way and makes me question how disciplined he is.

Norfleet got the ball on a reverse and took it 38 yards before getting tackled from behind by a linebacker coming from the opposite side of the field. After his last cut to shake a defensive back, it sure looked to me like he eased off the throttle, thinking he was in the clear for a touchdown; then the linebacker dove at his ankle and Norfleet fell on his face. That  is why not finishing plays is a problem. If the opponent were anyone other than CMU or perhaps Akron, that really might come back to haunt the team. Additionally, Norfleet’s muffed punt was a terribly undisciplined decision. The short punt bounced on the ground multiple times and Norfleet was sprinting toward his own endzone to field it. Instead of allowing the Chippewas to down it, he tried to grab it on the run when his momentum would have likely taken him out of bounds at that very spot, anyway. Delano Hill’s awareness saved Michigan from having to defend a short field and, at the very least, a likely field goal attempt.

Overall. I had fun watching the game, but the offense seemed pretty vanilla outside of the reverse to Norfleet. I’m sure there are things being saved for Notre Dame – screens, read options, etc. Offensive coordinator Al Borges’s favorite running play for Denard Robinson was the inverted veer, and Gardner ran it just once (and poorly at that). I think the slightly more traditional backside zone read option would be more productive for Gardner, but it remains to be seen whether Borges will warm up to that spread concept. Defensively, Michigan looks fast and deep. I thought defensive coordinator Greg Mattison threw quite a few different fronts and blitzes at Central, at least until late when the subs were in. That might be tipping his hand, but I also think it’s somewhat necessary for those young and inexperienced guys to get used to different frontz, blitzes, coverages, etc. Plus it will given Brian Kelly and his staff plenty to try to prepare for next week.

31Aug 2013
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Preview: Michigan vs. Central Michigan

Rush Offense vs. Central Michigan Rush Defense
Michigan is breaking in three new interior linemen, but they return the two tackles, one of whom is an All-American in Taylor Lewan. Former 1,000-yard rusher Fitzgerald Toussaint returns from a broken ankle. The Chippewas have good size at defensive tackle, but their ends are light and the team was 93rd in rushing defense last year. I think Michigan is going to test out Graham Glasgow, Jack Miller, and Kyle Kalis in the middle, but if they need important yards, it will come on the edges behind the mammoth tackles. I would expect to see some outside zone plays that allow Lewan and Schofield to drive block those 250-ish pound ends off the ball.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Offense vs. Central Michigan Pass Defense
The Chippewas were 100th in the nation in sacks in 2012, and the leading sack artist is gone. It will be interesting to see how the interior offensive line holds up against the pass rush, which is the toughest thing for a young offensive line. Even with the youngsters in the middle, CMU shouldn’t be able to present much of an obstacle. In the defensive backfield of the 4-2-5 defense, every Chippewa is over 6’0″. Cornerback Jason Wilson and safety Avery Cunningham each had two picks last year, but they may struggle to keep up with the 5’8″ and speedy Jeremy Gallon. Furthermore, both starting linebackers 6’0″ and only one safety is 6’1″, so there’s nobody to match height with tight end Devin Funchess. If the linemen keep Devin Gardner clean, he should be able to pick them apart through the air.
Advantage: Michigan

Rush Defense vs. Central Michigan Rush Offense
This is perhaps the most favorable category for CMU, which has one fifth year senior, one true senior, and two redshirt juniors on the line with a redshirt sophomore center. They also have a senior tailback in Zurlon Tipton (6’0″, 221 lbs.) who netted 1,497 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. That included a respectable 27 carries for 134 yards against BCS opponents Michigan State and Iowa. Michigan returns large nose tackle Quinton Washington and some quality inside linebackers, along with some more depth on the defensive line than in recent years. The Wolverines finished 51st in rush defense last season, but playing elite rushing teams like Alabama and Air Force dragged down that ranking. Even if it’s a warm day, Michigan should be able to rotate in some quality linemen to attempt to stop the running game. Tipton will get his fair share of yards, but CMU won’t be able to commit to the running game if they’re playing from behind the entire time.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Defense vs. Central Michigan Pass Offense
Redshirt junior quarterback Kody Kater (6’3″, 220 lbs.) is 2/4 for 12 yards in his career. Junior wide receiver Titus Davis (6’2″, 190 lbs.) led the team last season with 43 catches for 860 yards and 8 touchdowns and returns this year. Opposite him is junior possession receiver Courtney Williams (6’1″, 212 lbs.), who finished with 24 catches for 260 yards and 2 scores. Michigan’s pass rush is reputed to be better this season, but even if it doesn’t take a significant step forward, the cornerbacks are solid and so is strong safety Thomas Gordon. The Chippewas’ best bet is to stretch the field and try to test sophomore free safety Jarrod Wilson, but that will also require holding up against defensive end Frank Clark and the aggressive blitzing of defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. Mattison probably won’t want to show his hand to future opponents if the defensive line can get there rushing three or four, but he’ll do what it takes to try to win comfortably.

Roster Notes

  • Wide receivers coach Mose Rison is the cousin of former Michigan State and NFL wide receiver Andre Rison.
  • Cornerbacks coach Archie Collins is famous around the Michigan recruiting blogosphere for formerly working at Southeastern High School in Detroit and allegedly steering kids toward Michigan State.
  • If you follow recruiting in the state of Michigan at all, Central Michigan’s roster is chock full of names that should be familiar to you. 
  • The Chippewas have a quality control guy named Jason Assmann.

  • Fitzgerald Toussaint returns with a vengeance: 130 yards, 2 touchdowns.
  • Jehu Chesson scores his first career touchdown.
  • Michigan confuses and pressures Kater into throwing 3 interceptions.
  • Michigan 37, Central Michigan 6
26Aug 2013
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Depth chart for Michigan vs. Central Michigan

I won’t post these every week, but I thought it was important for week one. Here’s the depth chart. Feel free to discuss in the comments.

QB: Gardner, Morris, Cleary
RB: Toussaint, Johnson, Hayes, Rawls, Green/Smith
FB: Kerridge, Houma, Shallman
WR: Gallon, Reynolds
WR: Jackson/Chesson
TE: Funchess, Williams, Butt, Hill, Paskorz
LT: Lewan, Braden
LG: G. Glasgow, Bryant, Burzynski
C: Miller, Burzynski
RG: Kalis, Burzynski, Bars
RT: Schofield, Magnuson, Gunderson
SLOT: Dileo, Norfleet

DE: Heitzman, Godin/Wormley
NT: Washington, Pipkins, Ash
DT: Black, R. Glasgow, Henry
DE: Clark, Ojemudia, Charlton
SLB: C. Gordon/Beyer, Ryan
MLB: Morgan, Bolden, McCray
WLB: Ross, Jenkins-Stone, Gedeon
LCB: Taylor, Hollowell/Lewis
RCB: Countess, Stribling
SS: T. Gordon, Furman, Thomas, Hill
FS: Wilson, Clark, Avery

PK: Gibbons, Wile
KO: Wile
P: Wile, Allen
PR: Norfleet, Dileo
KR: Norfleet, Dileo, Chesson
H: Dileo, Allen
LS: Glanda