Michigan’s 10 Longest Plays vs. Minnesota

Tag: Courtney Avery

2Oct 2023
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Michigan’s 10 Longest Plays vs. Minnesota

Steve Breaston

Michigan has played Minnesota 104 times throughout history and has a 76-25-3 record against the Golden Gophers. They first played in 1892, and the winner of the game after each meeting earns the Little Brown Jug Trophy.

Here are the longest plays for Michigan in the history of the rivalry:

  1. Steve Breaston 95-yard kickoff return TD (2005)
  2. Chris Howard 86-yard TD run (1996)
  3. Gilvanni Johnson 85-yard punt return TD (1985)
  4. Carlos Brown 85-yard TD run (2007)
  5. Darrell Harper 84-yard punt return TD (1959)
  6. Courtney Avery 83-yard fumble return TD (2011)
  7. Karan Higdon 77-yard TD run (2017)
  8. Tom Brady 76-yard TD pass to Tai Streets (1998)
  9. Lowell Perry 75-yard punt return TD (1951)
  10. Steve Smith 75-yard TD run (1983)
  11. Scott Dreisbach 75-yard TD pass to Amani Toomer (1995)

Hit the jump for videos of Breaston and Brown.

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13Mar 2014
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2014 Michigan Pro Day Results

Safety Thomas Gordon had perhaps the most impressive Pro Day

DB Courtney Avery: 36.5″ vertical

DT Jibreel Black: 29 reps on 225 lb. bench

WR Jeremy Gallon: 39.5″ vertical, 10’10” broad jump

LB Cameron Gordon: 4.65 forty, 36″ vertical

S Thomas Gordon: 4.49 forty, 40.5″ vertical, 10’5.5″ broad jump, 4.10 twenty-yard shuttle

OT Taylor Lewan: Only participated in offensive line drills

WR Joe Reynolds: 37.5″ vertical, 10’5″ broad jump

OT Michael Schofield: 9′ broad jump

RB Fitzgerald Toussaint: 4.49 forty, 24 reps on 225 lb. bench, 6.59 three-cone drill, 4.10 twenty-yard shuttle

DT Quinton Washington: 26 reps on 225 lb. bench

1Mar 2014
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Courtney Avery, #11

Courtney Avery (#5)

HIGH SCHOOLI can’t sum it up much better than I did back in March 2010: “The first [cornerback] to commit was Courtney Avery from Lexington, OH. Avery played quarterback – and played it well – as a high schooler, and if he were any taller than 5’10”, he might have been worthy of some scholarship offers as a signal caller. Avery had been committed to Jim Harbaugh’s Stanford Cardinal prior to pledging for Michigan, but impressed enough at Michigan’s summer camp to garner an offer. Shortly afterward, he became a Wolverine. Avery has some shortcomings as a defensive back. He is an aggressive tackler, but he’s small-ish and might lack ideal speed for man coverage. I think he’d be better off as a corner in a largely zone scheme, but he’s the type of kid who could be a solid backup and perhaps contribute as a gunner on the punt team.”

Despite being tiny and inexperienced, Avery earned quite a bit of playing time in that awful 2010 season when Michigan gave up nine million yards and ten million points. Due to some injuries and attrition, Avery ended up starting five games and making 36 tackles, .5 tackles for loss, 4 pass breakups, and 1 forced fumble. The arrival of defensive coordinator Greg Mattison in 2011 moved Avery to slot corner, where he enjoyed the best season of his career. He had 26 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, .5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 4 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble, and 2 fumble recoveries; 1 one of those fumble recoveries was returned for an 83-yard touchdown against Purdue, and 1 of those interceptions sealed the 40-34 victory over Ohio State to end the regular season. As a junior in 2012, he had 19 tackles, 2 tackles, .5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery in four starts. With a very inexperienced free safety position, Avery practiced and played at both corner and safety leading into the 2013 season, but he was largely ineffective at both positions; he wrapped up his career with a season that included 30 tackles and half a sack.

19 starts, 111 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 2 interceptions for 1 yard, 8 pass breakups, 3 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries for 89 yards and 1 touchdown

Academic All-Big Ten in 2012
Team Captain in 2013

I typically like high school quarterbacks even when they’re changing positions, as was the case with Avery. However, I was always skeptical of Avery because he lacked great athleticism for the cornerback position, and he wasn’t big or aggressive enough to be a good fit at safety. When he had to play early in his career due to some injuries and questionable personnel choices, Avery really struggled. He took a leap forward when the new coaching staff in 2011 put him in the slot, where his iffy physical skills could be covered up a little bit. On top of going 11-2 and winning the Sugar Bowl, Avery had probably the two biggest highlights of his career – a game-clinching interception to win the Ohio State game and an 83-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Purdue. For whatever reasons, his career tailed off from there. His 2012 was just so-so, and his senior year got off to a rocky start because of a knee injury suffered in August; he ended up playing some corner and some safety throughout the season, but it was his least impressive season since his freshman year. On the plus side, the people within the program respected him enough to name him a senior captain for 2013.

. . . his interception against Ohio State in 2011. It was the first Ohio State game I had attended in awhile, and it ended a prolonged losing streak to the Buckeyes. Avery jumped a route, which popped the ball up in the air before he dove to corral it before it hit the ground. It was fourth down, anyway, so an incompletion would have ended the game, but it made it extra sweet that the game ended on a pick.

Listed at 5’11” and 175 lbs., Avery isn’t the smallest guy out there, but he doesn’t have the quickness, speed, or acceleration that teams are looking for in a cornerbac

30Dec 2013
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Review of 2013 Season Predictions

Jeremy Gallon set several records this season.

Here’s a link to my 2013 Season Predictions, which were posted at the end of August. This might be more fun for me than for you, but it’s interesting to me to see how things played out this year.

Prediction: Fitzgerald Toussaint, 900 yards
Actual: Fitzgerald Toussaint, 658 yards
Thoughts: The offensive line was worse than anyone expected it to be, and Toussaint struggled to average 3.5 yards/carry. The next highest total was Devin Gardner’s 483 yards.

Prediction: Jeremy Gallon, 1100 yards
Actual: Jeremy Gallon, 1373 yards
Thoughts: Gallon had an outstanding season and goes down in the record books with the top yardage output by any receiver in Michigan history, surpassing Braylon Edwards’s 1,330 yards in 2004. I expected him to have a very good season due to the Gardner-Gallon chemistry, but this was more explosive than anyone probably envisioned.

Prediction: James Ross III, 90 tackles
Actual: Raymon Taylor, 86 tackles
Thoughts: It’s bad news when a cornerback leads the team in tackles, especially when that tackle total is so high. Opposing quarterbacks completed a lot of passes in front Taylor. Ross missed the second half of the Iowa game and the entire Ohio State game, so I’m pretty confident that he would have led the team in tackles if he had remained healthy.

Prediction: Frank Clark, 8 sacks
Actual: Frank Clark and Cameron Gordon, 5 sacks (tie)
Thoughts: Clark started off slowly before turning on the jets a little bit in the middle of the season, but his season was somewhat of a disappointment considering all the offseason hype. Gordon started off quickly but lost some playing time once Jake Ryan returned midseason.

Prediction: Taylor Lewan and Jeremy Gallon
Actual: Taylor Lewan was chosen by the Coaches and the Media. Devin Funchess and Blake Countess were chosen by the Media only.
Thoughts: Lewan was an obvious choice, and Gallon was robbed after conference finishes of #2 in receptions, #2 in yards, and #3 in touchdowns. Funchess earned his accolades as a tight end despite playing mostly at wide receiver, and Countess might be the Comeback Player of the Year in the conference after tearing his ACL in 2012. Nobody else on the team really had an argument to earn First Team honors.

Prediction: Fitzgerald Toussaint, 12 touchdowns
Actual: Fitzgerald Toussaint, 13 touchdowns
Thoughts: Toussaint ended up scoring 78 points on 13 rushing touchdowns, while I thought he would score 10 rushing and 2 receiving touchdowns, leaving him with 72 points. Gallon was next with 54 total points.

Prediction: Jehu Chesson
Actual: Jake Butt
Thoughts: Chesson had an okay year with several devastating blocks, some nice plays on special teams coverage, and 15 catches for 221 yards and 1 touchdown. But I think Butt deserves this award as he improved as a blocker and became a reliable receiving target with 20 catches for 235 yards and 2 touchdowns.

 James Ross
Actual: I don’t even know who to pick here. Perhaps the answer here is Blake Countess, but I don’t believe I even thought of him as being in the running since he was a starter as a true freshman in 2011. You could probably make an argument for Ross, Cam Gordon, or Frank Clark, who are the three guys I mentioned considering back in August.
Thoughts: Ross nearly led the team in tackles and might have surpassed 100 if he had been healthy. Gordon and Clark tied for the team lead in sacks. I don’t really see any other legitimate options here, although we saw glimpses of what Chris Wormley, Willie Henry, Ben Gedeon, and Jarrod Wilson can do.

Prediction: Jack Miller
Actual: Jack Miller?
Thoughts: Again, I’m not sure whom to pick here. Miller started the first several games at center before being benched, never to see the field again. There was lots of disappointment to go around due to the underachieving offense (Devin Gardner, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Taylor Lewan, Kyle Kalis, even Devin Funchess). I guess Miller wins because he was really the only starter to get permanently benched, but I’m open to arguments.

 Jarrod Wilson
Actual: Courtney Avery
Thoughts: This is another tough choice, but Wilson made some nice plays early in the season. Avery proved to be kind of a lost cause at cornerback and safety, where he didn’t really make one significant play all season except half of a sack against Michigan State. Otherwise, he was invisible except when guys were running past him. He went from a good nickel corner in 2011 to an okay one in 2012 to a liability at two different positions in 2013.

Central Michigan:
Notre Dame: Win
Akron: Win
UConn: Win
Minnesota: Win
Penn State: Win Loss
Indiana: Win
Michigan State: Win Loss
Nebraska: Loss
Northwestern: Win
Iowa: Win Loss
Ohio State: Loss
Prediction: 10-2
Actual: 7-5 (7-6 after bowl game) 

24Dec 2013
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Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl Preview: Defensive Backs

Safety Ty Zimmerman is a potential game-changer at safety if he’s healthy.

 The headliner of this group is redshirt sophomore Blake Countess (5’10”, 182 lbs.), who’s tied for #5 in the country with 6 picks and is #3 in return yards with 169, including a touchdown. He also has 42 tackles and 4 pass breakups to his name. Countess starts on the outside but will slide into the slot when Michigan goes to its nickel packages. The other starter at corner is junior Raymon Taylor (5’10”, 183 lbs.), who’s tied for the team lead with 81 tackles and has 4 picks and 9 pass breakups of his own. Taylor racks up a lot of tackles because teams attack him instead of Countess, but he’s a solid tackler when receivers catch the ball near him. The other sure starter in the defensive backfield is fifth year senior strong safety Thomas Gordon (5’11”, 213 lbs.), a guy who lacks speed and isn’t a headhunter but who usually seems to be in the right spot; he has 49 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, and 2 pass breakups this year despite missing two games. The likely starter at free safety is sophomore Jarrod Wilson (6’2″, 200 lbs.), a potentially violent hitter who sometimes gets caught out of position; he has 45 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, and 2 pass breakups.
Backups: Wilson has lost some playing time to senior Courtney Avery (5’11”, 175 lbs.), who has bounced back and forth between corner, slot corner, and safety throughout his career; he has 30 tackles and .5 sacks on the year but looks to have lost a step after an injury over the summer and has been inconsistent. Redshirt junior Josh Furman (6’2″, 202 lbs.) is a linebacker in a safety’s body, and he has just 11 tackles and 1 pass breakup on the year, despite earning two starts and a variety of backup duty. He can be taken advantage of through the air. At cornerback, when Countess slides into the slot, he’s replaced by one of two freshmen: Channing Stribling (6’2″, 171 lbs., 15 tackles) or Jourdan Lewis (5’10”, 170 lbs., 17 tackles, 2 pass breakups). Whoever has the best week of practice is the one who earns the role that game, so we’ll just have to wait and see who gets the nod.

Starters: Fifth year senior safety Ty Zimmerman (6’1″, 204 lbs.) is the leader of the group and has been a First Team All-Big 12 selection in both 2012 and 2013; he has 70 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions (2 returned for touchdowns), and 4 pass breakups this season. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, he missed the final two regular season games and is questionable for the bowl game. Sophomore fellow safety Dante Barnett (6’1″, 186 lbs.) has 67 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, and 3 pass breakups. The Wildcats spend a lot of time in a nickel package, so the fifth defensive back – a safety/linebacker hybrid – is redshirt junior Randall Evans (6’0″, 190 lbs.), who has 59 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, and 10 pass breakups. The cornerbacks are solid but did not earn any all-conference accolades. Fifth year senior Kip Daily (5’11”, 180 lbs.) has 47 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 4 pass breakups on the year, while fifth year senior Dorrian Roberts (5’10”, 168 lbs.) has 37 stops, 2.5 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, and 8 pass breakups. Roberts is rather inexperienced after playing in junior college for two years, redshirting in 2011, and not seeing the field at all in 2012.
Backups: Redshirt junior Dylan Schellenberg (6’0″, 189 lbs.) has been starting in Zimmerman’s stead, and he has 19 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 interception on the year. Fifth year senior Carl Miles, Jr. (5’11”, 190 lbs.) has 6 tackles and 1 pass breakup on the season, but he and the other backups are rarely used. Other than subbing Evans in and out for a linebacker, the Wildcats go with their starting unit almost the whole game.

Michigan is #62 in the nation giving up 238 yards/game through the air, but much of that is due to teams throwing instead of running on a stout run defense; they’re #32 in passer efficiency rating defense. Kansas State is #24 in the latter category and tied for #47 nationally at 222 yards allowed/game. Two of KSU’s worst three games against the pass were in recent games against TCU and Oklahoma before righting the ship against a pathetic Kansas Jayhawks squad. They rank #20 in the country with 16 interceptions on the year. If Zimmerman is unable to go, the Wildcats are without any real playmakers in the defensive backfield, though. Michigan is #17 in interceptions with 17 this year, and the two starting corners are the strength of the backfield with 10 interceptions and 13 pass breakups between them. The safety play leaves a little bit to be desired between a lack of discipline (Wilson) and athleticism (Gordon). Despite having a better defensive unit against the pass, the better group of defensive backs play for . . .