2013 Midseason Awards

Tag: Desmond Morgan

23Oct 2013
Uncategorized 22 comments

2013 Midseason Awards

Devin Gardner

Offensive Player of the Midseason: Devin Gardner, QB. Gardner has had lots of ups and downs, but he has kept Michigan in some games – especially with his feet – when things looked like they were going south. So far this season, he’s 107/175 passing for 1,779 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He is also second on the team in rushing with 520 yards on 95 carries (5.5 yards/carry) and 9 touchdowns.

Defensive Player of the Midseason: Blake Countess, CB. Receivers have beaten Countess a couple times over the top, but unfortunately for them, the quarterback hasn’t been able to hit them. Regardless, Countess is bouncing between cornerback and slot corner fairly well, coming in fifth in total tackles (27) with 2 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, and 3 more pass breakups; one of those picks was returned 72 yards for a touchdown against Minnesota.

MVP of the Midseason: Taylor Lewan, OT. Aside from being an outstanding pass blocker, Lewan has been a stellar run blocker as well. Of course, it doesn’t show in the rushing statistics. But Michigan tries to run off left tackle or flip Lewan to the right side if they want to go right. The guy is tough and works hard, and I think his mentality helps the team almost as much as his physical skills.

Rookie of the Midseason: Jake Butt, TE.No freshmen are making a huge impact at this point, but tight end Jake Butt is quietly having a solid debut season with 7 receptions for 67 yards and some solid blocking. He has shown some nice body control in catching some low passes, but he probably has a couple jump ball-type passes he would like to have another chance to catch.

Coach of the Midseason: Mark Smith, linebackers coach. The linebackers might be the strongest unit on the team. Weakside linebacker James Ross leads the team with 50 tackles and has 2.5 tackles for loss, 2 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery. Middle linebacker Desmond Morgan is second on the team with 47 tackles, adding 3.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception, and 2 pass breakups. Morgan turned in a spectacular one-handed interception and 29-yard return against UConn. Meanwhile, converted defensive end Brennen Beyer (18 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks) has been splitting time with Cam Gordon (15 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks) at SAM linebacker while Jake Ryan (5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss) has been returning from his ACL tear. The SAM trio has combined for 31 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and 5 sacks, which are some pretty good numbers for the position.

Disappointing Player of the Midseason: Devin Gardner, QB. The hype for Gardner was off the charts in the off-season, with coaches, analysts, and players talking about how good he was going to be. At times Gardner has looked excellent (against Notre Dame, second half against Penn State, flashes in every game), but overall, the numbers and ball security have been unimpressive. With 10 interceptions and numerous fumbles after just six games, he’s been extremely frustrating to watch if you’re a Michigan fan.

Disappointing Coach of the Midseason: Al Borges, offensive coordinator. Borges, who doubles as the quarterbacks coach, has lacked creativity in his play calling recently. The Penn State game was extremely vanilla except for some odd unbalanced formations that included using poor blocking tight end A.J. Williams as a left tackle and generally running to the strength in some very obvious formations and situations. Borges has struggled to make his quarterback comfortable, and that has resulted in turnover after turnover. Overall, the team is averaging just 4.2 yards/carry, even though the most consistent rusher (Gardner) averages 5.5 yards/pop. Michigan’s scoring average is good enough for #11 in the country, but the sky would be the limit if they had a consistent running threat aside from Gardner.

Game of the Midseason: Penn State. Michigan is yet to have a completely dominating performance where both the offense and the defense clicked. I refuse to choose the 59-9 win against Central Michigan, since both the starting running back and starting quarterback for the Chippewas were injured early in the game. The Penn State game was exciting for lots of wrong reasons (overtimes, missed field goals, blocked field goals, interceptions, big plays, etc.), but it was nonetheless exciting. Michigan lost 43-40 in four overtimes, unfortunately.

Play of the Midseason: Desmond Morgan’s interception against UConn. Quite possibly the most exciting play of the year was Desmond Morgan’s one-handed pick against the Connecticut Huskies. He got depth to get underneath a post route, leaped up, and pulled the ball down with his right hand. A 29-yard return ensued in which he showed some nice vision, if not some decent speed for a MIKE linebacker.

23Sep 2013
Uncategorized 15 comments

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.

22Sep 2013
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Michigan 24, UConn 21

Fitzgerald Toussaint had 127 total yards and 2 touchdowns

Okay, now it’s getting ridiculous. Last week I thought Michigan’s performance against Akron was a little bit of a fluke. It was the week after a big win over Notre Dame, Akron was supposed to be a patsy, etc. Now I’m concerned. Michigan should have been champing at the bit to get on the field and destroy a mediocre UConn team, and they were just as lackadaisical. During the half, I thought “This seems like a game where Michigan might reverse the momentum with a defensive or special teams touchdown.” Instead, after getting ball on the kickoff, Devin Gardner fumbled on a quarterback sneak when he ran into his own lineman, which was only slightly less embarrassing than Mark Sanchez’s butt fumble.

Bench Devin Gardner? No, don’t bench Devin Gardner (11/23 passing, 97 yards, 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 3 sacks; 19 carries, 64 yards, 1 touchdown). Last night broadcaster Sean McCullough suggested considering a quarterback change, but that’s just a total lack of awareness of Michigan’s situation. Gardner has to get things sorted out, and that’s the bottom line. He needs to take better care of the football and refine his mechanics. Freshman Shane Morris isn’t going to be any better, and the only other options are walk-ons, since presumed backup Russell Bellomy is out for the year with a torn ACL. Gardner’s driving the bus . . . on the edge of a cliff.

The blocking up front is terrible. I’ve seen a lot of criticism of running back Fitzgerald Toussaint lately on blogs, Twitter, etc. lately. I’m really not sure what people expect him to do when he’s supposed to run a zone stretch and the combination of sophomore tight ends A.J. Williams and Devin Funchess (1 catch, 14 yards) are allowing three or four yards of penetration. Or when center Jack Miller chooses not to block the right guy, allowing nose tackles to knife through. Or when Michigan’s offensive line can’t get push on an iso. That’s not to mention the numerous times Connecticut got pressure on Gardner with a three-man rush where guards Graham Glasgow and Kyle Kalis were blocking air. Oh, and left tackle Taylor Lewan had a terrible holding penalty, and Glasgow had his third false start of the year.

Desmond Morgan has been watching Charles Woodson highlight tapes. That one-handed interception by middle linebacker Desmond Morgan (4 tackles, 1 interception) was extremely impressive for a guy whose athleticism has been questioned at times. He had a good drop, leaped into the air, pulled it down, and made a very nice return. Michigan proceeded to score the game-tying touchdown.

Michigan got out-coached. I haven’t said this often, at least not in the Brady Hoke era, but the Huskies’ coaching staff did a better job than the Wolverines’. I don’t even know where to begin. Did defensive coordinator Greg Mattison really expect defensive end/defensive tackle Chris Wormley (1 tackle, .5 tackles for loss, .5 sacks, 1 pass breakup) to cover running back Lyle McCombs on a wheel route? Touchdown. Michigan brings in two extra offensive linemen for a quarterback sneak, and instead of putting All-American left tackle Taylor Lewan on the interior to blow a Husky off the ball, they put redshirt freshman backup Erik Magnuson? Fumble, touchdown for UConn. Freshmen killed Michigan on special teams, too:

  • Linebacker Ben Gedeon ran into the kicker on an early punt.
  • Wide receiver Da’Mario Jones lost track of a punt, allowing it to bounce off his foot and be recovered by the Huskies.
  • Cornerback Jourdan Lewis had an unnecessary roughness call on Drew Dileo’s punt return, bringing the ball back from about the 12-yard line to the 40.
The demise of Fitzgerald Toussaint has been greatly exaggerated. Toussaint isn’t the type who can create something out of nothing like Barry Sanders or run over people to gain two or three yards if the hole is plugged up. What he can do is take a little bit of space and exploit it. He had 24 carries for 120 yards and 2 touchdowns, including a 35-yarder on an option pitch that showed nice vision and quickness.

Hooray for Michigan’s pass rush. Granted, it was against UConn, but Michigan still tallied 4 sacks on the night. Two came from weakside end Frank Clark, and four other guys notched a half-sack each: Jibreel Black, Mario Ojemudia, Raymon Taylor, and Wormley. I thought Clark specifically looked a little more energized, and it was nice to see Mattison dial up a corner blitz from Taylor.

21Sep 2013
Uncategorized 19 comments

Preview: Michigan at UConn

Rush Offense vs. UConn Rush Defense
The Wolverines have better rushing statistics than it might seem; they’re averaging 4.96 yards/carry, but that’s propped up by quarterback Devin Gardner’s 30 carries for 237 yards (7.9 yards/carry) and 4 touchdowns. Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (55 carries, 199 yards, 3.6 yards/carry, 3 touchdowns) looks recovered from his broken leg, but the offensive line is struggling to open holes. Primary backup Derrick Green has just 2 carries for 2 yards in the last couple games, so he’s not really a factor in tight games. UConn’s opponents are averaging 4.57 yards/carry; that list of opponents includes Maryland and FCS team Towson. Redshirt junior linebacker Yawin Smallwood (6’4″, 236 lbs.) leads the team in tackles with 30, and the next guy on the list is redshirt freshman safety Obi Melifonwu (6’4″, 208 lbs.) with 15. Melifonwu and and fifth year senior strongside end Tim Willman (6’4″, 267 lbs.) lead the team with 1.5 tackles for loss each. The Huskies have decent size up front with redshirt senior weakside end Jesse Joseph (6’3″, 262 lbs.), redshirt senior defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (6’5′, 313 lbs.), and redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Julian Campenni (6’0″, 298 lbs.). If UConn uses their vanilla 4-3 Over front, Michigan should be able to handle the front four pretty well, but Smallwood can fly all over the field. My guess is that Michigan’s offensive linemen come out angry and create some of the holes that were lacking against Akron last week.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Offense vs. UConn Pass Defense
Gardner has been up and down this year, completing 47/78 passes (60.3%) for 704 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. He has made some poor decisions in the passing game, and he has a tendency to lock onto his favorite receiver, Jeremy Gallon (18 catches, 297 yards, 4 touchdowns). Sophomore tight end Devin Funchess is the next most targeted receiver (7 catches, 131 yards, 1 touchdown), but the other guys have been somewhat pedestrian. One potential breakout player is 6’3″, 196 lb. redshirt freshman Jehu Chesson, who caught a 33-yard touchdown pass last week and could develop into a deep threat. Melifonwu and senior cornerback Taylor Mack (5’9″, 175 lbs.) have the team’s only two picks thus far, but Melifonwu in particular is speed-deficient and could be taken advantage of in the passing game. As for the pass rush, well . . . Connecticut has zero sacks in two games. Smallwood had 3.5 last year, but 22.5 of their 33 sacks graduated after last season. They would be smart to run some twist stunts to confuse the young offensive guards, but as for pure athleticism and skill, it’s not really there.
Advantage: Michigan

Rush Defense vs. UConn Rush Offense
Redshirt junior running back Lyle McCombs (5’8″, 175 lbs.) averaged 3.54 yards/carry in 2012, and this year he’s all the way up to 3.58. He’s the only significant ball carrier for the Huskies. Sixth year senior left tackle Jimmy Bennett (6’9″, 307 lbs.), redshirt senior Steven Greene (6’5″, 308 lbs.), redshirt junior Alex Mateas (6’4″, 315 lbs.), redshirt junior Gus Cruz (6’4″, 309 lbs.), and redshirt sophomore Xavier Hemingway (6’5″, 273 lbs.) make up the line from left to right. Michigan holds opponents to 3.45 yards/carry, and the front seven is considered to be a strength, especially against pro-style running teams. Connecticut can’t outmuscle the Wolverines if fifth year senior nose tackle Quinton Washington and/or sophomore nose tackle Ondre Pipkins is on the field. Junior middle linebacker Desmond Morgan and sophomore weakside linebacker James Ross are both very good against the run, so McCombs should find it to be tough sledding. I doubt the Huskies will be able to do much in the running game.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Defense vs. UConn Pass Offense
Redshirt junior Chandler Whitmer (6’1″, 193 lbs.) is the Huskies’ quarterback. He completed 57.6% of his passes for 2,664 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions as a starter last year, and this year he’s upped that percentage to 60.8% while throwing for 3 scores and 3 picks. Redshirt junior Shakim Phillips (6’2″, 209 lbs.) is his favorite target with 15 catches for 255 yards and 3 touchdowns; classmate Geremy Davis (6’3″, 215 lbs.) led the team in receiving in 2012 and has 10 catches for 154 yards this season; and junior slot receiver Deshon Foxx (5’10”, 172 lbs.) has 4 catches for 54 yards. Meanwhile, Michigan has 5 sacks thus far, 4 of which have come from SAM linebackers Brennen Beyer and Cam Gordon. The Wolverines also have 5 picks, 3 of them dropping into the hands of redshirt sophomore corner Blake Countess. Michigan’s defensive backs seem to be playing too far off their receivers this year, causing too few breakups and some easy completions. Unless that philosophy changes, I expect a lot of short completions and then some shots down the field.
Advantage: UConn

Roster Notes

  • Zero Huskies players hail from the Great Lakes State.
  • Offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach T.J. Weist was a grad assistant at Michigan from 1990-93.
  • Quarterbacks coach Shane Day was a quality control assistant at Michigan in 2006.
  • Director of Football Alumni/Community Affairs Andy Blaylock got a graduate degree from Michigan in 1962.
  • On a personal note, I saw presentations by Connecticut head coach Paul Pasqualoni and running backs coach Kermit Buggs (at Penn State) at coaching clinics in recent years.

  • Michigan turns on the jets in the running game, going for 250 yards total.
  • Greg Mattison keeps the corners in soft coverage because he thinks his guys can beat the other guys, anyway.
  • Michigan comes out pissed off and embarrassed by last week’s performance, taking out their frustrations on the Huskies and knocking Whitmer out of the game.
  • Michigan 38, UConn 14
Last Time They Played . . . 

  • Denard Robinson’s first career start at quarterback netted 197 rushing yards, 186 passing yards, and a 30-10 victory.
  • True freshman Devin Gardner entered the game when Robinson got nicked up, running for -4 yards and attempting 0 passes.
  • Terrence Robinson had 1 catch for 43 yards, the longest play of the day.
  • Obi Ezeh led the team in tackles with 9, adding a fumble recovery