Linebackers Preview: Michigan vs. South Carolina

Tag: Jake Ryan

29Dec 2012
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Linebackers Preview: Michigan vs. South Carolina

Jake Ryan is Michigan’s best defensive player

Starters: Redshirt sophomore SAM linebacker Jake Ryan (6’3″, 242 lbs.) is the best defensive player on the squad with 84 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 3 pass breakups; he also plays some defensive end in passing situations.  Senior MIKE Kenny Demens (6’1″, 242 lbs.) struggled early in the season, but has played well down the stretch to notch 81 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 1 interception.  Sophomore WILL Desmond Morgan (6’1″, 227 lbs.) has 78 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, and 2 pass breakups on the year.  Whereas South Carolina’s defensive linemen make a lot of plays, Michigan’s defensive linemen eat up space and have allowed these linebackers to all make 80-ish tackles this season.
Backups: Freshman WILL James Ross (6’1″, 225 lbs.) was named to the conference’s All-Freshman team and made 34 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and .5 sacks during the regular season; despite his youth and lack of size, he has been the most consistent backup.  Fellow freshman linebacker Joe Bolden (6’3″, 223 lbs.) backs up Demens at the MIKE and has 28 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 1 fumble recovery on the year.  Redshirt junior Cam Gordon (6’3″, 236 lbs.) hasn’t made as many plays as I expected from him this year, but he has made 17 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 1 pass breakup while spelling Ryan.

 The Gamecocks basically run a 4-2-5 defensive, but safety-ish player DeVonte Holloman mostly plays like a linebacker, so I’ll include him in this portion.  Senior Holloman (6’2″, 241 lbs.) plays the Spur position, a strongside outside linebacker position much like former Wolverine Steve Brown played in 2009; Holloman has 54 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 4 pass breakups, and 3 interceptions.  Fifth year senior middle linebacker Reginald Bowens (6’3″, 254 lbs.) has put up mostly modest numbers with 55 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 1 pass breakup, but has created several turnover opportunities with 3 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries.  Senior weakside linebacker Shaq Wilson (5’11”, 224 lbs.) leads the team with 77 tackles and has 4.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1 pass breakup, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 fumble recovery.

Backups: Senior middle linebacker Damario Jeffery (6’4″, 233 lbs.) has 22 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and 1 pass breakup on the year.  Senior weakside linebacker Quin Smith (6’1″, 239 lbs.) has 47 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks on the year.  Holloman rarely comes off the field.
This is a tough choice.  While Michigan’s guys put up bigger tackle numbers, South Carolina’s guys create more big plays with sacks, turnovers, etc.  Additionally, all five  Gamecocks who see significant time at linebacker are seniors.  Both units are pretty good, but the playmakers and seniority are on the other side.
Advantage: South Carolina
27Nov 2012
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Michigan vs. Ohio State Awards

Denard Robinson broke these tackles in his way to a 67-yard touchdown

Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Denard Robinson.  Robinson carried the ball just 4 times in the second half.  If the coaches aren’t going to trust him to throw the ball at all, then he needs to run it.  Michigan has no runners who are capable of being dynamic except Robinson.  I would like to see Robinson make a full-time switch to running back for the bowl game, because Fitzgerald Toussaint has a broken leg and the other guys just can’t do the job.  Robinson won’t play quarterback in the NFL, so it’s not like he needs the stage of the bowl game to show off his skills.

Let’s see less of this guy on offense . . . Vincent Smith.  This goes hand in hand with the usage of Robinson, but Smith can’t be an every-down back.  The Michigan coaches should have learned that by now.  Al Borges tried to slam him up the middle with a weak interior line, and Smith went nowhere.  Throw him some screens and run the inverted veer with him, but don’t line him up in the “I” and expect to gain yards on the ground.

Let’s see more of this guy on defense . . . Frank Clark.  Clark was in the doghouse during the offseason, and he’s not the most disciplined player on the field.  But Clark is superior to Brennen Beyer in almost every other way.  The kid bats down passes, puts pressure on the quarterback, and makes plays.  Unless the coaches are still working out the issues of Clark’s off-season troubles, Clark needs to be the starting weakside end.

Let’s see less of this guy on defense . . . Joe Bolden.  I’ve said it before, but Bolden’s just not ready for these big-time games.  He took a couple bad angles on Saturday and missed some tackles.  I do believe that he’ll be a solid player in the future, but the game’s just moving too fast for him right now.  He’s a perfect example of why freshman linebackers should redshirt.

Play of the game . . . Denard Robinson’s 67-yard touchdown run.  While the Wolverines trotted out Robinson at quarterback with a minute and some change left, it seemed as though Michigan was going to be happy with the status quo going into halftime.  He couldn’t beat Ohio State with his arm and everyone knew it.  He took the snap, went left, and gained a chunk of yards.  On the next play, he took the snap, faked a handoff, and then gave three blockers time to get out in front of him to the right.  He burst past his blockers, withstood two Buckeye tacklers who tried to crunch him between themselves, stumbled, and then outran everyone for a 67-yard touchdown that put Michigan up by 7 points.  Of course, Ohio State drove down and kicked a field goal before the half, but that was still a four-point swing in the right direction for Michigan.

MVP of the game . . . Jake Ryan.  Ryan didn’t score any touchdowns, but he filled up the stat sheet on the defensive side of the ball and did a good job of mostly hemming in OSU quarterback Braxton Miller.  Ryan finished the day with 9 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 2 forced fumbles.  Michigan still had a chance to win the game because the defense kept them in it, and Ryan was the best defensive player on the field.

27Nov 2012
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2012 All-Big Ten teams announced

Taylor Lewan is First Team All-Big Ten

The All-Big Ten teams were announced on the Big Ten Network this evening, and there were some . . . interesting decisions.  Here are the Michigan players on the teams:

FIRST TEAM (Coaches):
Patrick Omameh, OG – 12 starts
Taylor Lewan, OT – 12 starts

SECOND TEAM (Coaches):
Craig Roh, DE – 36 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks
Jordan Kovacs, S – 65 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 interception, 2 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble

J.T. Floyd, CB – 48 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 5 pass breakups
Jeremy Gallon, WR – 40 catches, 684 yards, 2 touchdowns; 11 carries, 67 yards; 12 punt returns, 66 yards
Brendan Gibbons, K – 14/16 field goals, long of 52; 44/44 extra points
Will Hagerup, P – 33 punts, 1486 yards, 45.0 yards/punt
Roy Roundtree, WR – 28 catches, 553 yards, 3 touchdowns
Jake Ryan, LB – 84 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 3 pass breakups, 4 forced fumbles

Taylor Lewan, OT
Will Hagerup, P

Jake Ryan, LB

William Campbell, DT – 44 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack
J.T. Floyd, CB
Devin Funchess, TE – 14 catches, 230 yards, 5 touchdowns
Jeremy Gallon, WR
Brendan Gibbons, K
Jordan Kovacs, S
Patrick Omameh, OG
Denard Robinson, QB – 89/166 (53.6%), 1319 yards, 9 touchdowns, 9 interceptions; 154 carries, 1166 yards, 7 touchdowns
Craig Roh, DE
Roy Roundtree, WR

I’m not too upset with these picks, because nobody on Michigan’s team really had an outstanding season.  The only choice (or non-choice) that bugs me a bit is the lack of Jake Ryan on the coaches’ team; Ryan should have been selected ahead of Nebraska linebacker Will Compton for second team honors.  But then again, the selection of Patrick Omameh to the first team on the coaches’ team means you win some, you lose some.

Based on his last couple seasons, the absence of Denard Robinson from these lists is almost shocking.  He is one of the most exciting players in the entire country, but he missed too much time due to injury and threw the ball poorly in the first half of the year.  I can’t argue that he deserves to be any higher, but I have to admit his performance was a little bit of a letdown after being in the Heisman discussion at various points throughout the past three years.  I hoped for better, and yet, he is what he’s always been – an excellent runner and a poor passer.

4Nov 2012
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Michigan 35, Minnesota 13

Devin Gardner was solid in replacing injured starter Denard Robinson (image via Bleacher Report)

Thanks goodness for Devin Gardner.  I am fairly confident that Russell Bellomy could not have duplicated Gardner’s performance from yesterday.  The junior wide receiver/quarterback finished 12/18 for 234 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception; he also ran 10 times for 21 yards and 1 touchdown.  Gardner obviously isn’t the same type of electrifying runner that Denard Robinson is, but that passing performance was pretty much on par with anything Robinson has done this year.  Gardner had three passes of 45-plus yards and did a great job of keeping plays alive with his feet.  There are still things to improve (the one INT was a poor decision, he holds onto the ball too long sometimes, etc.), but he looked much more ready to play QB than Bellomy has at any point.  This should give Michigan fans hope.  And I know I beat this drum a lot, but how much more excited would you be if Gardner were a redshirt sophomore instead of a true junior?  That burned redshirt in 2010 really irks me . . .

Michigan’s receivers stepped up when needed.  This was something we haven’t seen in the past few weeks, but I don’t remember a single drop in this game.  The receivers pulled in some nice receptions, including Jerald Robinson’s sliding 22-yarder and a couple balls caught in traffic by Jeremy Gallon, Drew Dileo, and Roy Roundtree.  Gardner has a stronger arm than Bellomy, and I think the receivers are probably a little more comfortable catching Gardner’s darts than Bellomy’s soft tosses.

Here is where I grumble about cornerbacks.  Teams have been picking on J.T. Floyd for the past few weeks, and once again he was beaten several times.  Minnesota freshman quarterback Philip Nelson missed on several, but sometimes it didn’t matter because Floyd bailed him out by getting called for pass interference two or three times.  Raymon Taylor didn’t have a great game, either, and picked up a pass interference call himself.  I am looking forward to a time when Michigan can put two solid corners on the field at the same time.  Taylor has a chance to be one, but it’s been a while since the Wolverines had two.

Don’t say Michigan never gets the benefit of refs’ poor calls.  Jeremy Gallon’s 10-yard touchdown catch wasn’t a catch; the ball was moving in his hands the entire time.  Roy Roundtree’s 47-yard catch probably wasn’t a catch; the ball was moving the entire time.  However, both of them were called completions on the field, and they were difficult to overturn.  In both cases, if they had been called incomplete on the field, I think they would have been upheld as being incomplete.

Jake Ryan wheee!  Ryan struggled a little bit early in the game, but he turned it on afterward.  He finished the game with 9 tackles and 3 tackles for loss.  The speed at which he plays for a guy who’s 6’3″, 242 lbs. is pretty ridiculous.  He now has 65 tackles and 12 tackles for loss, both numbers surpassing what he did in 2011 (37 tackles, 11 tackles for loss).

The future of the defensive line is bright.  I was very concerned about Michigan’s defensive line coming into 2012 after Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen graduated, and those two have certainly been missed.  The drop-off at strongside end hasn’t been very noticeable with Craig Roh playing fairly well, but Martin has certainly been missed at nose tackle.  However, Michigan has several guys starting or in the rotation who should return next season, so they should be able to maintain this level of play.  Weakside ends Brennen Beyer and Frank Clark, defensive tackles Quinton Washington and Ondre Pipkins, and strongside end Keith Heitzman all look solid, and that’s not to mention the incoming freshmen or the redshirting freshmen (Chris Wormley, Tom Strobel, Matt Godin, Willie Henry).

Working on Saturdays is lame.  There’s just not the same level of excitement when you know you could just fast forward the DVR and see the final score.  On the plus side, I could fast forward during timeouts and between plays so I didn’t have to listen to the Big Ten Network’s terrible announcers.  Sometimes Chris Martin talks just to hear himself, and he says very little of substance.  He does a good job of discussing defensive back play, but anytime the discussion wanders into the other 18 positions on the field, he’s mute-worthy.

29Oct 2012
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Michigan vs. Nebraska Awards

No. 16 isn’t allowed to get hurt anymore. (image via

Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Devin Gardner at quarterback.  He might not have done any better than Russell Bellomy (3/16, 38 yards, 3 interceptions), but he couldn’t have done much worse.  In Gardner’s career, he’s 11/23 for 176 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception.

Let’s see less of this guy on offense . . . Russell Bellomy, obviously.  I still believe he’ll eventually be a competent quarterback, but if there was any question about whether he’s ready or not, that was answered on Saturday night.  The coaches insisted in the off-season that Gardner was the #2 quarterback; well, now it’s time to make sure that happens.

Let’s see more of this guy on defense . . . nobody.

Let’s see less of this guy on defense . . . Jake Ryan at defensive end.  Ryan is much more effective as a SAM linebacker, and Cameron Gordon is a downgrade at the position.  Ryan played a fair amount of defensive end because Frank Clark missed the game due to an ankle injury, so hopefully that injury heals quickly and #47 can go back to his regular position.

Play of the game . . . linebacker Desmond Morgan broke up a pass headed for the left flat, and freshman defensive end Mario Ojemudia – who was playing defensive tackle on the play – hustled after the play to make a diving interception.

MVP of the game . . . Craig Roh.  Nobody did well offensively, but Roh made several nice plays from his defensive end position.  Last year defensive linemen Ryan Van Bergen and Mike Martin dominated up front, and Roh carried on that tradition this year.  He had 5 tackles, 2 tackles for loss (for 15 yards), and 1 sack (for 10 yards).