Michigan 28, Maryland 0

Tag: Jehu Chesson

3Oct 2015
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Michigan 28, Maryland 0

Drake Johnson

Ty Isaac thud. I was very disappointed in running back Ty Isaac’s performance. As the second-string running back, he got a chance to start this game since De’Veon Smith was injured and stayed home. He promptly fumbled twice (losing one) on his way to a 6-carry, 17-yard performance. He was not seen after the second fumble except on special teams. In addition to the fumble, Isaac extended a drive by roughing the punter. He had a chance to stake his claim as the potential starting running back, and he literally fumbled away the opportunity, putting the ball on the ground 33% of the time. Welcome to third- or fourth-string, Ty. You just lost your job to Drake Johnson.

Hit the jump for the rest of the game summary.

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20Sep 2015
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Michigan 28, UNLV 7

Ty Isaac on his way to a 76-yard touchdown

Hello, Ty Isaac!
It was nice to see running back Ty Isaac have some success on the ground yesterday. He ended the game with 8 carries for 114 yards and 1 touchdown, which came on a 76-yarder. (That stat line is oddly similar to De’Veon Smith’s 8 carries, 115 yards, 2 touchdowns against last year’s patsy, Appalachian State.) Isaac is not a burner and won’t make a ton of guys miss, but he can be a physical runner when he keeps his shoulders square, and obviously he has enough speed to run away from a lot of defenders. When teams start to pack the box against Michigan, there are going to be times where nobody’s left once you get past the second level. That’s what happened on Isaac’s long run. The 76-yarder was the longest run at Michigan since Denard Robinson’s 79-yard touchdown against Air Force in 2012, and it was the longest by a Michigan running back since Carlos Browns 90-yard score against Eastern Michigan in 2009. I predicted that Isaac and starter De’Veon Smith would go over 100 yards, but Smith only ended up with 33 yards on 13 carries (2.5 yards/carry).

Hit the jump for the rest of my post-game thoughts.
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13Aug 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #18 Jehu Chesson

Jehu Chesson

 Jehu Chesson
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 207 lbs.
High school: St. Louis (MO) Ladue Horton Watkins
Position: Wide receiver
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #86
Last year: I ranked Chesson #39 and said he would be a backup receiver with 18 catches, 220 yards, and 2 touchdowns. He started four games and had 14 catches for 154 yards.

I have found Chesson to be intriguing since he started demolishing people in 2013, whether it was as a gunner on punts or as a blocker in the running game. Unfortunately, that prowess has not carried over to the receiving department, where has been just so-so. With a largely ineffective passing game last year, Chesson was the fourth-leading receiver. He started four games, but he never seemed to develop a chemistry with Devin Gardner and struggled in the catching department. His best performance from last season was 2 catches for 34 yards against Rutgers, and he has just one touchdown in his career (a  58-yarder against Michigan State in 2013).

Chesson was one of Michigan’s representatives at Big Ten Media Days, so he is looked at as a leader and responsible member of the team. He has packed on 12 lbs. since last season, and he can be counted on as a blocker and hard worker. But I have doubts about whether he can be a standout receiver because he hasn’t really even shown glimpses of that during the past two years on the field. Jim Harbaugh is going to run the ball a lot, especially with question marks at quarterback, but someone needs to step up soon at receiver. The smart [Monopoly] money is on classmate Amara Darboh, but Chesson will probably start on the other side and be given plenty of opportunities. There are some young guys with more natural receiving talent, but that won’t necessarily translate to on-field team success.

Prediction: Starting wide receiver; 25 catches, 320 yards, 2 touchdowns

5Apr 2015
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2015 Spring Game: Blue 7, Maize 0

After watching the spring game on Saturday, here are some thoughts on each position group:

QUARTERBACKS: With Wilton Speight nursing a slight injury, this was a game between Alex Malzone and Shane Morris. Malzone had the superior completion percentage, but Morris looked like the better quarterback. Malzone still has an ugly, baseball-pitcher delivery that needs to be shortened up. He looks okay on quick throws (bubble screens, etc.), but any time he has to drop back and set up, the ball drops down to waist level and takes forever to come out. That is not something that gets fixed quickly. He made some good decisions but just doesn’t have the ability to get the ball there quick enough (from a mechanical standpoint and an arm strength standpoint). Morris, meanwhile, also made some good decisions, showed nice touch on some throws we haven’t seen him make before, and generally looked calmer in the pocket. His Blue team picked on “cornerback” Dennis Norfleet a bunch, which I thought was a bit unfair. Norfleet has been practicing mostly at wide receiver, but he was playing corner due to a lack of depth with the split squads. Morris and the Blue team sent Amara Darboh and Jaron Dukes deep on him several times, both of whom are significantly taller and veteran receivers. If the season were to start today, I think Morris is definitely the guy . . . but Jake Rudock is on his way from Iowa.

Hit the jump for some feedback on the rest of the position groups.

RUNNING BACKS: De’Veon Smith had a very nice run on the first play of the scrimmage, although it was a play set up to succeed by personnel. The Maize team had Mason Cole, Blake Bars, Patrick Kugler, Kyle Kalis, and A.J. Williams at the point of attack against a front seven that included Royce Jenkins-Stone at DE, Allen Gant at SAM, and walk-on Dan Liesman at weakside linebacker. Regardless, Smith broke a tackle and got into the secondary for a 34-yard gain before getting pushed out of bounds. Otherwise, the running game was pretty paltry. Derrick Green and Ty Isaac were both limited by injuries, and fullback-ish Wyatt Shallman got a bunch of carries. Even Ross Taylor-Douglas – who has been practicing at corner – got to carry the ball. (This somehow stumped announcer Marcus Ray, who started complimenting #18 Antonio Whitfield on the run, even though Ray is a defensive backs analyst for Michigan and Taylor-Douglas wears #29.) Anyway, Smith looked the best on this day, but I still think Isaac is the best option on the team. Unfortunately, he has been nursing various injuries this spring, including a hand injury and a hamstring problem, which he tweaked on Saturday.

FULLBACKS: Michigan doesn’t have a whole lot right now outside of senior Joe Kerridge. With Sione Houma injured, the other guys don’t look effective. Shallman whiffed badly on at least one blown pass protection.

WIDE RECEIVERS: The Maize team was trying hard to get the ball to Jehu Chesson early on in the scrimmage, and the new coaching staff seems to like his abilities. They also called for him to throw two passes on trick plays, one of which he completed. Amara Darboh was the leading receiver for the Blue team, but again, he was largely picking on Norfleet. Freshman Brian Cole looked the part of a freshman at times, and it does not appear that he was called on to block much in high school; on one screen play, Cole was knocked on his butt by Blake Countess, who then made the tackle. Redshirt freshman Maurice Ways also looks the part, but he has an issue with drops, which is consistent with his high school scouting reports. Aside from redshirt freshman Drake Harris, the receiving corps was mostly intact, so Michigan’s lack of noteworthy talents at receiver is a bit concerning. This is a team that is going to have to find success on the ground and take advantage of some play action through the air. As of right now, I don’t think any of these receivers will surpass 800 yards, but there will be a few in the 400-700 yard range.

TIGHT END: Jake Butt was hampered by the lack of a running threat, so he got hit on some short throws pretty quickly. We know what we have in him. I thought A.J. Williams did a better job as a blocker than we have seen him do in the past, which is a good thing. Ian Bunting and Chase Winovich are both thin right now, and Winovich had an ugly drop on a drag route. Bunting can be a receiving threat this year, though, and should be a pretty good weapon once he packs on a few more pounds. I think he can help out this year as a move tight end, but not with his hand in the dirt.

OFFENSIVE LINE: I have heard good things about Logan Tuley-Tillman this spring, but he seemed to be making lots of mental mistakes. Juwann Bushell-Beatty looked very slow off the line. This is a group that I think has a pretty solid core, but ability drops off rather quickly. Mason Cole, Ben Braden, Graham Glasgow, Kyle Kalis, and Erik Magnuson look like the best five. Kugler looked better than I expected, based on scouting reports, and I thought David Dawson and Blake Bars looked just okay.

DEFENSIVE LINE: We generally know what we have here, but the one guy I really liked was Lawrence Marshall. He’s still a little bit on the thin side, but he has the length and the explosiveness to be an asset on the edge for a team that is lacking pass rushers. Willie Henry did not seem to be giving 100%, which is one of his struggles. But when game time comes around, he’s bound to be a good one. Jenkins-Stone is pretty undersized and seems to be playing defensive end out of necessity. His presence on the line reminds me of the Rich Rodriguez years, when a guy like Adam Patterson was playing nose tackle. Things aren’t that  bad, but Michigan needs defensive ends. Luckily, they’ll get a bit of help in the fall from freshmen Shelton Johnson and Reuben Jones, plus Taco Charlton should be healthy by the fall.

LINEBACKER: Michigan had several injuries at the linebacker positions, including James Ross and Mike McCray. That allowed players like Gant and Liesman to get more playing time. Generally, Michigan has four seniors and should be in good shape with five starter-quality guys. Desmond Morgan made an interception, and both he and Joe Bolden were giving the offensive line fits. Noah Furbush has also missed the spring with an injury. Mario Ojemudia is a defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid, depending on the front, but he missed the last couple weeks of spring practice with a leg injury.

CORNERBACK: Despite an overall lack of depth, I was very encouraged by the play of the cornerbacks. Blake Countess and Jourdan Lewis both look good, and Countess looks more physical at the line of scrimmage, which was an issue last year. Brandon Watson also made an outstanding interception on a Malzone-to-Ways pass in which Watson raked the ball out and possessed it before rolling out of bounds. Watson might not be the fastest guy around, but he is known for physicality and has long arms that can help him on plays exactly like what he showed.

SAFETY: The safeties weren’t tested much in the game, but they generally fared well. Jabrill Peppers batted a pass, Delano Hill made an interception, and Jeremy Clark looked physical as a defender in tight spaces. Michigan’s combination of quarterbacks and receivers was bound to put more pressure on short areas and the corners than the safeties.

It was fun to watch some actual competition going on in the spring game. It was difficult to gauge units, because both teams were split up between starters and backups. Also, Michigan had numerous injuries, but some of those guys probably would have been available if it were a game and not a spring scrimmage. Even so, it was a physical game and even the quarterbacks had to scramble for safety since they were live. Previously, Brady Hoke had the referees blow a quick whistle when a defender got within arm’s reach of the QB.

Michigan will not be an elite team this year, and I don’t think many people expect they will be. There aren’t enough playmakers, especially as pass rushers and wide receivers. I think the offensive line will be above average, and Michigan has a few quality running backs. Whoever the quarterback will be has to make sure to minimize mistakes. The defense is pretty good from top to bottom, and I would guess they’ll be a top-25 unit this coming season. If the Wolverines can stay healthy on the offensive line and at running back, a game manager at quarterback (probably Jake Rudock) can get this team to 8 or 9 wins.

17Jul 2014
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2014 Season Countdown: #39 Jehu Chesson

Jehu Chesson goes bowling (image via Gregg Henson)

Name: Jehu Chesson
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 195 lbs.
High school: St. Louis (MO) Ladue Horton Watkins
Position: Wide receiver
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #86
Last year: I ranked Chesson #35 and said he would be a backup wide receiver with 12 catches for 150 yards and 1 touchdown. He started two games and finished with 15 catches for 221 yards and 1 touchdown; 2 carries for 1 yard; 2 kickoff returns for 36 yards; and 9 tackles.

Chesson’s 2013 season seemed to represent a steady uphill climb, in my opinion. Early in the season, he had trouble adjusting to the ball in the air, but he made his presence felt as a devastating blocker (see the above gif). As the season wore on, he improved his route running and ball skills, but by that point, quarterback Devin Gardner had two very effective favorite targets in wideouts Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess. He had a nice 33-yard catch-and-run against Akron where he bounced off a tackle attempt before sprinting down the left sideline, and he also had a standout 58-yard catch against Michigan State. On top of blocking and receiving, he made 9 tackles on special teams coverage. He appears to be a pretty well rounded football player going into his redshirt sophomore season.

Chesson does not appear to be a potential breakout star this fall, but he should be a quality third or fourth option for the Wolverines. Funchess returns and is a Biletnikoff Award candidate, but the other possibilities are unproven in redshirt sophomore Amara Darboh (sidelined last year with a broken foot) and freshman Freddy Canteen (a freshman, I say!), plus a whole host of redshirt freshmen (freshmen!) and true freshmen (when I was young, I knew everything). Darboh was a Gardner favorite until his injury, and Canteen was the darling of spring practice. I hesitate to call for Chesson to break out, because Gardner – for better or worse – seems to really trust his synergy with certain guys, and Chesson does not appear to be one of those guys. But slow and steady wins the race, so I expect to see the Missourian catching, blocking, and tackling like the solid football player he is.

Prediction: 18 catches, 220 yards, 2 touchdowns