NFL Draft Preview: Michigan-style

Tag: Jonas Mouton

27Apr 2011
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NFL Draft Preview: Michigan-style

Jonas Mouton (#8) should be one of just two Michigan players drafted this weekend

The NFL Draft has always been a fun time for me, because I would always sit around and wait for the next Michigan player’s name to get called.  Between watching for a Michigan player to get drafted and waiting for the Lions to pick, one Saturday in April was perhaps the most exciting day of the football off-season.  But Michigan’s production of NFL players has waned in recent years.

Ever since six players were taken in the 2008 draft – four in the first three rounds – the Wolverines have only been able to muster five total draft picks in 2009 (4th round: Terrance Taylor; 6th: Morgan Trent) and 2010 (1st: Brandon Graham; 5th: Zoltan Mesko; 7th: Steve Brown).  That’s an average draft position of the 4.6th round.

By contrast, 60 players were taken from 1995-2007, an average of 4.62 per year.  On average, those players were drafted in the 3.68th round.  Not only has the number of Michigan draftees been lower in the past couple seasons, but they’re getting picked lower, too.

That average draft position might rise slightly this year, but there will probably only be two Wolverines chosen this coming weekend:

Jonas Mouton – Linebacker
Mouton measured in at the NFL Combine at 6’1″ and 239 lbs.  I think he could play a couple positions, either as a weak inside linebacker in a 3-4 or as a weakside outside linebacker in a 4-3.  He’s pretty solid in coverage and changes direction well (video here, senior profile here).
Projection: 5th round to the Patriots

Steve Schilling – Offensive guard
Schilling measured in at the NFL Combine at 6’5″, 304 lbs.  He had a pretty good Combine performance, but nothing stellar.  He played a lot of offensive tackle at Michigan, but I think he’s strictly a guard at the next level.  Four years of starting experience should help him (senior profile here).
Projection: 4th round to the Browns

Undrafted: DT Greg Banks, OT Perry Dorrestein, LB Obi Ezeh, OG John Ferrara, LB Kevin Leach, FB/LB Mark Moundros, DE/DT Adam Patterson, CB James Rogers, DT Renaldo Sagesse, TE Martell Webb

I do think there is a remote chance that two other players get drafted late – Obi Ezeh and Martell Webb.  Ezeh was, for all intents and purposes, a four-year starter at middle linebacker.  That might be worth something to a team late in the draft.  And Webb turned into a very good blocker.  If a team is looking for a cheap blocking tight end in the 7th round, they could do worse than picking a 6’4″, 268-pounder with decent athleticism.

14Feb 2011
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Jonas Mouton, #8

Jonas Mouton (#8) makes a tackle at Iowa

2010 Countdown: #10 Jonas Mouton

Linebacker Jonas Mouton played his final game for Michigan on January 1 against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Coming out of high school in Venice, CA, Mouton was a very highly touted player.  He was a 5-star recruit and the #6 safety in the country, according to Scout.  Rivals ranked him a 4-star player and the #3 safety.  At 6’2″ and already a solid 210 lbs. or so coming out of high school, it should have been clear that he would bulk up and become a linebacker.  I’m not sure why Scout and Rivals didn’t catch on to that.

Mouton arrived at Michigan and almost immediately became a linebacker.  He redshirted as a freshman in 2006 to learn the position and add some weight.  After the redshirt year, he backed up Chris Graham at weakside linebacker in Ron English’s 4-3 system.  That year (2007) he made 5 tackles at linebacker and on kick coverage.  Once Graham graduated following the 2007 season, Mouton backed up Marell Evans for one game and then earned the starting WILL job in the second game against Utah.  He finished the season with 76 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and 1 sack.  As the incumbent in 2009, Mouton had a subpar year.  The defense was abysmal, and the inside linebackers – Mouton and Obi Ezeh – constantly looked lost.  Mouton ended the season with 66 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery, and 4 pass breakups.  As a fifth year senior in 2010, Mouton led the Big Ten in tackles with 117.  He also had 8.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 3 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble, and 2 fumble recoveries.

264 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 4 interceptions, 7 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble, 3 fumble recoveries

2nd team All-Big Ten in 2010 . . . Roger Zatkoff Award (U of M’s best linebacker) in 2010

Mouton’s 4-star ranking on Rivals was a bit more accurate than Scout’s.  He turned into a solid starter and even earned All-Big Ten 2nd team honors as a fifth year senior.  However, I’m not exactly sure how a player leads the league in tackles, tosses in a couple sacks and interceptions, and doesn’t get 1st team all-conference status.  If Michigan’s defense wasn’t the worst in the school’s history, I have to believe that Mouton would have been 1st team.  In fact, if he played for Ohio State and put up those numbers, he might have been up for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.  So the lack of respect might have to do with Michigan’s overall defensive performance.  It also might have been based on Mouton’s underperformance.  With all the speed and agility Mouton has, he didn’t make many spectacular plays.  Aside from the interception against Notre Dame and his pass rush on the final play against Illinois, he looked like just a guy.

Mouton ought to play in the NFL.  He has prototypical size (6’2″, 240 lbs.) and decent speed in order to play several positions.  He could be an OLB or ILB in a 3-4, or he could be a weakside linebacker in a 4-3.  The coaching at his linebacker position was subpar throughout most of his career, but Mouton still made mistakes as a senior that he shouldn’t have been making by that point.  Still, I expect him to be a late round draft pick for a team that thinks they can coach him up.

20Nov 2010
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Preview: Michigan vs. Wisconsin

Running back James White

Rush Offense vs. Wisconsin Rush Defense
Wisconsin has the #25 rushing defense in the country, giving up only 3.8 yards per carry and 125 yards per game.  Meanwhile, Michigan is the #9 rushing offense, averaging 5.7 yards per carry and 266 yards per game.  One way or the other, one of these units is going to be disappointed on Sunday.  Michigan’s running game hasn’t been shut down yet this year.  When teams have limited Denard Robinson’s running, the tailbacks have picked up the slack.  And when teams take away the tailbacks, Robinson seems to run free.  I will be interested to see what the Badgers do on Saturday.  It looks to me like Robinson has started to wear down from various nagging injuries.  I wonder if Wisconsin might take the chance of crashing down on the running backs, playing some Cover 0, and daring Robinson to beat them.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Offense vs. Wisconsin Pass Defense
Wisconsin is #28 in pass defense, but a mediocre #51 in pass efficiency defense.  On the other side, Denard Robinson is the #14 passer in the country . . . with very little dropoff to backup Tate Forcier, since the team is still #14 overall in efficiency.  If all things are working well for Robinson, he should have a good day and make some good plays through the air.  Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, Robinson’s play has deteriorated somewhat in the Big Ten; in the last five games, Robinson’s 7 touchdowns and 8 interceptions have looked less than stellar.  Over that five-game stretch, Robinson’s PER is 138.37 and that would rank him at #36 in the country.  He’s not stinking the joint up, but he’s not lighting the world on fire, either.  That stretch of mediocre play might continue with left tackle Taylor Lewan’s availability in question due to a concussion and right tackle Perry Dorrestein’s nagging knee injury.  Michigan isn’t far from playing backup Mark Huyge at left tackle and untested redshirt freshman Michael Schofield at right tackle.  That could be troublesome for Michigan’s quarterback.  Luckily, Michigan’s receivers – Junior Hemingway and Roy Roundtree, in particular – are playing great football and should be able to take advantage of mismatches against a pedestrian secondary.
Advantage: Michigan

Rush Defense vs. Wisconsin Rush Offense
This is where it really looks ugly for Michigan, and this is nothing new.  Michigan’s coaches have made some positive moves in recent weeks, putting Cameron Gordon at outside linebacker instead of free safety, Craig Roh (finally!) at defensive end instead of linebacker, and Obi Ezeh (finally!) at outside linebacker rather than in the middle.  If banged-up starters Jonas Mouton and Mike Martin can play at a high level, those are steps in the right direction.  But Wisconsin is one of the top rushing units in the country, ranking #12 overall.  The good news is that starting Panzer VIII Maus running back John Clay will miss the game due to injury.  The bad news is that top backup James White averages more yards per carry (6.8) than Clay (5.4); even third-string Montee Ball averages 5.6 yards per carry.  Does that mean Wisconsin’s running backs are great?  Absolutely not.  It means that Wisconsin’s offensive linemen are all named Vinnie Jones and make a habit of saying “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!”  They are big and mean and really, really hate Ellen Page.
Advantage: Wisconsin

Pass Defense vs. Wisconsin Pass Offense
One place that Michigan seems to be making some strides is in pass defense.  Cornerback Courtney Avery might be a downgrade from J.T. Floyd in terms of experience, but I’m convinced that Avery will be a better defensive back than Floyd in the long run.  Avery is a quick learner and possesses better agility and hips than Floyd has ever shown.  Meanwhile, the linebackers replacing Craig Roh at SAM (J.B. Fitzgerald, Obi Ezeh) aren’t fluid in space, but they’re better off covering curl zones than a 6’5″, 250 lb. defensive end.  Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien has the #8 PER in the country and averages 8.85 yards per attempt, though.  The combination of Wisconsin’s offensive line, running backs, and Tolzien leaves chances for big plays at any time.  Despite an effective pass offense, I think big plays through the air will be limited by improving play and confidence in the secondary.  Even so, Wisconsin should be able to pick up yards in chunks.
Advantage: Wisconsin

Final Predictions

  • Denard Robinson breaks 100 yards rushing for the eighth time this year
  • James Rogers proves prophetic and Wisconsin fails to score 83 points
  • James White averages fewer than 6.8 yards per carry
  • Michigan’s defense stops the big play but dies a slow death
  • Wisconsin 35, Michigan 27
12Sep 2010
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Michigan 28, Notre Dame 24

Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson ran for a billion yards on Saturday.

Yesterday was such a roller coaster of emotions throughout the game.- Low: Michigan’s defense sucks as Notre Dame QB Dayne Crist marches down the field for an opening-drive TD.
– High: This Denard kid is pretty good.
– Higher: Crist is hurt. Maybe Michigan has a chance!
– Highest: Denard Robinson runs 87 yards for a touchdown.
– Low: Why are all three guys with a deep third gathered in the middle of the field at the end of the half?
– High: Michigan is up by two touchdowns at halftime.
– Low: Dayne Crist is back.
– Lower: Crist throws a 53-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Jones.
– Lowestest: Crist throws a 95-yard touchdown pass to TE Kyle Rudolph over the head of FS Cam Gordon.
– High: This Denard kid is really good.
– Low: Cullen Christian’s hero must be Shawn Crable.
– Coasting into the station: Dayne Crist throws an airball with :00 on the clock.It was such a relief when the game was over. I was expecting a loss, but the thing about predicting a loss is that I’m either justified in my prediction . . . or I’m ecstatic that Michigan won. And I’d much rather see the Wolverines win than be right.

There were so many things that Michigan fans learned yesterday about their team, and I’ll try to touch on a few of them here:Denard Robinson is really, really good. Notre Dame’s defense made a distinct attempt to stop him. He still ran for 258 yards (a Big Ten record for a QB) on 28 attempts (9.2 yards per carry), including an 87-yard touchdown and the 2-yard game-winner. The Fighting Irish have an experienced defense and run a 3-4 scheme that isn’t seen much in college, but Robinson was also able to throw for 244 yards on 24/44 passing (55%) (EDIT: Reader MH20 pointed out that Denard was 24/40 for a 60% completion rate) against three seniors and a sophomore in the defensive backfield.

Michigan’s running backs are not. Notre Dame keyed on Robinson and geared themselves to stop him in the run game. Still, running backs Vincent Smith (7 carries, 17 yards, 2.4 average) and Michael Shaw (5 carries, 12 yards, 2.4 average) were ineffective. These kids will take what’s given to them, but they don’t create yards for themselves. This seems to be an ongoing position battle, and hopefully running back recruits like Demetrius Hart recognize that the presence of a quarterback like Robinson should give them plenty of opportunities to get in space. After two weeks, Robinson is averaging 28.5 carries per game. That’s too much for a sturdy running back, let alone a 194 lb. quarterback.

Michigan’s receivers have stepped up. The only true drop I remember came from tight end Kevin Koger on a rollout pass early in the game. Otherwise, players like Darryl Stonum (4 for 33), Roy Roundtree (8 for 82 and 1 touchdown), and Martavious Odoms (7 for 91) made some highly contested catches throughout the game. If Robinson throws the ball within reasonable reach of Michigan’s wideouts, they’re going to catch it.

Cameron Gordon has a target on his back. Most or all of Notre Dame’s big plays were the result of Cameron Gordon’s inexperience and/or lack of natural talent. Luckily for Michigan, this Notre Dame team represented perhaps the most dangerous passing team on the Wolverines’ 2010 schedule. But other teams will be forced to take note of Gordon’s mistakes. There were numerous times where receivers ran past him or he lost track of them (the TD pass to Jones, the long pass to Riddick at the end of the first half, the 95-yard TD to Rudolph). I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Brian Kelly gameplanned to attack the redshirt freshman wide receiver-turned-safety. This is the reason that I lobbied for Troy Woolfolk to remain at deep safety back in the spring. Obviously, a broken ankle would have sidelined Woolfolk no matter what position he was playing, but you can’t convince me that a Big Ten sprinter of Woolfolk’s caliber would have been outrun by a 265 lb. tight end to the end zone. I would not be entirely surprised to see a player with more speed (perhaps Carvin Johnson or Marvin Robinson) take over the FS position in the coming years. I don’t want to see him benched, but I think Gordon would fit better at Bandit or Spur.

Jonas Mouton is blossoming in this defense. He led the team with 13 tackles and also picked off a flea-flicker pass. He did miss some tackles on the elusive and speedy Armando Allen, but I can’t say that I blame him – Allen could be a special college running back if used correctly. Overall, Mouton showed the play recognition and discipline to be a force for the remainder of the season.

The pass rush needs to improve. Through two games, Michigan’s only sack has come from backup Spur Thomas Gordon, who started in place of the injured Carvin Johnson. Michigan frequently used a three-man rush in an attempt to get to the quarterback, and it repeatedly failed. That three-man rush often consisted of nose tackle Mike Martin, defensive end Ryan Van Bergen, and linebacker Craig Roh playing in a three-point stance. At 251 lbs. Craig Roh can’t stand up to being double-teamed in the pass rush. Against a single offensive lineman, I’ll take Roh to win that matchup a majority of the time. If a second lineman comes to help, Roh will get planted on his butt, which happened several times on Saturday. Ultimately, you play to win the game (thanks, Herm Edwards!), and Michigan did that. But the Wolverines also gave up 381 yards passing.

Tate Forcier is being a good teammate. There were questions last week about his behavior on the sideline after freshman Devin Gardner was inserted instead of Forcier. Forcier was shown giving Coach Rodriguez a hug prior to kickoff, he warmed up congenially when Gardner was inserted for one play, and he was shown cheering on his team over and over again. At least publicly, Forcier looks as though he learned a bit of a lesson from the media blowback last weekend.

You might hate me for saying this, but Notre Dame would have won the game if not for Dayne Crist’s injury. Crist is only a sophomore, but he performed much better than his two replacements (Tommy Rees, Nate Montana) who had never played an FBS snap before. When Crist was available, Notre Dame outscored Michigan 24-7. Rees and Montana went 8/19 for 104 yards and 2 interceptions in Crist’s stead. Crist was 13/25 for 277 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception, in addition to a rushing touchdown. Crist missed about 26 minutes of the game. If the Irish kept up that same rate of scoring (24 points per 34 minutes of Crist’s availability), they would have scored about 42 points in the game. Despite Denard Robinson’s heroics and record-setting performance, all may have been for naught if Crist remained healthy. Injuries are a part of the game, but I think Michigan fans should recognize that the Wolverines got a bit lucky yesterday.

Denard Robinson is the clear-cut Heisman leader right now. Robinson has 885 total yards (455 rushing, 430 passing) and 5 touchdowns through two games. He also hasn’t turned over the ball once, and his team is 2-0. In addition, while several other Heisman candidates have played patsies at least once in the first two games, both of Michigan’s opponents were bowl-eligible last season. Now that Robinson has performed well against solid teams – and rushed the ball 57 times – I’m guessing he’ll get quite a bit of rest against UMass next Saturday. I doubt he’ll remain the leader throughout the season because Michigan’s defense will lose a few games this year, but he’s been the best individual performer so far.

10Sep 2010
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Preview: Michigan at Notre Dame

Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd catched a touchdown over Donovan Warren

Rush Offense vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense
Denard Robinson showed last week that he can be an elite runner from the quarterback position. He ran for 197 yards on 29 carries against UConn. Meanwhile, Michigan’s actual running backs combined to average 3.4 yards per carry against the Huskies. The Fighting Irish should be geared to stop Robinson from running the ball. That means the Notre Dame contain men should stay home and force Robinson to hand off the ball in the zone read option. If I’m the defensive coordinator, I’m going to try to make Michigan’s unproven running backs beat me. This is a base 3-4 defense, and the blocking schemes will be different than against UConn. Michigan’s athletic offensive line should be able to get up on the linebackers, though, and provide some running lanes for Robinson and the backs. Notre Dame defensive end Ethan Johnson will be tough to handle for the offensive tackles, but this defense sets up well for David Molk, Steve Schilling, and Patrick Omameh to have a field day.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense
Denard Robinson was 19/22 for 186 yards and 1 touchdown. That level of success will be difficult for Robinson to emulate this week against a veteran secondary that should be able to disguise coverages. Michigan’s passing game was pretty vanilla against UConn, and last year’s leading receiver, Roy Roundtree, might miss the game due to injury. Combine that with Notre Dame’s veteran outside linebackers who should be able to rush the passer, and I expect many pass plays to turn into running plays for Robinson. Obviously Michigan will continue its dependence on the short passing game with slants, hitches, outs, flares, and bubble screens, but this week we should see Robinson coming back to Earth from his 86% completion rate last game. Despite safety Jamoris Slaughter likely missing the game, the other three starters in the defensive backfield are all seniors.
Advantage: Notre Dame

Rush Defense vs. Notre Dame Rush Offense
Armando Allen and Cierre Wood combined for 151 yards on 25 carries (6.0 yard average) against Purdue. For all the talk about Brian Kelly’s passing game, Notre Dame has a ton of talent at running back and Kelly won’t be shy about using that talent. Meanwhile, Michigan’s interior rush defense needs to improve. Michigan allowed 138 rushing yards against UConn, including running back Jordan Todman’s 105 yards on 20 carries (5.3 yard average). It would be unwise for the Irish not to attack the middle of the defense with the run. Nose tackle Mike Martin and linebackers Craig Roh and Jonas Mouton need to play at the top of their games in order for Michigan to have success against the ground game. But even with all those guys – and Brandon Graham – playing in 2009, Allen rushed for 139 yards on a 6.6-yard average against Michigan.
Advantage: Notre Dame

Pass Defense vs Notre Dame Pass Offense
This could be the bane of Michigan’s existence. Sophomore quarterback Dayne Crist completed 76% of his passes last week, and he has a solid group of receivers to catch those passes. Wide receiver Michael Floyd and tight end Kyle Rudolph are both excellent athletes, and Michigan might not have the horses to run – and jump – with them. Michael Floyd had an excellent game against the Wolverines in 2009, and that was prior to the departures of, oh, about 13 cornerbacks. Furthermore, Michigan produced zero sacks last week against UConn. The one saving grace may be that Saturday’s weather in South Bend, IN, is supposed to be wet. For Michigan’s sake, hopefully that leaves Michael Floyd, Rudolph, and Co. dropping as many passes as UConn quarterback Zach Frazer’s targets last week.
Advantage: Notre Dame

Final Predictions- Armando Allen rushes for 125+ yards.- Denard Robinson comes back to Earth and completes less than 60% of his passes.- Michigan’s pass rush sacks Crist at least 3 times.- For the second week in a row, Michigan allows a 40+ yard reception.

– Notre Dame 27, Michigan 24