Sunday, February 15, 2009

NCAA football teams now allowed to wear home jersey colors in games

According to a new NCAA ruling, college football teams in 2009 may both wear home jerseys during football games as long as they are clearly contrasting in color:

Approved a request to allow teams, when approved by the conference office and agreed to by both teams, to wear colored jerseys as long as they are clearly contrasting in color. When an agreement is unable to be reached, the visiting team shall wear white.

Conferences have authority to make their own rulings on the matter, however.

There certainly are appropriate applications for this ruling. Well, OK "appropriate" may not be the best word. How about traditional? Because some college football uniforms are far from "appropriate". Some teams like Oregon, West Virginia, Georgia Tech and others have recently (since the 1990s) selected lighter colored variations of home jerseys jerseys and even non-white away jerseys. In southern California, most recall the colorful tradition associated with the epic battle for Los Angeles when PAC-10 powers USC and UCLA football teams would collide every autumn in the golden sun. In recent years, the Trojans and Bruins both had to suspend their home-jersey-wearing tradition for their meeting due to NCAA regulations that prohibited it. We know too that LSU in the SEC likes to wear their away white jerseys at seemingly every single opportunity they can.

Whoa! Yellow football duds. Is this the part where opponents feel "intimidated"?

Georgia Tech and Old Gold. That's because their school colors are Old Gold and White, for crying out loud. (No pun intended.)

In my view, this is a decidedly smart move by the NCAA because it allows football teams to follow tradition where it's actually warranted (e.g. UCLA vs. USC), but also provides much appreciated checks and balances (e.g. "agreed to by both teams") so that no team can assert the right for themselves alone. Both sides must concur well before kickoff.

I remember the 1976 Rose Bowl game, where the Big Ten champion faced the PAC-8 or PAC-10 champion on an annual basis on New Year's Day in Pasadena, California. In the Rose Bowl game, the designated "home team" was alternated every year between the two conference. In 1976, the undefeated 11-0-0 Buckeyes were the designated home team, yet Dick Vermeil's 8-2-1 UCLA Bruins ran onto the field in their powderkeg blue uniforms. The Bruins won this game 23-10, shocking the nation and destroying the Buckeyes' hopes for a national championship. It was the last time the Rose Bowl game featured both teams in home uniforms.

Blame it on the uniforms.

As for the Big Ten conference, I don't believe, for example, we will ever witness the Ohio State Buckeyes stepping onto the FieldTurf of Michigan Stadium with home Scarlet jerseys. Nor vice versa in Ohio Stadium.

Some traditions are best left unaltered.

Rumours Suggest Steven Threet May Transfer

The rumour mill today is suggesting that Michigan QB Steven Threet may transfer from the football team prior to spring practice.

Threet was Michigan's starting QB during much of the 2008 campaign and played in 10 of Michigan's 12 games. Threet led Michigan to two of it's three victories in 2008, versus Miami Ohio and versus Wisconsin.

Threet's 2008 Statistics over 10 games:


200 Attempts 102 Completions 51% compl.% 1,105 yards 9 TDs 7 INTs 15 Sacks


76 Attempts 201 yards 2.6 yards/carry 2 TDs

If this rumour is true, Michigan's quarterback situation from an experience standpoint would again for the second straight season be rather dire. The next most experienced quarterback for the Wolverines would be Junior Nick Sheridan. Sheridan knows the spread offense probably better than anyone on the team, including Threet. But Sheridan was much maligned during 2008 for his apparent weaknesses, all the more poignant given the position he plays: poor arm strength and poor throwing accuracy.

Should Threet decide to transfer, Rich Rodriguez's options would include:

Nick Sheridan, Junior, 6-2, 190, Walk On

Tate Forcier, Freshman, 6-1, 190, 4 star, No. 15 QB

Denard Robinson, Freshman, 6-0, 176, 4 star, No. 13 CB/QB

Justin Feagin, Sophomore, 6-0, 190, 2 star, No. 93 CB (to play slotback in 2009)

David Cone, Senior, 6-6, 210, 3 star, No. 23 QB

Nader Furrha, Freshman, 6-1, 175, 2 star, No. 142 QB (Walk On)

Threet's potential departure only confirms the importance for Rodriguez to land a second QB in the 2009 recruiting class, which I mentioned in prior posts as if it came straight from Captain Obvious. Personally, I hope the rumour is false. Michigan needs Threet on the depth chart another year at least. Still, the Wolverines do appear to have 2 fine options at QB in Forcier and Robinson. There was great hope that somehow Threet and Sheridan could make "tremendous strides" in their throwing technique and knowledge of the offense during the off-season and that such effort would make itself apparent to coaches and fans in the spring.

Michigan was to be one of the few Big Ten teams returning it's starting QB for the 2009 season, and was the only team returning 2 QBs with substantial playing time. Michigan's competition at QB in the upcoming spring and fall practice sessions may still be intense, even if that competition likely only centers around the two incoming freshman who possess the footspeed, option agility and throwing accuracy to run Rodriguez' spread offense offense.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

2009 Big Ten Quarterbacks: Returning Starters and New Candidates

Everyone knows the importance of the quarterback in football, be it college or pro level. Returning a starting quarterback is almost always considered to be a huge plus to any football team in terms of continuity and on-field performance.

Let's review 2008 briefly and the teams that returned starting QBs and the team records:

1.) Penn State 11-2
QB Darryl Clark replaced Anthony Morelli and was far more productive offensively.
Penn State led the Big Ten in scoring 40 pts. per game and in yards per game. Entering the 2008 season Clark was experienced in clean up duty and was very comfortable as starter.
2009 Nittany Lion QB Candidates:
Darryl Clark is back as a senior.
Then there is 2009 incoming freshman Kevin Newsome.
(Paul Ciancolo graduated and backup Pat Devlin transferred to the Delaware Blue Hens)

2.) Ohio State 10-3
QB Todd Boeckmann led OSU to the Big Ten title and national championship game in 2007. In 2008, Boeckmann played second fiddle to freshman sensation Terrelle Pryor at QB.
Buckeyes finished 5th in league scoring and a surprising 9th in yards/game. Great defense is what elevated Ohio State play most of the season. Oh, and a healthy Beanie Wells.
The Buckeyes landed a great freshman class for 2009 and the timing is perfect.
Pryor will need significantly better play for the OL and a rejuvenated running game under Brandon Saine and Jamal Berry. Otherwise, the overwhelming pressure on Pryor will only mount.
2009 Buckeye QB Candidates:
So. Terrelle Pryor
So. Joe Bausermann
2009 freshman recruit Ken Guiton

3.) Michigan State 9-4
QB Bryan Hoyer returned as the Spartans' senior starter for 2008. Offensively, Michigan State was decidedly mediocre in the Big Ten, measuring 6th in the league in scoring and 7th in yard/game. A strong running game, fewer turnovers and adequate defensive play allowed MSU to win key games in 2008. Hoyer graduates in 2008.
2009 Spartan QB Candidates:
Jr. So. Kirk Cousins
Jr. Keith Nichol
2009 Fr. recruit Andrew Maxwell

4.) Iowa 9-4
Redshirt freshman QB Jake Christianson lost his starting job to sophomore QB Rick Stanzi in the second game of the season, a 42-0 shut of Florida International. The Hawkeyes never looked back. With Stanzi under center and Shonn Greene at tailback, the Hawkeyes exploded offensively finishing 3rd in the Big Ten in scoring and 3rd in the league in yard/game - a major improvement of the prior year. The Hawks were the only Big Ten team to win their bowl game by crushing SEC rep South Carolina in embarrassing fashion in the Outback Bowl 31-10.
Jake Christiansen has transferred.
2009 Hawkeye QB Candidates:
Jr. Rick Stanzi owns this position right now.
So. Marvin McNutt
RS Fr. John Wienke
2009 freshman recruit Micah Hyde.

5.) Northwestern 9-4
CJ Bacher and Mike Kafka split duty at QB in 2008. Kafka was more productive (and dangerous) in the spread offense because of his running ability. Kafka has a good throwing arm as well, and I'm sure we'll see him throw more in 2009 since the Wildcat running game of Sutton and Conteh blew up last fall to injury and do not return. Northwestern finished 8th in scoring and 6th in yards/game.
2009 Wildcat QB Candidates:
Kafka is the heir apparent for 2009.
So. Joe Mauro
2009 freshman recruit Evan Watkins.

6) Wisconsin 7-6
Wisconsin had QB issues the minute Tyler Donovan graduated in 2007. Wisconsin finished 4th in scoring and 3rd in yards/game in 2008 in 2008. Not bad. Unfortunately, the Badgers never achieved the consistency they needed under starter Allan Evridge. I sort of expect improved numbers going into 2009 with backups Tolzien or Sherer at the helm, because I think they are more talented players than Evridge was.
2009 Badger QB Candidates:
Jr. Scott Tolzien
Sr. Dustin Sherer
Curt Phillips
2009 recruit Jon Budmayr round out the Badger QB depth chart.

7.) Minnesota 7-6
The Golden Gophers finished 6th in scoring and 10th in yard/game in 2009 under QB Adam Weber. Weber has been sidelined with off-season surgery, so it's not entirely certain whether he'll start the first few games of the 2009 campaign. He may get into the role again later into the season. No team in the Big Ten returns with more total starters on offense and defense than the Golden Gophers (estimated at 18), so it would not surprise me to see Minnesota winning again 7 games or more, upsetting a few Big Ten teams along the way in their new TCF stadium, and then getting embarrassed in a bowl game per tradition. By 2010 this Gopher team could be pretty good. Weber might miss the first 1 or 2 games of the season in 2009.
2009 Gopher QB Candidates:
Sr. David Pittman is the most experienced behind Weber.
Soph. MarQueis Gray
2009 freshman recruit Moses Alipate.
Sr. Adam Weber (surgery)

8.) Illinois 5-7
I'm still trying to figure out how you go from Rose Bowl team, return your starting QB (Williams), return an awesome WR (Benn), and sensational tailback Daniel Dufresne, and not become bowl eligible. I guess this explains Ron Zook's negative recruiting tactics. I think it's also explained by something called "Western Michigan". Regardless, the Fighting Illini return with Juice at QB, and hey, that's all you need, right? Well, minus the 16 soul-crushing interceptions, I mean. Juice Williams is probably the Big Ten's loudest demonstration that it's simply not good enough to have a Pat White under center making big plays and giving defensive coordinators fits. You can't turn the ball over. You need a consistent running game, and the defense has to stop people. It sounds strange to say this, but Juice Williams is entering his senior season for the Illini. He threw for a sick number of yards in 2008, but behind closed doors right now Zook has to be thinking very hard about his QB situation and whether Juice Williams is the right choice. Williams is times. No question about it. He destroyed Michigan (not much of a feat last year, but still) and he almost single-handedly knocked off Ohio State in Columbus a year ago. Still, at other times, Williams' throwing errors have literally sucked the life out of the Illini football team.
2009 Illini QB Candidates:
Jr. Eddie McGee
RS freshman Jacob Charest
2009 freshman recruit Nathan Scheelhaase

9.) Purdue 4-8
Purdue's high octane spread attack earned a rating of 7th in league scoring and 4th in yards/game under star QB Curtis Painter. Painter graduates and coach Joe Tiller is being replaced by former Boilermaker offensive line coach Danny Hope. Will Hope continue Tillers passing attack or mix in some other razzle-dazzle? I'm not too optimistic about the Boilermarkers' future right now, mainly because I don't know about Danny Hope. I do know this: Purdue has a good QB coming back in Joey Elliott.
2009 Boilermaker QB Candidates:
Sr. Joey Elliott
So. Justin Siller
RS Fr. Caleb TerBush
then 2009 freshmen Najee Tyler and Rob Henry.

10.) Michigan 3-9
RS Freshman Steven Threet shared duties with Sophomore Nick Sheridan. Both performed poorly in the 2008 campaign overall as Michigan finished last in scoring and last in yards/game.
Both threw inconsistently and did not seem to fully grasp the offense. On the one hand, it's not going to be that difficult for Michigan to improve upon the 2008 QB numbers - they were that bad. On the other hand, Michigan enters the 2009 campaign with either low talent and low experience (Threet, Sheridan) at QB, or high talent and low experience (Forcier, Robinson).
One thing is certain now, head coach Rich Rodriguez finally has some players joining the football team in 2009 more to his liking, i.e. with good throwing accuracy, excellent footspeed and big playmaking ability. Threet has the inside track to start in 2009, in my view. Forcier and Robinson are going to push him very hard, however, in the Spring and Fall practice sessions. Threet's strength is his offensive playbook understanding, arm strength and game experience. His weaknesses have been lack of speed, poor throwing accuracy and hanging onto the ball way too long. But again, as far as arm strength goes, Threet may be the best there is in the Michigan lineup. Accuracy awards, though, will likely go to Mr. Forcier and Mr. Robinson. The quarterback position at Michigan is going to be interesting to watch for another reason in 2009: The Wolverine receiving corps may very well be the best in the Big Ten, if not the entire MidWest, from an overall speed, experience and talent perspective.
2009 Wolverine QB Candidates:
So Steven Threet
Fr. Tate Forcier
Fr. Denard Robinson
Jr. Nick Sheridan
Fr. Nader Furrha

So. Justin Feagin (playing slot)
Senior David Cone is also in the depth chart, but probably never before slotback.

11.) Indiana 3-9
I liked Indiana in 2007. Gaining bowl eligiblity and dedicating the season to Terry Hoeppner as they did was a cool thing. I thought it might be a program on the rise, to some extent anyway. 2008 was a disaster, however. Indiana finished 10th in league scoring and 8th in yards/game. The Hoosiers alternated talented quarterbacks Kellen Lewis and Ben Chappelle most of the season. The results were 12 TD passes and 11 INTs. I would expect these numbers to improve in 2009. Indiana's depth at QB is substantial, and Lewis could have a breakout senior season for the Hoosiers if he can stay out of trouble off the field, and if the other ten players on the Hoosier offense would only cooperate. Lewis's backups are capable and experienced.
2009 Hoosier QB Candidates:
Sr. Kellen Lewis,
Jr. Ben Chappelle,
Jr.Mitchell Evans,
So. Teddy Schell,
RS Fr. Adam Follett
2009 Freshman Edward Wright-Baker.

The Big Ten teams with the best QB outlook for 2009?

1.) Penn State (Darry Clark)

2.) Iowa (Rick Stanzi)

3.) Indiana (Kellen Lewis)

4.) Northwestern (Mike Kafka)

5.) Ohio State (Terrelle Pryor)

6.) Minnesota (When and if AdamWeber returns to full health)

7.) Michigan State (because of Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol play to hype)

8.) Illinois (The Juice!!)

9.) Michigan (Steven Threet/Tate Forcier/Denard Robinson)

10.) Purdue (Joey Elliott)

11.) Wisconsin (Scott Tolzien)

The next key variable is total returning offensive starters. Here are my estimates for 2009 football teams in the Big Ten conference:

1.) Michigan 11+ returnees
2.) Minnesota 10 returnees
3.) Indiana 9 returnees
4.) Iowa 7 returnees
5.) Illinois 7 returnees
6.) Michigan State 6 returnees
7.) Wisconsin 6 returnees
8.) Purdue 5 returnees
9.) Northwestern 4 returnees
10.) Ohio State 4 returnees
11.) Penn State 4 returnees

Delaware State Hornets to Invade Michigan Stadium

Michigan and Delaware State have scheduled a non-conference match October 17th in Ann Arbor. The Hornets serve as Michigan's 12th opponent for the 2009 season and will be the second Division 1-AA school faced by the Wolverines since the 2007 game with Appalachian State.

Delaware State is from the MEAC (Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference), a collection of 11 predominantly black institutions including:

Coppin State
Florida A&M
Hampton U.
Howard U.
U of Maryland - Eastern Shore
Morgan State
Norfolk State
North Carolina A&T
South Carolina State

Although Delaware State's football success within the MEAC conference since 1970 has been rather limited, Delaware State climbed back into "winning tradition" status through the leadership of coach William Collick and more recently in 2007 with HC Al Lavan. DSU football achieved the following MEAC conference titles:

1985 (9-2-0)
1987 (8-2-0)
1988 (5-5-0) tied conf. title
1989 (7-4-0)
1991 (9-2-0)
2007 (10-1)

Some little-known facts about Delaware State football:

1.) DSU produced NFL superstar wide receive John Taylor who went on to star for the San Francisco 49ers and catching the game winning touchdown pass from Joe Montana vs. Cincinnatti in the closing seconds of Super Bowl XXI to win 21-16.

Exhibit 1 of Delaware State awesomeness, former Hornet WR, and Jerry Rice-side kick, John Taylor.

2.) In 1990 DSU defeated Liberty University (famous for Reverend Jerry Fallwell, 6,000 year old dinosaur bones, and otherwise having God on their team's side) by a score of 38-37 after facing a 37-9 deficit. God must have had it with the Liberty players pointing to the sky after every big play. I don't blame him.

3.) Ms. Annice Candy served as a side judge in 2002 and the first woman to officiate a Division I college football game when Morris Brown faced Delaware State in Atlanta, GA.

4.) Oddly, Delaware State had never ever faced its own cross-state rival Delaware University Blue Hens until the first round of the FCS playoffs of 2007, when Al Lavan's 10-1 DSU team was defeated 7-44 by the championship game-bound Blue Hens.

Delaware State vs. Delaware 2007. First-ever meeting. WTF?

The Delaware State Marching band is called the "Approaching Storm, and is famous for it's high-energy, high-stepping (sound familiar?), rhythmic performances pre-game, at half-time and during DSU's 5th quarter celebrations. Hip Hop, R&B, Jazz and classic Motown music and excellent dance performances have made "The Storm" a popular attraction at NFL football games as well.

Delaware State's "Approaching Storm" Marching Band. Better than Grambling State's or Southern U.'s marching band? Better than University of Michigan's Marching Band? Hmmmm......we'll soon see.

The Hornets finished 5-6 last year under head coach Al Lavan, who is entering his 6th year at DSU. Lavan must replace star QB Vashon Winton, leading rushers TBs Chris Strother and Kareem Jones, and leading receiver WR Eddie Brown. The Hornets do return second leading yardage receivers WR Larrone Moore and WR Erick Jones. Jones caught 4 TD passes in 2008. The new Hornet QB will likely be Anthony Glaud who was Winton's backup last fall (see photo above) or a 2009 freshman recruit Chris Johnson.

Personally, I'm not at all disappointed with this match up going into 2009. I've read a number of UM blogs lamenting this contest as being somehow "beneath Michigan". In my view, Michigan's embarrassing loss to Appalachian State blew that kind of arrogant, fondue-party, "down-in-front!" thinking out of the water 2 years ago. At that moment Michigan football fans, whether they realize it or not, sort of surrendered their "we're to good for *insert school here*" attitude. I think 3-9 and last year's loss to an awful Toledo team also supports my view.

The Delaware State game is going to be good for the Michigan football team as a confidence builder. It's going to be good for DSU in the form of a nice payout, and one for their football program record books. DSU has never faced an opponent of Michigan's stature in their football program's history. And finally, I believe the game will be great for Michigan fans as the DSU football team runs a spread offense and displays some very fast players. Also, the DSU marching band is really something special to watch. I hope Delaware State fans manage to travel to Michigan for the game, that they feel welcome and enjoy the experience.

That all said, I do think that Michigan will face this kind of last minute scheduling routine for some time to come. Michigan has to fill its stadium with a 12th opponent. It has to. Michigan cannot make the same amount of money playing road games. A road game payoff would always be far less than a Big House game. So over the next 10 years, it will become next to impossible to convince other Division I teams like LSU, Clemson, Miami(FL), Oklahoma, Nebraska, USC or Texas to only play Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Today, Michigan football is essentially damned in non-conference scheduling to MAC School, MAC School, Notre Dame (To whom I will frequently refer to on this blog as "Notre Stain") , and a fourth, undetermined-up-to-the-last-freaking-moment opponent.

This ridiculous Notre Dame scheduling arrangement is unfortunately chiseled in stone for Michigan's football until 2031. The only way Michigan football might ever escape this dreadful scheduling hell would be if the Notre Dame athletic administration started to hate NBC money, and decided to, shall we say, "grow a pair" and join the Big Ten conference. Right now Notre Dame is an independent, non-affiliated football program. The Fighting Irish, however, are a member of the Big East conference in basketball.

Such a unlikely development might release Michigan from it's obligations under contract, since Notre Dame would be hopping in an out of a regular season conference schedule with the Wolverines and other Big Ten opponents. It would also open up Michigan's ability, to schedule other, higher-caliber non-conference opponents such as those mentioned above.

This is all conjecture, since Notre Dame may never join the Big Ten ever, and is probably more likely to join the Big East or remain an annoying Independent. I mean, Iowa State, Pittsburgh and Missouri are all more likely candidates to make a "Big 10+2" a reality in the future.

Eleven Big Ten (Big Eleven?) teams sort of sucks right now, because it robs the conference of extra revenue dollars that a championship game generates. Also, there's an argument to be made about a 13th game and better bowl game preparation.

Prior to the start of the 2009 season I will post again on the subject of a 12th team for the Big Ten conference and what that arrangement might (should) look like.

I do not have much optimism regarding this subject, however, and until serious deliberations take place again by Notre Stain officials, I can only look forward to observing the football teams of Delaware State, Hampton, Florida A&M, Bethune-Cookman and even Delaware U. (nice helmets!) try their luck in Ann Arbor in the coming years.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Michigan Lands Top 15 Recruiting Class for 2009

The Michigan football program and head coach Rich Rodriguez finished the 2009 recruiting campaign strong for the second straight year, signing a class ranked 13th nationally according to and 7th according to . Following the 3-9 2008 football season, many didn't know what to expect from Rodriguez and his staff on the recruiting trail.

Would prospective recruits see the 3-9 season as an opportunity for early playing time? Would UM verbal commitments during the 2008 football season eventually decommit? Would opponents use negative recruiting tactics against Rodriguez and his coaching philosophy (spread offense, doesn't throw the ball enough, RR philosophy not conducive to developing players for the NFL)?

The answer was yes to all. But Rodriguez and staff ignored the media bashing and continued to work. So how did Michigan's 2009 class measure up in the Big Ten recruiting rankings?

Not too bad at all. Yes, Michigan's recruiting class finishes behind their white hot rival Ohio State Buckeyes for a second straight year, but well ahead of Michigan State, Penn State (Rivals) and Notre Dame.

Rodriguez's 2009 haul of recruits appear to answer a number of key team concerns:

Holy mother of God, is it just me or were high school kids insane not to see the glaring Captain Obvious advertisment for early playing time in Ann Arbor? Incredibly, Michigan had to cope with the mid-season decommitment of then 5-star QB recruit Kevin Newsome (Penn State) and post season decommitment of 4-star QB recruit Shavodrick Beaver (Tulsa).

Yes, Penn State and Tulsa. Let that sink in for a moment or two.

Michigan's quarterbacks Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan were not productive in 2008. Inexperience, learning a complex playbook, and inexperienced offensive line, and poor throwing accuracy undermined their effectiveness. Come hell or high water, Rodriguez was going to get himself a QB or two. Only a few weeks ago this situation looked dire. Today Michigan signed freshmen Tate Forcier (No. 15 QB) and Denard Robinson (No. 16, QB/CB). Both are welcome additions to the Michigan QB competition this spring and fall respectively. The most notable attributes of these two fine freshmen are a.) blazing footspeed and b.) high throwing accuracy. Both achieved high school fame for their QB elusiveness and uncanny ability to make big plays. Both ran spread-run oriented offenses in high school which should only help with the timing and playbook-learning curve. The good news is that Michigan finally is accumulating the depth it needs at this position once again.

Running Back / Slot Back
Entering 2008 Michigan assistant coach Fred Jackson stated that Michigan may have the fastest group of running backs he's ever seen at Michigan. But numerous injuries and a young OL lessened the production of this group. Michigan adds 4 running backs to the fold in 2009, some of whom will play the slotback position in the spread formation: Teric Jones (No. 44 RB), Jeremy Gallon (No. 45 RB), Fitgerald Toussaint (No. 49 RB), Vincent Smith (No. 102 RB).
Most notable attribute of this group: 4.4, 4.5, 4.5 and 4.5 shuttle times in the 40 yard dash. Shazaam!

Defensive Line
Graduations in 2009 opened up a lot of opportunity for incoming Michigan freshmen. It's only surprising that more players didn't commit to Michigan for the DL.
Michigan landed Craig Roh (No. 8 DE) and Anthony Lalotta (No. 15 DE) to help lessen the blow of losing Tim Jamison to graduation last fall. Michigan also landed the Wolverine state's best player in William Campbell (No. 6 DE). Unfortunately Michigan did not land DE Sam Montgomery (committed to LSU), and both DT Pearlie Graves (Texas Tech) and DE Daquinta Jones (Arkansas) decommitted from Michigan on signing day.

Offensive Line
Michigan's offensive line in 2008 gradually improved as the season wore on. In 2009 Michigan's recruiting efforts havce paid off with the signing of Michael Schofield (No. 10 OL) , Taylor Lewan (No. 20 OL) and Quinton Washington (No. 25 OL). William Campbell played OT in high school and could play on offense next fall as well. For 2010 Michigan needs to seriously consider getting a top notch center.

Anyone who observed a Michigan football game in 2008 can tell you that the Michigan secondary needs work. The Michigan defensive backfield gave up way too many big plays last year - and in virtually every game. The good news here is that Michigan has a good bit of talent and experience now at safety. Cornerback is the biggest question mark for 2009. Justin Turner (No. 3 CB) and Denard Robinson (No. 13 QB/CB) signed with the Wolverines today and should bolster the talent at that spot.

Wide Receiver ?
Come on. Honestly, is there a football team in the Big Ten right now that even remotely comes to close to Michigan's depth talent at wide receiver? Odoms, Mathews, Hemingway, Clemons, Stonum, Rogers, T. Robinson. The depth, speed and talent here is borderline disgusting. Rodriguez didn't have to land any WRs this fall. But he did anyway. Je'Ron Stokes (No. 17 WR) and Cameron Gordon (No. 82 WR) should get reps this fall at outside wideout. Stokes is supposed to be scary good.

Tight End?
Um, Michigan recruited zero tight ends in 2009 and probably won't be recruiting many going forward under Rodriguez due to the sale on Michigan tight ends. I think Rodriguez prefers to call them "fullbacks".

Overall a great Michigan class, all things considered: 3-9 season, incessant negative recruiting, mid-season, post-season and signing day decommitments, and the limited recruiting time available after such decommitments. 8 of the 22 commitments for 2009 came from Florida. 7 of the 22 are already enrolled at Michigan. 2009 may very well constitute the fastest recruiting class top to bottom ever at Michigan.

Not too shabby, Coach Rodriguez. Good work.

(Photo of Denard Robinson,

Monday, February 2, 2009

2 Days to Go: Michigan Recruiting Nerds Play the Waiting Game

The 2009 college football recruiting season has almost run its course, and Michigan fans (including college football recruiting nerds like me) are still holding their breath.

In just 2 days America's top college football recruits will sign letters of intent to play football for the college of their choice on Signing Day, Wednesday, February 4th.

The Michigan Wolverines have landed 20 recruits so far and have earned a ranking of 20th in the land by and 7th in the land by recruiting magazines respectively.

Following a disasterous 3-9-0 football season in 2009, Michigan has done remarkably well on the recruiting trail, but it has been an exhausting process with more ups and downs than any Michigan football fan might ever remember. With 5 spots left to fill and possibly more, here are the top remaining prospects for the Wolverines for 2009:

QB/CB Denard Robinson, 4 star, No 13 CB, 6-0, 176 lbs, Deerfield Beach, FL, 4.38 speed. Choice is between Florida and Michigan.

CB Adrian Witty, 2 star, NR Safety, 6-1, 185 lbs, Deerfield Beach, FL, speed unknown (was injured in 2008). Witty is considering Kansas State, Michigan and Florida.

OL Quinton Washington, 3 star, No. 125 OL, 6-4, 322lbs, St. Stephen, SC
Between Michigan and South Carolina. Too close to call.

Over the last 3 weeks Michigan has apparently lost out on landing the following list of interested recruits. Some of them visited the UM campus in Ann Arbor:

OL Marcus Hall, 5 star, No. 2 OL, 6-5, 293 lbs, Cleveland, OH, 5.4 speed, Committed to Ohio State.

WR/QB Travante Stallworth, 3 star, No. 120 WR, 5-9, 180 lbs, Leesville, LA, 4.4 speed. Auburn bound.

DE Bennie Logan, 3 star, No. 64 DE, 6-3, 245 lbs, Coushatta, LA, 4.8 speed.
Committed to LSU

WR Willie Haulstead, 4 star, No. 37 WR, 6-2, 195 lbs, Miami, FL, 4.6 speed
Committed to Florida State.

DE Sam Montgomery, 4 star, No. 7 DE, 6-5, 240 lbs, Greenwood, SC, 5.7 speed
LSU or North Carolina or Tennessee.

WR Je'Ron Stokes, 4 star, No. 19 WR, 6-0, 195 lbs, Philadelphia, PA, 4.5 speed
A Tennessee commit. Considered Michigan for a time, but apparently leaning toward flintlock, hound dogs and Davy Crockett, a.k.a Tennessee.

There have been the stunning decommitments of Kevin Newsome (Penn State commit) and Shavodrick Beaver (Tulsa). Beaver's decommitment came just 6 weeks before signing day, which forced a change in Michigan's recruiting efforts during the last several weeks. Michigan desperately needs 2 QBs in the 2009 class to build up talent and depth at this key position to ensure that Rodriguez's spread option offense might have an opportunity to run at full throttle. They have one in Tate Forcier, but need another to add depth.

If Michigan lands the above 3 recruits (Washington, Witty and Robinson) and somehow retains DT Pearlie Graves and DE DaQuinta Jones in the class, then Michigan will have landed 23 players total. Two to three additional spots remain for the class, but it remains unclear who would occupy them.

Should 4-star CB/QB recruit Denard Robinson decide not commit to Michigan for some reason, then the Wolverines' 2009 class would still be on par with previous classes under Lloyd Carr and Rich Rodriguez comparatively speaking. Over the last 8 years both Michigan and Ohio State have landed top 10 recruiting classes (actually identically ranked on average at 10th place over the last 8 seasons.)

Also noteworthy is that Rodriguez did land the No. 1 rated players in Michigan (DT/OL William Campbell) and Ohio (CB JT Turner) respectively.

The media will no doubt find ways to highlight the decommitments of Newsome and Beaver. But 2009 recruiting haul is a already sweet class for Michigan and can be made only sweeter by landing Denard Robinson.

(Photo of Denard Robinson by Nissa Benjamin of Miami Herald)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

And then the punter decleated me

The Michigan Wolverines enter 2009 with arguably the best punter in the Big Ten conference, Zoltan Mesko. Here are Zoltan's 2009 numbers:

2008: 81 punts 42.9 yard average

2007: 71 punts 41.1 yard average

2006: 50 punts 40.6 yard average

Zoltan, Destroyer of Galaxies, appears to be improving every year, and might very well finish his senior year at Michigan as a Big Ten punting leader and a national punting leader once again.

Placekicking and kickoff duty for Michigan is another question. One of the more unsung, yet consistent aspects of Michigan football the last two years has been, believe it or not, PAT/FG kicking.

K.C. Lopata sort of came out of nowhere in 2007 to assume PK duties for the Wolverines. His handiwork never really received much notice by the press. But Lopata was consistent. He demonstrated considerable improvement in his duties between 2007 and 2008.

Career Kicking Stats

Year Game FGM FGA Pct XPM XPA Pct Pts
2007 8 11 12 91.7 28 28 100.0 61

2008 12 10 15 66.7 27 29 93.1 57

Career 20 21 27 77.8 55 57 96.5 118

100% on PATs and 11 of 12 on FGs. Yes, one of the missed FGs cost UM the opportunity to tie Toledo and go into overtime last year. But that final 10-13 loss result can hardly be pinned on Lopata's missed FG alone. The above stats are respectable numbers for a placekicker. Lopata will be missed.

As for 2009, Bryan Wright returns for his senior year at PK for Michigan this fall.
Rich Rodriguez also successfully earned the commitment of Brendan Gibbons of West Palm Beach, Florida, one of the nation's better kickers. Gibbons is 6-0, 210lbs. He is a 3-star and 11th ranked kicker in the country according to

As a kicker Mr. Gibbons doesn't appear to hesitate when the opportunity arises to dish out some embarassing, touchdown-saving punishment:

But uhhh, Brendan, don't believe for a second that you can make this a common practice because that kind of tackling can draw, shall we say either a flag (for helmet to helmet contact) or "unwanted attention" to a specialist like yourself. Attention just like that received by this unlucky punter one Sunday evening in the NFL:

Special teams are an essential part of any successfull college football team. If Zoltan continues his destruction of galaxies, and Gibbons or Wright can pull through on their end of the bargain with PATs and kickoffs, then this only leaves the kickoff return and punt return teams as the main area of focus for Rodriguez. With Michigan's improved team speed and elusiveness, even that coaching focus can be restricted to imploring Wolverine return men tonot fumble that prolate spheroid.