Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Junior Running Back Mel Jackson Offered by Michigan Wolverines

Junior high school tailback Jamaal Merrell "Mel" Jackson of Newark, Delaware (Hodgson Vocational Tec) was recently offered by Michigan.

The Wolverines are going to have some openings at tailback next fall with Minor, Brown, McGuffie (transferred to Rice) and Horn (transferred) all gone.

Judging from the amazing Youtubular footage, Jackson is a home-run hitting, touchdown-scoring machine whether returning kickoffs, punts, or just running off right end on a I-formation quickpitch.

And now some 2,000 yard-gaining, shoulder-shimmying, ankle-busting fun:

Jackson is 5-9, 160 lbs. and rather fast with a 4.4 40 yard dash.
During his junior year, Mel slammed away for 1,500+ yards, 20 touchdowns and otherwise shredded opposing defenses into Sargento cheese.

Shred it again:

And golly, those Hodgson football helmets sure do look familiar. :)

The punt returning alone reminds me a little bit of Desmond Howard.

Denard Robinson is The Flash

Michigan's 2009 quarterback recruit Denard Robinson just ran a 10.44 in the 100 meter dash at the BCAA Track Championships in Coral Springs, FL. By doing so Robinson earned some additional notoriety in that his 10.44 time is the second-fastest high school time in the nation, according to Dyestat Elite 100 rankings.

Holy crap!

I give you Denard Robinson, a.k.a. The Flash:

This is pretty exciting stuff for Michigan football fans because Robinson will soon soon arrive in Ann Arbor to join fall football practice with a rather thin list of QBs: Tate Forcier, Nick Sheridan and Justin Feagin (also of Deerfield Beach, FL).

Michigan enters the 2009 campaign with some decent throwers in both freshmen Forcier and Robinson. But the Wolverines are starting to accumulate some serious speed at the QB position that the Maize & Blue haven't had...well, since forever.

Michigan did indeed run the spread option offense last year. But in truth, Michigan didn't run the spread option offense at all. What I mean is that Michigan's offense never hit 2nd gear. It really never got out of first gear. This was due to a rather worrysome situation at quarterback. In fact, UM opponents never paid the quarterback position much attention when playing the Wolverines. This is because the Michigan signal callers last year (Threet and Sheridan) were inexperienced and inconsistent leaders. They were largely inaccurate throwers. As runners, Threet and Sheridan were correctly ignored as opposing DLs, LBs and safeties could concentrate all their firepower on shutting down UM's rushing attack.

I'm not suggesting that Forcier and Robinson are Pat Whites in waiting.

I'm just saying that Michigan's offense should be much more versatile, explosive and less predictable this fall. Michigan now has quarterbacks that can run and throw equally well. I mean, you cannot afford to ignore a Tate Forcier, or a Denard Robinson during a football game. Opposing defenses this year better account for them on every down, or there will be a price to pay.

This was just not the case for Michigan football in 2008.

I suspect that the plays that will be run in 2009 should more closely resemble those of the 2002 West Virginia's team when then Mountaineer QB Rasheed Marshall took over under center and proceeded to shred Big East opponents - and almost everyone else - into ribbons with QB read options, rollouts and short-range precision passes.

Rick Leach was by far the most dangerous rushing QB in Michigan history. He scored more rushing touchdowns in the modern era of the game than any other Michigan QB. This fact was that much more amazing given that Wolverine opponents during this period knew damn well that the Wolverine tailback,fullback and the QB were going to be carrying the pigskin. A lot. Michigan was a run-centric football team.

Rick Leach, UM QB 1975-1978.
Fast and elusive?

Hmmm, not really. But get this. Leach started all 48 games of his career at UM over 4 full years. There were only 21 games out of those 48 where Leach DIDN'T celebrate a pedestrian stroll across the goal line. Leach scored 34 rushing touchdowns himself. Leach's advantage was elusiveness, not necessarily straight-line speed. He also was tough.

Rick Leach had a lot of rushing carries at Michigan during his career because Schembechler ran predominantly an Option-I attack that called for a significant number of QB option keeper plays that were situational, based on what the defense would give. There were plenty of Russell Davis and Rob Lytle off-tackle dives to be sure. But around 1976 Schembechler developed a decidedly evil fondness for using player speed on the edges. And he had just enough speed with Leach at QB and Lytle, Huckleby or Roosevelt Smith at tailback to pull it off with bone-crushing effectiveness. Michigan led the nation in scoring and rushing in 1976.

There have been a number of quick QB's at Michigan like Dennis Franklin, Wilbur Odom, Demetrius Brown and Michael Taylor, but I don't recall that there has ever been a QB to come to Michigan with the same flash and impressive, documented, foot speed as Denard Robinson.
May we live in interesting times.