Wednesday Quick Hits: Don Nehlen Attends Practice

By · Wednesday, August 26, 2009 · 12:16 PM |  Share | 1 Comment 

Tuesday Quick Hits: Manny Harris Named to All-Big Ten First Team

By · Tuesday, March 10, 2009 · 2:57 AM |  Share | 5 Comments 
  • Manny Harris was selected to the All-Big Ten first team by both the media and coaches. DeShawn Sims was selected to the second team by the media and the third team by coaches.
  • UM Hoops rounded up the different bracketlology websites’ opinions on whether or not Michigan will make the tournament.
  • The first two games of Michigan’s series with Western Michigan this weekend are going to be televised. Friday’s game will start at 7:35 p.m. and can be seen on Comcast 900. Saturday’s game will get underway at 7:05 p.m. and will be shown on FSN Detroit. Sunday’s game (if necessary) has a 7:35 p.m. start time as well, but it isn’t going to be on TV. My guess is that it will be streamed on MGoBlue.
  • David Wohlberg and Brandon Burlon were named to the CCHA’s All-Rookie Team.
  • Cory Zirbel may not be able to play football anymore due to a knee injury, but he will still be around the Michigan program as a coach.
  • Lane Kiffin is at it again.

Monday Presser Notes (Week 14)

By · Monday, November 24, 2008 · 8:06 PM |  Share | Leave a Comment 

(Note: I bolded the most important items that involve the future status of players, scheduling news, and other things that are worth calling attention to.)

Rich Rodriguez:

  • The team had dinner and a meeting last night and the seniors were excused first after they were reminded to complete their responsibilities like graduating. They were also thanked for laying the foundation for this program under Rodriguez.
  • “Naturally there is going to be some (attrition).”
  • Rodriguez wants to make sure everybody is 100% committed to the team.
  • One player that can graduate right now but still has another year of eligibility did not attend the meeting on Sunday.
  • Artis Chambers left the team last week, as did Zion Babb and Jason Kates.
  • “We gotta be more athletic.”
  • Everything (coaches, players, schemes, etc.) will be evaluated.
  • A special teams coach will not be hired for next year.
  • “You can hire Knute Rockne and he’s not going to make sure the guy catches the ball on a kickoff return or a punt.”
  • Seven to eight recruits are expected to enroll early.
  • Patrick Omameh almost played as a true freshman and traveled to away games. Ricky Barnum and Rocko Khoury also nearly played and traveled to some away games. All three were redshirted and will likely see the field next year.
  • 20-23 recruits will sign with Michigan for the 2009 recruiting class.
  • Rodriguez thinks Brandon Graham is coming back and believes that he should.
  • Terrence Robinson would have played this year if he wasn’t injured.
  • Cory Zirbel’s injury is probably career-ending. Rodriguez wants him back as a student assistant coach.
  • Stephen Schilling’s injury should not require surgery.
  • Rodriguez isn’t going to coach until he’s 81 like Joe Paterno or Bobby Bowden. He joked that he would be happy to make it to age 60.
  • There is some concern over the health of Sam McGuffie since he’s had more than one concussion this season. (He got another one on the kick return during the Ohio State game where he was sandwiched by two OSU players, which I believe is his third since October. He got one against Toledo, one against Michigan State, and now one against OSU. That is never good for any player during an entire career let alone a span of a couple months.)
  • On a more positive note, Sam McGuffie is expected back next season.
  • Spring practice starts in mid-March and it is unknown if a true spring game will be held at Michigan Stadium. One will be held somewhere regardless of the venue.
  • Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, and Notre Dame are currently on next year’s schedule. Michigan still needs to find one more team to schedule at home in mid-October.
  • Rodriguez doesn’t think there will be a lot of attrition, and he is not worried about it since the players that stay will be fully committed.
  • “There were times where each unit played pretty well and there were times where each unit could have played better.”
  • Oklahoma coaches visited Michigan last spring to discuss the spread offense. Michigan may make the return trip down there to see them next year. Kevin Wilson, Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator, has visited with Rodriguez and his assistants just about every year. (That’s pretty interesting since West Virginia played Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl last season and absolutely destroyed the Sooners.)
  • Rodriguez didn’t say anything about whether or not changes to the staff will be made. He simply said that he will evaluate the coaches like he does every year.

Friday Quick Hits: Lots of Recruits Visiting for Michigan State Game

By · Friday, October 24, 2008 · 12:35 PM |  Share | Leave a Comment 
  • Michigan beat Niagara 4-2 in hockey last night. The game itself was fun to watch in spite of terrible officiating. Bryan Hogan got the start again and played well. Billy Sauer will likely return as the starter on Saturday night when Michigan plays Boston on the road.
  • Sam Webb went through all of the recruits that will be at the Michigan State game.
  • James Rogers may start in place of Greg Mathews at receiver on Saturday. Rogers switched to wide receiver from defensive back this past offseason and has two career catches.
  • Offensive lineman Cory Zirbel’s injury appears to be career-threatening.
  • Mike Hart may not be at Michigan anymore, but he still thinks Michigan State is U-M’s little brother.
  • The Michigan Daily’s Dan Feldman brought it strong in the annual “dueling columns” between the Daily and Michigan State’s student newspaper.
  • Mike Curtis, who is the basketball team’s strength and conditioning coach, and Mike Barwis are going to bounce their ideas off each other sometime soon.
  • Varsity Blue checked out a Youngstown Liberty High School game that featured a couple Michigan commits.
  • A brief recap of the open basketball practice can be found on MGoBlue.
  • Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany’s contract was recently extended to June 2013.
  • Craig Loston, one of the top safety recruits in the nation, unsurprisingly is going to LSU.

Thursday Quick Hits: Talking the BlogPoll and Injuries

By · Thursday, August 21, 2008 · 12:50 AM |  Share | 1 Comment 
  • The preseason BlogPoll is out, and Michigan unsurprisingly isn’t ranked. Georgia came in at #1 and was followed by Ohio State, USC, Oklahoma, and Florida. I actually won the “Mr. Numb Existence Award,” which goes to the voter whose poll is the least difference from the cumulative poll.
  • Some observations from the preseason BlogPoll: The Enlightened Spartan was the homerest of the homers out there as he ranked Michigan State 10th, and Saurian Sagacity used a formula that resulted in Michigan being ranked 8th. If only that ranking ended up being accurate at the end of this year.
  • According to Rich Rodriguez, offensive lineman Cory Zirbel will be out against Utah and probably for quite some time after that. Rodriguez said that it isn’t hopeful that Zirbel will be able to return at all this season as his knee injury is “pretty significant.” Also injured are freshman slot receiver Terrence Robinson, who “tweaked his knee” and “will be out several weeks,” and offensive lineman Mark Huyge, who is out with a high ankle sprain.
  • Cornerback Donovan Warren was held out of practice yesterday for precautionary reasons. It doesn’t appear to be anything serious, but it’s still scary when one of your top corners misses practice as it’s just another reason to worry.
  • How about some good news? Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown did practice yesterday, which is actually great news. Both missed practice recently, forcing freshmen Michael Shaw and Sam McGuffie to step into the starter’s role. Although the two freshmen are talented, getting Minor and Brown back is very important as they have more experience. We’ll still get a good dose of Shaw and McGuffie against Utah, but you never want to have to go to freshmen this early in the season.
  • Despite just moving to the offensive line in the last few days, John Ferrara will contend for a starting spot at guard. I don’t know if that’s nice to hear because Ferrara is a fast learner or if that says something about depth on the offensive line. I hope it’s the former.
  • “Bowling for Brock” raised around $15,000 for the Mealer family.
  • On Tuesday Rich Rodriguez surprised the team by giving them an afternoon off from practice. Coaches and players went to Fuller Park Pool to have fun in the water and to get a break from football.
  • Roy Roundtree’s uncle gave him some advice the night before signing day that helped him pick Michigan.
  • Apparently Utah’s offense is struggling a bit in practice. Sounds good to me. Hopefully they struggle on August 30 as well.
  • As Jim Carty writes, Morgan Trent has improved greatly in the last year and a half or so. He is now a cornerback all fans can be confident in, which is a big change from constantly getting torched by opposing quarterbacks like he did earlier in his career.
  • The Big Ten Network has a preview of a show called “Big Ten Legends: Lloyd Carr.” The show will premiere at 6 p.m. ET on August 26.
  • EDSBS improved the creepy BTN recruiting pitches commercial by adding some comical text to it.
  • The Wiz of Odds has a picture of what Michigan’s schedule poster looks like for the 2008 season.
  • Michael Phelps is coming to a cereal box near you and will be honored (along with his and former U-M coach Bob Bowman) at the Wisconsin game on September 27.
  • Horse-collar tackles are now banned from college football.
  • Although he hasn’t ruled Michigan out yet, the Wolverines are not one of recruit Dion Sims’ top college choices anymore. Though he is very talented, that’s not a huge deal as Sims is only a tight end and Michigan State is not a top choice anymore, either.
  • ESPN released their college football announcers lineup on Wednesday. Sadly, Paul Maguire still is part of the Brad Nessler-Bob Griese crew, meaning Big Ten afternoon football games on ABC will continue to be tough to listen to.

Tuesday Quick Hits: McGuffie and Shaw Are Ready to Play

By · Tuesday, August 19, 2008 · 2:05 AM |  Share | 2 Comments 
  • We probably won’t find out who Michigan’s starting quarterback will be against Utah until next week at the earliest. Normally I wouldn’t expect to find out who the starter is until the game begins, but Rich Rodriguez seems more open about these types of things, so maybe we will find out in the days leading up to the game.
  • With Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown being limited in practice due to injuries, Michael Shaw and Sam McGuffie are ready to step up to the plate. Both have gotten a ton of reps in practice and appear to be prepared to play.
  • Offensive linemen Cory Zirbel and Mark Huyge are both suffering injuries of their own, causing defensive tackle John Ferrara to move to the o-line.
  • Adam Rittenberg put together a great post about how Rich Rodriguez has used two quarterbacks in the past.
  • Varsity Blue has put up a photo gallery from Sunday that includes a picture debunking the myth that Morgan Trent ran a 4.13 40-yard dash. That was actually his time in a pro agility drill.
  • MLive has a video from media day.
  • The Michigan Daily got to the bottom of long snapper George Morales’ scholarship situation.

Michigan Depth Chart Released

By · Wednesday, August 30, 2006 · 1:07 PM |  Share | Leave a Comment 

With the first game of the season just days away, the initial depth chart for that game was released. There are a few surprises in it because of some position changes, so look for those throughout the lists of players.

OFFENSE
Quarterback:
CHAD HENNE
Jason Forcier

Running Back:
MIKE HART
Kevin Grady
Jerome Jackson or
Brandon Minor or
Carlos Brown

Fullback:
OBI OLUIGBO
Will Paul
Andre Criswell

Tight End:
TYLER ECKER
Mike Massey or
Carson Butler
Brian Thompson

Split End:
MARIO MANNINGHAM
Adrian Arrington
Greg Mathews

Flanker:
STEVE BREASTON
Carl Tabb
Alijah Bradley

Left Tackle:
JAKE LONG
Mark Ortmann

Left Guard:
ADAM KRAUS
Jeremy Ciulla

Center:
MARK BIHL
David Moosman
Tim McAvoy

Right Guard:
ALEX MITCHELL
Justin Schifano

Right Tackle:
RUEBEN RILEY
Cory Zirbel

DEFENSE
Defensive End:
LaMARR WOODLEY
Jeremy Van Alstyne

Nose Tackle:
TERRANCE TAYLOR or
WILL JOHNSON
Marques Walton

Defensive Tackle:
ALAN BRANCH
Will Johnson

Defensive End:
TIM JAMISON or
RONDELL BIGGS
Eugene Germany

SAM Linebacker:
SHAWN CRABLE
Prescott Burgess

MIKE Linebacker:
DAVID HARRIS
John Thompson

WILL Linebacker:
CHRIS GRAHAM
Brandon Logan

Left Cornerback:
LEON HALL
Morgan Trent

Free Safety:
BRANDENT ENGLEMAN
Ryan Mundy

Strong Safety:
JAMAR ADAMS
Willis Barringer

Right Cornerback:
CHARLES STEWART
Brandon Harrison or
Johnny Sears

SPECIALISTS
Placekicker:
GARRETT RIVAS
Jason Gingell

Kickoffs:
ROSS RYAN
Zoltan Mesko

Long Snapper:
TURNER BOOTH
Sean Griffin

Holder:
ROSS RYAN
Chad Henne
Jeff Kastl

Punter:
ROSS RYAN or
ZOLTAN MESKO

Kick Returners:
STEVE BREASTON
CARL TABB
Mario Manningham

Punt Returner:
STEVE BREASTON
Leon Hall

Names in all CAPS represents the starter(s) at each position. Players with “or” next to their name means that the starter or backup position hasn’t yet been determined.

Courtesy Rivals.com for announcement of depth chart.

Ultimate Guide to the Final Spring Practice

By · Friday, April 14, 2006 · 8:10 PM |  Share | Leave a Comment 

As the countdown above shows, we’re less than 24 hours until the 2006 spring game. This year is especially exciting due to the shifting around of coaching positions. I do have to say that this is the most excited for a spring game that I’ve ever been. I’m ready for the college football season already, and it’s only April. Throughout this “Ultimate Guide to the Spring Game”, I’ll take a look at the offense, defense, special teams, and preview each of them. Also, I’ll give you some things to look at tomorrow.

I. Previewing the Team
The 2006 Wolverines football team is going to be much different compared to last years. Many seniors have graduated, and now the positions are going to be put in the hands of new talent. Some of that talent was here before, some is coming for the first time. Let’s first take a look at each separate position to get a feel of what to expect, and which players will have to step up in ’06.

Quarterback… For Michigan, there was lots of worries last year at this position. Chad Henne, even though having great stats for a sophomore QB, was ridiculed. Michigan fans were disappointed in Henne’s mechanics and decision-making. The biggest problems I saw myself were overthrown passes and too quick of just throwing it away. Chad’s gotta step up in the pocket and be patient when nobody is open at first, someone will be later on in the play. Luckily, it seems Henne has progressed this spring. Lloyd Carr had this to say about Chad Henne’s spring performance so far:

“He’s had a good spring. What I see is a different guy, in terms of his total confidence in what he’s doing and in what he needs to do. He’s been around here, and he understands the leadership aspect of that position. I think he’s right where he needs to be.”

Maybe with that Henne will be more aggressive this year, as he showed us in the Alamo Bowl. If he doesn’t see anything, then he can take off and run. With more confidence and a mindset of being the leader of the team, Henne can go out on the field and do great things. I just have this feeling that Henne can and should have a breakout season this year with Mike DeBord now calling the plays.

Henne needs a deep-threat target. As a freshman, he had one of the best wide receivers in Michigan history, Braylon Edwards. Braylon was able to go up and catch anything thrown in his vicinity. Last season there was an absence of that special WR. Jason Avant was more of a mid-range target, and Steve Breaston just couldn’t get those long throws. Near the end of the season we saw Mario Manningham start stepping it up, and really begin to play great, all starting with the Penn State game. In the Alamo Bowl he had a spectacular long touchdown grab. What I want to see this year is a connection between these two that produces great results. Manningham reminds me of a Braylon Edwards-type player, and can do that if him and Chad can be on the same page all year.

One major concern I do have with the quarterback position is depth. With Matt Gutierrez transferring to Idaho State, that leaves Chad Henne as the starter, and Jason Forcier at the #2 spot. If any major injury is suffered, then Jason Forcier would have to be our QB, with no experience. Although, Chad Henne never had any experience when starting the first game of the 2004 season either. Antonio Bass was practicing the QB position, which just shows you how bad we are in need for players at that spot on the depth chart.

Overall, if Chad Henne stays healthy and plays smart all year, then I think the college football nation could be in for a big shock. Henne has the potential and ability to do some great things this year, and he’s got the players to do it.

Running/Full Back… In the 2005 season, Michigan was stung at the running back position with the injuries to Mike Hart. During his freshman season, Michigan fans everywhere fell in love with Hart’s astounding ability to shed tacklers and to never give up. Hart always had that extra push to gain extra yards after first being hit. Hart was banged up all year, and we only got to see Hart play to his full ability in a few games. Kevin Grady, who will now be in his 2nd year, filled in great for a freshman. Grady has slimmed down during the spring, and will have lots more speed.

In his press conference earlier this week, Lloyd Carr talked about the running back position quite a bit. Here’s what he had to say about Grady:

“Kevin had the best day of his career on Saturday. He ran with power. He’s much more comfortable with making the cuts and finding the hole. He’s a guy who likes to compete. He’s very tough. He has made wonderful strides. His weight is down, which has really significantly helped him.”

Carr also mentions that Mike Hart has had a very good spring, and that Mister Simpson, who was redshirted last year, is showing off his great ability. He even broke a 70-yard run that past Saturday. One other thing to add is that Alijah Bradley has practiced great, and has put himself in a position where he will probably receive a fair amount of playing time in 2006.

The depth at running back is unbelievable at Michigan this year. You’ve got Mike Hart and Kevin Grady as the top 2, and then the talent continues after that. Jerome Jackson can come in (as long as he stops rapping) and play great, and now we have Alijah Bradley, Mister Simpson, and Carlos Brown as well in the backup roles.

One thing I’d like to see is both Hart and Grady in the backfield together every now and then. Like a punch of thunder and lightning, the defense wouldn’t know who the ball is going to. That type of set could really be unstoppable if coached correctly. I expect and hope that Mike Hart will have a great year, especially after missing most of ’05. Kevin Grady won’t be left out either. Even though Mike is the starter, Kevin can still rack up a thousand yards this season. The best thing would be to give mike 60% of the main carries and Kevin the other 40%. You don’t want to play only Mike, where he could get worn down and re-injured. Plus, why waste a great talent by sitting him on the bench in Kevin Grady.

For the teammate of the running backs, who will be the guy sitting in the backfield most of the time with either Mike, Kevin, or Alijah? At the full back position there are a number of great players that could start. Brian Thompson had a stellar 2005 season, and played great. Will Paul was brought on and played more towards the end of ’05, and will most likely see that kind of playing time again in ’06. Also, you’ve got Obi Oluigbo, who was #4 on the list of Bruce Feldman’s “Spring Revelations.”


4. Obi Oluigbo, FB, Michigan: The 6-0, 230-pounder, a onetime UM linebacker who has essentially been just a special teamer during his career, has shed some weight and might be a key contributor at fullback as he returns to the Wolverines for his fifth-year. Thanks to his improved quickness, Oluigbo is a guy Lloyd Carr is kind of excited about this spring.

I don’t know where this comes from. But, good for Obi. It’s nice to see a player who has been there all this time to finally getting some accolades, now let’s see him turn those into on-the-field results.

Wide Receiver/Tight End… From Anthony Carter, to Desmond Howard, and to Braylon Edwards, the position of wide receiver at Michigan has always been very strong at Michigan. This year should be no different. Veteran Steve Breaston will be back and should be great at the WR position. He is recognized more for his ability to return kicks and punts, but now is the time to show off his skill at catching the ball. With Breaston’s speed, he can turn any short screen into a long touchdown. Just ask Iowa. Mario Manningham will most likely be Michigan’s main receiver this season, as he has played great as of late. Lloyd said on April 10th that Mario sprained a knee and has missed some time. That’s not good news for Michigan, but as long as he can get back to full health by the start of the season, then no worries.

Carl Tabb will also be back for one last season, and he’s had a great spring. Adrian Arrington and Doug Dutch will also be back this year, after an injury-ridden 2005. Both should be great assets to the receiving corps. Redshirt freshman LaTerryal Savoy is said that he will be a factor, and he should be since he’s such a big guy a 6 feet, 2 inches. Antonio Bass, who was involved in many different forms last year, will probably not be catching any balls this season. That severe injury is likely to keep him out of the 2006-2007 season barring any miracles.

These wide receivers are going to play a very important role in Michigan’s success for a few reasons. First off, Chad Henne’s development will depend greatly on the ability of the WR’s, the offense for Michigan is changing, so the WR’s will have to adapt, and lastly, the play of WR’s can create a better running game if the passing game is successful.

Let’s shift over to the other receivers, the Michigan tight ends. Tyler Ecker and Mike Massey will carry the load this year after the departure of Tim Massaquoi. Ecker and Massey both should be great this year, and also there’s Carson Butler Jr. who is gonna get playing time as well eventually. Chad Henne’s got plenty of targets, now he’s just gotta find them.

Offensive Line… The 2005 season was a bit of a disappointment for the offensive line. Mind you, they had a lot of injuries, but most felt that they had underachieved. Here’s Lloyd’s take on the o-line:

“I think we’ve made some real progress. Jake Long has had a great spring. Mark Bihl has had an outstanding spring. Adam Kraus has had a very good spring. What we’re looking for is to solidify ourselves at the tackle position. Rueben Riley played there for almost two weeks before he got hurt. Cory Zirbel, a young freshman, has made some strides there. Mike Kolodziej has worked in there some, and Mark Ortmann, another freshman, has gotten a lot of work. I think we’ve improved in that area. At the guard position, Alex Mitchell has done some good things. He’s going to have to compete. He’s going to have to lose some weight, and I think the same is true of Jeremy Ciulla. The right guard is a position where we’ll go into training camp having to make a decision at that position. We’ve really gotten a lot of work, and we’re much improved in that area from the day we started spring practice.”

By the sounds of that, we should be back to the old days at Michigan where year in and year out the o-line has been successful. Michigan’s got great talent coming back, and this season should be able to capitalize on it. As long as the injuries are minimal, then Mike Hart and company should have a great blocking force leading the way.

Defensive Line… Michigan will have to put some new faces on the defensive line this season after the losses of Gabe Watson and Pat Massey. Lucky for us, we have lots of new faces to use. The talent on the d-line is amazing this year. Every player is great.

Lloyd Carr had this to say about the defensive line:

“Terrance Taylor has a chance to be a great nose guard. The thing that he has done in a short period here is, he’s gotten much stronger. He has really had a good spring. Marques Walton has played very well this spring. James McKinney – we’ve moved him inside, and I think he’s made very good progress. He needs to continue to get stronger, but he’s a very athletic guy and he’s going to give us some help in an area where we need to develop some depth. Tim Jamison didn’t have a very good day on Saturday, but up until Saturday, I would say he probably has had as good a spring as anybody on our team.”

It sounds like the defensive line is going to be very good this year. Terrance Taylor has bulked up and as stated above, gotten a lot stronger. Also, in good news, the rumor is that Eugene Germany is out of the doghouse and has been given one more chance from Coach Carr. Germany had supposedly stolen a girl’s cell phone, and was in trouble with Lloyd, but hopefully he does something with that second chance.

Predicting who starts where, I’d say Jeremy Van Alstyne and Rondell Biggs get the start as the defensive ends, and then Alan Branch and Terrance Taylor at the guard positions. These are way early, but just my thought as of right now.

Linebackers… With the talent Michigan has at the position of linebacker, and with a new coach, it’ll be especially interesting to see how they perform this year. Steve Szabo, coming in from the Buffalo Bills, has lots of coaching experience, and hopefully can shape these players into great on-the-field performers.

Let’s just look at some of the talent we have in the linebacker’s position. With player’s like Shawn Crable, Prescott Burgess, Chris Graham, LaMarr Woodley, and David Harris, these talent pool is there. David Harris had a stellar 2005, and I would expect that to continue into this season. Also, Shawn Crable and Prescott Burgess should be great this year at the outside linebacker’s position. With so much depth, the rotations should be there, and we’ll have to see how Steve Szabo utilizes all of this talent.

Defensive Backs… Speaking of new coaches, Ron Lee, from fellow Big Ten team Wisconsin signed on as the cornerback’s coach. Not even talking about the new recruits coming in, which are great in the defensive back spot, Michigan has talent coming out of the wazoo. At corner, you’ve got the veteran of Leon Hall coming back, and also you’ve got Darnell Hood, Charles Stewart, Morgan Trent, and the highly acclaimed Johnny Sears Jr. (redshirted last year) at this spot. Morgan Trent has especially been playing well, at least coming from these comments by Coach Carr:

“Morgan, the last week, has played better. This is true at every position – what you’re looking for is competition, and finding out how important this game is to a guy. I guess he’s in a very competitive position because he came into the spring as No. 1. (Johnny) Sears and (Charles) Stewart have really come on. He’s like a lot of guys, he’s got to step up.”

The defensive backs have played great and have been getting increasingly better year after year, and that will definitely continue into 2006.

Also very strong at Michigan are the safeties. Willis Barringer and Brandent Engleman played great early on in the season, but then suffered some injuries, and then Branden Harrison and Jamar Adams filled in greatly at the spot. Also, we’ve got the return of Ryan Mundy to look forward to after sitting out 2005 with a nerve injury. Michigan is loaded in the defensive backfield, and it should be great for the defense in ’06.

Special Teams… Let’s get this out of the way right now and talk about kicking. Garrett Rivas has great accuracy when it comes to mid-range kicks, but he’s so inconsistent. You have games where he’ll hit any kick, like the Rose Bowl against Texas; but, then you have games where he just misses about everything. And when Garrett misses, it’s not even close. Throw in that missed extra point every few games, and you’ve got a kicker that you don’t know what to expect. It’d be nice to just cheer after a touchdown and relax. Instead, you’ve gotta watch the extra point on the edge of your seat when it should just be automatic. Something I’ve noticed about Rivas is that each year he has gained a significant amount of weight. When first coming to Michigan, he was 204 pounds, now he’s up to 217 pounds. It may only be 13 pounds difference, but he just looks bigger. He’s become just like his kicks are, “short and wide.” Maybe that affects his kicking, who knows? But, in 2006, Rivas must become more consistent and hit these chip shots.

Since we’re talking about kicking, let’s take a look at the punter, and kickoff specialist. Last season, Ross Ryan was kicking off for Michigan, and did a great job. He’s without a doubt going to be doing that again. It’s nice not having to worry about a kick return for a touchdown most of the time. Ryan also punted, and mind you, did a decent job. But I think we’ve got more talent sitting on the bench. Zoltan Mesko redshirted last year, and I think this year has a great chance of starting. From what I observed in warm-ups before games last fall, Mesko punted it a little further than Ryan did. Actually, walk-on Mark Spencer punted farther than both, but he’s graduated. Lloyd has said Mesko has improved greatly from last fall, and has been practicing in all types of conditions.

Lastly for special teams is the return game. Speedy Steve Breaston provides excitement on every kickoff and punt. He set the Rose Bowl record for kickoff return yards, and once he starts to get hot, the rest of the game is a show. In the last 2 seasons, Breaston has taken the first part of the season to get going due to injuries. What would be nice is to see a healthy Steve Breaston all year so we can get that starting position up near the 50 yard line. The way we beat Penn State was from great field position thanks to a Breaston kick return up to the 50 or so yard line. Breaston can seriously do some damage with his returning abilities, and will be sure to show it off in his final season.

II. What to Look For
Tomorrow there will be lots of new things and many things to look for when watching the final spring practice. Let’s rundown some of the things to take note of tomorrow.

  1. Newcomers… Following the trend started by Kevin Grady, Justin Boren and Carlos Brown enrolled early so they could take part in spring activities. Not much has been said about Justin Boren, but lots has been talked about Carlos Brown. Why you ask? He’s been working on both sides of the ball. At running back he brings great speed to the table, and now in the secondary as a DB, he is able to keep up with every receiver. If he gets an interception, he’s gonna be off to the races.
  2. New to Old Offense… This won’t be a flashback tomorrow when looking at the offense. Mike DeBord takes over the reins, and will hopefully bring the results of when he was the offensive coordinator from 1997-1999. Over that time Michigan went 26-5 and won a national championship. With Terry Malone leaving for the Saints, the position opened up and DeBord was promoted back to it.
  3. More Aggressive Defense… Jim “Mr. Conservative” Herrmann is gone to the New York Jets, and DB’s coach Ron English is now the defensive coordinator after coming back from a Chicago Bear’s job. Look for the defense to be more aggressive under English as he’s been known to call for more blitzes and a more violent-playing attitude.
  4. Upperclassman Leadership… Look for Chad Henne and Mike Hart to step it up and become leaders this year. Both have been here for 2 years, and both seem to be the poster boys for this year’s team. The quarterback-running back duo will provide the team with a spark coming from the backfield in ’06, bank on it.
  5. Balls to the Walls Attitude… Lloyd Carr has been failing in Michigan fans’ mind for the past few years, especially after a 7-5 season. In 2006 Lloyd will have to leave everything out on the field to just survive. If this season is as bad as 2005, then expect something to be done with Carr. I’m not saying a firing will take place necessarily, but the alumni and fans’ outcry will be too big to ignore.

III. Covering the Game Live
I will be attending the game, or final practice. Whatever you want to call it. Due to injuries, no actual scrimmage may take place, but we’ll still get a look at next year’s team. Over the weekend I’ll have a full report on what I saw, and anything to take note of. Pictures will also hopefully be included, so look for that this weekend. Thanks again for reading, and GO BLUE!

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