The rumor floating around the Internet last week stating that Vance Bedford would be hired by Michigan to fill Ron Lee’s vacancy is true. Bedford has been chosen to be the next defensive backs coach, meaning that Bedford is back at Michigan for a second time. Tulsa World confirmed the rumor yesterday.
For the second time in his coaching career, Vance Bedford is moving from Oklahoma State to Michigan.
On Monday night, Bedford, OSU’s defensive coordinator during the 2005 and 2006 seasons, confirmed that he has been hired to coach Michigan’s defensive backs.
Bedford was scheduled to fly to Ann Arbor, Mich., on Tuesday morning.
“I’m excited about the challenge,” Bedford said by telephone. “Michigan has a talented group of kids in the secondary, and I’m excited to work with them.”
I definitely like this hire as Bedford coached a number of great DB’s while at Michigan, his best being Heisman winner Charles Woodson. Hopefully Bedford can come in and turn this secondary into something that doesn’t give up constant long pass after long pass as we saw in the season’s final two games. The secondary is much weaker next year with the loss of Leon Hall, so coaching will play a vital role.
Lloyd Carr held a press conference yesterday since it was signing day and fielded questions from reporters. Most of the questions were asking about recruiting, but there were many also wondering about the schedule, Carr’s future, and other things regarding the football team. Here are some of the quotes from the press conference.
“We are delighted that we were able to sign 20 [recruits]. Of course, Marques Slocum will be part of that class as well. So we signed 21 guys. I like their character, I like their potential, and I look forward to the opportunity to coach them when they get here.
“It’s a little unusual – we do have four guys who are already here, that started school in January. The advantage there, certainly, is that they’ll have the opportunity to participate in our winter program in terms of developing their strength and conditioning, and the opportunity to play in spring practice.”
“It also is a more difficult adjustment, coming into college in the middle of the year. They normally come in as a class. These four guys are in here, and their adjustment is a little bit different. Certainly the weather has been colder than Ryan Mallett would have [liked]. We told him it never got less than 40 degrees here.”
On the recruits playing defensive back.
“I think Donovan Warren is the real deal. When he visited last year during the season, he impressed me as a guy that was really goal-oriented, as guy that was not afraid of competition. I think he has all of the skills that it takes, but I think all of the guys that we recruited, or else we would not have recruited them, they have all of the ability and all of the qualities that we’re looking for. It’s a matter of how well they do when the competition begins.
“Of course you all know about Troy Woolfolk, Butch’s son. Troy is a guy with wonderful speed and an athletic ability. Mike Williams from St. Bonaventure is really a guy I think is going to be able to compete early.
“I think that James Rogers is a guy that, you know and a lot of times, it’s interesting to read some of the things that are written about guys, the rankings and all of the stars, the five-star and, you know, it’s kind of funny. I think we had him in our camp, he’s got great speed and is a three-sport guy, no four-sport, four sports. I don’t remember recruiting a guy plays football, baseball, basketball and track. So he’s a guy that brings a lot to the table.
“Artis Chambers is one of the four guys that’s already here. So he’ll get an opportunity to compete in spring practice, which will I think give him a leg up as far as his knowledge and understanding of the game.”
Update on Marques Slocum.
“He’s in school and he will not participate in spring practice.”
Discussion of coaching rumors.
Has someone been hired to replace anybody? … “No.”
Is Ron Lee still on the staff? … “No.”
Thoughts on an early signing period.
“I think there are pros and cons to it. I’m really kind of ambivalent. There are so many factors in there that I can’t give you a good answer.”
Will Ryan Mallett redshirt?
“It’s not a perfect world. We’ll try to play him some if he is the backup quarterback. It may not be a lot, and it may be, you never can predict that. But the advantage of playing some, knowing it’s not going to be a lot, not planning that it’s going to be a lot … the great thing about not redshirting him, every single week he is going to prepare like he’s going to play, because he may. Mentally, the pressure is on him. His dreams are to be the starting quarterback for three years. At the end of that time, you might say, well, you should have redshirted him. But he might not have stayed anyway. There are no guarantees.
On Quintin Woods.
“He is not in school. We’re still holding … I can’t really comment on that.”
Response to talks of his contract change.
“Well, I think you can read into it whatever you choose to read into it.”
Update on a few players’ status.
What about Brandent Englemon? … “Yes.”
What about Ryan Mundy? … “No.”still with the program? … “No, Marques is not with us.”
Is Will Paul returning for his fifth year? … “No, Will is not. He’s graduated. Ryan Mundy will finish his degree this spring as well.”
Update on the still vacant 12th game.
“TBA. We’re working on it. It’s an issue, because there just aren’t many schools out there, so I can just tell you we’re hoping it will be resolved in the not too distant future.”
Thoughts on playing after Thanksgiving.
“That’s one of the suggestions I’ve made. The Big Ten athletic directors are trying to address that issue, but if they don’t do something in the Big Ten Conference, each school would be free to make some changes that would allow them to play the 12th game after Thanksgiving.”
Do you have an update on
“Antonio is working hard. He was in the training room yesterday but I can’t tell you anything. I don’t have anything to tell you that would be different (from before).”and Antonio Bass? … “Schilling is working out and we’re really optimistic that he’ll be able to play spring practice, at least in some capacity. We just have to see if he’s ready to go as far as contact, but he’s made real strides. He’s really healed fast and we’re excited about that.
Has Mike Massey’s shoulder problem lingered? … “He had surgery and he will not play spring ball but he’ll be fine.”
A certain poster on the GBW message board has posted a rumor that Vance Bedford will be returning to Ann Arbor as Michigan’s new defensive backs coach. Ron Lee left Michigan as the cornerbacks coach last January and the position has remained open ever since. I’m not exactly sure what Bedford’s exact title would be as I’m unsure if he’ll coach just the cornerbacks or the safeties as well (Ron English currently coaches that position).
Bedford was originally on the Michigan coaching staff from 1995-1998 and also has been with Oklahoma State on two separate occasions and the Chicago Bears for six years. Last month, Bedford left Oklahoma State after being the defensive coordinator, which would make perfect sense if he does indeed return to Michigan.
This would be a great hire in my opinion as he is a great secondary coach. Just ask Charles Woodson.
First year cornerbacks coach Ron Lee is not on the Michigan football coaching staff anymore. Lee came to Michigan after spending two years at Wisconsin during the round of coaching changes nearly a year ago. The reason behind his departure is not known yet, and no official word has been given by the University. However, the Detroit News confirmed that Lee has left the team after rumors were circulating regarding this topic since the Rose Bowl.
Ron Lee , who coached cornerbacks and the punt-return team, is no longer on the staff, according to a team source. Lee spent one season with the Wolverines.
According to TheWolverine.com, Ron English already is on the search to fill the vacancy. Originally, he contacted Alabama about their secondary coach, but he left for Pittsburgh. Now, it appears the search may lead English to Michigan alumni currently coaching at other schools.
LSU secondary coach Doug Mallory played at Michigan (captaining the ’87 team), as did his brothers, Curt and Mike (captain of the 1984 and ’85 squads). Curt is the secondary coach at Illinois, while Mike is the linebacker coach at Kansas. Doug has coached for former Wolverine Les Miles since Miles’ days at Oklahoma State.
I would expect the new coach to be named in the next few weeks as recruiting wraps up and thoughts of spring practice soon begin.
This is just another rumor that has turned out to be true. Stay tuned to see if other rumors concerning the coaching staff come true. Those include Andy Moeller potentially leaving Michigan for a job at Stanford and a possible demotion for Mike DeBord. The second rumor sounds pretty far-fetched considering DeBord just returned to Michigan last season, but
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
I may not be apart of the BlogPoll just yet, but hopefully by the start of the season I am. In my effort to contribute to the roundtable, and get back into college football mode, I’ll answer the 3 preseason BlogPoll questions. Here’s my take:
1) It’s early, but thus far, which offseason change or changes in college football are you most excited about?
Well, as a Michigan fan, that answer would obviously be changes to the coaching staff. After having to sit through the disappointment of a 7-5 season, it was time for a change. The coaches that I wanted out are out, and the positions are filled to my liking as well. At defensive coordinator for Michigan, Jim Herrmann, who in my opinion is a great coach, just not at the collegiate level anymore, is now at the NY Jets as the linebacker’s coach. Ron English fills that position, coming back from the Chicago Bears after a few days. English was reportedly calling those all-out blitzes that actually did work in the Alamo Bowl, and has thus far used the word “violence” when talking about his style of defense, that’s always good.
Mike DeBord will fill the offensive coordinator position as Terry Malone left for the New Orleans Saints. DeBord was the offensive coordinator from 1997-1999, where Michigan accumulated a record of 26-5, and won a national championship. Let’s hope we see those same results in his second term at the OC spot. Also coming into new positions, from different places are Ron Lee and Steve Szabo. Ron Lee will be the cornerback’s coach, coming from Wisconsin; Steve Szabo will be the linebacker’s coach, coming in from the Buffalo Bills.
Personally, I love the changes made, that has made me very excited for this coming season. English will be a great fit at DC, and I think that Mike DeBord can bring back some spring into the offense for Michigan. Both Lee and Szabo are from the outside, which hasn’t happened in a while, so it’ll be interesting to see the play of the CB’s and LB’s this season.
2) With spring practice underway, what are the three concerns about your team that are causing you the most anxiety? (USC fans can’t just list the departures of Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and LenDale White.)
After a 7-5 season, you can imagine that all Michigan fans have more than three concerns on their minds. I know I do. But the main three I think I can come up with. Let’s break them down.
*Injuries Last season injuries completely decimated this team and any chances of success. First it was Mike Hart early on in the season, then Tim Massaquoi, then virtually every offensive lineman, and so on. As soon as an injured player returned it was someone else falling out of the game. This season we’ve already experienced an injury, and it’s only the spring. Antonio Bass injured his leg, and that’s about all we know. More details are scheduled to be released soon, such as the extent, severity, and type of injury. The reports that I heard said that he tore his ACL in a pickup basketball game. He could miss the entire season, or possibly be ready for the fall. We’ll have to wait on that.
The key this season is staying healthy and limiting those pesky problems. In 2005 the big-time players we needed to be in the game (Mike Hart) were strained with injury problems all season, and that was one of many causes for a 7-5 record. If Michigan can keep the injuries to a minimum, and stay healthy, than 2006 could be a very great year. One main thing is to keep Chad Henne safe. Michigan has a method of protecting the QB, but the one year when we can’t afford to lose him it’ll end up happening probably. If Henne is out for any extendable times, then we’re in some trouble. Jason Forcier is very talented, but would he be ready to go into a game and be successful? I don’t wanna find out.
*Holding a lead The 2005 season brought 5 losses. 4 of those 5 losses happened because of blown 4th quarter leads. Against Wisconsin, Michigan led with just 24 seconds left, and then John Stocco ran it in on a QB draw to seal the win for the Badgers. Against Minnesota, Michigan didn’t necessarily give up a lead, but they did however give up a 61-yard Gary Russel run with just a few seconds left to setup a game-winning FG. In the Ohio State game, another blown lead due to conservative play causes the 4th loss in 5 years to the Buckeyes. Finally, in the most heart-breaking game in recent memory, Nebraska scored 15 points in the final 11 minutes of the game to defeat the Wolverines in stunning fashion.
Michigan has got to play for all 60 minutes of the game, not just up until the end. The biggest thing I saw was that Michigan played aggressive the entire game, but then once the pressure was on, and it was crunch time, the defense switched to a soft zone, or the offense to a yard and a cloud of dust for 3 straight plays. Here’s my favorite of all, a Chad Henne draw on 3rd and goal. Don’t change what’s been working just because the clock is running down. Against Nebraska all-out blitzes were working great as Michigan pressured the QB into throwing bad passes or not even getting a throw off at all. Once the lead got to 11, and the game was coming to an end, Jim Herrmann switched to a 3-man rush which enabled Nebraska to quickly comeback and win.
This season Michigan has got to close out these close games. If we’re on offense and ahead with a few minutes left, run some clock by handing it off, but also throw it if needed. And please, don’t send Chad running on a draw play. And on defense, continue to be aggressive, hopefully something we see with Ron English at the helm.
*Pressure After the worst season of Michigan football in 20 years, this season may be the “make-it or break-it” year for Lloyd Carr and the rest of the team. After going 7-5 in 2005, Michigan has got to put together a double-digit wins season. With 13 games to be played (12-regular season, 1-bowl), that means that only 3 losses occur. Normally that would upset me as it has in recent years, but with added games, and also after ’05, that’ll be a great improvement. You know Lloyd will be feeling the pressure to do well, and that could very well help us out. LC is on the “getting warmer seat” in my perspective. You know it would take an absolute disaster for Bill Martin to make a change, but if another 5-loss season or worse occurs in ’06, then I guarantee something will happen. The outcry from alumni would be to loud to ignore.
This season really will swing the momentum for coming years. If Michigan can put together a solid 10 or even 11 win season, then we’re back in the elite category, and can look ahead to a promising future. But, if there’s only 8 or so wins, then that means it will have been another disappointing season, and the overall state of the football program will be at rock bottom. The start of the season will be critical, mainly in the Notre Dame game on September 16th in South Bend. It’s been way too long since Michigan has won a road opener, and also now since we beat Notre Dame. You know the Fighting Irish will be pretty confident, as they will most likely be inside the top 5 of the polls. The scale for the 2006 season is set, and will be a reader to if we’re happy or sad in next January. A win over Notre Dame will give this team great confidence and will show us that we have a great team capable of great things. A loss won’t kill the season, but it also doesn’t help. Either way you slice it, this is the year to make a statement, and the pressure’s on no matter what.
*I couldn’t resist in just adding a little extra tidbit of my concerns. Last year Chad Henne caused me great pain week in and week out. Without that go to receiver that he had as a freshman in Braylon Edwards, he seemed to struggle. I don’t know if it was just a sophomore slump or just bad mechanics, but he’s gotta step it up this season. Limiting deflected, overthrown, or too quick of passes will be key. Hopefully he can find that go to WR to hook up with this year, I mean look at the crop he’s got to choose from. Mario Manningham showed me something last year that I liked, so that’s my choice right now. But seriously Chad, you gotta stop doing this to me, I can only take so much. And without Gutz there backing you up, I’m gonna have to live with you now, so make the best of it!
3) Care to take a stab at a preseason top five?
Sure, it is very early, the football season is roughly 5 months away, and everything will no doubt change by then, but I guess there’s no hurting in some very early predicting of this sort.
1. LSU – LSU had to beat out not only a very tough SEC last season, but also the worst hurricane in American history. After just annihilating Miami in the Peach Bowl, and with a great recruiting class coming in, I’d expect Les Miles and co. to be very good next year.
2. Ohio State – As much as it pains me to say this, OSU is really good. During the Tressel years it’s always been about defense, now that most of their spectacular defense is gone, look for the offense to be putting up 40+ points a game to lead this team. Heisman candidates Troy Smith and Ted Ginn are coming off a great Fiesta Bowl and will be on the short list of NC contenders.
3. Texas – Even though I don’t think Texas will be as good as this year next year because of the departure of the one man wrecking ball Vince Young, I still think they can put together a Big 12 championship. The offense and defense are suffering great losses in 1st round players, but with a top 5 recruiting class coming in, the Longhorns can make up for some of that.
4. Notre Dame – I’ll put this as plain and simple as I can, the media loves Notre Dame, and for that reason they’re in the top 5. An already average defense isn’t going to be greatly improved, so A.J. Hawk’s future brother-in-law will have to carry this team on his back, and with Charlie Weis on there, that is one heavy load.
5. USC – How is this possible after losing the entire 1st round of the draft? Well, even with the losses, they still have great players and leadership returning, not to mention one of the best recruiting classes in the country. With Pete Carrol firing himself as the defensive coordinator, which takes some balls, I’d look for USC to dominate the Pac-10 again.
I must say now, that after all that, and with the college basketball season officially over, I’m ready for college football. The Spring Game Easter weekend may be all I have until late-August to early-September, but this summer I’ll be cringing everyday for some college football action. Already April and I’m in college football mode, hard to believe. I can get through the rest of the month with continuing spring practice, but May and June are gonna be hard to deal with. Once July rolls around I’m just plain out excited, EA Sport’s college football video game comes out, so that gets me ready for the season, and before you know it, you’re singing “Hail to the Victors” and driving home in disappointment again. Let’s hope that isn’t the case this year. Thanks for these BlogPoll questions, and can’t wait for more!
(Sorry if I missed your’s, just post a link to it and I’ll get you in there)