29 July 2009

Wolverine Defense Flexes Its Muscle as They Blank the Broncos, 41-0

While Michigan's offense was very efficient Saturday night, it's the Wolverine defense that will receive most of the accolades. The Wolverine defense completely shut down the Broncos in a 41-0 drubbing. After the opening kickoff, the Wolverines forced the Broncos to punt. On the ensuing drive, the Wolverines marched down the field methodically for 84 yards in 9 plays, a scoring drive that was capped by a 12 yard run by wide receiver Darryl Stonum. The Wolverines were so methodical on this drive that they used up almost the entire clock in the first quarter and the quarter ended with Michigan leading, 7-0.

The Wolverines would be more explosive in the 2nd quarter as they added another 24 points to take a 31-0 halftime lead, including 2 touchdown passes from true freshman quarterback, Tate Forcier. This 2nd quarter was also a fateful one for the Broncos. It saw them throw 2 interceptions which the Wolverines would turn into touchdown drives. The first interception was just a prelude to the fact that this was not to be the Broncos night. Hiller hit his receiver in the hands with a pass and then the receiver was drilled by MLB Obi Ezeh. This hit knocked the ball loose and it was scooped out of midair by SS Troy Woolfolk for an interception. Also, in the 2nd quarter, future NFL quarterback Tim Hiller (who, in all honesty, is the only good player on their team) was knocked out of the game with a concussion. This forced the Broncos to play sophomore wide receiver, Robert Arnheim at quarterback. Arnheim would then throw an interception on his 2nd play from scrimmage.

This game was clearly just a case of one team being bigger, stronger, and more athletic than the other. At times things would be ugly. Hiller's concussion was just the first of many injuries suffered by the Broncos. In total, there were 6 Broncos that were sidelined at some point during the game while not a single Wolverine would so much as stub a toe. This game could be summed up by saying that this was like wathcing a bunch of men playing against a bunch of boys. The Wolverines would beat up the bronco players on several occasions.

In addition to the offensive efficiency (which was led by 2 passing touchdowns by Tate Forcier and 2 rushing touchdowns by Brandon Minor) and the defensive domination in this game, Michigan's special teams also shined. All American Zoltan Mesko did everything that was asked of him out there today. He made both field goals that he attempted, including a 44 yarder. In addition to this, he was dominating on kickoffs and punting (which is something that usually gets ignored in the stat sheet). He was called on to punt on 3 occasions and pinned the Broncos inside the 20 on two of those occasions (the other one was a touchback). Mesko kicked off 8 times during the game and only once did he allow the Broncos to bring the ball out of the endzone. This played a large part in the defensive domination by the Wolverines because on the 12 Bronco drives, only once did they start outside of their own 20. Because of this, the Broncos were unable to even get close to scoring. In fact, the Broncos never even sniffed the red zone and only once did they ever cross the 50 yard line. All in all, this was a perfect start for the Wolverines. They got a chance to try out their new offensive and defensive schemes against real opponents. They got a chance to give their true freshman signal caller some experience. No one got hurt. The Wolverines will now be better prepared to face their hated Rivals Notre Dame when the Irish come to the Big House in a week.

Here are some highlights of the Wolverines' defeat of the Broncos.

Box Score
Western Michigan00000

Team Statistics

First Downs1018
Total Off.156397
Passing Yards145182
3rd down conv.5/12(41%)4/9(44%)
4th down conv0/2 (0%)0/0
Red Zone-TD-FG0-0-05-3-2(100%)
Fumbles lost01
PR Yards138
KR Yards2422
Total Yards181457

Western Michigan Player Statistics
T. Hiller71258%4301
R. Arnheim91752%9303

B. West18181.0000

A. Ponder6427.00151
C. Ravenell4328.00151
B. Hammond23216.00260
B. West2136.5090

A. Dorcely1500000
A. Pritchard911000
J. Berry800000
M. Pickens700000
V. Stewart500000
D. Lewis311000

Michigan Player StatisticsPassing
T. Forcier101662%17220
D. Robinson1425%1000

T. Forcier10757.50320
B. Minor8506.22140
D. Robinson7152.10140
M. Odoms3196.30140
M. Shaw22814.00170
D. Stonum11212.01120

D. Stonum37625.31330
M. Odoms24221.01270

M. Evans700100
M. Martin620000
S. Brown521000
J. Mouton520100
T. Anderson300100
T. Gordon111000
T. Woolfolk100100

Players of the Game: WMU: A. Dorcely - 15 Tackles | UofM: T. Forcier - 10/16, 172 yds, 2 TD, 10car, 75yds

27 July 2009

Preseason All American and All Big Ten announced

Today they have released the preseason All American and All Big Ten lists and there are 6 Wolverines on those lists.

Senior punter Zoltan Mesko, who is a first team All American, is the lone Wolverine to make the All American team. He was also, of course, voted to the first team All Big Ten. Mesko has one of the strongest legs that you will see and it is rumored that he will be kicking field goals for the Wolverines this year as well. To go with his booming leg, Mesko also has pin point accuracy and can place the ball wherever he wishes. It is this combination of power and precision that will greatly help the Wolverines to win the field position wars this year. Rumor has it that he is just as accurate as a place kicker so you can expect huge things from Mesko this year.

In addition to Mesko, three other Wolverines made the 1st team All Big Ten. These were senior defensive end Brandon Graham, junior fullback Mark Moundros, and sophomore defensive tackle Mike Martin. Graham and Martin will be the anchors to a very good defensive line which is easily the strongest part of what should be a very stout Wolverine defense. You can expect Graham to cause all kinds of havoc in both the opponents rushing and passing games while Martin will really clog up the middle. When the season's over, don't expect Martin to put up the kind of numbers that Graham is expected to, but Martin will be just as important, if not more so than Graham. If any one wants to run the ball up the middle this year, they need to get past Martin first, and that will be no easy task. Fullback Moundros being selected shows that the voters don't fully understand the Wolverine's offense this year. While Moundros will be expected to provide some good blocking here and there, this reporter doesn't expect him to get more than a few very short yardage carriers this year. We will have to wait and see.

Rounding out the list of Wolverines that were honored are those making the All Big Ten 2nd team. These players are senior halfback Brandon Minor, and sophomore center David Molk. Huge things are expected from Minor this year and it would not be surprising to see him make it to the 1st team All Big Ten by the end of the year, despite the talented running backs that exist in this league. The only thing that could hold him back would be how many carries he has to share with a very deep backfield. If Minor can get his carries this year, then he should be in for a banner year. Molk, while only a sophomore, shows tremendous promise. The Wolverine offensive line was very weak last year, but it is greatly improved this year and you can expect Molk to be the vocal leader of the bunch. Under his guidance and leadership, you can expect the Wolverine offensive line to be vastly improved this year.

24 July 2009

Week 1 preview: Western Michigan @ Michigan

The start of the 2009 season is almost upon us as the season opener against the Broncos of Western Michigan is right around the corner. The Broncos had a good year last year, finishing 9-4, although is was a slight disappointment after beginning 9-2. The Broncos feel like they should've had a double digit win season last year and the sting of those last 2 losses will surely be on their mind.

After an extremely disappointing 3-9 campaign last year, the Wolverines are looking to rebound. After what happened to Michigan last year, the Broncos will surely smell blood in the water. They must realize that this is their best opportunity to knock off not only the most powerful team in the state of Michigan, but also the winningest program in college football history. An opportunity like this only comes around a few times in a lifetime and their coach will surely have his guys ready to go.

The Broncos will be led by their star senior quarterback Tim Hiller, who is clearly the best player on their team. Hiller combined with senior running back Brandon West will make for a potent 1-2 punch for the Broncos. The real question is will Western Michigan be able to handle the Wolverine defense which should be very stout all season. If Hiller and West can have big games, then the Broncos will certainly have a chance. Also, this will be the first game ever for Michigan's true freshman quarterback (either Forcier or Robinson) and it still remains to be seen how he (whomever it is) will handle the pressure of playing on the big stage.

At the end of the day, however, when it's all said and done (and lots of other cliches that can be thrown in here) I believe that the Wolverines will simply be too big, too strong, too fast, and too smart for the smaller school from Kalamazoo and the Wolverines should coast to an easy victory.

And now, let the new season begin!

09 July 2009

What is the Current Quarterback Situation at Michigan?

Questions continue to swirl regarding the qb position for Michigan this year. It's pretty much set in stone that the signal caller for the Wolverines this year will be a true freshman, but the question is, which one? Incoming Californian Tate Forcier has been practicing with the wolverines all spring and seems to be the likely choice. Coach Briggs has been raving about Forcier so far. "Sure Tate has a long way to go until he's where we need him to be, but he's been progressing very nicely. He's got the right combination of passing and rushing ability that I need to run my offense to its fullest potential."

But what about the other incoming freshman quarterback, the Floridian Denard Robinson? This kid is lightning fast; so much so that many feel that he may be better suited to play corner or perhaps wide out for the Wolverines. When asked about this, coach Briggs had this to say: "Coach Rodriguez told Denard that he had a shot to play qb for the Wolverines and I will give him every opportunity to fight for the job. He has some disadvantages coming in (namely that Forcier has been working with the first team offense all spring while Denard finished up his high school classes), but this kid is a fighter and a great leader and I know he'll give us his all. His arm isn't as lively as I would like, but his wheels certainly are. Tate is a serious threat to take off at any moment, and could get us some great rushing yards, but with Denard's speed, he will be scary as hell for opposing defenses. He would have an awful lot of linebackers reading his name on the back of his jersey."

"Denard has tremendous upside. He can do so many things for us. He will give Forcier a real run for his money for the starting quarterback job and it's definitely too early to tell who'll win that battle. On top of that, Robinson has the speed and skills to play some corner for us if we needed. Robinson hasn't been practicing long with us so I haven't seen him in person much, but there doesn't seem to be a whole lot that he can't do."

So, it looks like we'll have to wait until the first snap of the season to see who'll be the main guy for the Wolverines this year, but no matter who wins the job, it should be safe to say that Michigan's offense will be much more dynamic and exciting this year.

01 July 2009

2009 Season Preview

It's getting close to that time of year again, and after an extremely disappointing year in 2008, fans are anxious and excited about kicking this new year off. There have been several changes to the Wolverines in this off season and we'll go over them here. The biggest change is at the head coaching position. Coach Rodriguez was fired after only one season and the complete unknown, coach Briggs will take over the reigns. Coach Briggs has been quiet about his coaching philosophies thus far, but so far we know that he will in fact stick with a similar spread offense to what Coach Rodriguez ran last year. It is also rumored that Coach Briggs will implement a 3-3-5 defense for Michigan as soon as this season. That's about as much as we know about the new coach. Now let's talk about the players.

At the quarterback position, there's only one player to discuss. Threet has left in search of pro-style pastures and Sheridan is really too slow to run the type of offense that coach Briggs wants to run. That leaves us with the true freshman, Tate Forcier. Forcier has impressed so far in spring practices with both his legs (which was expected coming in) as well as his arm. According to coach Briggs Forcier is "coming along nicely. [Forcier] isn't where we need him to be at yet, but he's definitely making some good progress." Forcier will bring a new dimension to the quarterback position that hasn't really been seen before at Michigan. He's not as accomplished of a passer as wolverine qbs in the past, but that will come with experience. He can, however, fly with the ball when he runs. Teams will definitely have to account for his running ability at all times or he will burn them. Because of this, it should open up the running game for the halfbacks and it should also open up the passing game. The main concern here is that he is a very young kid who is going to be asked to shoulder a lot of responsibility. How well he can handle the pressure will have a huge impact on how the wolverines' season will go.

At running back, there will be some familiar faces. Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown will be asked to carry the majority of the load this year. Neither of them have the speed that coach Briggs would prefer, but they should still be major contributors to the wolverine offense this season. As long as they're able to split carries without either of them getting a big head and thinking that they should be the main guy, this backfield should be very successful this year. The departure of McGuffie will hurt as he has the kind of speed that is needed in this style of offense, but the Wolverines should be just fine without him.

The wide receiver position is probably the biggest question mark for the wolverines on the offensive side of the ball. They lack a real deep threat and a real game breaker at the wideout slot. Senior Greg Mathews will be the wolverines' #1 receiver and should be a solid receiver over the middle. However, he lacks the speed to go deep, so sophomore Martavious Odoms will be the wolverines' main deep threat. He should also be able to get carries as well as coach Briggs is expected to use the wide outs in the running game.

On Defense, expect the Wolverines to be solid. The biggest question is how will they cope with the change from the traditional 4-3 to a 3-3-5. The defensive line will be anchored by senior defensive end Brandon Graham who should be a monster this year. Again, the only question is how will he perform with only 2 other D-lineman along side him instead of 3. The Wolverines will have 2 stud corners in Donovan Warren and Boubacar Cissoko. After those two, however, things get a bit shaky and could be a cause for concern. Expect both Warren and Cissoko to have very solid years however. The linebacking corp that the Wolverines have can rival the best the Big Ten has to offer and is the strongest part of the Wolverine defense. The biggest defensive question will be the strong safety position. With the transition to a 3-3-5, the Wolverines will start 2 strong safeties and they aren't very deep at that position. They will have to start redshirt freshman Brandon Smith and true freshman Vladimir Emilien. This lack of experience could be a serious achilles heel for the wolverine defense.

Overall, there's no real way to tell how the Wolverines will do this year. The Wolverines can't really do any worse than they did last year and the addition of Forcier should definitely help the offense. The biggest question marks will all concern the coaching change. Coach Briggs is going to be rocking the boat quite a bit with his defensive scheme change. It will remain to be seen how the Wolverines will respond to this change. Don't expect the Wolverines to be challenging for the Big 10 title this year, but anything less than a bowl bid this year should be considered a disappointment considering their easy non conference schedule.