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Monday, September 24, 2012
The Michigan 10: Week 4 power rankings

By Michael Rothstein

Thomas Gordon
Thomas Gordon is Michigan's second-leading tackler and is jumping up the rankings.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- After its first loss to Notre Dame since 2008, the Wolverines also drop to 2-2 for the first time since that season, which was Rich Rodriguez’s first in Ann Arbor.

There were, though, positive signs for Michigan in a 13-6 loss to the Irish, and most of them were on defense.

Entering the bye week, here is the latest Michigan 10, which rates the Wolverines on performance and other factors. As a usual reminder, think of this as a stock market movement where guys can go up and down.

1. LB Jake Ryan (4): Ryan is emerging as a force on the Michigan defense. He is constantly around the ball and becoming one of the Wolverines’ top playmakers and is already their top linebacker. Ryan had five tackles against Notre Dame and also had a pass breakup. He has been Michigan’s most consistent defender.

 2. S Jordan Kovacs (NR): The fifth-year senior has returned to his typical consistent form over the past two weeks after some struggles with his tackling. He is Michigan’s leading tackler (30) and added seven tackles on Saturday.

3. LB Desmond Morgan (NR): After missing the UMass game because of  injury, the sophomore returned against Notre Dame and tied with Kovacs for a team-high seven tackles. While he might not be the most athletic player, his instincts continue to improve and he has been in the right position more often than not. Even though he missed a game, he is still Michigan’s fourth-leading tackler with 22.

4. QB Denard Robinson (1): Robinson is the biggest enigma as far as his placement on this list. After the worst game of his career -- five turnovers,including four interceptions --   he needed to drop. But if Saturday proved one thing, it is that the Wolverines’ offense struggles when he starts making errors. He is still Michigan’s most important offensive player, but he has to improve if the Wolverines want to contend in the Big Ten.

5. WR Devin Gardner (2): The converted quarterback was Michigan’s leading receiver with three catches for 40 yards Saturday. He is the Wolverines’ leading receiver in yards (195) and touchdowns (three). While he is still learning the position, he is developing into a player Michigan cannot afford to lose, which could be problematic if he misses time, as he left Saturday’s game late with an injury.

6. S Thomas Gordon (NR): Michigan’s second-leading tackler also picked up one of Michigan’s two interceptions on Saturday. He was a player who had a knack for making big plays last season and might have rediscovered some of that against Notre Dame. He started playing well last season after he faced the Irish.

7. RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (6): Toussaint gained 58 yards against Notre Dame, but judge his performance more by his yards per carry, which was 4.5. The numbers are skewed by a 31-yard rush in the second half, but he was essentially only used in the second half as he had nine of his 13 carries after halftime.

8. P Will Hagerup (8): Hagerup didn’t attempt a punt Saturday as the only time the Wolverines tried one was a pooch punt with Matt Wile. So the junior doesn’t move up or down as he didn’t play, but not because of anything he did.

9. OT Taylor Lewan (NR): The redshirt junior makes an appearance after the offensive line started to block better, both running and passing, against Notre Dame. He was also one of the blockers paving the way for the 31-yard run by Toussaint, the longest rush by a running back this season.

10. KR Dennis Norfleet (NR): Two Michigan players are averaging more than 100 all-purpose yards a game. One is Robinson. The other is Norfleet, who has picked up most of his yardage on kick returns. He is 41st nationally in kick returns and averaged 29 yards a return against Notre Dame. Each week he becomes a little more explosive as he understands the speed of the game.

Dropped out: TE Devin Funchess (3), DE Frank Clark (5), LB James Ross III (7), RB Vincent Smith (9), LB Brandin Hawthorne (10)

On the cusp (the next five): Funchess, Jeremy Gallon, J.T. Floyd, Clark, Craig Roh.