Michigan Wolverines: Darrell Funk

Believe it or not, spring football in the Big Ten is just around the corner. Several teams moved up their spring practice dates, and three of them -- Maryland, Michigan and Northwestern -- will take the field next week.

Spring ball is all about development, and some position groups need to make significant strides before the summer.

Here are five ...

Illinois' defensive line: Coach Tim Beckman kept his defensive staff in place for what should be a make-or-break season in Champaign. Coordinator Bill Cubit's presence should stabilize the offense despite the loss of quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, so the season likely hinges on whether the defense improves. There are some nice returning pieces at linebacker, but the line needs a boost after Illinois finished last in the Big Ten and 116th nationally against the run. Lineman Paul James, who originally signed with Illinois in 2013 but delayed his enrollment until January, is among those who will take the field this spring. There's plenty of competition throughout the line, and while help arrives this summer with Jihad Ward and others, Illinois needs some linemen to emerge right away.

Michigan's offensive line: Despite a first-round draft pick at left tackle (Taylor Lewan), Michigan's front five struggled mightily during the 2013 season, as young players didn't blossom quickly enough and the team couldn't consistently run the ball between the tackles. Coordinator Al Borges took the fall, but line coach Darrell Funk and his group will be under the microscope when the Wolverines begin spring practice Feb. 25. Michigan started nine different linemen in 2013 and used five lineup combinations. As tackles Lewan and Michael Schofield both depart, every position is up for grabs this spring. It will also be interesting to see how new coordinator Doug Nussmeier makes an impact on the line.

[+] EnlargeNebraska vs Minnesota
Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY SportsMitch Leidner is the only quarterback with college game experience on the Minnesota roster.
Minnesota's quarterbacks: At least nine Big Ten teams will have true quarterback competitions this spring, but arguably none has as much mystery as Minnesota. Philip Nelson's transfer following the season creates a wide-open race between Mitch Leidner, Chris Streveler, Conor Rhoda and Dimonic Roden-McKinzy, a dynamic, dual-threat quarterback who enrolled mid-year and will participate in spring practice. Leidner is the only quarterback with college game experience, appearing in 10 games last fall and recording 1,026 yards (619 passing, 403 rushing). Perhaps Leidner separates himself, but no matter what, Minnesota wants a clearer picture coming out of the spring.

Ohio State's linebackers: Coach Urban Meyer has made it very clear that Ohio State's linebacker play has fallen short of program standards. Meyer singled out the linebacker position in the 2014 recruiting class, saying on national signing day, "Far too many mistakes have been made in either lack of development or whatever, and it's just not where we need to be." Ohio State loses by far its best linebacker in Ryan Shazier, so there's pressure on returnees such as Curtis Grant, Joshua Perry and Camren Williams, as well as newcomers such as five-star prospect Raekwon McMillan, a mid-year enrollee who will be on the field this spring. Meyer said there are no redshirt plans for McMillan or the other three linebackers in the 2014 class.

Wisconsin's wide receivers: The Badgers' quarterback competition likely will garner more attention, but whoever emerges under center will need more options in the passing game. Jared Abbrederis has been Wisconsin's wide receiving corps for the past two season, and he'll be playing in the NFL this fall. You can only get by so much with pass-catching tight ends and running backs, so receivers coach Chris Beatty and his group need a strong spring session. Jordan Fredrick, Kenzel Doe and Alex Erickson lead the returnees, but Wisconsin needs young players such as speedster Robert Wheelwright to emerge. Help is on the way this summer as several promising recruits arrive, but Wisconsin can't pin its hopes exclusively on incoming freshmen.

Big Ten Friday mailblog

January, 10, 2014
Jan 10
4:30
PM ET
Wishing you a great weekend. Penn State hiring of new coach James Franklin should be finalized Saturday, so be sure and check the blog for reaction.

Don't forget: Twitter!

To the inbox ...

Josh from NYC writes: I know, I know, offensive MVP of the Rose Bowl and Big Ten Championship game. However had those very catchable INTs gone through, Cook could just as easily come out the villain rather than the hero. That said, when, if at all, do you think we start seeing some Damion Terry action over there in East Lansing?

Adam Rittenberg: Josh, Connor Cook lived on the edge for most of the season with his throws, and he certainly had fortune on his side. But what I loved is that he'd respond from a near-interception with a great throw on the run in traffic or a nice deep ball. If you get the breaks, you have to capitalize, and that's what Cook did. He deserves to be the starting quarterback entering the 2014 season. That said, Terry should be part of the offense, and I could see Michigan State employing a package of plays to get Terry more involved. Mark Dantonio understands the need to have more mobility and play-making skills from the quarterback spot. Terry certainly can help in that area.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Green
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioOhio State's defense had its struggles against Michigan but have found what needs correcting before facing Michigan State.
Shane from Michigan writes: Hi Adam, I have a question maybe you can help me with. First of all, I am very optimistic about Michigan's latest hire of Doug Nussmeier. He sounds like a very proven coach. My concern is still the offensive line. The line has never really been great for the three years of the Brady Hoke era. So my question to you is this: how much of the offensive line woes fall on the O-line position coach and how much is that actually on the offensive coordinator?

Adam Rittenberg: It falls mainly on offensive line coach Darrell Funk, especially because he directly recruited the linemen. The coordinator must create schemes catered to players' strengths and make the right play calls and the right times, but when you can't convert third-and-1 on a consistent basis, there's not much a coordinator can do. I'm interested to see how Michigan's blocking schemes change under Nussmeier, who clearly knows the run game is a priority after the past two seasons. But the development of individual players falls more on Funk.

Brian from Raleigh, N.C., writes: As the dust clears from the 2013 season, Northwestern loses "QB 1A" Kain Colter. Predictions, please: Does Trevor Siemian take over as a full-time QB in a 2009 Kafka-style offense? Is there open competition in the spring between Siemian, Zack Oliver, and Matt Alviti? Or does NU try to replicate 2012's success/take advantage of differing skill sets with another multiple-QB system?

Adam Rittenberg: Brian, I'm glad you brought up the 2009 offense, and I'd even throw in (pun intended) the pass-heavy 2008 offense led by C.J. Bacher. If Siemian is the starter, and it seems likely he will be, Northwestern should shape the offense more around his skill set, which is pocket passing. Assuming a two-quarterback system will work every year is risky, and assuming one quarterback will get hurt every year because of how much Northwestern runs its quarterbacks isn't a long-term formula for success in my view. There should be a competition this spring and Siemian shouldn't be handed the job. But if he stays healthy and develops with the receiving corps, which should be pretty good, I think Northwestern ditches the 2-QB deal and goes back to the 2008/2009 offenses, except this time with better running backs.

Casey from Dublin, Ohio, writes: I think the West division from top to bottom will be better than the East in 2014. After Mich St and tOSU they don't have anybody to compete. Michigan still has to prove it can get back. Penn St loses the top playmaker and will break in a new head coach. The West has Neb, Wisky, Iowa, Minny and possibly NW competing for the title in the west if they can get strong QB play and Mark can return to the Mark of 2 seasons ago.

Adam Rittenberg: Casey, the West undoubtedly has more parity entering 2014 and could be a more exciting divisional race. Will it be top-to-bottom better than the East? A lot depends on Michigan, which must rebound from a very disappointing season, and Penn State, which once again welcomes a new coaching staff. If those two programs both improve, the East should be stronger overall. Every West team has potential flaws, as Wisconsin loses a huge senior class, Minnesota has quarterback problems, Iowa needs to show more on offense, Nebraska must overcome long-term erratic play, and Northwestern comes off a brutal 5-7 year. I feel pretty comfortable writing that MSU and OSU will be pretty good in 2014. There are more unknowns in the West, but it should be a lot of fun to watch.

Greg from Philadelphia writes: Really Adam? Christian Hackenberg isn't a star to watch in 2014?! You're ridiculous.

Adam Rittenberg: I've been called worse, Greg. It's a national list and you can't include everyone. Penn State's uncertain coaching situation at the time the story ran played a role in not including Hackenberg, who has given every indication he'll return but still faces a decision on his future with the new staff. He certainly looks like an eventual superstar, but he'll have to adjust to a new set of offensive coaches under James Franklin.

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer
AP Photo/Michael ConroyUrban Meyer has some big shoes to fill on his defensive staff.
Steve from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Hey Adam, how do you see Coach Meyer handling his defensive staff after he reviews the year, and who are some likely candidates to replace Coach Withers?

Adam Rittenberg: Meyer will be a busy man next week at the American Football Coaches Association in Indy as he must not only replace Withers but also defensive line coach Mike Vrabel, who is joining Bill O'Brien with the NFL's Houston Texans. Both Withers and Vrabel were exceptional recruiters, so Meyer has to find candidates who not only can develop young players in both areas but get it done on the trail. I think it's important to get an assistant with ties to the South like Withers had. Could Ohio State bring back former coordinator Jim Heacock as defensive line coach? Extremely underrated assistant, in my view.

Nathan from San Antonio writes: Hey Adam, did you happen to see that next years MSU @ Oregon game was moved from week 3 to week 2? I have only read it in one location and wondered if it was true and if so, how come?

Adam Rittenberg: It has been moved, Nathan, to accommodate national television and a certain time slot, which won't be at night. The TV plans aren't final, but the game needed to be played Sept. 6 rather than Sept. 13. So Michigan State won't have an extra week to prepare for the Ducks after the opener against Jacksonville State, but it also won't have to deal with Autzen Stadium at night, which is never fun for the visiting team.

Donnie from Atlanta writes: Hey Adam/Brian, when will the Maryland & Rutgers additions be league official and when will you guys bring them in as part of the blog? Excited to learn more about the newcomers and the new stadiums/fan bases my Buckeyes will be going up against.

Adam Rittenberg: Donnie, we typically make the transition around national signing day, so check the blog in February as we'll officially welcome Maryland and Rutgers.
Last week, Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon wrote a 1,059-word blog post affirming his support for head coach Brady Hoke.

[+] Enlarge Brady Hoke, Al Borges
AP Photo/Tony DingAfter a down 2013, Al Borges (left) and Brady Hoke might not have the luxury of another season for their offense to grow.
Hoke's job status at Michigan, at least for a fourth season, never seemed to be in doubt. If Jabrill Peppers, Michigan's top 2014 recruit, hadn't expressed concern about Hoke's future, Brandon could have saved himself some time at the keyboard.

Brandon urged patience with the program, mentioned coaches like Jim Harbaugh and Nick Saban in his post and praised defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, whose job, at least to the outside, always appeared safe. Noticeably absent from the post was offensive coordinator Al Borges, who, along with offensive line coach Darrell Funk, has been the subject of increasing criticism as Michigan's offense sunk to historic lows in early November before reviving itself last Saturday against archrival Ohio State.

Hoke doesn't have a blog (am I the only one who wished he did) and isn't nearly as verbose as his boss, but he also expressed some public support for his staff Monday during an appearance at Detroit's Ford Field.

From The Detroit News:
Hoke was asked if he's happy with the staff and anticipates having this staff in 2014.

"Yeah, I anticipate the staff [returning]," he said.

When pressed and asked if he does not expect any changes, he responded simply.

"Correct," Hoke said.

He was asked again if this is a "we'll-see situation."

"No," he said.

Like every coach, Hoke will conduct evaluations with his staff following the season. Not surprisingly, Brandon will be a part of those. So it's possible changes could come following Michigan's bowl appearance, but don't hold your breath.

There's no doubt Hoke is loyal, and loyalty is a fleeting quality in today's pressurized world of college coaching. Florida on Monday fired offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis, and other programs either have made or will make significant staff changes.

Michigan's offensive woes and season record aren't nearly as bad as Florida's, but both programs are supposedly big time and face pressure to win championships. Brandon's counterpart at Florida, Jeremy Foley, also had to give his head coach a vote of confidence in recent days. What do the two approaches say about the culture of the programs, the leagues they play in and the standards they set for performance?

Hoke and Borges were united in their offensive vision at San Diego State, and nothing has changed at Michigan. They want to restore a pro-style offense built around the power run. But for various reasons -- personnel types, youth, lack of development -- it hasn't happened yet. Michigan's offense had negative net rushing totals in its first two November games, couldn't score a touchdown in regulation at Northwestern and racked up just 158 yards at Iowa before exploding for 41 points, 31 first downs and 603 yards against Ohio State.

The Wolverines seem to be at their best with quarterback Devin Gardner moving around and ball-carriers attacking the perimeter, rather than between the tackles. That hasn't been the long-term vision, but the plan could come into focus next season as young linemen and young running backs mature.

Borges is a smart coach, but he's also a journeyman coordinator. He had different jobs each season from 2000-04 and hasn't been at one stop for longer than five years since a seven-year stint at Portland State from 1986-92.

Like many coaches, Hoke believes in staff continuity, which is often a top indicator of success. We've seen plenty of examples in the Big Ten, including the long-tenured staffs at Michigan State and Minnesota picking up the slack when head coaches Mark Dantonio and Jerry Kill stepped away because of health reasons.

Northwestern attributes much of its recent success, at least until this year, to the staff remaining fully intact. Coach Pat Fitzgerald plans to keep it that way despite a highly disappointing 5-7 record. But Fitzgerald isn't at Michigan. He doesn't have the same external and historic demands as Hoke does, or should.

Does the patience/loyalty shown by Brandon and Hoke show that Michigan is different (in a good way), avoids knee-jerk reactions and wisely plans for long-term success? Or does it show Michigan talks like a big-time program but struggles to make the hard choices needed to compete at the highest level?

I'll admit it's a tough one. We'll probably get our answer in 2014.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It took Erik Gunderson a month to learn anything about his best friend at Michigan, Michael Schofield. Schofield’s bookend tackle, Taylor Lewan, is still learning new things daily about his redshirt senior classmate.

His offensive line coach, Darrell Funk, is just glad Schofield is talking now.

“He’s finally passed the 50-word mark in two years,” Funk said. “He said about eight words the first year. He’s up to a little over 50 now.”

Schofield, entering his second season as Michigan’s right tackle and third year starting on the offensive line, is the antithesis of the Wolverines’ more well-known, publicized left tackle, Lewan.

[+] EnlargeMichael Schofield
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesRight tackle Michael Schofield prefers the spotlight on left tackle Taylor Lewan.
Lewan soaks in attention like a surfer hunts for the big wave. Schofield, by comparison, would stay on the beach. He has no interest in being in the spotlight. Michigan, per the school’s policy, said Schofield declined an interview request on behalf of his parents for this story.

“I’m kind of a shy guy in general,” Schofield said, and he used shy to describe himself every time he was asked. “I don’t really mind not being in the spotlight. I kind of like that Taylor is in the spotlight so I just kind of sit back.

“I don’t really mind at all.”

It’s why, on Michigan’s media day on Sunday, the 6-foot-7 Schofield crammed next to fellow offensive linemen Kristian Mateus and Gunderson on a bench, reporters occasionally approaching him. Lewan held court in a corner with multiple reporters and television cameras. Schofield noticed, shrugged and laughed.

He enjoys being somewhat unknown as Michigan’s other redshirt senior offensive tackle with NFL ambitions.

“I just recently started finding out things,” Lewan said. “I knew he had a huge family, dad is a firefighter. He wants to be a PE teacher. He doesn’t want that large and glamorous life.

“He just wants to live his life and be happy.”

Happiness for Schofield is surrounded by family, with four sisters, his parents and a younger brother, Andrew, who is an offensive lineman at the University of South Dakota. He never sought the spotlight as a kid with the crush of siblings around him. Even if he wanted it, he’d have to share it.

He hung with Andrew, competing at everything from checkers (Michael insists he’s better) to Super Smash Brothers on Nintendo 64, where Andrew’s Link usually destroys Michael’s preferred character of Pikachu the Pokemon.

The family life extends to the holidays the two middle Schofield children miss. With Andrew and Michael gone every Thanksgiving, their mother, Kathy, began a new tradition, now three years old.

“Schogiving” is a giant Thanksgiving party in either late July or early August, depending when the Schofield boys report to football camp. The party ballooned to 50 people this year with at least 15 pounds of pork tenderloin, a 35-pound turkey and a 20-pound ham. The food is prepared by Kathy in the Schofield kitchen.

“She kind of made up a holiday,” Schofield said. “She wanted to do it. Our whole family is there. She wanted to make a giant dinner and it became our entire family and friends.”

Kathy did this because fall Saturdays are spent following Michael and Michigan. At least one family member will usually attend Andrew’s games.

Over the past three seasons, the Schofields have seen their son mature from a first-time left guard to an NFL prospect at right tackle. Schofield realized the NFL was a possibility last season after he went up against Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt.

Then, in the Outback Bowl, Lewan cramped up and missed a few plays. Schofield slid from right to left tackle and hung in for a handful of plays against South Carolina’s superstar, Jadeveon Clowney. Those two performances helped give him NFL hopes as well.

It also forced Schofield to realize if he wanted to become a pro, he needed to focus on every opponent like he did Tuitt.

“My redshirt sophomore year, I would always get hyped playing the bigger-name guys,” Schofield said. “Then middle of last year I started to realize I had to dominate whoever I am going against.”

It is a lesson carrying into this season, where for the first time Schofield might go from anonymous bookend to a player recognized on his own merits. Not that it’ll change him at all.

“I’m not going to go out of the way to get attention, I guess,” Schofield said. “I’m just going to stay in the background and just do my thing.”
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- All players who walk through the door to Schembechler Hall understand what Michigan once was. They merely have to keep their eyes and ears open.

Many college coaches, even those at traditional power programs, concern themselves only with the present and the future. Michigan's Brady Hoke puts the past on a pedestal.

Hoke's players know what the numbers 134 and 42 mean -- Michigan enters its 134th year of football and boasts 42 Big Ten championships. They know about the program's national titles and award winners. They see the Bo Schembechler quotes, the Big Ten banners and the legends lockers dedicated to program greats.

Many of the current Wolverines hadn't put on a helmet and pads in their lives the last time Michigan won a national title in 1997, but they know what the program was like because coaches like Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, both Michigan assistants that season, tell them about it all the time. Offensive line coach Darrell Funk, who had no ties to Michigan before arriving with Hoke in 2011, often shows his players tape of former Wolverines stars Steve Hutchinson, Jake Long and Jon Jansen.

[+] EnlargeBrady Hoke
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesBrady Hoke and the Wolverines are working to get the program back to where it once was.
"There's a tremendous sense of pride that Brady instills," Mattison told ESPN.com, "and our entire football organization feels that 'Let's get Michigan back to the way we remember it,' where when Michigan gets on that field, everybody goes, 'Whoa, here they come.' That's what I envision. I want to do anything that I can do to help us get there, to get Michigan back to the football level it was when I remember it."

Senior linebacker Cam Gordon was 6 years old when Michigan won the national championship and 13 when the Wolverines claimed their last Big Ten title (2004, co-championship). But he hears about the glory days from coaches like Mattison and new outside linebackers coach Roy Manning, who played for Big Ten championship teams in 2003 and 2004.

"I do remember the stories about Michigan," Gordon said. "Before they even stepped on the field, the game was won."

The constant history lessons taught inside Schembechler Hall don't stem from an unhealthy state of nostalgia. Hoke wants his players to understand the standard at Michigan. He's also extremely blunt about the fact that the Wolverines have yet to meet it.

Hoke guided Michigan to 11 wins in his first season and ended the seven-year losing streak against archrival Ohio State. He has yet to lose a game at Michigan Stadium. He has pulled Michigan out of the fog of the Rich Rodriguez era. Recruiting is undoubtedly on the upswing, and Michigan looks more like its old self on both sides of the ball.

But Hoke's tenure to this point, by his own barometer, has been a failure.

"We didn't get it done," he said of the 2012 season, when Michigan went 8-5. "We were still in a second year of changing a culture and changing a philosophy to some degree, offensively and defensively and the whole scope of what we try and do as a team. But still, at the end of the day, this is about winning Big Ten championships. We have 42 of them, and we need to start on our 43rd."

Hoke's message is heard loud and clear from the team's best player on down.

"The standard at Michigan is a Big Ten championship every single year," All-American left tackle Taylor Lewan said. "That's the minimum. Everything else is a failure. The Sugar Bowl, the BCS game, that was awesome. It was such a great experience, Bourbon Street was cool, New Orleans was cool -- failure. Outback Bowl, close game, lost in the last 20 seconds -- failure.

"Those are all games that are failures. The only way this team would be happy, would be satisfied with one season, is if we win a Big Ten championship."

Things weren't that way when Lewan arrived in 2009.

"The main goal was to make it to a bowl game," he said. "I don't know if that's how it's supposed to be at Michigan. I don't know how much my opinion counts, but I think it should be a Big Ten championship every single year. These coaches have done a great job of preaching that.

"We're not going to settle."

It has been nearly a decade since the Wolverines could call themselves league champions, their longest drought since a lull between 1950 and 1964. Every year that passes without a title means Michigan moves a little further away from the great times, a little further away from regaining the mystique Mattison and others preach about.

Talking about a winning culture in the past only goes so far without establishing a winning culture in the present. It's why much of Michigan's offseason work has been from the neck up.

"There were times where we were down in games and we came back and won the game based off our mental toughness," wide receiver Jeremy Gallon said. "And there were times in games where we didn’t come back, and it was our lack of mental toughness."

Defensive tackle Quinton Washington said Michigan worked on breaking "mental barriers" this spring, one of which is playing better away from the Big House. The Wolverines dropped three road games (Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State) and two neutral-site contests (Alabama, South Carolina) last fall.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Lewan
AP Photo/Dave WeaverTaylor Lewan (77) knows expectations are high for every player who wears a Michigan uniform.
Michigan is just 5-7 in road or neutral-site games under Hoke.

"We didn't play well on the road," Hoke said. "We didn't play with the toughness that it takes. We learned a lot in the bowl game about us as people, especially the guys coming back, good and bad."

Hoke has a Sun Tzu quote displayed in the weight room that reads: Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win. The goal is for the Wolverines to enter games with the same mindset as their predecessors.

Many think the Michigan mystique is dead, but Hoke's players are driven to revive it.

"If they don't fear Michigan," Gordon said, "then obviously that's something that we're going to have to change."

Beginning this fall.

"Anywhere you go in the world, everyone knows Michigan," defensive end Frank Clark said. "Anywhere in the nation, as far as college football, everyone knows Michigan. For the last couple years, we haven't lived up to those expectations. This next season, we have to.

"It's time. There aren't anymore excuses."
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Watch List offensive lineman Jamarco Jones (Chicago/De La Salle Institute) has decided that he’d like to commit in late July or early August. He also plans to cut to eight to 10 schools by May and in order to do that he wanted to get in as many visits as possible.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Taylor Lewan heard the confusion and saw the stunned expression from almost everyone he knew.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Lewan
Andrew Weber/US PresswireO-lineman Taylor Lewan likely would have been a first-round draft pick, had he opted to leave U-M after last season.
From family. From friends. From an old woman in a local Kroger who approached Lewan and then proceeded to call him an idiot for sticking around at Michigan another year.

“People,” Lewan said, “think I’m crazy.”

When someone turns down the potential for millions of dollars to play a violent, unforgiving game for free for another year, the questioning makes sense. Lewan understands that. He appreciates that.

But it was his decision, and Michigan and Lewan's coaching staff are happy for it.

Lewan’s return offered immediate dividends for Michigan. It could place him easily at left tackle, not worry about the results, and focus on shoring up the interior of an offensive line which has no experience at all.

Michigan offensive line coach Darrell Funk said recently he’d like to have at least one, maybe two of the spots solidified by the time fall camp starts. In a perfect scenario, the Wolverines would have their entire offensive line set by the end of spring, but that seems unlikely, considering the emphasis coach Brady Hoke has placed on summer development in the past.

That development aided Michigan last season when it eventually leaned on Elliott Mealer to start at center and Ricky Barnum to start at left guard after the two entered fall camp at each other’s eventual positions.

(Read full post)

Grand Rapids duo takes in IU game 

March, 11, 2013
3/11/13
10:00
AM ET
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- From a basketball perspective, Sunday was not a great day for Michigan. With its one-point loss to Indiana, the Wolverines will head into the Big Ten tournament with the No. 5 seed without any share of the Big Ten title.

But from a football recruiting perspective, the day was a success. Michigan was able to secure visits from two Grand Rapids Christian (Mich.) High School prospects -- Watch List wide receiver Drake Harris and offensive lineman Tommy Doles.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

WolverineNation Mailbag 

February, 27, 2013
2/27/13
10:22
AM ET
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The NFL combine has come and gone and wide receiver Denard Robinson (still, so weird to write that) performed how most thought he would perform -- inconsistently. And because of Robinson’s appearance at the combine, that meant he was not at the Michigan basketball game this past weekend, but it didn’t matter because there were plenty of other football faces in the crowd that people wanted to know about. Overall, it has been a pretty good week for Michigan sports, so let’s chat about it.

Next week Mike will take care of the mailbag so send your questions to him (@MikeRothstein, michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com). And now, on to this week’s questions:


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

2014 Watch List OL picks Michigan 

February, 25, 2013
2/25/13
5:08
PM ET
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- When Watch List offensive lineman Mason Cole (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) woke up Sunday morning in Ann Arbor, he knew he wanted to be a Wolverine. It was his third trip to Ann Arbor, and while he still had a meeting with offensive line coach Darrell Funk as well as the Michigan-Illinois basketball game to attend with the other prospects, he knew everything had come together.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Several fans were hoping that this might be the visit that pushed Watch List offensive lineman Mason Cole (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) over the top, bringing a fourth 2014 commitment to Michigan.

But fans can rest easy. No, he didn’t commit, but he left Michigan very impressed. And following his visit he said that his pending commitment to any of his top schools could come at any time now. The 6-foot-5, 266-pound lineman has a top four of Michigan, Notre Dame, Clemson and Florida State, in no particular order.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

WolverineNation roundtable 

February, 14, 2013
2/14/13
8:58
AM ET
Each Thursday, the WolverineNation writers sit down to discuss three issues surrounding Michigan sports. This week, they check out future draft stock, the Big Ten basketball tournament and the 2014 class' signing day.

1. Looking at this year's true freshmen and sophomores on the football team, who do you think has the potential to go the earliest in the NFL draft when they declare?

[+] EnlargeDevin Funchess
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesDevin Funchess might have the best NFL potential of all the current Wolverines.
Michael Rothstein: On principle, I'm not picking a true freshman here because development is such a fickle thing in college, so I'm looking at the sophomores and redshirt freshmen and immediately drawn to Devin Funchess. He had a strong freshman season and as the offense shifts from a hybrid to the pro style, his production should skyrocket. Combine that, his physical tools and how tight ends are being used in the NFL, and he screams potential first-rounder if everything progresses as it should.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- There’s no way to look at Michigan’s 2013 class and not believe Brady Hoke when he says he’s putting an emphasis up front.

Not only is it impressive that the Wolverines were able to pull in six offensive line signees, each is big and physical (averaging 6-foot-5, 295 pounds).

“It was very important for us to establish guys who can play at the line of scrimmage the way we want to play Michigan football,” Hoke said. “For the style of football we need to play, I think that was important.”

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

2014 OT Ward calls U-M offer 'dream' 

October, 16, 2012
10/16/12
9:30
AM ET
videoOffensive lineman Denzel Ward (Chicago/Hales Franciscan) was the only prospect to receive a Michigan offer while visiting for the Illinois game on Saturday.

"It's a dream come true," he said. "I'll be up there next week [for the Michigan State game] as well to continue building the relationships."

The 6-foot-9 junior now holds offers from Michigan and Purdue, but has been hearing from other Big Ten and SEC programs. Since he really has been playing football for only one season, Ward is taking everything in stride and with his eyes wide open.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Fifth-year senior safety Jordan Kovacs has been praised during fall camp for his consistency during his time at Michigan, through his play and his demeanor. And defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who has singled out very few players during fall camp, was quick to point to Kovacs as the most consistent player the Wolverines have had so far this season on defense.

"That young man has had a tremendous camp," Mattison said. "You talk about consistency -- if you graded every play, I'd like to see that grade, because he's really working hard and he has been the most consistent."

Mattison said several other players have had consistent practices, but no single player has strung together consistently solid practices the way Kovacs has.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Week 1: Take Your Pick
VIDEO PLAYLIST video