Michigan Wolverines: Elliott Mealer

Michigan season preview

August, 19, 2013
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Can Michigan make the jump from the cusp to an actual Big Ten championship game? A look at the 2013 Wolverines:

MICHIGAN WOLVERINES

Coach: Brady Hoke (66-57, 19-7)

2012 record: 8-5

Key losses: QB/RB Denard Robinson; WR Roy Roundtree; RG Patrick Omameh; C Elliott Mealer; DE Craig Roh; DT Will Campbell; MLB Kenny Demens; CB J.T. Floyd; S Jordan Kovacs

[+] EnlargeDerrick Green
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comCould running back Derrick Green be the key to Michigan's season? The touted freshman is expected to compete for the starting job right away.
Key returnees: QB Devin Gardner; RB Fitzgerald Toussaint; WR Jeremy Gallon; TE Devin Funchess; LT Taylor Lewan; RT Michael Schofield; DT Quinton Washington; DE Frank Clark; LB Jake Ryan (injured); LB Desmond Morgan; CB Blake Countess; CB Raymon Taylor; S Thomas Gordon

Newcomer to watch: There are a couple of freshmen who could see major snaps for Michigan, but the most notable is running back Derrick Green. He will push Toussaint for the starting job immediately and could end up as the featured back by the end of the season. The other two freshmen who could see major time are early enrollees: defensive back Dymonte Thomas and tight end Jake Butt. Neither will likely start, but both will be key reserves or used in subpackages.

Biggest games in 2013: Michigan had all of its key games on the road last season. This year, the Wolverines will have their two toughest games at home: Notre Dame on Sept. 7, and Ohio State on Nov. 30 in the regular-season closer. The Buckeyes, though, cap a difficult month for the Wolverines, who have trips to Michigan State on Nov. 2 and Northwestern on Nov. 16.

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: Who will run the ball? As the Wolverines complete their transition to a pro-style offense, they need a capable running back lining up behind quarterback Gardner. Considering the importance of play-action in what they will try to do offensively, they will need a back to gain yards to keep the whole offense balanced and a defense confused. The main candidates are Toussaint and Green, with freshman De'Veon Smith, redshirt freshman Drake Johnson and junior Thomas Rawls also pushing for time.

Forecast: Good. Like most teams that are near the end of a rebuilding phase, depth at certain positions is questionable, which means anything written here would be for naught if Gardner, Gallon or Lewan were injured for any length of time. Provided those three offensive stalwarts stay healthy, the Wolverines have a strong shot at making a run to the Big Ten championship game.

Michigan’s season could come down to whether it can beat Michigan State and Northwestern on the road. It is entirely possible that by the time the Wolverines and Buckeyes play in the regular-season finale that both will have wrapped up divisional titles and Big Ten title game trips. The best news for Michigan in all of this is how the schedule breaks down. After Notre Dame in Week 2, the Wolverines have only one real challenge -- at Penn State -- until November. This will allow a young offensive line to gain confidence and chemistry, and a young defensive line a chance to figure out how to beat Big Ten linemen.

A road win at any of those three places could lift Michigan into a different level, because one of the major issues with coach Brady Hoke has been his inability to win a game of any significance away from Michigan Stadium, where he has yet to lose.

WolverineNation Roundtable 

July, 11, 2013
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Every Thursday our writers sit down to thoughtfully discuss some issues surrounding Michigan sports. This week they ponder fall camp, 2014 commits and most importantly, reality TV.

1. We're less than a month to fall camp, which kink will it be important for the Wolverines to work out in those practices?

Michigan spring wrap

May, 3, 2013
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2012 record: 8-5

2012 conference record: 6-2

Returning starters: Offense: 6; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 3

Top returners:

QB Devin Gardner, WR Jeremy Gallon, TE Devin Funchess, LT Taylor Lewan, RT Michael Schofield, DT Quinton Washington, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Jake Ryan, CB Raymon Taylor, S Thomas Gordon

Key losses

QB Denard Robinson, WR Roy Roundtree, OG Patrick Omameh, C Elliott Mealer, DE Craig Roh, DT William Campbell, LB Kenny Demens, CB J.T. Floyd, S Jordan Kovacs

2012 statistical leaders

Rushing: Denard Robinson (1,266 yards)

Passing: Denard Robinson (1,319 yards)

Receiving: Jeremy Gallon* (829 yards)

Tackles: Jake Ryan* (88)

Sacks: Jake Ryan* (4.0)

Interceptions: Thomas Gordon* and Raymon Taylor* (2)

Spring answers

1. Defensive line fine: Michigan had to replace a four-year starter in Craig Roh as well as defensive tackle Will Campbell up front. It doesn’t seem like it will be an issue. Michigan has a potential star in Frank Clark at rush end as well as depth at the position with Mario Ojemudia and Taco Charlton. Keith Heitzman, for now, seems to have locked up a spot at strong side end, but there is a lot of talent there, too. The Wolverines have depth at all four spots and while competitions will continue into the fall, Michigan should be able to rotate at defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s leisure.

2. Devin Gardner’s progression: After the way he played toward the end of last season, there was not much doubt about Gardner as the starter, but Michigan’s coaches appear happy with his growth throughout the offseason. He has developed as a quarterback the way the coaching staff has liked, and this is even more critical because he is the only healthy scholarship quarterback until Shane Morris arrives next month. Gardner's teammates believe in him and he is setting up for a big year.

3. Tight end weapons: Michigan still doesn’t have great depth at tight end, but what the Wolverines do have is a young group of guys who will become big targets for Gardner as the position evolves into a more featured role. Devin Funchess could have a breakout sophomore season and Jake Butt has a similar skill set. A.J. Williams slimmed down as well, perhaps turning him into more than just an extra blocker.

Fall questions

1. Who runs the ball: Michigan was never going to be able to answer this question in the spring with Fitzgerald Toussaint coming off a broken leg and freshmen Derrick Green and Deveon Smith still not on campus. But none of the running backs who participated in spring made a lasting impression on the coaches, meaning if he is healthy, Toussaint will likely receive the first chance at winning the job in the fall.

2. Can Jake Ryan be replaced: Michigan seems confident with its grouping of Brennen Beyer and Cam Gordon at strongside linebacker, but part of what made Ryan Michigan’s best defender was his ability to instinctively be around the ball. Whether or not Beyer or Gordon can do that in games remains to be seen. If the combination of those two can approximate that, Michigan’s defense should be fine.

3. Can the interior of the line hold up: Michigan is replacing both of its guards and its center. While the combination of redshirt sophomore Jack Miller at center and redshirt freshmen Ben Braden and Kyle Kalis at guard has a ton of talent, none have taken a meaningful snap in a game before. How they mesh with returning tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, along with how they connect with each other on combination blocks on the inside, could determine not only Michigan’s running success this fall, but also how many games the Wolverines win in Brady Hoke’s third season.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- In his own family, Jack Miller is the oldest of three. But so far in the Michigan football family, it’s like he's the youngest of three -- he has been toughened up by the eldest, Dave Molk, and befriended by the middle, Elliott Mealer.

And like many youngest children, he has made it through, all for the better.

[+] EnlargeMiller
Rick Osentoski/US PresswireMichigan center Jack Miller hopes to bring equal parts Dave Molk and Elliott Mealer, his predecessors.
And somewhere in this spectrum of Michigan centers -- with Molk representing one end of surly and quick-witted, and Mealer representing the opposite end of fun-loving and reflective -- Miller has come out a much better player, ready to be a leader on the offensive line next fall.

“When you’re playing offensive line at Michigan it’s never an easy job whether you’re a fifth-year senior or a young guy, wherever your role is on the team, it’s never going to be easy,” Mealer said. “What he has ahead of him -- a chance to start -- it’s going to be a challenge, but I think between me and Dave ... he has had a good dose [of leadership].”

As a freshman he studied under Molk, a senior and eventual Rimington Award winner.

Though he never took a single game snap that season, he admits that much of his development that first year came from Molk. Both are considered undersized centers, with Molk playing 6-foot-2, 286 pounds as a senior and Miller being 6-4, 291.

“I learned a lot about how to play as an undersized guy and how to approach all of this,” Miller said. “Dave was a big help for me, he kind of took me under his wing, and I was really fortunate to have him for a year.”

Fortunate might be an operative term, in some respects.

(Read full post)

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)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Roy Roundtree plans to treat tomorrow like he did so many fall weekends in Michigan. He’ll plan on going to bed early tonight.

[+] EnlargeRoy Roundtree
Michael Hickey/Getty ImagesRoy Roundtree is looking forward to running the 40-yard dash at Michigan's Pro Day on Thursday.
Wake up early Thursday. Eat some breakfast and then head for one of the most critical days of his life.

Michigan’s pro day is Thursday and for most of the Wolverines participating, it is their first real chance to prove themselves in a Combine setting in front of scouts. Most of them plan on treating it just like they did when they played football games in Ann Arbor.

“I’m pretty focused on all of the drills because that’s what I’ve been working on since the Outback Bowl,” Roundtree said. “Also been working on my 40. Everybody wants to see if you run fast or run slow.

“The biggest thing is the 40.”

Most of Michigan’s prospects would agree. Only one, Denard Robinson, had the chance to run the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Others, such as Roundtree, defensive lineman Will Campbell and safety Jordan Kovacs, were able to show off for scouts in various all-star bowl games.

But for the majority of Michigan’s players, this is their first -- and potentially last -- chance to make any sort of impression on the men who will determine their professional futures.

(Read full post)

Depth chart analysis: Center 

January, 14, 2013
1/14/13
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Over the next few weeks, WolverineNation will look at every position on the Michigan roster and give a depth chart analysis of each heading into the offseason.

Two seasons ago, Michigan had the best center in the country, a guy with one heck of a mean streak and an edge that never really went away. Last season, the Wolverines had the opposite, a guy who might have been one of the more friendly players on the team and someone who was good in stretches and struggled in others.

For the third straight season, Michigan will have a new starting center and no matter who it is the player will have minimal to no experience.

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Michigan's Lewan gears up for Clowney

December, 10, 2012
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Hours before Michigan's game at Nebraska, Wolverines offensive tackle Taylor Lewan and two of his linemates killed some time in the hotel by watching South Carolina take on Tennessee.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Lewan
Patrick Green/Icon SMIMichigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan has been studying South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney in preparation for their Jan. 1 bowl game.
Not surprisingly, Lewan soon noticed No. 7 in maroon for the Gamecocks. Sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is hard to miss.

"You know what," Lewan told teammates Elliott Mealer and Jack Miller, "that guy's a good player."

Lewan had no idea at the time that he'd be spending most of December watching Clowney. Michigan faces South Carolina on Jan. 1 at the Outback Bowl, and no individual matchup in the game brings more intrigue than Lewan vs. Clowney.

Both men have appeared on All-America teams and earned conference recognition, as Lewan won the Big Ten's Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year award and was a consensus first-team All-Big Ten pick. Clowney claimed the Ted Hendricks Award as the nation's top defensive end, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year award from the league's coaches and unanimous All-SEC honors. Clowney recorded 13 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss this season.

"I can't say enough about him," Lewan said. "He's a great player, and I'm excited about the opportunity to go against him. Big, physical player, gets his hands off, swings a lot."

Lewan hasn't faced a defensive end quite like the 6-6, 256-pound, freakishly athletic Clowney in the Big Ten this season. He said the closest comparisons are Ohio State's John Simon -- the 2012 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year -- and former Purdue star Ryan Kerrigan, who won 2010 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors before becoming a first-round pick of the Washington Redskins.

Lewan has been projected as a potential first-round draft pick if he chooses to forgo his senior season. Clowney can't enter the draft until after the 2013 season, but he's the most draft-ready true sophomore in college football. Lewan says he's not thinking about his draft decision, or whether a matchup against Clowney gives him a gauge of what he could do at the next level.

But he does plan to see plenty of the South Carolina star in Tampa.

"He lines up across from the left tackle every time, from what I've seen," Lewan said. "I'm not sure what their game plan is, but I'm sure we'll be going against each other a lot."

Lewan acknowledges that Michigan's offensive line has had its ups and downs this season. The Wolverines eclipsed 400 yards of offense six times and were held to fewer than 300 yards four times, including in a Nov. 24 loss to rival Ohio State in the regular-season finale.

Although "one game won't define us as an offensive line," Lewan knows there's a lot at stake against Clowney and a South Carolina defense that ranks in the top 20 nationally in total defense (12th) scoring defense (13th), rushing defense (15th), sacks (fifth) and tackles for loss (19th).

"There's three seniors on the starting offensive line right now (guards Patrick Omameh and Ricky Barnum and Mealer), and I want them to go out with a bang," Lewan said. "There'd be nothing better than going out with an Outback win."

Season anaylsis: Offensive line 

November, 30, 2012
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It was a unit entering the season with a lot of age but questions about experience, two new starters and little-to-no depth to replace anyone who was injured or struggled.

Those issues showed throughout this season, as Michigan’s offensive line was mediocre for most of the year, strong in small spots and awful when finishing blocks in the run game.

It is a problem, though, that became a huge issue for the Wolverines in 2012, and one they hope to remedy as soon as possible.

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WolverineNation mailbag 

November, 28, 2012
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The regular season ended with a thud for Michigan last Saturday, as the Wolverines flat-lined offensively in the second half against Ohio State in a 26-21 loss that left many wondering exactly what happened.

Offensive coordinator Al Borges has not yet spoken to the media after the loss and while Michigan head coach Brady Hoke didn’t give many answers, this week’s Mailbag tries to explain some of what went on.

Remember, the Mailbag is only as good as the questions you ask, so send those to jenningsespn@gmail.com or @chanteljennings for next week.

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Stakes for U-M, OSU enhance The Game

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
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There may never be another Ohio State-Michigan clash as important as the 2006 version, when the teams entered The Game ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.

The circumstances outside of the rivalry itself became less and less important during the Rich Rodriguez era at Michigan, as the Wolverines floundered around the .500 mark or below. Last year's game had significance for Michigan, aiming to end The Streak in The Game -- and help its cause for a BCS at-large berth. But Ohio State fell into the Michigan 2008-10 role -- a mediocre team finishing up a mediocre season.

When Ohio State hired Urban Meyer last November, the 2012 version of The Game suddenly became a lot more interesting. Both Ohio State and Michigan were projected to be strong, and the meeting could have bearing on the Rose Bowl race and, just maybe, the national title race.

Weeks later, Ohio State received a postseason ban for 2012. After Michigan started this season 2-2 -- Ohio State wasn't overly impressive in nonleague play, either -- The Game suddenly looked a lot less appetizing, aside from the whole bitter rivals thing.

Nearly two months later, the matchup couldn't be much more delicious.

Ohio State is 11-0, one win away from securing only the sixth unbeaten, untied season in team history. And it has to beat Michigan to get there in what is guaranteed to be Ohio State's final game.

[+] EnlargeBradley Roby
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarOhio State will be counting on CB Bradley Roby to make more big plays on Saturday against Michigan.
Michigan remains alive for the Legends Division title and a chance to play for a spot in the Rose Bowl. The Wolverines need some help to get there, but they have to win at Ohio Stadium for the first time since 2000 to have any chance. Michigan also needs a signature win to keep alive its hopes for a BCS at-large berth.

And there is the whole ruining perfection thing.

"It makes the game even bigger," Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby said. "That team is going to definitely play harder, and they're going to play to ruin our season. What better would it be for them to give us the only loss we've had all year? ...

"We're going to be ready. It's going to be a showdown."

Michigan players had a slightly different view of the "Ohio" game. To them, it can never get bigger.

"It's the biggest rivalry in sports," Wolverines defensive tackle Will Campbell told ESPN.com. "If they were 0-11 and we weren't going for the Big Ten championship, it would still be huge."

Added Michigan center Elliott Mealer: "It's the game, it's a huge rivalry. I don't think there's any way to raise or lower the bar on the standards of this game. It's always important."

Campbell did acknowledge that winning in Columbus would be sweeter than last year's triumph at the Big House. Ohio State also is motivated by the 2011 outcome.

"Last year, we played horrible," Roby said. "We were 6-7, a lot of things were going wrong. We just wanted to come out this year and redeem ourselves. That's exactly what we're doing. We haven't lost a game yet."

Michigan will know by the time it takes the field Saturday whether or not it remains in the running for a Big Ten title. Nebraska can punch its ticket to the championship game by beating Iowa on Friday in Iowa City.

If the Huskers lose, Michigan can represent the Legends Division in Indianapolis. But don't expect the Wolverines to be huddled around a TV on Friday.

"From now until four or five o'clock Saturday, Ohio is the only thing on my mind," Campbell said. "Nothing else really matters."

Ohio State's Meyer had tried to downplay talk of an undefeated season before last Saturday's 21-14 overtime win against Wisconsin. But he gave the green light afterward, saying, "We can talk about it now."

Meyer also talked a bit about Michigan.

"This is all I knew growing up," he told ESPN.com. "Eight of my nine [assistant] coaches are from the state of Ohio. Our players understand this rivalry. It's the greatest rivalry in all of sports. We're honored to be part of it.

"We've got to find a way to go win it."

If they do, the Buckeyes will be 12-0. They'll reestablish their control in the series. And after taking down Nebraska, Penn State and Wisconsin, they'll leave no doubt about which team rules the Big Ten, even if they won't be playing in Indy or Pasadena.

"If we beat the best teams in the league, we have to be the best," Roby said. "We're going to take this game serious, study even harder, practice even harder and be ready Saturday."

WolverineNation mailbag 

November, 14, 2012
11/14/12
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- While questions about Denard Robinson’s health hang over the Michigan football team for the third consecutive week, other questions also have started to emerge.

Who will catch passes next year? What about Brady Hoke’s on-field demeanor?

These questions and more are answered in this week’s WolverineNation mailbag. Questions for next week should go to jenningsespn@gmail.com or @chanteljennings.

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WolverineNation roundtable 

November, 8, 2012
11/08/12
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Questions at quarterback, issues along the offensive line, and what, exactly, will Michigan do at receiver next season if Devin Gardner moves back to quarterback as anticipated?

[+] EnlargeJerald Robinson
Jay Talbott/Icon SMIWhen the shuffle starts for 2013, Jerald Robinson could be a key for U-M at receiver.
These questions are tackled here this week, in WolverineNation's weekly roundtable.

1. Michigan has had some major issues with its offensive line this season. What would be your strategy to fix it?

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WolverineNation mailbag 

November, 7, 2012
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- We've had our first glimpses at Michigan basketball and we saw a different looking Michigan football team on Saturday in Minneapolis. But what does it all mean? Are these things we should include on our "Thankful for…" lists at Thanksgiving? Or is it time to start wishing for a Christmas miracle?

I'll try to get to some of that in this week's mailbag, and what I don't get to you can send to Mike for next week's mailbag (Twitter: @MikeRothstein, Email: michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com).

But now, on to your questions…

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Denard RobinsonAP Photo/Dave WeaverWithout Denard Robinson the Michigan offense sputtered against Nebraska.
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Michigan’s run of strong play -- and its hold on the Legends Division and a potential Big Ten championship berth -- ran into a major detour on Saturday when Denard Robinson went down and the Wolverines lost to Nebraska, 23-9.

It was a game which answered many of Michigan’s fears for the season -- what would happen if Robinson were injured and couldn’t return, what could happen if the defense was pressured and passed on too much, and whetherthe running game could get going.

The answers were simple: Not well. Not good enough, and not at all.

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