Michigan Wolverines: J.T. Floyd

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.
Blake CountessAP Photo/Carlos OsorioBlake Countess, a starter at cornerback in 2011 as a true freshman, missed virtually the entire 2012 season with a torn ACL.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan cornerback Blake Countess is a little tired of talking about his knee and whether he’s ready to return. Ninety percent of questions to him during this preseason have been about his ACL injury suffered in the 2012 season opener against Alabama, and how it all plays in his mind.

Countess, a redshirt sophomore, keeps answering all the questions. But he really hasn’t given it too much thought. Countess only watched the game film of it a few times. And really, it didn’t look all that bad.

His injury came on what seemed like a misstep or stumble. It didn't look like it would require surgery and a lost season.

“At first I watched it and was like, ‘How did this happen? How did that one bit of contact make my ACL tear?’ ” Countess said. “It’s kind of hard for me to watch since I know the effects of what happens after it.”

And from the sideline, Michigan secondary coach Curt Mallory saw the same thing. He was not only Countess’ defensive coach, but also the position coach for the spot Countess was playing on the punt team during that injury. Fans and commentators heralded Will Hagerup’s 62-yard punt and only gave passing mention at a Michigan player who slowly ambled from the field.

“I didn’t see much, and by no means am I a physician, but I didn’t see anything other than him come off,” Mallory said. “It wasn’t something that was horrific as far as cutting, but he just twisted wrong. … Sometimes those are the ones that are the worst.”

On the sideline, as Alabama began to run away from Michigan and questions swirled as to his absence, Countess explained to Mallory how he was ready to get back in the game, how his mind was right, how everything was OK. But one look from the athletic trainer told Mallory that it wasn’t the whole story and Countess sat out the rest of the game, and ultimately the season.

Surgery brought a new set of challenges. The brace on his leg was an annoyance. And just as life on crutches became something he could handle, snow began to fall in Ann Arbor.

So he’d crutch in to practices and film sessions, sitting next to Raymon Taylor -- the player who had taken his spot -- and go over schemes two or three times over. It was partly to make sure Taylor knew it and partly to make sure he knew he was still making an impact on the team away from the field.

During away games, as Countess watched from his couch in Ann Arbor, he’d text redshirt senior cornerback J.T. Floyd during halftimes and write notes on the secondary for when they returned.

“It’s easy sometimes when you know you’re not going to play that fall to get away from it and you don’t stay into it. Physically you’re not going to be able to do much, but mentally you can do a lot,” Mallory said. “That offseason really was a mental part of it and that’s where he was able to grow, get better, really learn the playbook.”

Near the end of the season, “coach” Countess was called in to the training room and told to put his crutches against the wall and walk toward strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman.

“They were like, ‘All right, now come toward me,’ and I was like, ‘Nah, I’m not going to do that just yet,’ ” Countess said.

Walking felt weird. He felt like a toddler. A few months before, he had been at the top of his game. Now he was debating with Wellman about whether or not he could/should/would take a step. None of it seemed right.

But he couldn’t run until he walked. So naturally, after that session, he began pushing the staff for his run. By the bowl game, the staff let him jog. By spring camp, he had hoped he could jump into drills. But no, he was told, you can cut. That’s it.

Again, he was relegated to the sideline -- sans crutches, but still labeled as someone who wasn’t quite ready to play.

“It’s easy to feel bad for yourself,” Countess said. “But you have to really think about the team and how I could push the guys [at] my position that are in there now, so I definitely think I’ve matured.”

And that more mature Countess believes he's ready to lead this Michigan secondary. He’s mature enough to admit that the injury sometimes still plays on his mind, that tendinitis bugs him from time to time. And he’s mature enough to take himself out in those moments, knowing that a single misstep can have a much larger effect.

The younger players and coaches see that.

“I think there’s an appreciation that he had for playing. Sometimes you take it for granted,” Mallory said. “The thing he went through a year ago, painful as it was, he has grown from it and realizes it can be taken away from you at any moment. You see that in his work ethic and you see that in his drive.”
Thomas GordonLon Horwedell/Icon SMIThomas Gordon is one of the most experienced players on the Michigan roster and will be counted upon to lead in the secondary.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- As Michigan’s preseason approaches at the end of this week, WolverineNation takes a look at the 10 players who are most indispensable for the Wolverines this season. This doesn’t mean the most talented players, but rather the players that if Michigan lost them, the team would be in the most trouble.

Redshirt senior safety Thomas Gordon was one of three players sent to the Big Ten Media Days, which generally means he’s a guy we’ll hear from a lot this season (which means he’ll probably be playing quite a bit, too, when he’s not talking to the media).

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. -- The past two seasons have seen much of the same mantra when it came to the Michigan secondary. There would be Jordan Kovacs, the walk-on turned pro prospect who was the obvious leader of the secondary and almost the entire Wolverines defense.

Then there would be everyone else.

Not that they weren’t good players or didn’t make plays, but Kovacs had been such an unlikely story and such an obvious leader, everyone else was somewhat overshadowed.

[+] EnlargeThomas Gordon
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesThomas Gordon says he's comfortable sliding over to strong safety.
Thomas Gordon understood that to an extent. While Kovacs took many of the headlines, Gordon made nearly as many plays as an attacking safety with a penchant for forcing turnovers the past two seasons. Now, his role is shifting.

With Kovacs’ graduation and an ACL injury to linebacker Jake Ryan, Gordon is going to be the leader of Michigan’s defense, almost by default.

“I feel like guys tend to come to me for advice and stuff,” Gordon said. “I’m real natural at it.”

Natural or not, he wasn’t needed in that role in prior years. There was Kovacs, linebacker Kenny Demens and defensive end Craig Roh to handle those responsibilities. Gordon could be a voice, but he didn’t have to be the voice.

He could cede control of those things and just play. That is no longer an option, either in the secondary or on the defense as a whole. Michigan is replacing Kovacs and cornerback J.T. Floyd in the secondary, leaving Gordon as the most experienced defensive back on the roster by far.

“A lot of the time last year, they went back and forth, but Kovacs was definitely more of a vocal leader and made a lot of calls for us,” linebacker Desmond Morgan said. “Tom has really stepped up and he knows what’s going on for sure.

“He’s making calls first, before other guys are.”

(Read full post)

Michigan fans are still lamenting the loss of star linebacker Jake Ryan to a torn ACL, but they'll like what they hear from another key defender recovering from the same injury.

"I'm doing everything they allow me to do, and I feel really good doing it," Wolverines cornerback Blake Countess told ESPN.com on Thursday. "That's always a plus, to get back in the swing of things. Everything is feeling good."

[+] EnlargeBlake Countess
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioBlake Countess, a promising cornerback who redshirted last season, will begin spring practice with a rejuvenated purpose.
Countess' recovery is on track after he tore the ACL in his left knee in the first quarter of Michigan's season-opening loss to Alabama last September. Although he's not taking contact in spring practice, he's participating in individual drills and has no limitations on his running and cutting.

Barring a setback, Countess should be completely cleared for the start of preseason camp.

"In spring ball, there's really no need for me to go out there and push it," he said. "As far as contact, I can't wait to get back into it, but I'm not going to rush anything."

The 5-foot-10, 181-pound Countess played in 12 games as a true freshman in 2011, starting the final six and recording 44 tackles with six pass breakups and a forced fumble. Pegged as one of the nation's top young cornerbacks entering 2012, Countess instead underwent surgery in early October and redshirted the season.

Countess felt optimistic about his progress since the start of his post-surgery rehab, but a return to the practice field this spring has provided another boost.

(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)

Raymon TaylorAP Photo/Michael ConroySophomore Raymon Taylor was thrust into a starting cornerback position when Blake Countess went out for the season due to injury, and his experience should help Michigan's secondary next season.
Over the next few weeks, WolverineNation will look at every position on the Michigan roster and give a depth chart analysis of each position on the roster heading into the offseason.

This was considered a position of strength entering last season, with two experienced corners getting ready to man their positions and have breakout years. It didn’t really take place as Blake Countess missed all but one game of the season with an injury and J.T. Floyd was consistent but didn’t make the next leap.

Now, entering next season, Michigan is in the same position. It has two starting cornerbacks ready to jump up a talent level and a bunch of guys behind them who are talented but don’t have much experience at all.

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Michigan has been in a bevy of close games over the past two seasons, from the Under The Lights insanity against Notre Dame to an overtime win over Northwestern and a field goal close to the buzzer against Michigan State.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Gallon
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsJeremy Gallon celebrates one of his two TD catches against South Carolina.
The theme, though, has usually been similar. Michigan has found a way, in those situations, to win the game.

Not Tuesday. Not in the Outback Bowl against South Carolina, when the Gamecocks scored with 11 seconds left to give them a 33-28 win over Michigan, sending Denard Robinson out with a loss and the Wolverines with bookend defeats to the SEC this season.

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WolverineNation Roundtable 

December, 27, 2012
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- We’ve reached the end of Michigan’s season, as the Wolverines have one game to play and just a few more days of preparation for the Outback Bowl against South Carolina.

Then there’s recruiting, Signing Day and the No. 2 basketball team in the country to chat about. Our staff takes a look at the Outback Bowl -- and a little bit of basketball -- in the final Roundtable of 2012.

1. So, who wins the Outback Bowl and why?

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WolverineNation Roundtable 

December, 20, 2012
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Jalen Rose, Glenn Robinson IIIUSA TODAY Sports, Icon SMICould this year's Wolverines have held up against Jalen Rose and the Fab Five?
Every Thursday, the WolverineNation staff gets together to discuss three important issues facing Michigan sports. This week, the writers discuss football suspensions, an interesting basketball matchup and the Detroit Cass Tech pipeline.

1) With the three suspensions from the football team, is two weeks enough to pick up the slack left in the secondary and the kicking game?

Michael Rothstein: Replacing Will Hagerup shouldn't be much of an issue since sophomore Matt Wile did some punting this season and had the job for portions of last season. While Hagerup has a really strong leg, Wile is good enough to be a serviceable replacement. Michigan should be more concerned in the secondary. Courtney Avery is replacing J.T. Floyd, and Avery has been inconsistent. He has had times in his career where he has been quite good -- and other times where he has been burned and eventually passed by Raymon Taylor on the depth chart. Plus, Avery's move to outside corner from the nickel shifts the entire secondary. Michigan should have enough time to adjust without Floyd.

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan senior cornerback J.T. Floyd was suspended for the Outback Bowl on Sunday for a violation of team rules.

The suspension effectively ended his Michigan career and on Monday, Floyd released a statement to WolverineNation apologizing for the suspension and giving his side of what happened. That is below:

(Read full post)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan’s path to winning the Outback Bowl just got more difficult. For the Wolverines, already trying to beat a top-10 team with a strong defense and a capable offense, losing starting cornerback J.T. Floyd, the most experienced and consistent corner on the roster, along with Big Ten punter of the year Will Hagerup is a big blow.

Now Michigan has to face South Carolina with sophomore Raymon Taylor and junior Courtney Avery as the starting cornerbacks. Taylor has proved he can play well against topflight opponents this season, but Avery has rarely been in a position to be an every-down player throughout his career.

(Read full post)

Norfleet makes move to cornerback

December, 14, 2012
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Dennis Norfleet always has been Michigan’s shiftiest, fastest freshman on the field. This movement, though, had little to do with his speed.

[+] EnlargeDennis Norfleet
Ray Carlin/Icon SMIRunning back and return specialist Dennis Norfleet has switched to cornerback.
Norfleet has made the move from offense to defense, settling in the last two weeks at cornerback instead of running back, where he saw limited action. It is a move the coaches have contemplated for a while, but they didn’t make the switch until after the regular season concluded.

“We talked about it for a while,” coach Brady Hoke said. “Just to get another good athlete on the field.”

It is an athleticism Norfleet showed a multitude of times this season returning kickoffs, which is a role he will still play. It is there where the 5-foot-7 freshman made the most impact, gaining 795 yards and coming within one cut of breaking long returns a handful of times this season. He also showed promise returning punts, averaging 26.5 yards in his two punt returns.

As for his switch, Hoke said the move wasn’t made due to depth at either spot, although Michigan now has two healthy, scholarship running backs in sophomore Thomas Rawls and redshirt freshman Justice Hayes. The Wolverines have a little more depth at cornerback with senior J.T. Floyd, junior Courtney Avery, sophomores Raymon Taylor and Delonte Hollowell and freshman Terry Richardson.

(Read full post)

Michigan and No. 12 on 12/12/12 

December, 12, 2012
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Devin GardnerAP Photo/Tony DingThe player with No. 12 as of 12/12/12 might prove to be one of U-M's best to wear the jersey.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- On this, the 12th day of the 12th month of the year 2012, there is every reason to look back.

Obviously to who has worn No. 12.

According to a combination of archives from the Bentley Historical Library online and Michigan’s own record book listing letterwinners, it appears 43 players have worn the number in the school’s history -- from the recognizable (Roy Roundtree and Devin Gardner) to the unknown (Isadore Grodsky) to the future star who supposedly wore it for only one season in which he didn't play (Elvis Grbac).

Here’s a look at the history of No. 12 and Michigan, and where available how their careers fared.

  • William Watson, G, 1914-15

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