Michigan Wolverines: Quinton Washington
Coulda, shoulda, woulda: Jake Butt
Coulda, shoulda, woulda: Derrick Green
Coulda … Put more pressure on opposing QBs throughout the season. It's hard to put a number or exact statistic on this, but Beyer is definitely one of the better pass rushers on the team. Chemistry is really important on the defensive line and with him up front gaining chemistry with other players early in the season, it would’ve allowed the line to be more consistent later in the season. It also would’ve meant another leader on the defensive line. Jibreel Black and Quinton Washington were good leaders up there, but having another upperclassmen to work with the younger guys, get players up for games, and keep them organized is never a bad thing, especially when some of the defensive line issues stemmed from communication problems. Beyer isn’t the loudest person in the world, but he’s definitely more talkative than Washington and a bit louder than Black.
Woulda … Had a better idea of what their line would look like through conference play. The Michigan defensive line didn’t reach the expectation for the position this season, but having Beyer take a few reps through the non-conference schedule would’ve given the D-line a chance to be closer to that expectation by the end of the season. The coaches should’ve trusted that Ryan would return, and had they started giving Beyer time on the line two or three weeks before they expected Ryan back, it would’ve given the defensive line a jump start in the Big Ten season.
THE OFFICIAL AWARDS
2012 winner: S Jordan Kovacs
Hugh H. Rader O-lineman Award: Taylor Lewan
2012 winner: Lewan
Dick Katcher D-lineman Award: Frank Clark
2012 winner: Craig Roh
Zatkoff Linebacker Award: Jake Ryan
2012 winner: Ryan
Ufer Spirit Award: LB Cam Gordon, WR Drew Dileo, WR Joe Reynolds
2012 winner: Kovacs
Dr. Arthur D. Robinson Scholarship Award (Academics): Reynolds
2012 winner: OL Patrick Omameh
THE UNOFFICIAL AWARDS
Biggest surprise: Devin Gardner entered on crutches. There wasn’t any availability following the event, but Hoke said that Gardner had turf toe last Monday and was wearing a walking boot following the Ohio State game.
Most honored: Jon Falk, the team manager of 40 years. From guest speaker Brian Griese to Hoke to nearly every senior who spoke, everyone had something to say about Falk. He was also honored with the distinguished alumni award.
Most touching moment: DL Quinton Washington getting a standing ovation. Washington began his speech talking about how his father underwent triple bypass surgery last July but still made it to every game (a 13-hour drive from their home in South Carolina). However, in the middle of his speech he began to open up about his stuttering problem that he came to Michigan with -- one that prevented him from making phone calls or ordering food at restaurants. He thanked Dr. David Daly, who helped him get over his stuttering problem, saying that Daly “gave [him] a voice.” Washington wasn’t 100 percent comfortable in front of the room, but for a kid who once couldn’t even introduce himself, it was a tremendous accomplishment worthy of the ovation.
Most surprising stat: Gordon has had seven position coaches during his time at Michigan (counting the coaching changes as well as several position changes). He came in as a wide receiver and was moved to strong safety before he settled in at SAM linebacker this season.
Quote of the night: Lewan, talking about his freshman year of high school: “I was fat, out of shape. I was kind of the awkward skinny fat with the skinny arms and the belly, like Mike from Monsters Inc.”
It should come as no surprise that Lewan had the best quote. He has so much personality that many thought (and hoped) he might go much longer than his five minutes. He started his speech by admitting that he didn’t plan it or write it down and then thanking his mother “who has been the loudest woman here all night.” But it was a nice speech, touching on the fact that he was glad to be back and wouldn’t change anything for the world.
1. Boring is boring. But, boring is good. Saturday's game was probably not the most exciting game you've seen this season, but it did prove one thing -- fewer risky plays means fewer turnovers, fewer turnovers mean bigger scoring margins. Quarterback Devin Gardner didn't attempt a pass in the first quarter, but the Wolverines did get the run game going, which in turn opened up a few less risky plays in the air. If Michigan can continue to have a solid run game and take a few shots down field -- in moderation, and smartly, of course -- the Wolverines should be able to put together a complete offensive game plan. It might not be one that provides the best highlight-reel footage, but it could be one that provides wins.
2. Devin Funchess creates crazy mismatches. How many Big Ten teams have defensive backs that are really going to match up with the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Funchess? Really, the move to wide receiver makes sense. His blocking -- though Michigan had big hopes for him -- never really developed, and with the emergence of Jake Butt as a more complete tight end and the return of a blocking AJ Williams, the Wolverines really had more need for Funchess at wide receiver than tight end. His background in basketball has always helped him, but it seemed more evident Saturday as he showed off his ball skills with one touchdown and 151 yards on seven catches.
3. The defensive line still isn't getting enough pressure. The Wolverines allowed Minnesota to run right up the middle too many times (and way too many times on third down). Michigan's defensive line needs to step it up. The D-line's leading tackler was redshirt freshman Willie Henry with ... three tackles. Mario Ojemudia, Frank Clark and Quinton Washington also accounted for three tackles. Yes, the Wolverines are shuffling players in and out, but the first level of the defense should be able to pick up more tackles than that, especially when the opponent ran 41 times.
But the problem is, it hasn’t looked that way. The Wolverines aren’t getting the results they want.
“I told them that on Sunday, I said, ‘It’s not acceptable how we’re pass rushing,’ ” Mattison said. “I said, ‘I’m not doing a good job of teaching you and I’m going to do a good job of teaching you because we’re going to be able to pass rush.’ And we will.”
And they must if they want to compete for a Big Ten title.
The Wolverines narrowly slipped by Akron on Saturday, allowing 311 yards passing and 107 yards on the ground. The Zips gashed the front four time and time again.
The Wolverines ended the day without a single sack, but with six quarterback hurries -- something senior defensive tackle Jibreel Black said was promising.
“Us as a defense, we still have faith in our defensive line,” Black said. “It’s not like we’re not getting to the quarterback at all. We’re getting to the quarterback, we’re getting in his face, he’s just getting rid of it, throwing incomplete passes. That’s the way it is sometimes.”
UConn’s offensive front might be the weakest Michigan has faced this season as the Huskies are still trying to figure out their starting five. That gives an opportunity for the Michigan defensive line as it returns to the basics this week.
Michigan will likely continue to filter in several players as Mattison has been pleased with the defensive line depth. Even though the numbers haven’t really backed it up, he has felt as though they were solidly three deep at each position on the defensive line.
One of the major problems might be the fact that a lot of the players getting snaps are young and Mattison said that maybe, after he saw much promise in his D-line depth last spring, that he gave them too much to handle this fall.
“Maybe I’ve tried to teach them too many things and we’ve got to go back to the way we were in the spring when we were doing a better job of it and say, ‘OK, let’s go back and do this first,’ ” Mattison said. “Sometimes, when I see good things in the practice field I say, ‘OK, I’m going to teach you this now, this will even help you more.’ Well, you better be able to master the first one first. That’s what we’re going to go with.”
Through three games the Michigan defensive line has accounted for just 30 tackles, one sack and six quarterback hurries.
And most of those numbers are coming from non-starters. Sophomore defensive end Mario Ojemudia leads the D-linemen in tackles with nine and is the only defensive lineman to record a sack.
In fact, the only starting defensive lineman who’s in the top five for D-line tackles is junior defensive end Frank Clark, who has accounted for four tackles (as well as four quarterback hurries). Backups Ondre Pipkins, Chris Wormley and Matt Godin round out the top five.
Part of that is scheme. Mattison said that starting tackle Quinton Washington (who has registered just two tackles through three games) and Pipkins have seen fewer snaps as Michigan has been in more of its sub package the past few games.
“We just have to go back to the fundamentals,” Black said. “When you’re always having trouble or having difficulties, you just go back to your fundamentals, back to the drawing board and really tune back in to where you started and then build from there.”
It doesn’t hold quite as much drama as last year’s season opener against Alabama, but it’s official. College football is back and here are five storylines to watch for as the Wolverines take the field.
1. Youth and inexperience on Michigan’s offensive line.
This really is one of Michigan’s biggest question marks heading into the season. Graham Glasgow, Jack Miller and Kyle Kalis combine for zero starts. Much of the offense’s success rests on how well the offensive line meshes. If these young guys don’t play more experienced than they are, it could be trouble. Michigan wants to go with a group rather than tweaking throughout the season and the Wolverines definitely don’t want to be tweaking the line the following weekend against Notre Dame, so these three need to be stout in the middle.
2. How much the Wolverines give away offensively
On Wednesday, Brady Hoke said they wouldn’t hold anything back against Central Michigan. “We got nothing to hide. We really don't,” he said. “We've got nothing to hide in what we do and how we do it. I think that is really overblown when you're trying to keep something that maybe they haven't seen.” Now, there’s definitely truth to what he said. The Wolverines are going to be who they are and coaches know that. But Devin Gardner also said that this is the thickest the playbook has been at this point in the season since he has been here. They obviously won’t put everything in this weekend, but I do think they’ll show some. Some of that will be to work kinks out but I don’t think it’s completely insane to say that some of that will be to keep Notre Dame on its heels. For example, two seasons ago, Borges and Hoke unveiled the deuce package -- Gardner and Denard Robinson in at the same time -- in a 58-0 rout of Minnesota. Did Michigan need to use that then? Nope. But it did. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it was two weeks before the Wolverines traveled to East Lansing to play Michigan State. There were definitely a few wrenches thrown in Mark Dantonio’s game plan.
3. The return of running back Fitzgerald Toussaint
Michigan coaches say he’s 100 percent. He says he’s 100 percent. Teammates say he’s 100 percent. We’ll finally be able to see on Saturday. It’s more and more common these days to see athletes, like Toussaint, return from gruesome injuries, but it’ll be interesting to see how the coaches use him, how he moves on the field and how he takes that first hit. If the Wolverines get an early lead, don’t expect to see too much of him though. Michigan is still working with its running back depth and with six guys on the depth chart, the coaches will be looking for who can really be that third-down back or who they can rely on to step in for Toussaint to give him a rest (or who could overtake him, really). It won’t be too crazy -- depending on the score -- if we do see three or four guys get carries as Michigan tests the waters with multiple guys.
4. CMU’s senior running back Zurlon Tipton
Other than having the best name of anyone playing Saturday, he could also be the best running back on the field. As a junior, Tipton rushed for 19 touchdowns and 1,492 yards on 252 carries. His hands are solid and he accounted for 24 receptions for 287 yards last season. He’s going to be the Chippewas’ best offensive weapon and the Wolverines are prepared for that, but whether they’ll be able to stop him is another subject entirely. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said Tuesday that Tipton is a "great cutback runner and he’s a very physical back. He earns a reputation. You watch him, he's running down the sideline and a lot of guys would step out of bounds. He turns back in to try and hit somebody." He should provide a test for the Michigan defense right out of the blocks.
5. The depth along Michigan’s defensive line
Mattison said Tuesday that he believes he has enough depth in the defensive line to run three-deep at each position. Obviously, we’d see more of guys like Jibreel Black, Quinton Washington and Frank Clark but don’t be too surprised if you do see second- or third-string players -- Willie Henry, Matt Godin, Taco Charlton, Mario Ojemudia -- getting into the game and making some plays. Mattison said he had this much depth once before, at Florida. The real test will come when we see if the second and third strings can get as much pressure, from a straight four-man rush, on the opposing QB. Because while Michigan might be able to run three deep against an offensive line and quarterback like Central, they might not be able to do the same against an Ohio State squad.
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
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.
While Robinson’s replacement at quarterback, Devin Gardner, is set, much around him will be new or contested. Michigan will unveil a more fine-tuned version of the pro-style offense it ran last season with new linemen, new wide receivers and possibly a new running back to go with it.
The defense will be playing for the first time in the Brady Hoke era without Kenny Demens at middle linebacker and Jordan Kovacs at safety as the defensive anchors.
So here’s at some things to pay attention to over the next three weeks as Michigan prepares for its opener against Central Michigan on Aug. 31.
Top position battles
Running back: One of four positions on the Wolverines with no clear hierarchy entering camp, as any one of five players could potentially win the job. Redshirt senior Fitzgerald Toussaint is the incumbent, but is coming off a broken leg which ended his junior season. Freshmen Derrick Green and Deveon Smith could both see playing time and will likely compete with Toussaint for the majority of the carries. Junior Thomas Rawls, who has yet to show a true burst in two seasons, is another possibility if he has improved. The wild card here might be redshirt freshman Drake Johnson, who has track speed -- he was an elite high school hurdler -- and a good frame. He likely won’t win the job but could end up stealing carries.
Strong side defensive end: Keith Heitzman is likely entering camp as the leader here, but that’s a very tenuous lead at best. He has the most experience of the players competing at end, but the youth behind him will likely at least win a share of playing time. Chris Wormley, who, like senior Jibreel Black, could play both inside and outside, is a candidate here. Wormley was a player who many thought could have played as a true freshman last year before tearing his ACL. Two other redshirt freshmen, Matt Godin and Tom Strobel, are also candidates here. Much like what could happen at rush end with Frank Clark, Mario Ojemudia and Taco Charlton, you could end up seeing a three-man rotation here unless someone stands out heavily.
Defensive tackle: Quinton Washington is set at one position. The other, like the strong side end, is wide open. Like at end, Wormley and Black could make big moves here -- and Black might be the presumptive starter entering camp. Watch for Willie Henry to make a move. The redshirt freshman impressed last season’s seniors and he has the size to be a large complement to Washington. When Michigan goes jumbo, sophomore Ondre Pipkins, who will likely be in a rotation with Washington, could see time next to him.
Five reasons for concern
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It looked like Quinton Washington’s college career was never going to happen, the one-time highly touted prospect from South Carolina languishing on the offensive line and then deep in the defensive line depth his first three years at Michigan.
Even a season ago, it didn’t appear he would play much of a factor on the defensive line. Michigan had Will Campbell (now with the Jets) and some youth it felt really good about.
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The Wolverines landed at No. 17 in the poll, just ahead of No. 18 Nebraska and a few slots ahead of No. 22 Northwestern, another divisional rival. They are the second Big Ten team in the poll, behind No. 2 Ohio State.
With questions at running back (who will run the ball?), wide receiver (who, other than Jeremy Gallon, will catch it?), the interior of the offensive line (three new starters there), the defensive line (not much experience, even from fifth-year senior Quinton Washington) and the running game, there is a lot which remains to be seen.
Michigan has the talent and a favorable schedule to have a strong season and could end up ranked the entire season, but right now there are not enough certainties to label Michigan a top 10 team.
Among the Wolverines’ opponents, they will face the No. 2 (Ohio State), 11 (Notre Dame), 18 (Nebraska) and 22 (Northwestern) ranked teams in the poll. Of those games, all but one, Notre Dame, are in November.
1. If you could steal an offensive and defensive player from another Big Ten team before this year's fall camp, who would you pick and why?
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Last season, Michigan heard a lot about following up a surprisingly strong first season under Brady Hoke and SEC speed, considering the Wolverines opened against Alabama in Arlington, Texas. Michigan was confident then.
A little over a month and a blowout later, Michigan’s chances at a national title were history.
There won’t be that type of talk this season -- either of the SEC or national championship variety -- over the next few days. But here are five questions that will likely be asked and probably not fully answered about Michigan.
1. Who will be Michigan’s running back?
2. How will Michigan cope without Denard Robinson?
The Wolverines gave a peek at that answer the last third of last season when Robinson injured the ulnar nerve in his right arm. Still, what Gardner and offensive coordinator Al Borges ran over the final month of the regular season was still a very basic version of what Michigan could use now. Expect to see more play action, more running the ball and a more pro-style offense. Borges -- and Brady Hoke -- have always favored this. That’s the general answer. Exactly what Michigan’s offense will look like, including wrinkles specifically for Gardner, will be unveiled in the fall.
3. What happens if Devin Gardner gets hurt (or, who is Michigan’s backup quarterback)?
Again, the answer is somewhat known. The first answer, for Michigan, would be to have major concerns. Gardner is the only healthy quarterback on the roster who has any significant game experience. With Russell Bellomy sidelined with a torn ACL, his backup is either freshman Shane Morris or a pair of walk-ons, Alex Swieca or Brian Cleary. As Michigan did not secure a fifth-year graduate transfer or a junior college transfer, it will look to one of those inexperienced players if Gardner goes down. Of anything else that could happen to Michigan this season, this would be high on the list of concerns.
4. Who is pressuring the quarterback for Michigan’s defense?
Yet another viable question. Linebacker Jake Ryan, MIchigan’s leader in tackles for loss last season, is out indefinitely with a torn ACL. The school is hopeful he can return by midseason. Along the defensive line, inexperience remains. Tackle Quinton Washington is a fifth-year senior,\ but has never been the focal point of the line. Ends Frank Clark and Mario Ojemudia have talent, but have not put things together consistently. The rest of the options have barely played. Considering Michigan’s issues with its defensive front and quarterback pressure a season ago, more inexperience will remain a concern until proven differently, no earlier than Aug. 31 in the season opener against Central Michigan. Michigan, though, will likely say it likes its defensive line.
5. How often will Brady Hoke call Ohio State “Ohio?”
The answer is, well, every time. Entering his third year, the whole thing has worn a little thin. But the over/under here on how many questions he receives about Ohio State, Urban Meyer, Braxton Miller is around 30 throughout the two days. Add in rivalry questions and that’ll probably bump it up to 40. Apparently Hoke’s phrasing for Ohio State is catching on as Florida coach Will Muschamp called Ohio State “Ohio” at SEC media days last week.
So will we. Without knowing how things will play out over the course of camp and in the season, here’s a quick look at what could be some strengths and weaknesses for the Wolverines at the end of November.
The back seven
Miller could end up as a Heisman Trophy candidate, and the Michigan back seven could have a large say whether or not he ends up taking home the stiff-armed trophy.
What is potential with some production now could become the league's best quarterback-to-receiver combination by the time these two teams play in the fall. Receiver Jeremy Gallon had six catches for 67 yards against Ohio State last season, and Devin Gardner was 11-of-20 for 171 yards, a touchdown and an interception. All of that was done with a somewhat odd game plan which had an injured Denard Robinson, unable to throw, lining up at quarterback intermittently.
Robinson is in the NFL, and while Michigan's receiving options other than Gallon are vast unknowns at this point, Gardner-to-Gallon should be as reliable as it can get in college football this season.
While there is some reason for optimism in Michigan's run game by the end of the season between fifth-year senior Fitzgerald Toussaint and freshman Derrick Green, there are way too many issues here between the questions at running back and the interior of the offensive line, which will feature three new, yet talented, starters. If even one of those things doesn't go completely well, it could be some major issues for the Wolverines this season.
Why? Michigan long has said it would like to have a run-based, pro-style offensive game plan. Without a run game from a running back, well, Michigan tried that last season with varying levels of success.
Getting run over
This isn't a knock on the Michigan front four, just more of the same questions. Ohio State's offensive line might end up as the best in the Big Ten this season, led by a dominant left side with tackle Jack Mewhort and guard Andrew Norwell. Expect the Buckeyes, with Miller and Carlos Hyde, among others, to try and run toward the left side over and over again.
Again, Michigan has potential and youth on the line, but there is a question at essentially every spot on the front four. Can Quinton Washington turn into a leader and be productive when dealing with double teams? Will Frank Clark play to the hype from the spring during the actual season? Does Michigan find strong rotation players and starters at the strong side end and defensive tackle spots? Until these questions are answered, Ohio State could do well by running right at the Wolverines’ line.
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As we begin the long buildup to the start of the Michigan football season in August, we take a look today at the top 10 offensive players the Wolverines will face this fall. Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson was second on this list when it was written, but he was no longer enrolled at the school by the time this was published.
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As the Wolverines prepare for the 2013 season, WolverineNation presents a special offseason edition of the Michigan Ten (previous ranking in parentheses).
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Michigan Outlook: 2014
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
TBD California Northwestern TBD Indiana State Indiana TBD Jacksonville State Michigan State TBD Appalachian State Michigan TBD Florida Atlantic Nebraska TBD Youngstown State Illinois TBD Northern Iowa Iowa TBD Ohio State Navy TBD Western Michigan Purdue 8:30 AM ET Penn State UCF 9:00 PM ET LSU Wisconsin