Michigan Wolverines: Stephon Tuitt

Saturday night, No. 17 Michigan and No. 14 Notre Dame face off for the last time in Michigan Stadium. Several words have been exchanged by the coaches and players leading up to this game, but Saturday night -- under the lights -- will afford both teams the opportunity to back up what has been said.

Both teams enter the game with a big win over a smaller opponent in week one, and week two should offer higher competition.

Up front, Notre Dame’s talented defensive line, anchored by the 340-pound Louis Nix III, should present a challenge for the Wolverines offensive line, which features three interior linemen who saw their first starts last week. All-American Taylor Lewan will have his hands full with Stephon Tuitt as the two battle in front of what will likely be countless NFL scouts.

Alternatively, the Michigan defensive line will also be able to measure itself up against a stout Notre Dame offensive front. In a 59-9 win over Central Michigan, the Wolverines’ defensive front looked vastly improved with not only its four-man rush but also with more blitz schemes -- expect defensive coordinator Greg Mattison to get creative with what he throws at Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees.

Rees will be facing a Michigan secondary which didn’t play either starting safety against Central Michigan. However, strong safety Thomas Gordon returns from his one-game suspension and free safety Courtney Avery returns after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery two weeks ago.

Devin Gardner's challenge on offense doesn’t get any easier with Notre Dame’s stout front seven and its talented secondary. But in front of a home crowd that could likely surpass the stadium’s record (set two years ago at this same game -- 114,804), Gardner will have plenty of support.

The two teams face off at 8 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN.

Tuitt looking forward to challenge

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
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Stephon TuittChris Williams/Icon SMIStephon Tuitt is looking forward to making memories at the Big House on Saturday.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Stephon Tuitt's memories of Notre Dame's last trip to Michigan are, well, colorful.

"I just remember it was a big ol' stadium with a lot of yellow pompoms," Tuitt said. "That's it."

Tuitt traveled to the Big House in 2011, but he never played a snap. Both he and Aaron Lynch, prized freshmen ends with one college game under their belts at the time, were held out of the 35-31 loss to the Wolverines as coach Brian Kelly deemed them not ready.

Tuitt's role has ballooned in the two years since, as the 6-foot-6, 322-pounder will stand eye-to-eye this Saturday with a fellow All-American, left tackle Taylor Lewan.

Well, almost eye to eye.

"He's 6-8 and can move really good," Tuitt said. "We watch his film. He's a great tackle. He backs up well. He has great strength. … Me going against that is a great matchup and a great opportunity for me to really showcase the things that I worked on this summer, and a great opportunity for him to showcase what he worked on this summer, and I'm expecting a great matchup between me and him."

It is a showdown of probable first-round draft picks next spring. Lewan passed on that opportunity for a fifth and final season with the Wolverines, much like the other measuring stick Tuitt gets to see every day in practice in Zack Martin, who has helped with the preparation for the challenge that awaits this weekend.

"That's the thing about it," Tuitt said. "You've got one of the best tackles on our team, one of the best tackles in the country. It makes you better. It makes your confidence way higher, too."

Tuitt will inevitably have a decision of his own at the end of this season as the prized junior looks to build off a 12-sack 2012 campaign that he had previously deemed a "learning year." Playing in just his seventh year of organized football, the behemoth from Monroe, Ga., has learned to harness his big frame and become more than just a quarterback hunter.

Or, as linebacker Jarrett Grace described it: "He doesn't just have to be Godzilla out there throwing everyone around. He can be Godzilla focused in one area taking everyone out, because we've got other great guys on the defensive line that are also working their technique."

So Tuitt's only chance in Ann Arbor might also serve as his last chance against the Wolverines, with the attention surrounding the Big House's second night game only raising the stakes as he faces his stiffest individual test.

"No more going back, so I've got to leave it all," Tuitt said. "Leave it all out there."
Ten items to track around Big Ten football in Week 2:

1. House party: If the second night game at Michigan Stadium is anything like the first, we'll all be thrilled (well, except for those Notre Dame folks). Michigan and Notre Dame delivered the drama two years ago under the lights, and the spectacle Saturday night in Ann Arbor should once again be incredible. The teams' past four meetings have all been decided by seven points or fewer (19 points total). The series sadly disappears after the 2014 meeting in South Bend, so enjoy it while it lasts.

2. Rees vs. Gardner: Notre Dame-Michigan features another appetizing quarterback matchup. While Tommy Rees remains a polarizing figure for some Notre Dame fans, it's hard to argue with what he has done against Michigan. Before last Saturday's opener against Temple, Rees' only 300-yard passing performance came against Michigan two years ago, and he led Notre Dame to victory last fall. Rees can stretch the field, as he had more passes of 20 yards or longer against Temple (7) than Everett Golson had in any game last season. Devin Gardner was Michigan's leading receiver last year against Notre Dame, but he's firmly entrenched as a quarterback. Gardner has been deadly in the red zone for the Wolverines, converting 19 touchdowns in 22 red zone trips as the starter.

3. Spartans looking for a spark: Michigan State basically has two more weeks to get its offense right before facing one of the nation's top defenses on the road at Notre Dame. The unit's opening act was highly disappointing, as Michigan State averaged just 3.8 yards per play against a Western Michigan defense that ranked 61st nationally in 2012. Head coach Mark Dantonio has kept mostly quiet about his quarterback situation this week as four players continue to get reps in practice. The Spartans need a solution there and at other offensive spots against South Florida, which allowed 56 points to McNeese State in its opening loss.

4. Illini aim to continue big-play ways: One of the nation's most feeble offenses in 2012 broke out last week against Southern Illinois, as Illinois recorded six plays of 30 yards or longer -- matching its total from all of last season! Senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase recorded a career-high 416 pass yards and featured weapons like Josh Ferguson and Ryan Lankford. The question is whether the Illini can come close to that type of production against a much, much tougher opponent in Cincinnati, which held Purdue to one short scoring drive and only 226 yards last week. We'll get a much better gauge about Illinois' offensive progress against Tommy Tuberville's defense.

5. Northwestern's health: After a mostly injury-free season in 2012, Northwestern already has been bitten by that pesky bug early this fall. The Wildcats will be without starting cornerback Daniel Jones (knee) for the rest of the season, putting redshirt freshman Dwight White in the spotlight against Syracuse. Top quarterback Kain Colter (head) and running back Venric Mark (leg) both are questionable for the game. If Northwestern can survive again like it did last week against Cal, it has a chance to get healthy in the next two weeks against weaker opponents before a two-week prep for Ohio State.

[+] EnlargeDevin Gardner
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesQuarterback Devin Gardner was 10-of-15 passing for 162 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in Michigan's season-opening rout of Central Michigan.
6. Roby watch in Columbus: After playing nine new defensive starters in last week's opener against Buffalo, Ohio State regains a very big piece in All-Big Ten cornerback Bradley Roby, who returns from suspension. Coach Urban Meyer wanted Roby to re-prove himself as a starter this week in practice, but it's only a matter of time before the junior distinguishes himself. Ohio State is looking for a cleaner performance in all three phases against struggling San Diego State, and it will be interesting to see how Roby performs.

7. Indiana's offensive efficiency: Kevin Wilson's Hoosiers scored touchdowns on five of their first six offensive possessions in last week's opener against Indiana State, en route to a Memorial Stadium-record 73 points. If Indiana can come close to that type of efficiency Saturday against Navy, it will improve to 2-0. Possessions likely will be limited against the Midshipmen, as Indiana found out last year when it had only 10 offensive drives in a 31-30 loss. The Hoosiers had to settle for three field goals of 30 yards or less and need to be better about punching it in against Navy. "You don't get as many at-bats," Wilson said.

8. Second chances: Purdue and Iowa didn't get off to the starts they wanted in Week 1, and neither did Nebraska's defense, which surrendered 35 first downs and 602 yards to Wyoming in the opener. Fortunately, all three teams should redeem themselves against weaker competition on Saturday. The Boilermakers need to boost quarterback Rob Henry's confidence and fix their communication problems on offense against Indiana State. Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock must rebound from his late interception against Missouri State. The Huskers defense, meanwhile, aims to clean things up against a Southern Miss team that has lost 13 straight and scored just 15 points against Texas State last week.

9. Wolverines' youth put to test: Don't be surprised if Michigan-Notre Dame comes down to how well the Wolverines' young interior offensive line performs against an elite Fighting Irish defensive front led by nose guard Louis Nix III and end Stephon Tuitt, two potential first-round picks in next April's NFL draft. Michigan will start redshirt freshman Kyle Kalis at right guard, true sophomore Jack Miller at center and redshirt sophomore Graham Glasgow at left guard. They'll be challenged all night long (especially Miller) as they try to create running room for Fitzgerald Toussaint and protect Gardner.

10. Hack's home debut: Penn State fans have been waiting more than a year and a half to watch quarterback Christian Hackenberg take snaps at Beaver Stadium. They'll finally get their chance Saturday as the Lions face Eastern Michigan in their home opener. Hackenberg had a few expected hiccups in his collegiate debut against Syracuse but also showed why he can be such a special player for Penn State's offense. Head coach Bill O'Brien vows to put Hackenberg in better positions to succeed this week. Hackenberg also will have top weapon Allen Robinson at his disposal from the start, which should make a big difference.

Michigan-Notre Dame writers roundtable

September, 3, 2013
9/03/13
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Michigan StadiumAP Photo/Tony DingCan anything top Michigan's 35-31 win in 2011, which was the first night game in the history of Michigan Stadium?

Under the lights ... and two of college football’s oldest rivals in one of their last scheduled meetings … and College GameDay. Does it get any better than this? Only when Big Ten reporter Brian Bennett, Dame reporter Matt Fortuna and Michigan reporter Chantel Jennings get together to talk about it. Today, they discuss a few topics surrounding the highly anticipated matchup.

1. Over the past few years, this rivalry has seen its fair share of big stars excel during this game -- Denard Robinson's 502 yards in 2010, Roy Roundtree's game-winning catch in 2011, Manti Teo's defensive performance in 2012. Which player could you see having a mega game on Saturday?

Bennett: How about Jeremy Gallon? The Michigan receiver had the huge 64-yard catch that set up Roundtree's game-winner in 2011. While he wasn't as active in last year's game, that's primarily because the Wolverines were busy throwing the ball to Notre Dame. Gallon has been more effective ever since Devin Gardner started running the show, and I could see him burning the Irish secondary for some big plays.

Jennings: The heroes this game has helped create have kind of come out of nowhere in some instances. So I’m going to pick a guy who has been flying under the radar statistically, who I think has the ability to show up in big games, and that’s Michigan tight end Devin Funchess. He had a fine freshman year and a better offseason. I think we could see him be a big difference maker on Saturday.

Fortuna: If I'm Notre Dame, I'm gearing up for Gardner, since Michigan quarterback play has essentially decided these contests in one form or another in each of the past four years. From the Irish side, though, I think wide receiver DaVaris Daniels could break out. He was Notre Dame's best offensive player in the national title game loss to Alabama, hauling in six catches for 115 yards. On Saturday against Temple, the redshirt sophomore had three catches for 69 yards, including a pair of 32-yard touchdown receptions on the Irish's first two drives.

2. Which mismatch between these two teams are you most intrigued to watch?

Bennett: On paper at least, it's the Michigan interior offensive line vs. Notre Dame nose guard Louis Nix III. Center Jack Miller and guards Kyle Kalis and Graham Glasgow are talented and played well together last week, but they have very little experience. Nix, meanwhile, is a 357-pound man-mountain who helped anchor a championship-level defense last season. He commands double teams, and it will be up to Michigan's young inside guys to keep him in check so Stephon Tuitt and others can't wreak even more havoc.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Lewan
Andrew Weber/US PresswireMichigan tackle Taylor Lewan will have his hands full with Notre Dame's talented defensive line.
Jennings: Left tackle Taylor Lewan on whomever or whatever Notre Dame tries to throw at him. He’s so crucial to Michigan’s offense, and I really don’t see him not dominating any matchup this season. Lewan came back for games like this and matchups like what he’ll have against Tuitt.

Fortuna: I'll say Notre Dame's offensive line against Michigan's defensive line. The Irish have three starters back from last season, along with a very talented center in Nick Martin. One of the reasons they were able to jump out to a 17-point lead in Ann Arbor two years ago was because of their ability to run up the middle, as the Irish averaged six yards per rush on the night. Notre Dame is now in its third straight year of starting Zack Martin and Chris Watt together on the left side, and it has started using pistol packages in 2013 to tailor to the strengths of some of its young backs in hopes of establishing a downhill run game. This is far from a "mismatch," but with Michigan returning just three starters from last season's front seven, and with the teams so evenly matched across the board, I'd say this is where Notre Dame probably has the biggest edge. Conversely, I can't wait to see Tuitt and Lewan go head-to-head. Both will be a lot richer eight months from now.

3. Is there any way this game could one-up the last time these two teams met in the Big House?

Bennett: It's possible that this could be an even better overall game than the one in 2011, just not as flashy. People remember the Michigan comeback and the crazy fourth quarter, but it was a pretty lopsided affair until then. That wild finish was made possible by major defensive breakdowns on both sides, and both teams are much more sound defensively now. I believe these are two legitimate top-15 teams, so we should expect a tight game. The atmosphere won't be quite as special because it won't be the first time under the lights at the Big House. But Notre Dame-Michigan usually finds a way to amaze us.

Jennings: I was on the sideline for the final minutes of that matchup two years ago, and to call the atmosphere electric would still be selling it short. I don’t know if the Wolverines have had a game as exciting since, so I’m going to go with no. I think it’ll be a great game and the fact that it’s the last in Michigan Stadium for the foreseeable future adds a lot. But as far as the plays themselves, jam packed into that short amount of time, I just don’t see that being topped.

Fortuna: I said no to this same question two years ago and was sadly mistaken, so I'll try not to be as definitive in my answer this time around. Whether it was Denard Robinson or Tate Forcier before him, magic seems to always happen in the late moments of this game. I'll just go ahead and make the bold prediction that if Notre Dame takes the lead with 30 seconds remaining this time, its secondary will hold up and secure an Irish win. Like I said, bold.
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. -- While Michigan won’t see a ton of offensive stars in 2013, there is little question about the amount of elite defensive talent the Wolverines will face this season.

Six of the top defenders Michigan will play are in the top five of their respective positions for the 2014 NFL draft as rated by Mel Kiper Jr. The top three could all challenge to be drafted as high, if not higher, than Michigan star tackle Taylor Lewan next April as well.

It isn’t a surprise, either, that six of the 10 top defensive players Michigan will play come from the Wolverines’ three major rivals: Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan State.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The summer is about to kick off everywhere across the United States -- Memorial Day is this weekend -- which means one thing, of course.

One season until football begins.

As you itch to get on your boats this weekend and out to the beaches if you’re near the water, first take a peek at Michigan’s schedule for the 2013 season, which begins on Aug. 31 against Central Michigan, as we rank each opponent from toughest to weakest.

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WolverineNation roundtable 

February, 28, 2013
2/28/13
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Trey Burke and Aaron CraftAP Photo/Michael ConroyMichigan's star point guard Trey Burke wants to know -- which way to a No. 1 seed?

Every Thursday, our writers sit down to discuss some Michigan sports. Today, they take a look at the looming NCAA Tournament, Ohio State’s recruiting class and what or whom the Wolverines offense needs to fear in this upcoming season.

1. With less than three weeks until Selection Sunday, what seed to you think the Wolverines eventually pick up? (Editor's note: The answers below were filed before Wednesday night's loss at Penn State)


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Notre Dame and Michigan will meet again under the lights in 2012, this time at Notre Dame Stadium. Of the Irish's eight home night games, three have come against Michigan, with the Irish winning all three. Notre Dame's first-ever home night game was a 23-17 win over Michigan to open the 1982 season.

Conversely, Michigan's only home night game came last season against Notre Dame, a thrilling 35-31 win before a college football-record 114,804 fans. It will be tough to top that event, but these two squads will try Sept. 22. Notre Dame blogger Matt Fortuna and WolverineNation's Michael Rothstein look at the next step in this rivalry.

Matt Fortuna: Give Notre Dame fans credit. Everything about the Irish's home night game against USC last year -- the school's first in 21 years -- was well-executed, sans the final score (31-17 Trojans) and the choice of music (I still cringe every time I hear "Crazy Train"). Ergo, the school gets to do it again, this time against a rival that has won three straight thrillers in the series. We don't know who will be under center for the Irish this September, but we do know Denard Robinson is back for Michigan, meaning the potential for another wild ending will be there. Robinson has been Notre Dame's worst nightmare the last two seasons, passing for 632 yards and rushing for 366 more, helping the Wolverines eke out four-point wins in consecutive years. This time he will likely face stud sophomore ends Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt, who, controversially, were not used during last season's contest. Last year this game served as a springboard toward a BCS-season for Michigan under first-year coach Brady Hoke, while the Irish saw their postseason hopes all but vanish with an 0-2 start. What's all this mean for this fall? We can't know for sure, but every time we think this rivalry can't outdo itself, it does just that.Throw in Robinson's final game against the Irish -- under the lights, at that -- and the stage is set for what should be another remarkable finish. No matter the score, just make sure you don't turn the TV off after the third quarter.

Michael Rothstein: What this move signifies to me is that the Notre Dame-Michigan series -- forever a daytime deal -- could be moving to prime time more often. It wouldn't stun me to see this game be at night more years than not now that both Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon and Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick are committing to bringing night games to two of the most storied venues in college football. Michigan was pleased all around with its night-game experience -- although some fans loathe the Pop Evil "In the Big House" anthem that debuted this year -- and will do it again. It'll be Robinson's finale against the Irish, but for the first time in a while, this won't be the first marquee game on the Michigan schedule thanks to the season-opener against Alabama. So more will be known about the Wolverines going into this game than in most years. That could be critical when it comes to scouting Michigan and its new-look defensive and offensive lines (new starters in a bunch of spots there). As far as the rivalry goes, this year has the potential to be another good one and could solidify a Heisman Trophy candidacy for Robinson or Michigan running back Fitzgerald Toussaint or, if he has a dominant defensive performance, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o. One thing I do know -- I won't be writing much that night until the game's final seconds.

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