Michigan Wolverines: Vincent Smith

CHICAGO -- Jadeveon Clowney's hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith in January’s Outback Bowl is still receiving a ton of attention. The reasoning, though, is now due to its legality.

With the NCAA focusing on potential ejection for targeting -- described as a player who “target(s) and contact(s) defenseless players above the shoulders” -- one of the premier hits of last season is now back in focus.

[+] EnlargeJadeveon Clowney and Vincent Smith
Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsJadeveon Clowney's hit on Vincent Smith in last season's Outback Bowl could be deemed illegal in the 2013 season.
Smith told ESPN.com earlier this year he had no problem with the hit. On Wednesday, neither did Hoke, who said he did not feel it was a dirty play.

“No. And I’m a defensive coach,” Hoke said. “A guy makes a great play and a great move and Smitty hopped right back up. So it didn’t look that way to me.”

He and other Big Ten coaches, though, have some concerns about the targeting rules and the subjectiveness of what could be labeled as targeting, leading to ejections.

Both Hoke and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz mentioned the potential of replay being used to determine ejections -- think something like what college basketball does with flagrant elbows to the head -- to make sure calls are correct.

The issue, though, is a serious one for coaches.

“The targeting issue is obviously something we have to do a great job of saving the game of football, to be honest with you,” Hoke said. “There’s some real vicious hits that have been taken and delivered.

“It’s one of those issues where replay is probably going to need to be involved. I’d hate to see a young man get alleged for targeting and he didn’t and the consequences of what happens to his season.”

Most of the league’s coaches who were asked about targeting said they stressed it during spring football as a means of educating players on what they can and cannot do. Hoke said it won’t change, though, how he teaches tackling.

However, with things happening at high speeds on the field, some of these types of hits are inevitable, which leads to the concern from coaches.

“It’s going to be pretty subjective,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “And I don’t think it’s an easy thing to call. And in my opinion it’s going a little bit overboard right now. And some things I’ve seen on TV and different examples that they’ve shown, you know, like even as a coach watching it on TV, I haven’t quite agreed with some of the things they’ve talked about.

“But I understand where it’s coming from. It’s about the safety of the players, and we’re all for that. We just have to make sure that we’re not messing with the integrity of the game or the sport and how it’s supposed to be played.”

Whether it is or not will start to show up in a month.

Exit Interview: RB Vincent Smith 

February, 19, 2013
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“Exit Interview” is a concept started at WolverineNation last year where we chat with players leaving Michigan about their experiences with the Wolverines and in some cases, what’s next.

Vincent Smith had multiple roles at Michigan in his career, from starting running back to third down specialist. He gained 1,269 yards rushing with 10 touchdowns and caught 46 passes for 435 yards and 7 scores.

WolverineNation caught up with Smith last month as he was starting to prepare for Michigan’s Pro Day next month.


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Michigan looks to fix run game 

January, 18, 2013
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Michigan's run game in 2012 was a disappointment. As a result, the coaches have ramped up their efforts to right the ship immediately. The Wolverines are hoping to use the 2013 recruiting class to get the ground game going as the post-Denard Robinson era begins.

Michigan's rushing attack produced 2,389 yards last season, a number that doesn't sound terrible until you further dissect the details. Michigan's two quarterbacks, Robinson and Devin Gardner, accounted for 1,367 of those yards and 14 of the 27 rushing touchdowns.

Robinson led the way, averaging 7.2 yards per carry, while the running back trio of Fitzgerald Toussaint, Thomas Rawls and Vincent Smith combined to rush for 918 yards, averaging only 4.1 yards per carry. That combined average would rank No. 80 in the country.

Without Robinson, Michigan is looking for help to transform the offense.


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Depth chart analysis: RB/FB 

January, 8, 2013
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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.

Michigan’s running backs never got going this season. No matter who was in the backfield, other than quarterback-turned-athlete Denard Robinson, no Wolverines running back could do much of anything this season.

On a team with some major offensive questions, who will run the ball for Michigan next season might be the biggest -- and most critical -- question for the Wolverines’ season.

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Quick thoughts after South Carolina's wild 33-28 victory over Michigan in the Outback Bowl:

It was over when: South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson found receiver Bruce Ellington wide open down the field with 11 seconds left, scoring a 32-yard touchdown. Michigan had scored with 3:29 left on a pass from Devin Gardner to Jeremy Gallon, all part of a fast-paced fourth quarter.

Game ball goes to: South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders. The 5-foot-8 wide receiver had a massive game, catching two touchdown passes and breaking a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown. Sanders had nine catches for 92 yards and accounted for three of the Gamecocks’ four touchdowns.

Stat of the game: Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson finished his four-year career with 4,495 rushing yards, setting an NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback. He passed former West Virginia quarterback Pat White, who rushed for 4,480 yards. The two quarterbacks have always been linked because of the coach who recruited them both, Rich Rodriguez.

Turning point: With 8:15 left in the game, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney broke through the Michigan rush and hit Vincent Smith as he took the handoff, crushing Smith, sending his helmet flying and causing a fumble that Clowney recovered. On the next play, Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Sanders that gave South Carolina a 27-22 lead.

Record performance: Jeremy Gallon had a career-high nine catches for 145 yards to go along with his two touchdowns. He was the only Michigan receiver with more than 27 yards and consistently made big plays and grabs. His first touchdown came in the back corner of the end zone and the second one, which gave the Wolverines a late lead, came on a slant in which he beat his defender inside.

Season analysis: Running backs 

November, 28, 2012
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan believed it was set at running back entering the season. Fitzgerald Toussaint was being discussed as a fringe Heisman Trophy candidate. Thomas Rawls was a backup with a ton of potential.

How much things have changed this season.

Michigan’s running backs were mostly ineffective in 2012. They looked nothing like what many believed they would.

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Devin GardnerAndrew Weber/US PressiwireDevin Gardner and the offense was shut out in the second half against the Buckeyes.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Wolverines saw a lot of same old, same old on the road Saturday in a 26-21 loss to undefeated archrival Ohio State.

Good defensive play, individual standouts and some major questions on offense. Now with a month until a New Year’s Day bowl wraps up this season, the Wolverines have a lot to think about and work on for the future.

Here are three big positives and negatives for Michigan out of its regular season finale.

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3 Up, 3 Down: Michigan 42, Iowa 17 

November, 18, 2012
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- This had been in Al Borges’ pocket since he arrived at Michigan last January, the possibility to have Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson on the field at the same time and move them all over the place.

He did so masterfully Saturday in the first true unveiling of this part of the Michigan offense in a 42-17 win over Iowa and it could leave Ohio State and a future bowl opponent with a lot to prepare for.

His offensive mastery leads this week’s version of 3 Up, 3 Down.

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan took a big step toward reaching the Big Ten championship game Saturday, knocking off Michigan State 12-10 and taking control of the Legends Division for at least a week until it faces Nebraska next Saturday.

The Wolverines showed, though, they have a definite shot to reach the Rose Bowl, not because of anything they did offensively but because of their defense, which is emerging as one of the better units in the Big Ten and perhaps the country.

It is the defense where we start this week’s version of 3 Up, 3 Down.

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The time he’d seen before came in games long decided, when his role was to enter and finish the game without making any errors, not to have a say in the outcome of it all.

Yet when Denard Robinson left Saturday’s game with a hand injury in the first quarter, redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy was inserted into a game in the first half for the first time in his career.

[+] EnlargeRussell Bellomy
Lon Horwedel/Icon SMIRussell Bellomy played the first meaningful minutes of his career after Denard Robinson left the game briefly.
“I liked how he got himself ready. Liked how he got himself ready during the week,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. “But Denard comes out and he’s taking snaps and getting himself ready to go.

“He was composed and calm and wasn’t overexcited.”

Bellomy completed 1 of 3 passes against Illinois over two separate stints -- one replacing Robinson in the first half and another in the second half with the game in hand.

His numbers, though, could have been better than that. Both of his incompletions were drops, one by Devin Funchess and the other by Roy Roundtree, which hit him right in the hands.

“When Russ got him, I told him to just do him, man,” Roundtree said. “It’s great that he got out there and I wish he would have had some completions. I felt bad for him after I dropped a pass.

“He didn’t get on me but I’m pretty sure he got upset. I told him I got him next time.”

Not the worst loss: Roundtree remembered riding home from East Lansing last season on a quiet bus. Most players had headphones on instead of the typical ride home chatter.

While the loss stung, it wasn’t his most difficult at Michigan. He wasn’t sure which one would be, actually.

“Nah, I probably had several of those,” Roundtree said. “When I first got here, coming in as a redshirt freshman to the winningest program and having a down year that we had.

“I wouldn’t want to say it was the hardest, most brutal loss because I took a lot of ‘L’s’ back then.”

His first three seasons at Michigan were not win-friendly as the Wolverines won three, six and then seven games under former coach Rich Rodriguez.

Injury update: Michigan running back Vincent Smith, who missed Saturday’s game against Illinois due to a hamstring injury, is expected back for Michigan State. So is fullback Stephen Hopkins, who has missed the past few weeks due to a hamstring injury. ... Hoke and Robinson both said the quarterback’s hand is fine after missing a quarter against the Illini due to injury. ... Safety Jordan Kovacs, who has worn a brace on his knee the past two weeks, said he knee is “fine” and that his bright blue knee brace is “a fashion statement.”

This and that: Going along with not wearing red, Hoke said Monday he doesn’t remember the last time he has worn green, either. ... Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, who is usually available weekly to the media, is not on the list of players for this week. Last season, Lewan and Michigan State defensive end William Gholston went at each other pretty well during the game. ... Hoke is planning on educating his team this week on Willis Ward, the second African-American to play at Michigan and the subject of a documentary about his benching due to racial issues when facing Georgia Tech on Oct. 20, 1934. The Michigan state senate deemed Saturday as Willis Ward Day.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan put together its second consecutive dominating performance Saturday, shutting out Illinois 45-0 and putting together what Michigan coach Brady Hoke called the most complete game of his team’s season.

[+] EnlargeRawls
Rick Osentoski/US PresswireThomas Rawls rushed for a season-high 90 yards, a nice complement to Denard Robinson's running.
Almost everything worked for the Wolverines. The offense had more passing (174) and rushing (353) yards than Illinois had total yards (134). The Wolverines’ defense held Illinois to 29 passing yards and was dominant for the majority of the game.

THREE UP

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- When Brady Hoke looked at any sort of road woes his teams have had through the years, one of the things he pointed to was how to take an opposing crowd out of the game.

And one of the best ways to do that is to shorten the game up, control the clock and turn an opponent’s offense into as much of a spectator as the thousands of fans sitting in seats instead of standing on benches inside a stadium.

Hoke’s best way to do that? Run.

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Thomas GordonLon Horwedell/Icon SMIThomas Gordon is Michigan's second-leading tackler and is jumping up the rankings.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- After its first loss to Notre Dame since 2008, the Wolverines also drop to 2-2 for the first time since that season, which was Rich Rodriguez’s first in Ann Arbor.

There were, though, positive signs for Michigan in a 13-6 loss to the Irish, and most of them were on defense.

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Denard Robinson was the difference in the Michigan-Notre Dame classics in 2010 and 2011.

Robinson was again the key figure in the 2012 meeting, though not in a good way for the Wolverines. And the game was anything but a classic -- but Irish fans will gladly take the ugly 13-6 victory.

It was a bizarre game in South Bend that featured eight turnovers, including six of them by the losing team. Here's a quick look at how it went down.

It was over when: Tommy Rees found Tyler Eifert for a 38-yard gain on third-and-4 from the Notre Dame 31 with less than two-and-a-half minutes remaining. That play, coming against one-on-one coverage, allowed the Irish to run out the clock and keep Robinson from pulling off another miracle. It was Eifert's only catch of the game.


Game ball goes to: The Notre Dame defense. For the past two years, they were absolutely terrorized and traumatized by Robinson. This time, the Irish not only held Michigan out of the end zone, they forced Robinson to turn it over five times (four interceptions, one fumble). He had 228 total yards, and his longest run was only 20 yards. It was like a photo negative of Robinson's previous two performances in this series. The front seven got great pressure and stayed in its lanes, while Manti Te'o played an enormous game with two interceptions and two hurries that led to turnovers. That's why the Irish erased their nightmares from years past.

Stat of the game: Michigan had 299 total yards to only 239 for Notre Dame. But the minus-four in turnovers was too much to overcome.

How the game was won: Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly made the best move of the game when he lifted Everett Golson for Rees in the first half. Golson looked too skittish for this stage and had two bad interceptions. Rees settled down the offense and while he threw for only 115 yards, he was the only quarterback in the game who took care of the ball.

Second guessing: Michigan was driving the ball well in the first quarter and had the ball on the Notre Dame 10-yard line when offensive coordinator Al Borges got a little too tricky. He called for a halfback pass from the diminutive Vincent Smith, who jumped in the air with Te'o barreling down on him and lobbed an easy interception in the end zone. The Wolverines could have used the momentum early and ended up really needing the points.

What Notre Dame learned: While this one wasn't pretty, the Irish could hardly have asked for a better start to this season. Its defense is playing at a championship level -- to hold Michigan and Robinson to six points is an outstanding achievement. There are still questions for this team, and Kelly will have to answer even more quarterback controversy questions this week, but this is the toughest Irish team we've seen in a while.

What Michigan learned: The Wolverines still aren't ready for prime time. They got blown out in the opener against Alabama and then were ridiculously sloppy with the ball in this one. While Michigan had by far its best defensive performance to date and can build on that, Robinson is still making too many mistakes in the passing game. There's really no reason for the Wolverines to be ranked in the top 25 right now, but Michigan still will be a factor in the weakened Big Ten, which went 0-3 against Notre Dame.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- If it was possible, Michigan actually has put together a worse half than it did in either half against Alabama. The Wolverines trail 10-0 and have been inept on offense.

Here's some analysis of what happened.

Stat of the half: 7, as in the amount of interceptions thrown by both teams in a half. Denard Robinson was responsible for four of them with two thrown almost directly at defenders and the third a combination of a rough route run by Devin Gardner and a slight Robinson overthrow. His fourth was on a Hail Mary. Vincent Smith had one on a halfback pass. Notre Dame’s Everett Golson added two of his own before being pulled. Michigan's last five passes of the half were all interceptions.

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