The Great Heisman Campaign: Semifinal

The timetable for the Great Heisman Campaign has hit overdrive, and it’s time to get down to a final pairing. Because of this, there will be no quarterfinals, and instead there will be a 4-way competition on each side of the bracket to determine who the finalists will be. Here’s the updated bracket:

Round 3 Results of the Great Heisman Campaign

There are 2 polls in this post, so make sure you vote in both of them. These polls will only be open for 24 hours, so get to votin’.

West Region Semifinal

  • 1 Brandon Minor (80%, 582 Votes)
  • 2 Donovan Warren (10%, 76 Votes)
  • 1 Greg Mathews (5%, 39 Votes)
  • 2 Carlos Brown (4%, 32 Votes)

Total Voters: 728

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East Region Semifinal

  • 1 Brandon Graham (54%, 394 Votes)
  • 2 Tate Forcier (30%, 214 Votes)
  • 1 Zoltan Mesko (12%, 85 Votes)
  • 2 Martavious Odoms (4%, 30 Votes)

Total Voters: 723

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Posted under Football, Personnel

Great Heisman Campaign: Odoms v. Martin

Martavious Odoms was Michigan’s most used receiver last year, grabbing 49 passes for 443 yards. Since he performed so well as a freshman, there’s good reason to hope he does the same as a sophomore – if not better. Competent quarterbacking and a more effective overall offense should give Odoms the chance to make a lot of plays. He’ll also be used in the kicking game, and he returned one punt for touchdown last year.

Mike Martin was inserted into heavy rotation at defensive line, which is rare for a true freshman. He performed well, including a crushing of Allan Evridge that helped seal the victory over Wisconsin.

Martin finished the year with 20 tackle (4.5 for loss and 2 sacks).

Martavious Odoms v. Mike Martin

  • 3 Mike Martin (57%, 284 Votes)
  • 2 Martavious Odoms (43%, 215 Votes)

Total Voters: 499

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For the second round each poll will only be open for 3 days, so make sure you vote early in order to be counted. For the updated bracket, click here.

Open Polls:
Forcier v. Stonum.
Graham v. Robinson.

Completed 2nd Round Polls:
Minor v. Van Bergen.
Warren v. Schilling.
Mesko v. Cissoko.

Posted under Football, Personnel

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The Great Heisman Campaign: Odoms v. Shaw

Martavious Odoms burst onto the scene last year as a true freshman. He led Michigan in receiving yards, though he didn’t end up scoring a single touchdown through the air. His first touchdown as a Wolverine instead came on a punt return against Purdue. Odoms looks to be Michigan’s top option at the slot again this year, though he’ll have several more teammates at the position as well.

Michael Shaw struggled through 2008 with some lingering injuries, but still managed to make a mark in Michigan’s backfield. He finished third on the team in rushing yardage, and is a very quick player who can make a difference both from the backfield and the slot. If Shaw can remain healthy, he could break out behind Michigan’s improved offensive line in 2009.

Martavious Odoms v. Michael Shaw

  • 2 Martavious Odoms (62%, 458 Votes)
  • 7 Michael Shaw (38%, 284 Votes)

Total Voters: 742

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The poll will remain open for 7 days, closing at 5PM next Monday. Have your heart set on a particular candidate? Try to sway others in the comments. The full bracket is visible here.

Other Open Polls:
Cissoko v. Toussaint.
Forcier v. Patterson.
Stonum v. Roundtree.
Graham v. Banks.
Robinson v. Woolfolk.

Completed 1st Round Poll:
Minor defeats Sheridan, 952-53.
Van Bergen defeats Gibbons, 516-201.
Warren defeats Stokes, 646-113.
Schilling v. Emilien, 487-248.
Mesko defeats Ortmann, appx. 640-90 (numbers not final).

Posted under Football, Personnel

Recruiting Update 5-11-09

2010 Michigan Football Recruiting Board. This was kind of a slow weekend, so there isn’t a whole ton of news. However, the later recruiting update this week will probably be pretty full. (Translation: I was on vacation this weekend and want to get the Monday recruiting post up without any further delay).

For those worried about the low ranking of slot commit Drew Dileo, hopefully his being ranked #17 in Louisiana will assuage those fears a bit. Louisiana is typically a talent-rich state, that #17 in that state is comparable to top-10 in Michigan in nearly every year. Couple that with the fact that Tiger Rag is an LSU fansite (like a Scout or Rivals page, but to the best of my knowledge, unaffiliated), and likely to slightly underrate the prospects who have already committed to out-of-state schools, and he’s probably a slightly better get than previously believed. Add in the stellar academic credentials, and things don’t look so negative, after all.

Josh Helmholdt Free Press fluff on who might be the second QB in Michigan’s class of 2010.Mostly non-informative, though he does say that the most likely options at this time appear to be LA QB Munchie Legaux, SC QB Cornelius Jones, and TX QB Jeremy Johnson. MI QB Robert Bolden is primarily interested in pro-style offenses… and Oregon? Either way, it’s unlikely that he’d end up in maize-and-blue.

This is also the time of year where we’ll start to hear about which prospects are planning to make it in to Ann Arbor for summer camps and other summer visits. FL OL Torrian Wilson and RB Eduardo Clements from Booker T. Washington in Miami plan to make it in for summer camp. Look for more comprehensive lists to start being formed as the time approaches.

Added NC DE Fre’Shaud Hunter, who has received a Michigan offer (info in header).

Added TN LB Justin Maclin to the board. He’s received a Michigan offer (info in header).

Added FL CB Merrill Noel, who has received a Michigan offer (info in header). Noel is one of the strong contingent of Pahokee players this year, headlined by WR De’Joshua Johnson. Johnson (who would be a prototypical slot in the spread offense) has stated he doesn’t want to play in a spread, and has eliminated Florida and Michigan, despite saying that he would love to play with his former teammates like Vincent Smith and Martavious Odoms. However, Pahokee does have a number of defensive players, including DTs Richard Ash, Doral Willis, and Antonio Ford, along with LB Zachery Allen who, like Noel, was just offered (info in header). If the Wolverines want to keep the Pahokee pipeline open (and they most certainly do), there are plenty of legit options in the class of 2010.

By the way, since 400-some recruits have been nominated for the Army All-American Game, I’m not going to bother individually listing which prospects with Michigan interest have been nominated. However, I may throw in “US Army Game nominee” when I bring them up in the context of having other news to discuss.

DC QB Ricardo Young and VA CB Derrick Hopkins. Both committed to Virginia Tech.
MI QB/Ath Tony Lippett committed to Michigan State.
OH OL Andrew Norwell. Yeah, he’s been committed to Ohio State for a really long time now, and I just noticed he was still on the board.
OH LB Scott McVey. See above.
VA LB Aramide Olaniyan. It appears as though his commitment to Duke will hold.

Posted under Football, Recruiting

Welcome to Lilliput

Odoms Tiny MichiganOr: How I learned to stop worrying (about size) and love the star system.

Since the dawn of the Rich Rodriguez era, there’s been a marked shift in recruiting philosophy. No, not the sudden emphasis on Central and Southern Florida. I speak of the recruitment of several tiny dudes each of the past three years who could plausibly play running back or slot receiver. The Lloyd Carr regime rarely recruited anyone under 5-9 (Mike Hart notwithstanding), and certainly not to play wide receiver. On the contrary, Carr seemed to only be interested in wideouts who were over 6-0, and preferred big guys who were 6-4 and over. Why the sudden change in philosophy? Il’l let the venerable Jim Stefani have the floor for a moment:

Lloyd was looking for big and fast RBs and WRs, kids who would fit in well into his pro-style offense and project well for the NFL.  There are only a small handful of prep players each year that met the skill set that he was looking for (big AND fast), so it was critical that he land a few of these kids every year.

RichRod, however, is looking for small and quick slot type receivers and backs who excel in space.  There are a lot more small and quick 5-7 to 5-11 slot types out there to recruit every year than there are future Braylon Edwards’s or Chris Perrys.  These kids may not project as NFL first round draft picks down the road, but they are kids who have the specific skills to succeed in RichRod’s offense because what they will be asked to do in this offense will be quite different than what the backs and receivers were asked to do playing Lloyd-ball.

So what does this mean? Rich could just grab any old guy off the street and he would perform equally as well as Percy Harvin? Of course not. However, there is something about the little guys that is more exciting (despite, perhaps, lower rankings). I think part of the reason Michigan fans fell in love with Martavious Odoms last year was not because he was an exceptional slot man, but the fact that the Wolverines hadn’t had a little guy at that position at all in so long. The concept of the slot receiver was as appealing as Odoms himself. If Michigan starts getting elite slot guys down the road, the offense could be that much more potent and exciting.

So why is Michigan now recruiting these tiny guys? As Jim said, the tiny guys are more likely to have the skill set that Michigan needs for the slot position to be effective. Good speed, exceptional quickness, and very good change of direction are all important to make plays in space. A bubble screen is only as effective as the ability of the receiver to make a guy miss, run by a guy, and get the ball down the field. Taller guys are generally less flexible (particularly in the hips – look at cornerbacks), and less able to change direction on a dime. Tall guys can be just as fast – look at Usain Bolt or Larry Fitzgerald – but lack the flexibility for this particular position.

That said, there are taller guys out there who have the skill set. These are freak athletes, like Percy Harvin, even Steve Breaston. With more height, and the same ability to run fast and change directions, evade tacklers, etc., these players are superior. They can do everything the little guys can, plus they’re able to get balls that are thrown higher, etc. These end up being your higher-rated guys. Noel Devine was a five-star, but think if he had the same skills at 6-1. He’d probably have potential to be one of the best ever.

Down the road, Michigan will probably be able to get these taller athletes with slot skills. However, that doesn’t mean that there’s no place in the offense for tiny guys.

Posted under Football, Personnel, Recruiting, Video

Inside the Play: Minnesota Offense

The Situation
Three and a half minutes remain in the third quarter. After a big run by Michael Shaw, the Wolverines have the ball on Minnesota’s 11 yard line. Michigan leads Minnesota 19-3, and the team has dominated the run of play for the entire game. They currently have a 16-point lead, but another score of any kind would give them a three-possession margin. A touchdown would effectively end the game. The ball is on the left hash.

The Personnel and Formation
Justin Feagin is in at quarterback (this would warrant an exclamation point most of the time, but it’s like the hundredth time in this game he’s lined up at the position), flanked to his right by fullback Mark Moundros. Michigan has a two-TE set, with Mike Massey(!) on the left and Kevin Koger on the right. Martavious Odoms is in slot right, with LaTerryal Savoy the flanker. Minnesota initially lines up with a deep safety and man coverage on the two wideouts, but when they notice the play in at quarterback, they shift their personnel to remain manned up on the outside, but bringing nine guys into the box.

The Play
At the snap, Savoy goes downfield to block his defender, and Odoms starts on the standard bubble screen route. Feagin half-rolls towards that side, and cocks to throw to Odoms. He sees Odoms’s defender crash forward to take away the screen, and he tucks the ball and runs it off right tackle. He is hit almost immediately, but manages to squirm forward for three yards.

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Why it Didn’t Work
The run aspect of the play was obviously doomed from the beginning, as soon as the Gophers shifted nine defenders into the box. Odoms was actually provided a fairly robust cushion by his defender, and Savoy gets a pretty good block on his (Savoy is probably the team’s best blocker at the position, he just isn’t much of a huge receiving threat). However, Feagin is clearly not entirely comfortable with this throw, as he delays it a bit. This gives the Minnesota defender a chance to crash up on Odoms, taking away the throw. Feagin has no choice at this point but to run it for what he can.

The Future
This play is sorta-but-not-particularly interesting for what it is, but is far more intriguing because of what it can mean for the future. Obviously, the play does not have quite as much potential (as is), now that Feagin is etablished as a pasing threat, though not yet a credible one in any way. However, if he can throw the bubble screen well, it gives a pretty good option play. I expect to see him in during the Northwestern game for at least one attempt at this play (or the same concept from a slightly different formation). This sets up something for the Ohio State game, wherein he fakes the bubble screen, fakes the run, and throws it to one of the tight ends, who has released upfield (take a look at the video again, either could have gone into the endzone and likely been wide open).

Now you know what it was like Inside the Play… and maybe inside a future play as well.

Posted under Football

Postgame Reflection: Illinois

There were problems with fumbling again, but the first one was by Brandon Minor, which can be chalked up to his being Brandon Minor, one came from a freshman (Michael Shaw) coming off injury, and the rest came late in the game when players were trying too hard to make something happen. After the last few weeks, maybe this is disturbing because the fumbles are continuing to happen, but this time, they didn’t really decide the game (as they did against Notre Dame, and could have last week against the Badgers).

The defense was not very good. Unless they step up their play, Daryll Clark is going to have a field day in a couple of weeks. Fortunately, I think some of the real problems are correctable:

  • Tackling. This hasn’t been an issue so far this year, so hopefully the poor physicality and tackling effort this week was more of an anomaly than anything.
  • Charles Stewart. Man, if you’re going to play the ball instead of the man when you’re the only guy between him and the endzone, you’ve got to leave your feet to prevent him from making the catch. Running past a guy while waving your arms and getting almost there isn’t going to cut it.
  • Disciplined play. On Juice’s long near-touchdown run, Brandon Graham, Jonas Mouton, and Brandon Harrison all took the outside (contain) assignment. At least one guy (Graham) and probably a second (Mouton) was supposed to be plugging the inside. This was, at least hopefully, a case of players getting frustrated, and trying to do too much to make a play. They will definitely get chewed out by Shafer, and hopefully not be in a position where they have to force plays late in the game again.
  • Pressure and contain. The defense could usually get one, but at the expense of the other. I’d bet a small part of this is being tired from the emotional win last week.
  • Stevie Brown. He didn’t do anything egregiously wrong this week, but I wouldn’t be a Michigan fan if I wasn’t bitching about him, now would I?

Steve Threet was his typical hot-and-cold self. I think when he’s in rhythm, he’s very good. However, if he isn’t in rhythm, the results can be ugly. If he gets knocked out of rhythm during the game, as we saw against the Illini, it is very hard for him to snap back into form. Part of this is his youth. Part of it is the offensive line putting him in a difficult situation or two.

Martavious Odoms continues to have some struggles running precise routes, or at the very least getting on the same page as Threet. Chalk this up to inexperience. Once he’s been in this offense a year or so, Odoms should be a super-entertaining player to watch.

Just like the past few weeks, this game showed why this team is going to be exciting to watch in the near future, but frustrating to watch right now.

Posted under Analysis