Sunday, January 28, 2007

Michigan's 2007 recruiting class

With the February 7, 2007, National Letter of Intent Signing Day rapidly approaching, Michigan is putting the finishing touches on its 2007 recruiting class. In today's edition of the Detroit Free Press, Mark Snyder's article gives a rundown of the current state of the recruiting class. Michigan's recruiting class consists of 18 players who have made verbal commitments including four players who began classes at Michigan in January, 2007 as early enrollees (i.e., QB Ryan Mallett, RB Vince Helmuth, LB Austin Panter, and S Artis Chambers). Michigan's 2007 recruiting class is currently ranked 16th in the nation by recruiting service Michigan is still actively recruiting one uncommited high profile in-state recruit: Ron Johnson. Johnson (Muskegon High) is said to be leaning towards Michigan but is also still considering Florida, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Southern Cal. It should be noted that Johnson's high school teammate Ashton Leggett committed to Michigan State. Ron Johnson is expected to make his official announcement on the Sunday prior to Signing Day. Analysts have indicated that if Ron Johnson commits to Michigan it would push the Wolverines' 2007 recruiting class into the Top 10. As it currently stands, Michigan has the third highest rated class in the Big 10 behind Illinois (#12 nationally) and OSU (#15 nationally) according to As for uncommitted out-of-state talent that Michigan has a chance of landing for its 2007 recruiting class, the Wolverines still seem to have a shot with 5-star CB Donovan Warren (CA), 4-star WR Rashad Mason (TN) and 3-star DT Renaldo Segasse (Quebec). Only time will tell. Go Blue!


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Coach Carr updates contract

As reported by John Heuser in the Friday, January 26, 2007, edition of The Ann Arbor News, Coach Carr signed an addendum to his contract on December 21, 2006. The addendum calls for the school to set up a deferred compensation account worth $300,000 within 15 days of July 1, 2007. Coach Carr will collect his money approximately a year later if he remains employed by Michigan "in any capacity, until July 1, 2008.'' According to the terms of Coach Carr's contract, he will be appointed an associate athletic director at the university and draw his base salary when he retires as coach. In a prior deferred compensation agreement that went into effect in 2005 and required $300,000 per year to be set aside for two years, Coach Carr was required to work as "Head Football Coach'' until July 1, 2007 as a condition for receiving that money. People are speculating that the change in the contract terms could be a sign that Coach Carr is preparing to step down as Head Football Coach after the 2007 season.

Besides the deferred compensation, Coach Carr is paid a base salary of $347,619 per year, plus $765,000 in additional compensation annually. He also receives a bonus equal to one month of his base salary when Michigan qualifies for a bowl game, or two months when the Wolverines reach a Bowl Championship Series bowl as they did this past season. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Coach Lloyd Carr by Rashaun Rucker/Detroit Free Press


Back to the Future for #23

The one area in which Michigan exhibited a talent deficiency in 2006 was in the defensive secondary. With the graduation of All-American cornerback Leon Hall, the situation looks even murkier heading into next season. Additionally, Michigan is likely to have a new defensive secondary coach as Ron Lee, who coached the cornerbacks last season, was let go from the staff. It is unknown whether Defensive Coordinator Ron English, who coached the safeties in 2006, will continue to coach the safeties next season or whether Coach English will turn over the entire secondary to the new coach when same is hired. No matter who coaches the secondary next year, it will be a difficult challenge with the thin talent to be deployed. However, to improve that situation the Wolverines should repeat history.

Although the Wolverines have a lack of talented players in the defensive secondary, they are loaded at running back. Carlos Brown wound up as #4 on the depth chart at running back in 2006 during his true freshman season. Brown was an early enrolee who arrived at Michigan in January of 2006 and he was expected to challenge for serious playing time behind Mike Hart last season. However, a combination of illness and the emergence of true freshman running back Brandon Minor severly limited Brown's playing time. At the Monday press conference during the week of the 2006 Ball State game, Coach Carr was asked about putting Brown in at running back and Coach Carr responded: "I'm disappointed that we haven't had an opportunity to get him some playing time. I'm disappointed in that, and hopefully that will come because he is a guy with a lot of ability. Sometimes the season just doesn't work out like you want it to." On the season, Brown only carried the ball 16 times for 41 yards. The number of carries for Brown is not likely to increase much next year as Mike Hart, Kevin Grady and Brandon Minor all return at running back in 2007. However, Brown is way too talented to just leave buried on the depth chart at running back.

Carlos Brown is acknowledged as being incredibly fast (second on the team only to Morgan Trent) and athletic. He arrived at Michigan after having played both ways in high school at Heard County (Ga.) High School. In high school, he played both cornerback and free safety and amassed 203 tackles, 11 forced fumbles, 11 interceptions, 4 fumble recoveries and 25 pass break-ups during his prep career. A switch to defense at Michigan for Brown (who wears jersey #23) would be beneficial both to Brown and the Wolverines. It gets Brown on the field as a starter, which he likes, and it fills a glaring hole for the Wolverines which will please Coach Carr.

A move by Brown (#23) from the offensive bench to a starting spot in the defensive secondary is reminiscent of a successful move made by Michigan legend Jim Betts (#23) during Coach Schembechler's second year as Head Coach of the Wolverines. As legend has it, Betts and defensive secondary coach Dick Hunter talked about having the incredibly athletic Betts come over to the defensive secondary which had been decimated by graduation after the 1969 season. The problem was that Coach Schembechler had to be convinced first. Betts, who was the Wolverines' backup QB to Don Moorehead, marched into Bo's office and told Bo that he was switching over to the defense for his senior season. Nobody told Bo what he was going to do and he decided that Betts would play both positions. That was fine with Betts. He won the Meyer Morton Award in 1970 given to the player who exhibited the most promise and improvement as a result of annual spring practice. He started every game of the 1970 season at safety and amassed 45 tackles, 4 pass break-ups, 2 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries for the 9-1 Wolverines. He played his best game of the year during the year's biggest game as he tallied 14 tackles and an interception in the Ohio State contest.

Carlos Brown should do as his number-sake (#23) Jim Betts did before him and switch to the defensive side of the ball where he can star for the Wolverines next season. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Carlos Brown from 2006 Michigan Football Media Day by John T. Greilick/The Detroit News.
*Note 2: You can learn more about Michigan legend Jim Betts from, but not limited to, the following books: Tales from Michigan Stadium by Jim Brandstatter (2002); Michigan: Where Have You Gone? by Jim Cnockaert (2004); What it Means to be a Wolverine by Kevin Allen (2005); Photo of Jim Betts from TK Legacy Michigan Signature Series card.
*Note 3: Special order a #23 jersey from the M-Den to wear at The Big House while Carlos Brown plays defense (maybe) in 2007.

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Pass Defense...or lack thereof

Ron Lee served a one-and-done tenure as Michigan's cornerbacks' coach as the Wolverines' secondary often struggled during the 2006 season. While Coach Lee was scapegoated for the secondary's shortcomings, it should be remembered that wunderkind Defensive Coordinator Ron English was responsible for coaching the safeties in 2006. The whole secondary underperformed during the course of the season. Michigan's pass defense was ranked 89th in the NCAA (of 119 Div. I-A teams) in terms of pass yardage as it yielded 224.92 yards per game. Conversely, Michigan had the #1 rushing defense in the nation. Of course, part of the reason Michigan was giving up yards through the air was because teams were throwing so much as they were unable to run the ball against the Wolverines' defense. As far as Pass Efficiency defense, Michigan was #4 in the Big 10 and #25 in the nation with a rating of 111.96. In 2006, the Wolverines defensive strategy was to protect the weak secondary by getting to the quarterback with a strong pass rush from its incredibly effective front seven. However, when the Wolverines were unable to get to the quarterback (see the OSU game) the defensive secondary coverage broke down and big plays were allowed. Overall, the secondary had a tough year. Here is a closer look at the top nine (9) players who made up the defensive secondary last season:

CB Leon Hall (Senior/Senior): Hall was a consensus All-American pick in 2006 and he was the anchor of the Wolverines' secondary. He was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award given to the nation's top defensive back and he became Michigan's all-time leader in career pass break-ups with 43. He also finished his career tied for 4th all-time in interceptions with twelve.

CB Morgan Trent (Junior/Soph.): Trent started eleven games this season at right cornerback holding down the opposite end of the field from All-American Leon Hall. He tallied 45 tackles in 2006 which tied him for 4th best on the team. He is widely regarded as the fastest player on the team. He was tested often this past season (especially in the Rose Bowl) as teams threw away from Leon Hall. The good news is that he tied for the team lead with 8 tackles in the Rose Bowl. The bad news is that the USC receivers he was "covering" picked up an awful lot of yards before he eventually tackled them.
S Jamar Adams (Junior/Junior): Adams was the defensive signal caller for the 2006 Wolverines and he was a second-team All-Big 10 selection by the conference coaches. Adams started all 13 games this past season at strong safety and he recorded 47 tackles (3rd best on team) and 7 pass break-ups.

S Ryan Mundy (Senior/Junior): Mundy started six games and played in eleven contests at free safety in 2006. He did not play in the Rose Bowl game. On the year, he tallied 25 tackles, an interception, a pass break-up, a sack and two tackles-for-loss. Mundy played a key role for the defense this past season after missing all but one game of the 2005 campaign due to a nerve injury.
S Willis Barringer (5th/Senior): Barringer started the final three games of 2006 at free safety and played in 8 games overall at safety this past season. He is a four-year letter winner and was voted co-recipient of the Robert P. Ufer Bequest as the senior football player who exhibited the most enthusiasm and love for Michigan. He was injured during the first quarter of the game vs. OSU and missed the remainder of the contest but he returned to action for the Rose Bowl where he registered six tackles and two pass break-ups.

CB/S Brandon Harrison (Soph./Soph.): Harrison played both cornerback and safety in 2006 and had six starts in secondary and saw action in all 13 games. He played cornerback in twelve of those games. Recorded 30 tackles and 3 tackles-for-loss on the year.

S Brandent Englemon (Senior/Junior): Englemon started 5 games at safety in 2006 and appeared in 12 games during the season. He registered 29 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble and three pass break-ups. He played on special teams units in the Rose Bowl game vs. USC.
CB Charles Stewart (Junior/Soph.): Stewart started two games at cornerback in 2006 and played in all 13 games. He totaled 24 tackles and two pass break-ups. There was a lot of pre-season talk, particularly from Def. Coordinator Ron English, that Stewart was coming on and would challenge for a starting spot. However, Stewart faded fast and was primarily utilized as a special teams player this past year. He finished third on the team with 11 special teams tackles.
CB Johnny Sears, Jr. (Soph./Fr.): Sears played in 12 games in 2006 and earned his first varsity letter. He recorded a career-best 4 solo tackles versus Ohio State while playing cornerback and on special teams units.

Of the players listed above, all but Hall, Barringer, and Mundy are expected (for now) to be returning for the 2007 season. Stevie Brown (Fr./Fr.) was mainly a special teams contributor in 2006 but did see action at safety in four games and figures to be a major contributor next season. As far as help from incoming recruits, Donovan Warren and Artis Chambers are expected to have the biggest impact next season on the defensive secondary of any of the newcomers. Go Blue!

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Jerimy Finch and Marquis Maze opt out of U-M verbal commitments

John Heuser of The Ann Arbor News has reported that recruits Jerimy Finch and Marquis Maze have opted out of their verbal commitments to Michigan and they have each decided to play their college ball elsewhere. The decommitment of Finch is not a surprise as his "commitment" never seemed to be very strong in the first place. (See post of May 12, 2006: Jerimy Finch verbally commits to U-M for 2007...kind of...sort of). Finch has now committed to play for his home state Indiana Hoosiers while Maze will play for Alabama's new head coach, Nick Saban. The loss of the highly touted Finch is going to be viewed by some as a setback as Michigan's secondary is deemed to be short on talent. Even without Finch and Maze, Michigan's recruiting class is expected to be a top-15 crop when national signing day occurs on February 7, 2007. Go Blue!


Ron Lee we hardly knew ye

It was reported today that cornerbacks coach Ron Lee has left the Michigan coaching staff after just one season. No reason was given for his departure nor were Lee's immediate future plans announced at this time. Lee's successor has yet to be named. Go Blue!


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Red Zone conversion rate: What a difference a year makes

After last season, I authored a post titled "Red Zone = Danger Zone in 2005" (June 1, 2006). Last season, Michigan's offense only converted 79.3% of its red zone scoring opportunities. In 2006, Michigan's offense improved its red zone scoring conversion rate by almost ten percentage points. This season the Wolverines scored on 42-47 red zone opportunities for an 89% conversion rate. Of those 42 scores, twenty-eight were touchdowns and the other fourteen were field goals.

The 2006 defense also improved by about ten percentage points. In 2005, the Michigan defense allowed opponents in the red zone to score 86.5% of the time. In 2006, the defense was stingier by about 10 percentage points as opponents only converted 19-25 (76%) red zone opportunities. In 2006, the Red Zone was not the Danger Zone. This year it was more like the Promised Land. Go Blue!


Michigan finishes in Top 10 in final national polls

Michigan (11-2) finished the 2006 season with a Top 10 ranking in the final national polls. Michigan finished ranked #8 in the AP poll and #9 in the USA Today Coaches' Poll. This was the fifth time Michigan finished in the Top 10 in the season ending AP Poll (and sixth time in the Coaches' Poll Top 10) during Coach Carr's 12-year head coaching tenure. Although impressive, it should be noted that Coach Schembechler's teams finished in the Top 10 in both the AP Poll and the Coaches' Poll eleven (11) of his first 12 seasons as Head Coach. Overall, Michigan has finished in the AP top-25 rankings 21 of the past 22 years and 36 of the past 39 years. The Wolverines were not ranked in 1984 and did not receive a final ranking in 1982 and 2005. Go Blue!


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Michigan's 2007 football schedule

In today's Detroit Free Press, there was an item that Athletic Director Bill Martin said he is looking for a Division I-A opponent for the Wolverines to play on Sept. 1st, 2007 because the Eastern Michigan game has been moved to October 6th which was originally a bye date. The new schedule (assuming the Sept. 1st date gets filled) would give Michigan eight (8) home games next year. The Wolverines would open the season with four straight home games and play six of their first seven games at home next season. Of course, the final home game of next season is against Ohio State. Go Blue!

UPDATE: Michigan has filled the Sept. 1st date with Appalachian State the two-time defending FCS (f/k/a Div. I-AA) Champions. Here is the complete 2007 Michigan Football Schedule. Go Blue!


11-2 record in 2006: It's all in how you look at it

Michigan won eleven (11) games (and lost two) this season which is only the fourth time since 1906 that the Wolverines have won as many as eleven games in a season. The other years since 1906 that Michigan teams accomplished the feat of winning as many as eleven game in a season were: 1971 (11-1); 1986 (11-2); and 1997 (12-0). Thus, it is a rare and special feat for a team to accomplish. Nevertheless, many Wolverine fans are disgruntled as Michigan ended this season on a two game losing streak. Although the final two games of the 2006 season made for a bitter ending, the 2006 season as a whole stacks up favorably when compared to other seasons in the annals of Michigan Football history. Despite the devastating setbacks at the end, this team accomplished a lot this year and the players should hold their heads up high. The sub-standard performances that led to defeats in the final two games will serve as great motivation during off-season workouts much as "5 losses" served as motivation this past off-season. I expect the players will come back even hungrier and more determined next year and ready to finish the job of winning the National Championship! Go Blue!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Lloyd Carr's 12-year coaching tenure: A tale of two halves

Coach Carr just completed his 12th season as the Wolverines Head Coach. In the first six years, Michigan was 5-1 against OSU and 4-2 in bowl games. Michigan amassed four consecutive bowl victories during that span and captured the 1997 AP National Championship. However, for as much success as the Wolverines enjoyed during the first half of Coach Carr's tenure, it has endured that much heartache in the second half of his reign. Michigan has gone 1-5 against OSU the past 6 seasons and is 1-5 in bowl games with four consecutive losses. Michigan has lost its final two games of the season in four of the past six seasons including this year. Go Blue!


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Rose Bowl Game pulls in big ratings for ABC-TV

ABC-TV's coverage of the 2007 Rose Bowl game, which began at 4:30 p.m. EST and ran through 9:00 p.m., delivered 19 million viewers and a 6.6 rating/15 share between 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. yesterday. By way of comparison, the Fiesta Bowl on FOX peaked at 15.7 million viewers between 9:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. The numbers for the Rose Bowl broadcast would have likely been even higher had Erin Andrews been doing the sideline reporting. Go Blue!


Michigan's bowl record history

Yesterday's loss dropped Michigan's all-time bowl game record to 18 wins and 20 losses. In the Rose Bowl, Michigan's record now stands at 8 wins and 12 losses (4-12 in the modern era since Bo Schembechler arrived in 1969). Michigan's loss to USC yesterday marked the Wolverines third Rose Bowl game loss in the past four years. (For a more detailed discussion of Michigan's history in "The Granddaddy of Them All," see the recent post of December 19, 2006: Michigan's history in the Rose Bowl). This season was the 32nd consecutive year that Michigan played in a bowl game. Michigan has amassed a poor 14-18 record during that era. Here are some other bowl related facts:

  • Coach Schembechler (2-8 in the Rose Bowl) is the only coach in Michigan history to win more than one Rose Bowl game. (1981 & 1989).
  • Coach Carr's Rose Bowl record now stands at 1-3 with his one win coming in the 1998 Rose Bowl game that gave Michigan the AP National Championship.
  • Coach Carr's bowl game record is 5-7.
  • Coach Carr won 4 consecutive New Year's Day games from 1/1/98-1/1/01. (Rose;Citrus;Orange; & Citrus).
  • Coach Carr has now lost 4 consecutive bowl games. (Rose;Rose;Alamo; & Rose).
  • Coach Schembechler's all-time bowl record at Michigan was 5-12.
  • Coach Moeller's all-time bowl record at Michigan was 4-1.
  • Coach Moeller was 1-1 in Rose Bowl games.
  • Coach Yost, Coach Crisler, Coach Oosterbaan and Coach Elliott were each 1-0 in the Rose Bowl.

For any bowl game questions that you may still have, check the Michigan Rose Bowl Media Guide Bowl Records section in PDF format. Go Blue!


Monday, January 01, 2007

Sifting through the wreckage

Looking at the early returns, a few things are striking about the statistics from today's Rose Bowl game. Michigan was held to 12 net rushing yards. This is not quite as bad as it first seems in that net rushing yards factors in lost yards due to sacks. Michigan yielded 6 sacks and lost over 40 yards which suppressed its rushing yards total. However, it is terrible that the Wolverines yielded seven sacks in this game (five in the first half) after yielding only 18 in the first 12 games of the season. There was a complete and total breakdown of the O-Line in this game. On the defensive side of the ball, Michigan allowed John David Booty (27/45 391 yds. 4 tds.) to amass Heisman-like numbers. His favorite target was Dwayne Jarrett (11 rec. 205 yds. 2 tds.) who tortured the Michigan secondary all afternoon. A team knows it is in trouble when its statistical highlight is the fact that its punter (Zoltan Mesko) had an excellent game. A breakdown of the statistics from the game will occur when my breakdown is over. Go Blue!


Post for Brent Musburger: Nothing to see here.

In the 4th quarter of the Rose Bowl game, Brent Musburger repeatedly referred to "bloggers" calling for Coach Carr to be fired because of Michigan's inablility to beat OSU and/or win its bowl games for three consecutive seasons. Despite his assertions to the contrary, Mr. Musburger was trying to throw a lit match into a gas can. As for this "Michigan Blog," there will be no calls by this webmaster for Coach Carr to be terminated. As far as I'm concerned, he has earned the right to stay here as long as he so desires. I hope he decides to stay for several more seasons although realistically he probably will not coach more than another three years. So Mr. Musburger, there is nothing controversial for you at this blog. Try my links. Maybe UMGoBlue.COM. Go Blue!

P.S. If you are reading my blog, Mr. Musburger, please do what you can to have Erin Andrews on your crew next season. Thanks. Much appreciated.


USC 32 Michigan 18

Michigan could not keep up with the Trojans high-powered offense and the Wolverines ultimately lost their bowl game for the fourth straight year. The game was tied 3-3 at halftime but Michigan was outscored 29-15 in the second-half by USC. Click here for the event recap, the boxscore, the player participation charts, the postgame notes and a photo gallery. Also, here is a link to the play-by-play charts and boxscore in PDF format. Much analysis to follow when I am done wallowing over Michigan's third Rose Bowl loss in the past four years. Go Blue!


Rose Bowl game is finally here!

With kickoff scheduled for 5:00 p.m. EST today (January 1, 2007), the wait is finally over for Michigan fans who have been longing to watch the Wolverines return to the field since the end of the Big Ten season on November 18, 2006. There is comprehensive coverage of today's Rose Bowl game in both Detroit daily newspapers.

In the January 1, 2007 edition of the Detroit Free Press there is a position-by-position scouting report by Mark Snyder. Michael Rosenberg wrote an article entitled, "Granddaddy of 'em all offers plenty of drama and plot twists." The Freep has a Q&A with Alan Branch, Rondell Biggs, and Terrence Taylor. It also has a more in-depth interview of one of the Michigan players in an article entitled "Getting Personal with: Michigan senior CB Darnell Hood." Finally, the Detroit Free Press includes their U-M Notebook.

Over at the Detroit News, Bob Wojnowski (Wojo) wrote at article entitled, "U-M can recover a lot with a win today." Angelique S. Chengelis (a/k/a "The Angel of the Big House") wrote an article in which she posed the question, "Defining game for Henne?" The Angel also wrote an article re: the weapons of the USC offense. She also did a column regarding the Michigan seniors' last chance to snap the three game bowl losing streak. Finally, there is a photo gallery of pictures from yesterday's pep rally with the team at Santa Monica Pier. Go Blue!


Mike Hart is the mouth that roars

Rose Bowl Media Day was held on Saturday, December 30, 2006, and star running back Mike Hart was one of the Michigan players who was in the spotlight. Shawn Windsor of the Detroit Free Press wrote an article in yesterday's paper entitled "Loquacious RB is heart, soul of Michigan team." The verbose Hart rushed for 1,515 yards in 2006 which placed him 7th best in the nation this season. For his career, Hart has rushed for a total of 3,632 yards (#6 in Michigan history) and he is only 840 yards from becoming Michigan's all-time leading rusher. Hart had a welcome interruption during his Saturday press conference as he received a visit from Traverse City National Cherry Queen Kaley Schroeder. (pictured above). National Cherry Queen Schroeder pinned a cherry sticker on a smiling Hart's jersey as he fielded questions from the media. However, come game time on Monday, Hart will be all business and will likely be up to his usual verbal sparring with the opponents. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of National Cherry Queen Kaley Schroeder with Mike Hart by Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

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