Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Picking captains

Coach Schembechler established a...pattern (I don't want to overuse the word "tradition") about picking team captains after his first season as Head Coach. In his first year as Head Coach in 1969, tight end Jim Mandich served as the lone team captain. Thereafter, Coach Schembechler established the pattern of having a minimum of two senior players serve as captain each year with at least one player coming from the offense and one from the defense. Coach Moeller and Coach Carr followed the same guidelines. Following are the team captains since 1970:

Don Moorhead Henry Hill

Frank Gusich Guy Murdock

Tom Coyle Randy Logan

David Gallagher Paul Seal

David Brown Dennis Franklin

Don Dufek Kirk Lewis

Kirk Lewis Rob Lytle Calvin O'Neal

Dwight Hicks Walt Downing

Russell Davis Jerry Meter

John Arbeznik Ron Simpkins

Andy Canavino George Lilja

Kurt Becker Robert Thompson

Anthony Carter Paul Girgash Robert Thompson

Stefan Humphries John Lott

Doug James Mike Mallory

Brad Cochran Eric Kattus Mike Mallory

Jim Harbaugh Andy Moeller

Jamie Morris Doug Mallory

Mark Messner Jon Vitale

J.J. Grant Derrick Walker

Jarrod Bunch John Milligan

Erick Anderson Greg Skrepenek

Corwin Brown Chris Hutchinson Elvis Grbac

Buster Stanley Ricky Powers

Steve Morrison Walter Smith

Jarrett Irons Joe Marinaro

Jarrett Irons Rod Payne

Jon Jansen Eric Mayes

Jon Jansen Juaquin Feazell

Tom Brady Steve Hutchinson Rob Renes

Steve Hutchinson Anthony Thomas James Whitley Eric Wilson

Eric Brackins Shawn Thompson

Bennie Joppru Victor Hobson

Grant Bowman Carl Diggs John Navarre

David Baas Marlin Jackson

Jason Avant Pat Massey

LaMarr Woodley Jake Long

Jake Long Mike Hart Shawn Crable

Coach Rodriguez, however, is going to be changing the pattern established by his predecessors. As Coach Rod stated during his meeting with the press yesterday, he has a different philosophy when it comes to picking team captains. Coach Rod stated the following:

I don’t pick permanent captains before the season. It’s just my philosophy. I
want to see them lead throughout the year and pick permanent captains at the
end. Sometimes you pick a permanent captain and he winds up not being one of you best leaders and you’re stuck with him. So we will have game by game captains, seniors and at the end of the year, the team, the players themselves will pick the permanent captains at the end of the year. We will also have honorary
captains that are former Michigan greats. For every game, we’ll have one or

Having the honorary captains that are former Michigan greats is a smart P.R. move that will help ease the transition to Coach Rod's way of doing things. Change is never easy but there is a new sheriff in town and things are going to be done his way. Besides, as Chad Henne proved last year and Rick Leach proved in the '70s, you do not have to have the title of captain to be a team leader. Go Blue!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Five Fantastic Finishes

There have been plenty of fantastic finishes over the years of Michigan Football. Below are videos of five classic finishes. Enjoy and Go Blue!

  • #5 Fantastic Finish: 11/3/07 vs. MSU- Mario Manningham catches the game-winning TD pass in the waning moments for a thrilling come from behind road victory.
  • #4 Fantastic Finish: 10/30/04 vs. MSU- Braylon Edwards leads Michigan to a stunning comeback victory in triple overtime.
  • #3 Fantastic Finish: 8/26/95 vs. Virginia- Mercury Hayes' TD catch with no time left on the clock gives Coach Carr a win in his first game as Head Coach.
  • #2 Fantastic Finish: 10/15/05 vs. Penn State- Freshman Super Mario Manningham's TD catch with no time left gives Michigan the victory over the Nittany Lions.
  • #1 Fantastic Finish: 10/27/79 vs Indiana- The classic Wangler-to-Carter TD pass as time ran out that sent announcer Bob Ufer into fits of euphoria!

#5 Fantastic Finish

Mario Manningham pulls in the winning TD versus MSU in 2007!

#4 Fantastic Finish

Braylon Edwards leads Michigan to a 3-OT victory over MSU in 2004!

#3 Fantastic Finish

Mercury Hayes game-winning TD with no time left gives Coach Carr a comeback victory in his first game as Head Coach!

#2 Fantastic Finish

Super Frosh Mario Manningham catches the game winning TD with no time left against undefeated Penn State!

#1 Fantastic Finish

The classic Wangler to Carter game winning TD that sent Bob Ufer into fits of euphoria!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Def. Coordinator Scott Shafer: First year excellence?

Michigan has had only four (4) Head Football Coaches since 1969 (i.e., Bo, Gary Moeller, Lloyd Carr, and Rich Rodriguez). During that time, however, the Wolverines have had twice as many Defensive Coordinators. Nevertheless, outstanding defense has been a hallmark of Michigan teams during this era. The Wolverines' philosophy under the previous three head coaches is that defense wins championships. However, new Head Coach Rich Rodriguez is an offensive guru and does not have the defensive mind-set of the previous three regimes. Therefore, it will be especially important for Coach Rod's Defensive Coordinator Scott Shafer to take care of that side of the ball. Shafer is the first outside hire to be named DC at Michigan since Jim Young was named the DC in 1969 when he came with Bo from Miami (OH) University. The past six Michigan defensive coordinators had all been on staff as a position coach before being elevated to the post of defensive coordinator. One remarkable fact about the Michigan defensive coordinators is that most of them achieved incredible success in their inaugural season in the post. Following is a coach-by-coach look at the rookie season of the Michigan defensive coordinators since 1969 and the high standards they have set for new DC Scott Shafer:

  • Jim Young (Def. Coord.: 1969-1972)

Coach Young came with Bo from Miami (OH) University and inherited a Michigan team that had lost 50-14 to OSU the previous season. After an uneven start to the 1969 season, the defense kicked into high gear by week six. The Wolverines defense only yielded 22 points in 4 games heading into Ohio State week. The contest against the Buckeyes was going to be the big test for Coach Young's defense as Woody Hayes' Buckeyes were on a 22 game winning streak. As everyone knows, the Wolverine defense held the #1 ranked Buckeyes to a mere 12 points and Michigan won the game and went to the Rose Bowl. Bo had a heart attack on the eve of the Rose Bowl game and it was Coach Young who took over the head coaching duties during the 10-3 loss to USC.

Coach Moeller also came over with Bo from Miami (OH) University in 1969. Coach Moeller handled the defensive ends from 1969-1972 and was promoted to Defensive Coordinator when Coach Young left the staff to take the head coaching position at the University of Arizona. Coach Moeller's inaugural season of DC in 1973 was a huge success. The "D" of the 1973 team yielded only 17 points in the season's first two games and then it played three (3) consecutive shutouts (against Navy, Oregon, and Michigan State). This defensive unit only allowed three of their 11 regular season opponents to score in double-digits and a mere 13 points was the most points it yielded in a game. The 1973 team finished the season 10-0-1 mainly on the strength of the performance of the defensive unit. This defense was led by two All-Americans: defensive tackle Dave Gallagher and defensive back David Brown.

  • Bill McCartney (Def. Coordinator: 1977-1981)

Coach McCartney (a Riverview Community High School grad) was merely 36-years old when he took over as the DC in 1977 when Coach Moeller left the staff to become the Head Coach at the University of Illinois. Coach McCartney had been on the Michigan staff for the previous three seasons (1974-1976) as the Defensive End coach. Coach McCartney's 1977 defense held 8 of 11 regular season opponents to single-digits as Michigan amassed a 10-1 regular season record and won the Big Ten title to advance to the Rose Bowl.

Coach Carr (a Riverview Community High School grad) became the DC when Coach Moeller ended his second stint as Defensive Coordinator (1982-1986) to become the Offensive Coordinator (1987-1989). Coach Carr had been on staff since 1980 as the secondary coach. Coach Carr's 1987 defense managed consecutive shutouts (Long Beach State & Wisconsin) in weeks 3 & 4 but it was a long season as the Wolverines labored to a 8-4 record and a 4th place finish in the Big Ten. The saving grace for the season was that the Wolverines were able to pull out a 28-24 win over Alabama in the Hall of Fame Bowl. The defense was led by All-American DT Mark Messner.

Coach Mattison took over the duties as DC when Coach Carr became interim Head Coach in 1995 as Head Coach Moeller suddenly resigned his position. Coach Mattison had been on the Michigan staff as the defensive line coach from 1992-1994. In 1995 under DC Mattison, Michigan ranked 11th in the nation in total defense (286.3 ypg) and 3rd in rushing defense (90.1 ypg).

Coach Herrmann took over as DC two weeks prior to the January 1, 1996 Outback Bowl. Although the Wolverines lost a close game, Coach Herrmann's defense led Michgan to an undefeated season and a National Championship the following season. For his efforts, Coach Herrmann was named the Frank Broyles Award winner given to the top assistant football coach in the nation. The defense was led by, of course, Heisman trophy winner Charles Woodson and All-American defensive tackle Glen Steele. The '97 "D" always came up big at the big moments. Through the first eight (8) games of the season, the "D" did not allow any second-half touchdowns or any 4th quarter points to be scored by its opponents. In fact, the Wolverines defense finished the regular season ranked #1 in the nation in scoring defense having allowed only an average of 8.9 pts./game. The "D" also finished the regular season ranked #1 in the NCAA both in Total Defense and Pass Efficiency Defense.

Coach "E" was the secondary coach from 2003-2005 when Head Coach Carr tapped him to replace outgoing DC Jim Herrmann as the new defensive coordinator. Coach "E" brought an exciting and aggressive style of play to the field and the 2006 Wolverines won the first eleven (11) games of his tenure and were ranked #2 in the nation as a team largely because of the play of the defense. DC English's 2006 defense finished the year ranked #1 in the nation in rushing defense (43.4 ypg), #10 in total defense (268.3 ypg) and #15 in scoring defense (15.9 ppg). In recognition of his efforts, Coach English was named by as the 2006 National Defensive Coordinator of the Year.

New Defensive Coordinator Scott Shafer has quite a tradition of first year excellence to follow. I hope Donovan Warren and the rest of the defense is up to the task. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Def. Coordinator Scott Shafer (center) giving instructions to his charges during Spring Practice by JOHN T. GREILICK/The Detroit News

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Friday, May 16, 2008

'70s Flashback: 1976 Michigan vs. OSU game

Following is a series of 4 videos (courtesy of markusr2001) of the classic 1976 Michigan/OSU game complete with play-by-play call by the legendary Bob Ufer and color commentary by Don Lund. For those who want to also read about the historic game, you can check out the 11/29/76 Sports Illustrated article, "Favorite Wish for Mich". Michigan had been 0-3-1 in the previous 4 years versus OSU before soundly beating the Buckeyes in 1976. Go Blue!



1976: Michigan-22 Ohio State-0 Part 1

1976: Michigan-22 Ohio State-0 Part 2

1976: Michigan-22 Ohio State-0 Part 3

1976: Michigan-22 Ohio State-0 Part 4

Sunday, May 11, 2008

ESPN all-access

Happy 2nd Anniversary to Michigan Football Saturdays

Michigan Football Saturdays marked the second anniversary of its existence on May 8, 2008. Just like last year, I remembered the anniversary a couple of days after the fact. The blog has come a long way from the first post on May 8, 2006. Although I was not as prolific in year 2 (only 188 posts as compared to 327 during my first year) my traffic more than doubled as I had over 111,000 visits and 175,000 page views in year two as compared to 47,000 visits and 79,000 page views in year one. Although these numbers pale in comparison to the big boys of the Michigan blogoshpere, I am quite appreciative that anyone would take the time to visit this blog. In year three, I hope to finally finish my recap of the 1977 season. I also hope to chronicle the 2008 team's run for a National Championship but we will have to wait and see how that turns out. I hope you keep reading because THOSE WHO STAY WILL BE CHAMPIONS!!! (Don't tell me you didn't see that coming). Go Blue!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Braylon Edwards is not happy with Coach Rod's choice for #1 jersey

Legendary Michigan wide receiver Braylon Edwards spoke out this week regarding his unhappiness with what he perceived as Coach Rod's slight regarding the assignment of the #1 jersey. In April, 2006, Edwards endowed a $500,000 scholarship to be awarded annually to the player who wears the #1 jersey. When Edwards announced the endowment he paid tribute to the "original" No. 1 at Michigan, Anthony Carter, a three-time All-American and the player who made the jersey iconic. Edwards credits Carter, who was a former teammate of his father, Stan, for providing him with a role model and for being a pioneer in Michigan’s wide receiving game. It was Edwards' desire and intent for the #1 jersey to be awarded to a wide receiver as has been the case since Carter first donned it in 1979. However, Edwards believes that Coach Rod may be assigning the coveted #1 jersey this year to J.T. Floyd a freshman defensive back. Edwards expressed his displeasure on multiple ESPN shows this week. Michigan fans have generally been dismayed by this turn of events and are wondering how long it will take for Coach Rod to correct his latest public relations blunder. Hopefully, Coach Rod will embrace the #1 jersey tradition just as Coach Schembechler embraced Michigan's traditions when Bo took over the team in 1969. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo by Sam Webb from of Braylon Edwards (left) and Anthony Carter during the April, 2006 event announcing the creation of the scholarship endowment.

**UPDATE ON 5/21/08: Coach Rod indicated that the controversy surrounding the #1 jersey has been settled. He said he didn't fully understand the significance of the No. 1 jersey and -- once he found out -- removed it, and no one will wear it this fall. Coach Rod stated, "But I'm educated now. ... If I could fix all problems as easily as I fixed that one, we're in a good place."

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Who should keep the QB spot warm for Kevin Newsome?

Five star super recruit Kevin Newsome (Chesapeake, VA) is the (likely) future of Michigan Football. However, he will not join the team until after the 2008 season. This, of course, leaves the question of what Coach Rod should do about the quarterback position for the upcoming season. Following are some of the considerations that need to be factored in when making that decision.

  • Consideration #1: Installing a long term plan

Coach Rod has repeatedly stated that he can adapt his spread offense system to the personnel available. However, it is readily apparent from reviewing his days at WVU and looking at his recruiting at Michigan, that Coach Rod wants a dual-threat QB to run the Zone Read Option. That is clearly the direction that Coach Rod is taking the program in the long term. In the short term, however, Coach Rod mostly has a roster of quarterbacks who are more suited to run Michigan's traditional pro-style offense. To ease the transition, Coach Rod is implementing a pass-oriented version of the Spread Offense. These pro-style system quarterbacks (i.e., Threet and Cone) are struggling to some extent to adapt to the new offensive scheme. Coach Rod does have a walk-on QB, Nick Sheridan (Jr./So.), who is more mobile than Threet and Cone but who lacks game experience (even from high school) and may not have the talent necessary to play at this level. During the 15 sessions of Spring Practice, Sheridan gave Threet a run for his money but ultimately Threet established himself as the leading QB by the end of the spring. Cone was a non-factor and will be holding a clipboard for the remainder of his career.

Although Threet is immensely talented, he is a prototypical pocket passer. He would have likely flourished in Michigan's pro-style offense but he will probably struggle mightily in trying to direct the Spread Offense. Threet is not exceptionally mobile and the offense will have to be adapted to fit his skills (or lack thereof) regarding his running ability. Coach Rod will certainly not be able to run the type of Zone Read Option he ran at WVU or that he plans to run at Michigan with Kevin Newsome as quarterback. With Threet at the helm, Coach Rod will be forced to employ a more pass-oriented version of the Spread Offense than he has used in the recent past or than he will use in the future. This brings up the dilemna for Coach Rod. Rather than install a caretaker QB- Threet- for a season (or two) using a pass-oriented version of the Spread Offense, should Michigan just go with a dual-threat QB right now? The idea being that even though the dual-threat QB might not be as effective immediately as Threet, the use of a dual-threat QB from the start will have long-term benefits for the implementation of Coach Rod's Zone Read Option. If Michigan employs a primarily pass-oriented spread offensive scheme in '08 then it will miss out on a season of experience of implementing the Zone Read Option which is the key to the future of the Wolverines' offensive system.

To run the Zone Read Option in 2008, the Wolverines need to be able to play a dual-threat quarterback. That QB would be true freshman Justin Feagin. This brings us to the second consideration that Coach Rod needs to ponder when deciding who should be at the helm for the Wolverines in 2008.

  • Consideration #2: Putting Justin Feagin's talents to their best use.

Incoming true freshman Justin Feagin (Deerfield, Fla.) is the sole quarterback in the 2008 signee class. Feagin was a three-star recruit (according to; two stars by who was being recruited by LSU and Miami (Fla.) to play defensive back. During his recruitment Feagin was viewed as an Athlete/defensive back/quarterback. Michigan, of course, was interested in him for his skills as a dual-threat quarterback. As a senior at Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage High Feagin led his team to the state title. During his senior season, he rushed for 1,313 yards on 160 carries (8.2 per rush) and 25 touchdowns and completed 91 of 151 passes for 1,420 yards with 19 touchdowns and three interceptions. When he originally committed to Michigan it was allegedly with the understanding that he would compete for the QB position but that he would switch to slot receiver if it did not work out. Feagin was originally projected as the #2 QB in the Wolverines 2008 signing class. However, Michigan did not land another QB in the 2008 class as Terrelle Pryor and B.J. Daniels failed to join the Wolverines. This left Feagin as the only game in town for a dual-threat QB for next season.

Although Feagin is talented and athletic, Coach Rod did not view him as the long term solution to the void at quarterback. Coach Rod has recently received verbal commitments from two top notch dual-threat quarterbacks from the 2009 class (i.e., Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver). Many fans view the 5-star super recruit Newsome as the future of the Wolverines' offense. Thus, Feagin would likely not start at QB beyond his sophmore year at most. Most likely he would get buried on the depth chart behind both Newsome and Beaver. It would be a shame for Feagin to burn 1-2 years of eligibilty at QB just to get knocked down the depth chart by Newsome and Beaver by the time they hit their strides as sophmores if not sooner. Even if Feagin were to switch to slot receiver as a junior, he would be so far behind the slew of slot receivers that are part of the 2009 class that Feagin would likely be buried on the depth chart at that position as well.

During 2008 Spring Practice, Coach Rod bemoaned the state of the current crop of slot receivers on the Wolverines' roster. Feagin could come in this fall as a slot receiver and make a positive contribution right away. This would help the team and help his long term future as a Wolverine. If Feagin gains valuable experience and develops in the slot this season then he can continue to progress and compete over the subsequent three years. However, if Feagin plays QB, he will see a lot of action this season (and maybe next) but then will likely be shuffled down the depth chart (either at QB or slot receiver) for the remainder of his career. Thus, Feagin should be placed as a slot receiver as soon as he hits campus in the next few months. However, for this to work, someone has to be able to capably fill the role of a dual-threat quarterback. This brings us to the third consideration.

  • Consideration #3: Carlos Brown needs to have the ball in his hands.

Carlos Brown (Jr./Jr.) is a playmaker. He is fast, athletic, and incredibly talented. He also has had a run of bad luck with injuries during his first two years as a Wolverine. His latest injury occurred during a weight room mishap and caused him to miss almost all of Spring Practice. Brown is a running back but he was also a dual-threat QB in high school. During his senior year at Heard County (Ga.) High School, Brown played both running back and quarterback. He completed 27-of-52 passes for 541 yards and 7 passing touchdowns while running for 1,512 yards and scoring 21 rushing touchdowns on 135 carries. During his freshman season at Michigan (2006), Head Coach Lloyd Carr had Brown taking snaps at QB in practice in case Brown had to be inserted into a game to replace an injured Chad Henne.

Brown is lightning fast and is widely considered the second fastest player on the team behind only Morgan Trent. Brown has been stuck behind Mike Hart (Michigan's all-time rushing leader) on the depth chart for his first two seasons. However, Brown did get a chance to show his stuff in a couple of games last year when Hart was injured. Brown rushed for 113 yds. vs. Illinois and 132 yds. vs. Minnesota including an 85 yd. touchdown run (7th longest td run in Michigan history). Nevertheless, the Wolverines are once again loaded at tailback and Brown missed Spring Practice. Although the depth chart will not be set until the week of the first game, Brandon Minor, Avery Horn, and Kevin Grady were all impressive in the Spring. In the fall, super back Sam McGuffie (true freshman) will be added to the mix. It will be hard for Brown to get his touches at tailback with so many quality runners competing for carries. However, if the explosive Brown were to take over at QB, the ball would be in his hands every single offensive play.

Another reason I like the move of Brown (Jr.) to QB and Feagin (Fr.) to slot receiver is how it will set up the Wolverines down the road. Newsome (class of 2009) is the QB of the future. However, if Brown were to start this season and next then the Wolverines would be ready to turn the keys over to Newsome when Brown graduates. Newsome could either redshirt his freshman season while Brown plays his senior season or, more likely, Newsome could learn as a backup and get into some games as a freshman in 2009. He would then would be ready to transition into the starting job which he would have for the next three seasons.

This situation is kind of like the situation the Wolverines found themselves in when Rick Leach finished his career. Leach started 47 of 48 games from 1975-1978. In 1979, John Wangler took over the starting job as a junior and led the Wolverines to a Rose Bowl win the following season as a senior. Then, in 1981, the starting job was assumed by Steve Smith (soph.) who was the team's QB of the future and who started for the next 3 seasons. In this case, Chad Henne started 47 of 50 games from 2004-2007. Carlos Brown (junior) can start for two seasons just as John Wangler did in 1979 & 1980. Then sophmore Kevin Newsome will start for the next three seasons just as Steve Smith did from 1981-1983. Go Blue!

Where Michigan Football Happens

Cool video by mwaungoblue as first posted on The video is a take on the NBA's "Where Amazing Happens" advertising campaign, tailored to Michigan Football history. Watching it will get you ready for the upcoming season. Go Blue!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Dual Threat

The more things change, the more things stay the same. Back in the late 1970s, Rick Leach (1975-1978) was a dual-threat quarterback. During his career, Leach ran for 34 touchdowns (#5 on Michigan's all-time TD rushing list) and passed for 48 touchdowns (#4 on Michigan's all-time TD passing list). In the mid-1980s, Michigan switched to using tall, pocket passers in a pro-style offense. Now, however, thirty years after Leach's graduation, the Wolverines are back to playing a dual-threat quarterback in an option-style offense. Although the offensive system employed by Coach Rodriguez (i.e., the Spread Offense) is much more advanced than the old run-option of the 1970s, both systems rely on a quarterback who presents a dual-threat to the defense.

Coach Rod has repeatedly indicated that he will adapt to the talent (or lack thereof) that he has on the roster. Coach Rod inherited a Michigan team of pro-style quarterbacks that are somewhat ill-suited to run his spread offense. It has become apparent through his recruiting that Coach Rod prefers a run-first QB (in the Pat White mold) to run the Spread Offense. Coach Rodriguez has stated that he wants to carry five (5) quarterbacks. He has also stated it may take a couple of years to straighten out the numbers at each position as the transition to his regime is completed. The Wolverines currently have four potential quarterbacks on the roster for the upcoming season: Steven Threet (So./Fr.), Nick Sheridan (Jr./So.), Justin Feagin (Fr./Fr.), and David Cone (Jr./So.). Coach Rod wanted to sign two quarterbacks for the 2008 class but only came away with one (i.e., Feagin). His lack of success in recruiting the QB position was largely attributable to the late start he and his staff got due to the timing of his hiring at Michigan.

Coach Rodriguez has already received verbal committments from two dual-threat quarterbacks in the 2009 class: Kevin Newsome (five stars on and Shavodrick Beaver (four stars). These two top notch recruits are just the kind of quarterbacks that Coach Rod is looking to play. The problem is that they will not arrive for another year. The Wolverines will have to make due for the '08 season and even when Newsome and Beaver arrive, they might not be immediately ready to take over in '09 as true freshman. It would be helpful if one or both can early enroll at Michigan after the fall semester of their senior year in high school. Either way, the Wolverines may struggle at the QB position for awhile. Too bad Rick Leach used up all his eligibilty as the spread offense is tailor-made for him. Go Blue!

*Note: Sports Illustrated (9-6-76) cover photo of Rick Leach by Lane Stewart