Notre Dame Return to Glory?


Saturday evening will bring answers to questions that Wolverine fans have had since the beginning of the season.


Is the defense really that good?


Is Mike Hart fully recovered after an injury-plagued 2005 campaign?


Can Chad Henne get it done on the road in a big game?


How will fans remember the last phase of Lloyd Carr’s career?


Yeah, that’s the elephant sitting in the corner at Schembechler Hall right now.


There’s no doubt that Carr’s teams have heart.  But over the last couple of seasons they’ve been unable to win the big games.  Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Bowl opponents have owned the Wolverines.


Sure Michigan has been competitve but that’s a small consolation for Wolverine fans.


One of the things that Lloyd Carr tells recruits is that if they come to Michigan they will PLAY in big games.


But will he be able to tell recruits that if they come to Michigan they will WIN big games?


I’m not saying that Michigan football will collapse if the Irish prevail in South Bend on Saturday.  Surely the Wolverines could concievably rally and win the Big Ten.  The world will not fall off its axis.  Recruits will still flock to Ann Arbor and Michigan will still win its share of big games.


But if the Wolverines lay an egg in South Bend you have to seriously question the likelyhood of the team making amends for last season’s 7-5 record.  And anything less than a stellar season will mean that Lloyd Carr’s legacy will continue to tarnish.


So Wolverines- what will it be?  Another season of quiet desperation or a return to greatness?


The Irish are heavy favorites on Saturday.  The game is in South Bend where the Wolverines historically have a hard time playing well.  The stage is set for the Irish to exact revenge for the 38-0 beating they took at the hands of the Wolverines a few seasons back.


Sauce foir the goose.


The Wolverines will show that they ARE back by defeating the Irish on national television.


They will show the college football world that last year was an aberration.


Surely the Victors will ring throughout Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday and the Wolverines will reclain their place among the college football elite.


Go Blue!

GAME 2- MICHIGAN 41 CMU 17 Game Grades




Game 2 Scoreboard

“We think we can run the ball on any team.”

Mike Hart, RB

“Our whole offensive line we just want to run the ball, that’s what we’ve worked hard on.

Jake Long, Michigan Offensive Lineman 

Phil’s Game Grades

Defense  B  
Special Teams  A- 
Overall  B+

A systematic demolishing.  The most exciting thing about this game was the hour long lightning delay.

Offense-  41 points- that’s more like it.  Lots of people got to touch the ball during this one.

Defense-  Another good game but the secondary looks like might be suspect.  Next week against Notre Dame will tell us more.

Special Teams-  Two nice field goals and some kick returns.

Coaching-   This game didn’t tell us much except that we need to worry about our defensive secondary. 

M Football- Defensive English

Michigan’s 2006 Football Wolverines torpedoed the gusty and well-coached Commodores of Vanderbilt Saturday in a 27 to 7 victory before 109,000 plus in slightly renovated Michigan Stadium.

Michigan and Vanderbilt are long time adversaries, having played 11 times with ten Michigan wins and a single tie.  The tie was zero, zero at Vanderbilt?s stadium dedication in 1920.  Michigan last faced the Commodores in 1969, Bo?s first year.  I was in the stands for that one and was disgusted at the time that the first half ended 14-14.  Things went better in the second half and the Wolverines came out on top, 42-14.  It wasn?t a really easy game and to the credit of the Commodores, they tried as hard today as they did then.  Someone must have given us a block of tickets, which were cheap, and easy to come by at that time, as most of my office co-workers attended the game including the Sparty fans, who kept pointing out empty seats and other imagined deficiencies. 

Continue reading “M Football- Defensive English”

7 is the Loneliest Number

There have been many changes since last season.


Gone is long time defensive cooridinator Jim Herrmann,  Also gone is offensive coordinator Terry Malone.


There are even rumblings that Head Coach Lloyd Carr is on the hot seat.


A 7-5 record will do that at a place like Michigan where expectations are high every season.


But sitting in the eye of the storm is Michigan Quarterback Chad Henne.  Henne, who swept in to Ann Arbor in 2004 as the surprise starter when incumbent Matt Gutierrez went down with a shoulder injury.  He took the Big Ten by storm but struggled last season as the offense suffered through injuries to offensive linemen, receivers, and running backs.


Chad Henne- Superstar?


When considering Chad Henne it’s difficult to reconcile his stellar 2004 season with his dismal 2005 performance.  In retrospect, he wasn’t as good as his 2004 statistics nor as bad as his numbers in 2005.


In 2004 he benefiited greatly from all-world receiver Braylon Edwards.


Many are quick to crticize Edwards for occasionally dropping “easy” passes but considering the acrobatic catches that he was forced to make due to Henne’s inaccurracy he was probably shocked to see a ball actually come right to him.


In 2005, the roof fell in around Henne but he showed great resiliency if not great results as the Wolverines suffered, by their standards, a horrible season.


So what of this season?


Chad Henne is the focal point of Michigan’s hope for this season.


With the transfer of Matt Gutierrez the Wolverines are paper thin at the quarterback position.


A severe injury to Henne will almost insure a .500 (or worse) season.  A poor season by him will mean almost the same thing.


You can replace an injured offensive lineman or two.  The Wolverines have talented if unproven running backs and wide receivers but there is NO ONE to replace Chad Henne.  It would be like 1984 all over again when Jim Harbaugh broke his arm and the Wolverines struggled to finish 6-6.


So watch Chad Henne as he plays this season, and hope that he gets up after every play.


Not only does Chad Henne hold the Wolverine’s prospects for a great season in his hands but perhaps Lloyd Carr’s future as well.


Michigan Football fan’s expectations soar this time of year with the approach of every season. This upcoming 2006 season is no different. Most are hopeful, and there seems to be plenty to be optimistic about.  Fans generally hope that a slimmer and  better conditioned team will take the field against Vanderbilt for the season opener on September 2, 2006, and a meaner defense will man the trenches.

This season appears to hold great promise.  Reports from media day indicate that players on both sides of the ball have indeed slimmed up. First year Defensive Coordinator Ron English has promised a more physical style of defensive football, a less complicated system then that utilized over the Michigan DC career of the now departed Jim Herrman.  Coach English has a great opportunity to establish himself as a Defensive Coordinator at the D-1 level.

He has some experienced talent to work with, beginning with LaMarr Woodley.  Woodley needs to have an outstanding year if Michigan?s defense is going to be better than last year.  LaMarr has the physical tools.  Ask the Spartan?s Mr. Stanton.  Hopefully he will be placed in a system that better utilizes them.

Many seem to have the impression that Michigan will blitz, blitz, blitz this year, or this is what they hope. It is true Michigan?s defense needs to be much more aggressive than last year, but it would be nice if the defensive line could overwhelm some opposing offensive lineman on a reasonably regular basis so you don?t have to take the risk of a failed blitz, and its resultant big play.

Coach Carr said that LaMarr Woodley and Alan Branch are two of the finest defensive linemen ever at Michigan.  That?s the kind of praise that builds expectations. He has mentioned Terrence Taylor as potentially an outstanding nose guard that can build on his experience from last year.  He should be developing and he seems to have an outstanding ?motor“.

Rondell Biggs is back, and with the rising Tim Jamison and Will Johnson, Michigan should be able to pressure the opposing QB, something that was not regularly featured by last year?s defense.

The defensive line should be improved even with the large-scale departure of Gabriel Watson.

At linebacker, we have the experienced and accomplished David Harris at the Mike (middle LB), the talented Shawn Crable on the strong side (SAM), with Prescott Burgess (now injury free) and Chris Graham competing at the Will (weak-side linebacker position).  I am anticipating watching John Thompson, who has been struggling some with injuries, but as far as I know, is now ready to go.

It is difficult not to anticipate better performances by the linebackers this year than last.  I am very interested in watching Crable go all out, and seeing how Chris Graham contributes.  He will lay some leather.  That is, he would, if there was any leather at all in their uniforms.  He likes to hit.  Then again, what LB doesn?t like to hit.

At corner I am particularly anxious to see what Charles Stewart can do.  He?ll get some playing time, and was thought outstanding in the spring.  Johnny Sears is another young talent at corner many fans want to see. Morgan Trent will be in the competition.  Leon Hall will start at one corner and is recognized as best in the B10.

A healthy Ryan Mundy is back at safety, and I thought he had a good spring, and more importantly, so did Coach Carr.  Some think Jamar Adams and Willis Barringer will start, and Brandent Englemon will certainly see time, as will Brandon Harrison.

The defensive back field should be one of the strengths of the team as the Wolverines are experienced, deep, and talented at those position.  Further, there are worthwhile newcomers.

Coach Carr seems duly upbeat and optimistic in his public pronouncements as he always is this time of year.  While that is as it should be, there are always obstacles to a championship season as the competition will be good, and there are a few questions for the Blue.

Can they win away from the home of fair play?  Will Chad Henne step up to the next level and at least produce victories at two of the three nasty away games they face?  Notre Dame, Penn State and Ohio State will be tough.  He needs to beat two of the three and all three would be nice.

A positive answer to the next question will have a lot to do with whether or not the answer to the question above is also positive. Will Chad have an astute offensive line to work with on both sides of offensive center, and will the center position be outstanding?  If Rueben Riley is playing right guard, you know that someone else stepped up at guard.  Perhaps the experienced Kolo, or talented newcomer Steve Schilling will win the position.  If Reuben starts at right tackle than perhaps Justin Schifano and Alex Mitchell will man the right guard spot after duking it out.  It will be interesting to find out who else, if anyone, rises out of the pile.

How effective will Mark Bihl be at center?  If a problem develops there, there could be a major reshuffling of the line.  Mark has paid his dues and waited in the wings some.  Hopefully he rises to the occasion this year, and is outstanding.

Chad is a very talented QB, and is now very experienced.  He needs to rise to the top of the B10 QB?s if the Wolverines are to excel, but can only do so if that offensive line also excels at both run blocking and pass protection. Will Michigan be able to produce a running game that will facilitate Chad?s passing production, and be up to the high standards of past Michigan efforts?

How will coaching the special teams by committee work out?

I think Mike DeBord will spare no effort in trying to correct last year?s red zone woes etc.  Will he be able to do so?

Where will the injury bug bite this year?  And how deep will it bite?  It is a fact Michigan does not have much depth at the Quarterback position behind Chad Henne.  Jason Forcier appears to be the heir apparent, but is not creating many raves at this point.  David Cone appears to be a work in progress.

And then there are several other imponderables like bad calls, the luck of the bounce of the ball, the weather, and emotional situations such as a legendary Coach announcing his retirement before a game.  How emotional would Penn State be if Paterno announced before the Michigan game? That kind of thing has worked against Michigan a few times, but unfortunately did not help Bo in his last Rose Bowl game.

One great thing about college football is the fact that all these questions and others as or more important get answered during the course of the season.  There is no place to hide from the results.

So far the most disappointing aspect this year is the fact that there will be no Bass season as the Wolverines troll Division One Football waters again for victories.   As all of you undoubtedly know, our prize winning Bass, that everyone correctly thought would provide us with so many thrills this year, will not be onboard.  It is difficult to tell just what the injury status of Antonio Bass is.  A while ago Coach Carr said it could be that his collegiate career was over, depending on the outcome of a test.  The family and Antonio so far have not agreed with that, so, insofar as I know, there remain the possibilities that either his football career is finished or will be resumed later.   I hope everything works out for the young man whatever the case.  Hmmm.  Steve Breaston taking a few snaps, or Carlos Brown?

And of course, I hope everything works out for the Wolverines in the upcoming season.  They will start the season picked as the second best team in the Big Ten, playing second fiddle to an Ohio State group that is wearing the twin targets of a prognosticated Big Ten Championship and National Championship.  Gives you warm thoughts of 1969 again doesn?t it, especially since OSU lost so much defensively.

It is hard to over emphasize the importance of pounding out a victory in South Bend.

Vanderbilt appears to just the team for an opening game, Central Michigan can be dangerous, too, but the first true measure of this year?s edition of the Wolverines will come against the Irish.

There is no Michigan connection to Central Michigan this year, and their respected retired Coach and Athletic Director, Coach Herb Deromedi, is a Michigan graduate and is now a volunteer assistant on the Michigan staff.  Don?t you think Mike DeBord would like to beat them as much as they must want to beat Mike.  Should be a fun game!

I can?t wait until the season begins to unfold again.  As you grow older, you get to a point where most of your future is past.  As I have never been so old, I can?t wait too long for Michigan football success. Okay, I can still buy green bananas, but the clock is running.  Success is needed now!

Go Blue!