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. 

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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!

Michigan Needs to Instill Fear in Rivals

In track they tell runners to push through the finish line.


In baseball, they tell hitters to swing through the ball.


I think it’s time for the Michigan coaching staff to start delivering a similar message to their players.


You’ve heard it over and over since the disappointment of last season.  Michigan *MUST* beat Notre Dame and Ohio State.  I don’t disagree.  But it seems like the team is so focused on the importance of these games that they freeze whenever things don’t go their way.


Ghosts of Notre Dame?


Remember 2004 Notre Dame in South Bend?  The Wolverines dominated the first 3 quarters of the game, only to have Notre Dame storm back to win 28-20.


In 2005 the Wolverines fumbled twice within their own 10 yard line, losing 17-10, while totaling up nearly 100 more yards than the Irish on offense.


No matter how well Michigan played it they seemed to just be waiting for the myth of Notre Dame trip them up.  It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The Wolverines hear stories of Irish luck in games past and then as soon as something goes wrong they fold.


I have a novel approach for playing the Irish this year.


Treat them like a team that’s just 15-9 over the last two seasons with a new coach at helm.


Forget about Knute Rockne, Rocket Ishmael, and Joe Montana.


You can be sure the Notre Dame coaching staff isn’t talking about Michigan tradition.


Treat them like any other non-conference for and put a beating down on them.


Buckeyes on the brain


Since Jim Tressell has taken over in Columbus he’s owned the Wolverines compiling a, 4-1 record.  And if you ask any pundit they’ll tell you he’s the best coach in the Big Ten.  Critics of Lloyd Carr are quick to point out that if you take take away his undefeated 1997 season that his record is mediocre at best.


Lloyd Carr     90-34  .725 (1995 through 2005 minus 1997)


But what if we do the same to St. Tressell?


Jim Tressell   37-13  .740 (2001 through 2005 minus 2002)


Of course you need to take into account that Tressell’s success against the Wolverines and the stellar track record his players have in the classroom and community during his tenure.


The fact remains that if not for his success against Michigan OSU fans would probably be hanging him in effigy.


Fan of the both teams should be demanding more from programs who have the tradition and resources of these traditional rivals.


Why hasn’t Michigan played in the BCS championship game under Lloyd Carr?


Considering the number of players that Ohio State consistently sends to the NFL (not to mention jail) why haven’t they returned to the BCS championship game?


You have to wonder if Maurice Clarett’s troubles surfaced duirng the 2002 season rather than afterwards would the Buckeyes have the National Championship that year?


Enough excuses.


Beating Notre Dame and Ohio State isn’t enough


Many fans say that this season will be successful if Michigan can beat the Fighting Irish and the Buckeyes.  I say beat them, and while you’re at it beat everyone else.


The Wolverine need to instill fear again


Remember the OSU game last year when the Buckeyes got the ball back with around a minute to go and drove down for the winning touchdown?  They don’t fear us anymore.  They couldn’t wait to get on the field.


And it’s just not the Buckeyes.  You only need to look at the losses from last season.


Teams used to be intimidated heading into Michigan Stadium, now they know that the Wolverines are vulnerable.


I say the best way to stop that nonsense is to hang a beating on Vanderbilt and Central Michigan prior to the thrashing Notre Dame.





No more glorified scrimmages.  No more holding back half the play book.





Get the swagger back- early.  If the Wolverines come out firing this season the Irish will be the ones worried.


With OSU breaking in a number of new defenders a high powered Michigan offense might be just the thing to stop the trend of OSU domination.


New message- beat them all!


There’s no easier way to put it…As the the late and great Fielding Yost said, “…Who are they to beat a Michigan Team?”


Don’t call it a comeback
I been here for years
Rockin’ my peers
Puttin’ suckers in fear
Makin’ the tears rain down like a monsoon
Listen to the bass go boom
Explosion, overpowerin’
Over the competition, I’m towerin’


It’s payback time.

2006 Michigan Wolverine Football Preview

The disappointing 2005 season in which the Michigan Wolverine football team went 7-5, including losses to rivals Notre Dame and OhioState, still lingers in the mind of theMichigan faithful. This year, Lloyd Carr and the newly revamped coaching staff that now features Ron English at defensive coordinator and Mike DeBord at offensive coordinator now face an uphill battle in one of the toughest conferences in the world of college football. Road tilts with Notre Dame,PennState, andOhioState will not help causes asMichigan tries to recover from their worst season since 1984 and Lloyd Carr?s worst season in his 11 year tenure.

The key to the season? Get the running backs going and BEAT ND! A large portion of Michiganfans across the country have expressed that a win over Notre Dame in South Bendon September 16th will catapult the Wolverines to a highly successful season. If they don?t?well, we don?t really want to go there. Michigan has not exited the non-conference season without a loss since 1999, a season in which we won the Big Ten title, beat Ohio State, and beat Alabama in the historic 2000 Orange Bowl. This is a perfect example of what we are capable of doing if we avoid the early losses. The next two seasons we lost early to UCLA and Washington and finished a mediocre 9-3 in 2000 and 8-4 in 2001. In 2002, we lost in South Bend and went on to go 10-3 with an Outback Bowl berth. The next two seasons didn?t fit the criteria, however. Michigan lost at Oregon in 2003 and lost at Notre Dame in 2004, but still won the Big Ten Championship and went to the Rose Bowl. Both seasons we lost in Pasadena. Last season?do we really want to go there? To summarize, we lost to ND early, went on to lose four more games, and lost in the Alamo Bowl. Now that that?s over, on to 2006!





Michiganreturns the stellar backfield of Mike Hart and Chad Henne. The duo combined for 3,213 of Michigan?s 4,611 yards on the offensive side of the football even with the absence of the third year starting running back for a good majority of the season. Steve Breaston returns as well, and many may say that he had a down year in 2005. His receiving numbers took a significant drop as he only racked up 291 yards and two touchdowns.  Mario Manningham will try to work some more magic as he did in the last second victory over the then undefeated Penn State Nittany Lions. TheWarren,Ohio native caught 27 balls for 433 yards and six touchdowns last season. Breaston and Manningham will most likely compete for the number one receiver as Jason Avant served that role last season. Avant?s departure to the NFL will be felt because he wasMichigan?s leading pass catcher with 1,007 yards. He was the only Wolverine receiver in 2005 to surpass the 1,000 yard mark. Senior tight end Tyler Ecker will also assist in the passing game. He was the fourth leading receiver when he caught 21 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns. He will be facing much pressure after the Alamo Bowl debacle but will have a steady season asMichigan?s starting tight end. Rounding out the receiving corps and most likely seeing regular playing time are freshman LaTerryal Savoy, sophomore Adrian Arrington, and senior Carl Tabb. Players nagged by injuries include Doug Dutch and Antonio Bass.





The man distributing the balls to these talented receivers will beChadHenne?and only Chad Henne.Michigan?s back-up, Jason Forcier, has not had any game time. Hence, if Chad Henne goes down, so does our season unless Forcier pulls a magic trick out of his pocket and dazzles us. Last year, Henne was the leader, at many times of this struggling offense. He seemed to be the only constant as he was the one that stayed injury free throughout the season. Henne struggled a great deal in the Notre Dame game, with two turnovers in the red zone. The offense, in the entirety, went only 0-3 in the red zone. Henne finished the season strong as he, at some times, was the only one that kept us in the game. After the Notre Dame game, he finished with 2,076 yards, 20 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He averaged 210 yards per outing.



TheMichiganoffense?s biggest fault was most definitely the running game. Many feel that with a more potent running attack last year, we may have beaten many more teams and may not have had to suffer through five heart wrenching losses. With Mike Hart?s early injury and the time he came back,Michiganwas 2-2 with losses to Notre Dame andWisconsin. Kevin Grady gained only 79 yards after Hart?s exit early in the Notre Dame contest. When Hart returned againstMichiganState, he displayed what he can do when he is healthy. He racked up 222 yards inEast Lansing, then followed with a 116 yard output againstMinnesotaand an impressive 108 yards against a very goodPennStatedefense. That would be all theMichiganfaithful would get for a while, however, as he left theIowagame early due to an apparent injury. Hart missed the following two games against Northwestern andIndianaand was held to 15 yards in his return againstOhioState. The lack of a rushing game killed the Michigan offense and that?s why we are talking about a 7-5 season, not a 10-2 or even 9-3 year. The whole offense was a mess with injuries on the offensive line and back field. WhenMichiganwent over the 150 yard mark in the rushing department, we were 6-0. When we went under 150 yards, we were 1-5, with the only win atIowa. That tells you how important and vital the rushing attack has become atMichigan. You gotta stay healthy and you gotta run the football.





Running the football all starts up front. Offensive linemen, Rueben Riley, Adam Kraus, and Jake Long, return to a line that was battered and bruised last year. Most returning offensive linemen got significant playing time last year due to injuries. Upper classmen will dominate the line as two juniors and three seniors hold up the fort. Senior Mark Bihl will start as the center man, and junior Adam Kraus and senior Rueben Riley will be at the guard spots. Hart and company will use senior Mike Kolodziej and junior Jake Long at the tackle positions.




Now to theMichigandefense. LaMarr Woodley anchors a very good front seven for the Wolverines. Woodley was a monster last year, making 48 tackles, 14 of which were for losses. He wasMichigan?s leading sacker with seven and forced three fumbles. David Peabody, frequent poster at the umgoblue.com fan forum, will even be sporting a t-shirt that says ?Guns don?t kill people, LaMarr Woodley kills people?. Linebacker David Harris returns for his fifth and final year forMichigan. He was the leading tackler for the defensive unit last year, compiling 88 tackles and five for a loss. Chris Graham and Prescott Burgess round out the linebackers. That duo combined for 123 tackles and including seven behind the line of scrimmage.



The defensive secondary features three returning starters who allowed 207 yards passing yards per game and only 14 touchdowns through the air. Senior Willis Barringer and Leon Hall will resume their respective positions. Hall was Michigan?s leading interception man with four. The senior cornerback also returned the memorable 83 yard fumble against Northwestern that put Michiganahead, 14-0 in that contest. Willis Barringer was third on the team in forced fumbles. Morgan Trent will serve as the other cornerback, opposite of Leon Hall. Trent, the speedster from Brighton, Michigan, was third on the team with four pass break-ups.  He also had one interception and 22 tackles. Lastly on theMichigan defense, but certainly not least, Brandent Englemon will supply the Wolverines with a solid free safety. TheCovington,Kentucky native played in 11 ofMichigan?s 12 games last year. In those 11 games, Englemon recorded 42 tackles, two sacks, and two fumble recoveries. If the secondary stays health, knock on some serious wood, this should be a very good group. Players that could see time at these positions are Charles Stewart, Jamar Adams, Brandon Harrison, and Darnell Hood.



The special teams unit is an area thatMichiganhas had some troubles with over the years. Garret Rivas will return after an average season at best. The senior fromTampa,Florida, went 19-26 last year on field goals. His longest was a decent 47 yards againstMinnesota, a game in which he went 2/4. He was perfect inside 20 yards, 2/2, but went 8/10 from 20 to 30 yards. He was 9 for 14 from the 30 and beyond. He hit the game winner in overtime againstMichiganState, and nailed four field goals against Northwestern. His 33/35 extra point conversion led him to be Michigan?s leading scorer with 90, just less than twice as much as the second leading scorer, Jason Avant. Ross Ryan proved to be a reliable leg last year as he sent 40 of his 69 kick-offs into the end zone for touchbacks. He averaged 62 yards per kick. The punting situation does not seem to be settled at this juncture. Ross Ryan and Zoltan Mesko, a European native, will be battling to see who receives the starting punter position. In spring practices, Mesko seemed to have a very strong leg and had some punts surpass the 60 yard mark. Steve Breaston seems re-energized and back to his usual self. Last year, he took the ball back only once for a touchdown on his returns and averaged 12.3 yards per punt return and 28.1 yards per kick off return.



Now, to the coaching. Lloyd Carr made some very good changes as Terry Malone and Jim Herrmann moved on. Carr promoted Mike Debord and Ron English to the offensive and defensive coordinator, respectively. What does this mean? Henne will thrive under Debord?s system. Debord incorporates the tight end very well and will spread out the field, something that has been missing the past few years inAnn Arbor. Many believe that Henne?s forte is throwing the deep ball, and Debord will do that. On the defensive side of the ball, Ron English has lead very spirited practices that will hopefully lead to a more aggressive style of play. Blitzing packages should be expected for opposing offenses. The aggressiveness may lead to allowing some big plays, but in the big picture, it will force more turnovers and help our offense out immensely. Again, another scheme that has been missing inAnn Arborsince 1997.



Now, onto prediction time. My optimism may be too evident but I?ll try to take off my maize and blue glasses and postpone the maize and blue kool-aid intake for this, but don?t be 100% sure that will happen. In 1997, whenMichiganwon the national championship, they were coming off an 8-4 season that included an Outback Bowl berth and a disappointing fifth place finish in the Big Ten. Let?s compare 1996 to 2005. We went 7-5 last year, fifth in the Big Ten, and with an Alamo Bowl trip. Now, I am not guaranteeing a national championship, nor am I even guaranteeing anything, however, if history repeats itself, the Wolverines just might follow up a well, terrible, season with a strong one. Michigan might not have what it takes to win three road games against three top teams, BUT, a win must be there for Notre Dame and Ohio State. I don?t think we will have any problem with our home tilts, but atMichigan, they always seem to lose a game to an inferior opponent. With that in mind,Michigan, in my prediction of course, will go 10-2 with a Big Ten Championship and a BCS Bowl berth. I think they might drop one of the road contests and lose a silly one to eitherIowa,Wisconsin, orMichiganState.



Only time will tell if the coaching changes change anything, if we can resolve our rushing situation, and if our defense can come back with a chip on their shoulder and play ?angry?.



Go Blue!