Hoke, Denard Press Conference Video (8/31)

Brady Hoke:

Denard Robinson:

Preview: Western Michigan

Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
September 3, 2011, 3:30 PM 

TV: ABC-Regional/ESPN2-National
(Mike Patrick, Craig James, Jeannine Edwards) [Ed: Sigh.]
Radio: WWJ-950 AM, WTKA-1050 AM, Sirius/XM 91
(Frank Beckmann, Jim Brandstatter, Doug Karsch)
Line: UM -13.5
Over/Under: 61
Series Record: UM leads 5-0
Last Meeting: 2009: UM 31-WMU 7
Michigan Record/Rank: 0-0 (0-0), NR
Western Michigan Record/Rank: 0-0 (0-0), NR

A little background
Remember Denard's first play of his career, which was against WMU two years ago?
Well, first things first...Brady Hoke's first game as head coach at Michigan, replacing Rich Rodriguez who won 6 B1G games in 3 years. Michigan begins a transition from a spread-option to a west-coast or pro-style offense under offensive coordinator Al Borges. The defense, led by coordinator Greg Mattison; who returns to Ann Arbor in the same capacity he left back in the mid-90's, attempts to make drastic improvements in every aspect of the defense which ended 2010 as the 110th overall defense in the country.
One stat that has blown my mind:
From 1935-2007 (778 games), Michigan gave up 40 or more points in a game 9 times. From 2008-2010 (37 games), Michigan gave up 40 or more points in a game 9 times. The good news: In Greg Mattison's first tenure as Michigan's DC from 95-96, UM allowed 16.3 PPG over 25 games and never allowed more than 30 points in any game.

Western Michigan makes it's first trip back to Ann Arbor since their 31-7 loss to the Wolverines in 2009. This is WMU's 6th trip to the Big House.

Statistical Breakdown (based on 2010 final stats)
I realize 2010 stats don't mean much now, but I'll do this each week and it looks better than just having a bunch of zeros. But you have to be just a little freaked out how bad we match up against WMU's passing offense. #amiright?

MICHIGANValue (Nat. Rank)Value (Nat. Rank)Western MichiganAdvantage
Rushing Offense (ypg)238.54 (13)166.58 (76)Rushing Defense (ypg)MICH++
Passing Offense (ypg)250.15 (36)221.25 (62)Passing Defense (ypg)MICH
Pass Efficiency145.97 (23)131.98 (74)Pass Efficiency DefenseMICH+
Total Offense (ypg)488.69 (8)387.83 (73)Total Defense (ypg)MICH++
Scoring Offense (ppg)32.77 (25)23.83 (52)Scoring Defense (ppg)MICH
Rushing Defense (ypg)188.92 (95)125.92 (93)Rushing Offense (ypg)PUSH
Passing Defense (ypg)261.85 (112)285.75 (16)Passing Offense (ypg)WMU+++
Pass Efficiency Defense144.79 (103)139.13 (39)Pass EfficiencyWMU++
Total Defense (ypg)450.77 (110)411.67 (34)Total Offense (ypg)WMU++
Scoring Defense (ppg)35.23 (108)32.33 (27)Scoring Offense (ppg)WMU+++
Net Punting Yards36.07 (69)6.00 (94)Punt Return YardsMICH
Punt Return Yards7.43 (67)35.07 (84)Net Punting YardsPUSH
Kickoff Return Yards21.44 (69)18.51 (6)Kickoff Return DefenseWMU++
Kickoff Return Defense21.25 (58)22.09 (58)Kickoff Return YardsPUSH
Turnover Margin-.77 (109).25 (42)Turnover MarginWMU++
Penalty Yds/Game45.9 (37)53.1 (67)Penalty Yds/GameMICH
Sacks1.38 (98)2.5 (T-91)Sacks AllowedPUSH
Sacks Allowed.85 (T-10)2.33 (34)SacksMICH
Redzone Offense (%)77.19 (T-92)73.68 (T-15)Redzone Defense (%)WMU++
Redzone Defense (%)85.96 (T-89)75.93 (T-101)Redzone Offense (%)PUSH
Redzone TD %70.18 (8)47.37 (T-20)Redzone TD % DefensePUSH
Redzone TD % Defense64.91 (84)62.96 (48)Redzone TD %WMU
3rd Down Conv. %44.77 (30)37.43 (41)3rd Down Defense %PUSH
3rd Down Defense %43.30 (95)39.89 (T-60)3rd Down Conv. %WMU
1st Downs Per Game23.0 (22)18.9 (48)1st Downs Allowed Per/GmMICH
1st Downs Allowed Per/Gm22.5 (107)20.8 (42)1st Downs Per GameWMU++

Difference less than 20 in national rank = Push
Difference more than 20 in national rank = Team
Difference more than 40 in national rank = Team+
Difference more than 60 in national rank = Team++
Difference more than 80 in national rank = Team+++

Common Opponents

When Michigan has the ball
Obviously, this is where the biggest advantage for Michigan is evident. This game marks the initial transition from spread-option to west coast/pro-style. What will remain the same is Denard Robinson being the focus of the Michigan attack. What will not remain the same, however, is Denard Robinson being the sole focus of the Michigan attack. Expect to see the ball get handed off, and often as Brady Hoke and OC Al Borges try to make the running game a much larger factor than in previous years.

A strong running attack is led by senior Michael Shaw and sophomore Fitzgerald Toussaint. Backing them up are Vincent Smith and Stephen Hopkins. Don't be shocked when you see FB John McColgan lined up in the backfield.

Along the line, Michigan is led by senior captain David Molk at center, LG Ricky Barnum, LT Taylor Lewan, RG Patrick Omameh and RT Mark Huyge. This is an experienced and deep group that should have no problem moving the front 7 of WMU to clear lanes for the RBs and Denard.

Catching passes are the usual suspects. Roy Roundtree and Junior Hemingway look to start at WR, with captain Kevin Koger starting at his normal TE spot.

Western runs a hybrid 4-3 system. They are led by veteran MLB Mitch Zajac who led the Broncos with 97 tackles last year. He is joined by sophomore Dezmond Bozeman as one of the rising stars of this unit. Along the line, DE Paul Hazel (8 sacks in 2010) leads a decent unit that is very good at getting pressure on the QB in the backfield. The line is one of the strengths of this defense.

Another strength is the backfield where CB Lewis Toler (5 INTs in 2010) is the star of this defense. He, along with SS Doug Wiggins bring a tremendous amount of athleticism to this group. Expect Michigan to have a little difficulty throwing the ball around thanks to these guys.

An area that Michigan needs to exploit is the running game and the linebackers where WMU lacks depth. Michigan can and will run the ball a lot on this Bronco defense.

When Western Michigan has the ball
Michigan will need to get better, and quickly, in every aspect of their defense from last year's squad which ranked 110th nationally overall. Western Michigan isn't Oregon, but it ain't terrible.

Michigan fans might remember OT Dan O'Neill (6-8, 300) who transferred from Ann Arbor to Kalamazoo two years ago. He is the standout lineman for the Broncos. The rest of the line is a little bit of a mess, however, especially the interior where they replace all three positions.

Western Michigan had tremendous success throwing the ball last year, ranking 16th nationally with sophomore, now junior QB Alex Carder. He threw for 3,334 yards, 30 TDs, and 12 INTs in 2010, and had a wealth of good targets to throw to...including leading receiver Jordan White (6-0, 215) who had 94 catches for 1,378 yards and 10 TDs. Veterans Josh Schaffer, Ansel Ponder and Chled Ravenell, who missed last year with an injury, all look to make a dent in the rebuilt Michigan secondary.

Running the ball, while not the strength of this offense, is not lacking with good talent. Tevin Drake is the leading rusher from 2010 with 40 carries for 405 yards and 4 TDs. But the starting role will go to sophomore Brian Fields, who notched 362 yards last year with 3 TDs. He also averaged 6.5 yards per carry. Clearly, the running game is not the emphasis of this offense, but is serviceable if needed. The big question with the running game is the depth and experience along the OL, rather than the RBs.

Michigan will do many things to try and disrupt the passing attack. Greg Mattison has said that he wants Michigan's defense to be a blitzing defense. I believe we're going to see some pretty interesting formations with the front seven. We're a 4-3 base defense, but that doesn't mean we won't mix it up. A few times in practice, we've seen Mike Martin lined up as an outside linebacker. Don't freak out when we see this this weekend.

Western Michigan is going to throw the ball around a lot to try and expose this defensive backfield. It's their strength and, as far as we know, one of Michigan's biggest weaknesses. Expect Carder to get plenty of passing opportunities. Michigan should focus on trying to get INTs. WMU is 0-3 when Carder throws multiple picks in a game (4-1 when he doesn't).

When a foot meets a ball
Michigan is quite simply starting from scratch with place-kicking. Freshman Matt Wile comes in and is the fan favorite to get the job, mostly because both kickers from last year are still on the roster and couldn't hit the broad side of a barn (we went 4 for 13 last year). But not so fast. Word is Gibbons is looking good. But as Hoke has said, it's not about how good you kick on State Street, it's how good you kick on Main Street.

At the presser last week, Hoke said he likes Gibbons, so I expect him to get the start, but both should kick. Wile will handle kick-offs and likely punts while Will Hagerup serves his suspension for the first four games for breaking team rules (puff puff pass).

Jeremy Gallon, Drew Dileo and Vincent Smith will all handle returns.

Western returns a good kicker in John Potter. He was 10-12 last year with a decently powerful leg. Ben Armer handles the punting duties, which ranked WMU 84th in the nation last year averaging 41.2 yards per punt.

Returning kickoffs for the Broncos are RB Brian Fields and leading returner Dervon Wallace who had a 91-yard return for a touchdown last year, and averages over 27 yards per return. Dareyon Chance and Jordan White both will see punt return time.

Make no mistake, in a game like this, special teams can be the difference between a nice comfy win, and a too-close-for-comfort win. WMU is a good special teams squad. Michigan? ...not so much.

Gut feeling
Openers are notoriously optimistic. Frankly, we don't know much about this Michigan team (even though I sound like I do). The offense and the defense are in transition...bit I think for the better. See what I mean about optimism?

Honestly, my gut feeling about this game is that we'll win handily...by two or three scores. Western presents few difficulties for this team (mainly the passing attack and special teams). And while just about everything we heard out of fall camp was positive, I think there's something to be said for that. I don't think this unbridled optimism is unjustified. Brady Hoke has made it a point to address the fact that, yes, we play Notre Dame next week in a huge game, but right now this entire program is focused on Western. I believe him.

I also believe that a strong component of past Michigan teams, coached under Lloyd and Mo and Bo, was a strong emphasis on playing sharp against lesser opponents, and coming out of the gate strong. I think Hoke has his boys amped up for this one, and Michigan rolls. The crowd will be extremely energetic, and the players will be excited to get Hoke his first Michigan win.

Greg Mattison Press Conference Video (8/30)

B1G Breakdown: Week 1

One thing that is always tough to do, at least for me, is keeping track of who and when all the B1G team are playing each week. Hence this post. (All times eastern, rankings are AP/USA Today, B1G teams in bold)

Thursday, Sept. 1
UNLV @ #11/10 Wisconsin - 8PM - ESPN/ESPN 3D

Friday, Sept. 2
Youngstown State @ #17/17 Michigan State - 7:30PM - BTN

Saturday, Sept. 3
Tennessee Tech @ Iowa - Noon - BTN
Northwestern @ Boston College - Noon - ESPNU
Akron @ #18/16 Ohio State - Noon - ESPN2
Indiana State @ #-/25 Penn State - Noon - BTN
Middle Tennessee @ Purdue - Noon - BTN
Western Michigan @ Michigan - 3:30 - ABC/ESPN2
Arkansas State @ Illinois - 3:30PM - BTN
Tennessee-Chatt. @ #10/11 Nebraska - 3:30 - BTN
Minnesota @ USC - 3:30 - ABC
Ball State @ Indiana - 7PM - ESPN3.com

Biggest "must-watch" games other than Michigan
Opening weekend in college football is like opening that first gift on Christmas morning. There are so many to pick from, and you just want to tear them all open at once. But then your parents tell you that you have to pick just one and then wait your turn to open another. It's extremely frustrating, really.

Hard to argue against the Wisconsin game since it's the first game and it's all by itself on Thursday. Same could be said for Sparty on Friday (all high-school teams play their games on Friday). But you have to go with Nebraska and Tenn-Chatt or OSU and Akron. Both of those games are interesting for wildly different reasons. With Nebraska, you just want to see what they're all about. With OSU, it's like tuning in to see if a train crashes.

But you also should tune in to see Northwestern @ Boston College. Both teams are on the rise (I assume), and this should be a very competitive game...maybe the best game of the week.

Upset watch
I don't know about you, but I'm cheering for Minnesota over USC. That's a no-brainer for pretty much 99% of college football fans everywhere. There's no chance this happens, but how sweet would it be if it did?
Take your pick. Tenn-Chatt. @ Nebraska is mine.

Bold predictions!
I think the B1G goes 10-2 in it's opening weekend. Who are the losses? Minnesota and Indiana.

Martin, Molk, Koger Press Conference Video - WMU Week (8/29)

The three captains address the media on Monday (8/29) the week of the first game against Western Michigan.
Mike Martin:

David Molk:

Kevin Koger:

Hoke Press Conference Video - WMU Week (8/29)

Official 2-Deep for Western Michigan

Via UM game notes:

Analyzing bullets!
• OL is what we thought it would be. A little light at tackle, but it is what it is, I guess. Barnum's injury not a big deal I assume.
• No big news with WR and TE. Odoms slightly down the list...injury related?
• FB!
• RB is what we've been hearing, Shaw OR Fitz. With V Smith and Hopkins backing up. No Mike Cox at all?
• Who's this Denard guy at QB???

• Last week Brink would have been a starter. This week he is not. He backs up Heininger at DE.
• Martin, VB and Roh round out the line. Campbell backs up Martin...but I fully expect to see Big Will often while Martin is in the game. Mattison will have the DL rotating frequently among starters and backups.
• Cam Gordon, Kenny Demens and Mike Jones are your LBs. Another group which will see heavy rotation.
• The backfield is no surprise. Sounds like Kovacs is a lock at SS. Gordon had a strong camp. And the corners will see Woolfolk on left side, with JT and Avery floating on the right.

Special Teams
• With Hagerup out, Will (or Broekhuizen?) is punter. He will also kick off.
• The placekicking is up for grabs (isn't it always?) with Wile and Gibbons fighting it out. Sigh.
• Punt returners include Hemingway, Dileo, Gallon and Odoms. (whoever doesn't fumble gets the gig)
• Kick returners are Gallon, Grady and V Smith. (whoever doesn't fumble gets the gig)

2011 Captains: Kevin Koger, David Molk and Mike Martin

All three Michigan men were focuses of the media at this years media day event.
The Michigan football team voted on their 2011 captains last night, and these three seniors could not have been a better choice. [UM release]

• TE Kevin Koger
• C David Molk
• DT Mike Martin

Brady Hoke returns the Michigan program to the tradition team voted captains prior to the season. Rich Rod had team captains voted on after the season in 08 and 09. And had pre-season captains last year but also individual game captains each week.

David Molk and Mike Martin are both 2nd-team preseason all-Americans according to CBS Sports preseason list. Both are clear leaders of this team, and have been even before their senior years. Kevin Koger has been praised by the coaching staff for not only his leadership, but his overall attitude. These three guys have been through the proverbial ringer in terms of being recruited by Carr (Molk) and coached by Rich Rod, and their individual position coaches, and now Brady Hoke for their senior years. They've all endured one of the most unsettled times in Michigan football history, and have each shown true leadership with their play on and off the field.

These Michigan Men are true inspirations for not only the younger guys on the team, but even those kids who need positive sports role models to look up to...sans the occasional David Molk press conference. But the media loves him because he doesn't hold back and tells it like it is. It's refreshing in a way.

If Adidas is listening (they're not), I know #16 jerseys fly off the racks, but I'd love to see #86, #50 and #68 on the shelves too.

2011: What to Expect from MBN

You are looking live...well, not really.

The 2011 season is upon us! There are a million things that we could talk about, and we'll get to them, but first I thought it would be a good idea for me to break down what you, the reader, can expect from me and this website over the course of the next 3 months.

First of all, the most basic function of a blog is to talk about stuff. We'll be doing a lot of that. We'll be breaking down upcoming games from both a statistical perspective, and a more general position-by-position perspective. Game previews can and will be posted at any time during the week of a game. I'll try and get them posted as early in the week as possible, but sometimes things can get in the way of that.

The week of a game is filled with news and stories pertaining to that week's game. For example, this week we're awaiting the 2-deep depth chart from Brady Hoke. We're also awaiting an injury report...not that there should be any surprises. Press conference notes, player notes, practice notes...all of those things are typical fodder for a blog, like mine, during the season.

You can also expect an opinionated, but thorough breakdown of each game, typically within a reasonable amount of time after the game is over. I'm not saying the day of, but within 48 hours we'll try and have a full breakdown of the game posted. We will probably bring you an "instant analysis" of each game posted shortly after each game ends.

Now for the fun stuff.

For fans looking for a more real-time approach to blogging, I'll be doing liveblogs during each game, like we did a few times last year. We use a great service called Cover It Live. This is a great way to interact with not only me, but other readers of MBN while games are going on. It's a pretty simple format. I moderate comments, chime in as much as I can, and generally provide the perspective of a hardcore blogger. But a liveblog is all about fan interaction. So to get in on the action, just check out our home page the hours leading up to kickoff, or at any time right before or during the game.

The liveblog will launch about 30 minutes before kickoff.

I'll be covering home games this year from the stadium, so my goal is to provide as much content from gameday as possible. I'll be taking pictures all day long, from down on the field before the game to the post-game press conference. But during the game, I'll be in the pressbox with my laptop, blogging about the game, posting pictures to my Flickr page and the blog, Twittering, and posting content and updates to our Facebook page.

So as you can tell, a Michigan home game has become much more of a working event now, rather than just being able to sit back on my couch at home enjoying my favorite team. But I love being able to do this, and I love being able to share it with other fans.

Of course our goal is to provide the best free content possible for Michigan fans. It's truly a labor of love, and I wouldn't want to be doing anything else on a fall Saturday afternoon (don't tell my wife that!). But the real payoff for me is getting as much fan interaction as possible. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and if you're a photog like myself...check me out on Flickr.

There are also a few other Michigan bloggers up in the pressbox as well who you should follow. MGoBlog's newest recruiting ninja, Ace Anbender, formerly of The Wolverine Blog will be up there. Greg Dooley from MVictors. Tim Sullivan, formerly of Varsity Blue, then MGoBlog, and now The Wolverine. Phil from UMGoBlue.com. And Bob from Big House Blog. If I forgot anyone, let me know.

So with no further adieu, let the season...and the madness, begin! Go Blue!

Brady Hoke Press Conference Video (8/26)

Al Borges Press Conference Video (8/25)

We're Talkin' Schedules - Northwestern

Finally! We've finished the entire conference. I honestly thought I would do like three of these and just give up. But it turns out that I've really enjoyed previewing the conference this way. I hope you've enjoyed it too.

Woody Division: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Bo Division: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska

Now: Northwestern

2010 Overall Record: 7-6
2010 Big 12 Record: 3-5

Non-Conference Opponents
9/3: @ Boston College (7-6)
9/10: Eastern Illinois (2-9)
9/17: @ Army (7-6)
11/12: Rice (4-8)

Divisional Opponents
10/8: Michigan
10/15: @ Iowa
11/5: @ Nebraska
11/19: Minnesota
11/26: Michigan State

Crossover Opponents
10/1: @ Illinois
10/22: Penn State
10/29: @ Indiana

Do Not Play
Ohio State

If You Only Watch One Northwestern Game in 2011 (Other than against us): I think the Michigan State game on Nov 26 is pretty interesting. Although I do think the game against us could be NU biggest game though.

I like the MSU game here simply because it's a divisional game with two teams that could very easily be contending for the division. I know as a Michigan fan, we're going to be watching Sparty very closely down the stretch. Northwestern is just one of those teams that can sneak up on you.

Non-Conference Loss: Probably the opener against BC on the road. The Eagles aren't a bad team, and this will be a good test for Fitzgerald and his Wildcats right out of the gate. I'm also intrigued by the Army game...mostly because I just like it when B1G schedule one of the military academies.

It's a Trap!: Well, NU's schedule is kind of a mess. They have their divisional games split up nicely, a non-conf game in November, and never play more than 3 home games in a row. Every other B1G's trap game is against Minnesota, so I'll take Indiana just to be different. 

NU comes off of a three game stretch of Michigan, @ Iowa, and Penn State...all three of which will be very competitive for them. They travel to Bloomington and then Lincoln the week after. That game at Indiana fits the definition of a trap as far as I'm concerned.

The Game Destined for ESPN3.com: Eastern Illinois on 9/10 or Rice on 11/12. Both probably.

Final Analysis: Northwestern is one of the many reasons why the Big Ten is such a difficult conference to play in. They are a strong team in that they have a great coach in Pat Fitzgerald, and they truly believe they can win against any opponent...and they play like it too. But, as we all know, skill takes over at a certain point and that's where NU drops off more often than not.

This schedule set the Wildcats up for a possible run in 2011. They have the players to do it, they have the coach who can get them there, but they just need the breaks to go their way and all of the dominoes to fall for them. Not playing Wisconsin and OSU are two big breaks they already have under their belt.

Fearless Predictions
Non-conference record: 3-1
Division Record: 2-3
Crossover Record: 2-1
Overall: 7-5

The Horror. Part Deux.

This is happening. Cue the jokes.

Via UM media relations:
Football to Face Appalachian State in 2014 Opener
ANN ARBOR – The University of Michigan football program will open the 2014 season with a match-up against Appalachian State University at Michigan Stadium on Aug. 30. This will be the second meeting between the Wolverines and Mountaineers at Michigan Stadium.

“We look forward to facing Appalachian State again,” said U-M Athletic Director Dave Brandon.

The only previous game in the series between Michigan and Appalachian State came in the 2007 season opener. The defending FCS champion Mountaineers stunned the Wolverines, 34-32, as ASU blocked a field goal attempt that could have won the game for Michigan at the end of regulation. It was the first-ever game broadcast by the Big Ten Network.

U-M has two remaining open dates on its schedule.

Following is Michigan’s 2014 schedule:

Date              Opponent
Aug. 30         Appalachian State
Sept. 6          at Notre Dame
Sept. 13        TBA
Sept. 20        TBA
Sept. 27        at Indiana *
Oct. 4            Open
Oct. 11          Michigan State *
Oct. 18          at Minnesota *
Oct. 25          Penn State *
Nov. 1           Iowa *
Nov. 8           at Nebraska *
Nov. 15         Open
Nov. 22         Northwestern *
Nov. 29         at Ohio State *
Dec. 6            Big Ten Championship Game
* denotes Big Ten Conference games.

Strength and Honor: Michigan Football 2011

It's been a long time coming, but I finally did it. I finally melded my blogging life to my professional life. By night, I crusade as a Michigan blogger. But by day, I edit video. I've been on the fence about doing a "hype video" for about 3 years now. I've always had this idea about blending images of Michigan Stadium with music from my favorite movie, Gladiator.

This was inspired by pics of the Big House by Flickr user Dave Bloom, and of course the "Gladiator" score by Hans Zimmer. Once I had all these pieces, I knew I had no choice. I was introduced to Dave's work via the newly formed mgoblog photopool, which if your not a member of, you should be.

I titled this "Strength and Honor", which most fans should know is an important quote from the movie, is also the title of this piece of music, and is featured prominently in the Michigan locker room. I would assume this stems from the friendship formed between Lloyd Carr and Gladiator star Russell Crowe in 2007 [YouTube].

So with no further adieu...

Outgoing: Chris Barnett

After a rather smooth transition from one coaching administration to another, it would seem we're getting all of our Hoke defections done in one week...the last week of fall camp. Incoming freshman TE Chris Barnett has tweeted that he's leaving the program. This marks the third of the 2011 class to leave before the season starts.

Barnett hails from Hurst, Texas. Michigan was his third commitment. He was committed to Oklahoma, and Arkansas, and then us. Rival rated him a 4-star, Scout a 3. He signed with Michigan on national signing day. His outgoing tweet was rather simple: "No longer at the University of Michigan".

Okay then.

This leaves Michigan with few seasoned TE options outside of projected starter and offensive leader Kevin Koger. Other options you might not have heard of include: 5th year senior Steve Watson (three-year letterman...on defense), redshirt junior Brandon Moore (1 catch for 19 yards), and redshirt freshman Ricardo Miller (no catches ever).

Soooo...we'll have to just hope Koger stays healthy.

On a side note, this is my 1000th post to this blog. Yay for me!

MBN 2011 Preview: Defense

Our 2011 preview rolls on with a good look at the defense. Our offensive preview can be seen here.

First things first. If I see anything like this in 2011, I quit.

No. Really.

Key Returners
(projected starters in bold):
NT: Mike Martin, Quinton Washington, Kenny Wilkens
DT: Will Campbell, Richard Ash
SDE: Ryan Van Bergen, Will Heininger
WDE: Craig Roh, Jibreal Black
MLB: Kenny Demens, Merell Evans
SLB: Cam Gordon, Brennen Beyer, Jake Ryan
WLB: Brandon Herron, JB Fitzgerald, Mike Jones, Antonio Poole
CB: Troy Woolfolk, JT Floyd, Courtney Avery, Terry Talbot
SS: Carvin Johnson, Thomas Gordon, Brandin Hawthorne
FS: Jordan Kovacs, Marvin Robinson

Key Losses
(Starters in bold):
SLB Jonas Mouton, CB James Rogers, FS Ray Vinopal, MLB Obi Ezeh,

Improving from 2010
Anywhere you look on the defense...the front 7, pass coverage, tackling, turnovers, run stopping...all of it needs drastic improvement. Hard to believe, but at the end of 2010, Michigan ranked...

stat bullets!:
• Overall defense: 110
• Scoring defense: 108
• Pass eff. defense: 103
• Rush defense: 95
• Pass defense: 112
• Sacks: 98
• Turnover margin: 109
• Tackles for loss: 77

Those are simply astonishing numbers for a Michigan defense. If you would have told me that hiring Rich Rodriguez would have led to this, I would have said you can take you 8th ranked overall offense and hit the road. Make no mistake, defense wins in the Big Ten.

Defense. Wins. Always.

The front 4
It all starts up front. That's not just a cute little saying, it's true. The only lineman worth his salt last year was Mike Martin. And that was with getting double-teamed and held on almost every play. Will Campbell has an amazing opportunity to be coached back to relevance by 3 great defensive coaches...Hoke, Mattison and DL coach Jerry Montgomery. If Campbell can't get it together under these three...

What amazes me is that even with last year's struggles, this group is actually pretty solid, at least on paper. A long off-season can do that sometimes. It's been a while since Wisconsin ran the ball on us something like 34 straight times without us able to stop them. That really did happen.

That solidarity stems from senior leadership. We have it with Ryan Van Bergen and Mike Martin, who have really held this defense together through the coaching staff change. But as a unit, no group will benefit more from the new staff than the d-line.

Roh will move back to DE where he really showed he can play two years ago. His stint at OLB did no one any favors. Roh put on some weight in the off-season to get back on the line. Roh has also been the rumored to be battling some sort of illness. Not sure how credible these rumors are. Roh back at weak DE, opposite Van Bergen (or similar) on the strong side is the first step in making us a true 4-3 again.

Insert slow clap here.

Now on to internetz rumors...

On Nathan Brink
First of all, any time a walk-on can come into camp and make some noise is always a good thing. There are people out there projecting him as a starter at SDE. I'd say that might be jumping the gun a little, even though he's been running with the 1's in fall camp (and Campbell running with the 2s). This may be just as much of a training tool to push the competition among the scholarship players. Or Brink may indeed be the real deal. We'll see on September 3rd. But either way, if Brink is the man, I'm all for it.

Hoke came out at Tuesday's (8/23) presser and said if the season would start today, Brink would start at the 5-technique DE position.

On Will Campbell
Campbell is the elephant in the room...literally and figuratively. He's big, tough looking, and it sounds like he's trying really hard. But it also sounds like it's just not working out.

Brady Hoke on Campbell:
Will Campbell left spring at 342 pounds and came in at 316, 319,” he said. “Just watching him move around and do those things, you can see that. That’s a commitment. A commitment is always important - he showed his teammates he’s made a commitment."
Hoke says that Big Well has played the 3 and 1 technique in camp. On a side note, Will Heininger has played all 3 techniques well.

Greg Mattison on Campbell:
"He has come out every day as tough as he can. He listens to [defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery] on every word. When he tells him to step a certain way, he tries to step a certain way. And he's really, really physical." …
"In the spring it was mentioned a number of times because his toughness stuck out like crazy," Mattison said.
A lot of effort...which is good to hear. But trying as hard as he can and getting run out of camp by a walk-on is disheartening. The internet can be harsh place sometimes.

A year or two ago, I would have said that replacing Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton would have not been easy. And even now it's tough to come on here and say that they won't be at least a little missed. Ezeh made a career, at least over the last two years, of playing obnoxiously out of position...which led to him being benched after 5 games last year at MLB in favor of Kenny Demens, who will likely be a solid at the MLB. Mike Jones is seeing some time at middle, and also weak side.

Outside linebackers will be a revolving door. And that's ok. What Greg Mattison brings to Michigan is a pro-style substitution system. A flexible defense is key in terms of personnel playing different positions. Cam Gordon has been looking solid at SLB and should see the bulk of his time there, as will Brennen Beyer and spring standout Jake Ryan. WLB is a little more up for grabs with JB Fitzgerald, Brandon Herron and now Desmond Morgan (!?) all looking strong in fall camp.

But honestly, I really think that scheme alone is going to be the strongest addition to this unit. Even with suitable talent, GERG never was able to squeeze anything useful out of Ezeh, Mouton, or any of the returning linebackers on this team. Blame the 3-5-5, and I'm sure we all will, but frankly I think it just boils down to poor coaching.

Actually not as freaked out as I was a year ago about this group. Why? I don't know...just not. Troy Woolfolk coming back is good news for Wolverine fans. He and JT Floyd bring some experience to the corners which hasn't seen much over the last few years. Courtney Avery and Terry Talbot will also see some playing time this year for sure. We're hearing really good things out of fall camp about all of these guys...especially Woolfolk who is the senior leader of the D backfield.

Safeties also get some experience and depth with former walk-on Jordan Kovacs and Carvin Johnson looking like starters. Kovacs seems to be impressing the current coaching staff just as he did the previous staff. Brady Hoke calls Kovacs the QB of the D. The fact that he impresses Hoke/Mattison means much more to me than him impressing RR/GERG, for obvious reasons. Backing them up and likely battling for starting roles are Thomas Gordon, Brandin Hawthorne and Marvin Robinson.

Honestly, a good front seven makes your DBs better. We left a lot of these guys out on an island last year because of sub-par play by our front seven. Proof was in the 20-yard buffer that our corners would give opposing WRs. Bad defense all around was evident in not just the secondary last year...but the secondary gets exposed easier. I could go on and on, but you probably see what I am trying to say here.

Realistic expectations
Those rankings I listed above are simply unacceptable for a Michigan defense. Had Rich Rod focused on defense more, he might still be here. But those numbers meant that RichRod and GERG had to go. You clean house when you rank that low at Michigan.

I expect a significant improvement in all aspects of the defense. Why drastic? A few reasons. Good old fashioned solid coaching. Strong senior leadership. Schemes that suit the players we have. It's not outside the realm of possibility to see improvement in each of those rankings above...improvements of maybe 30-60 spots in each category. We're not going to be a dominating defense in just one season, but we're going to take the first good step in that direction...and lay the foundation for better defenses to come. I mean, just check out the 2012 recruiting class.

One thing is for certain, this staff is going to be really hard on this defense. They're going to push and scream to get every ounce of effort out of each player. Some guys, especially at this level, thrive in that type of atmosphere. Some shy away. I think a lot of rumors we're hearing out of fall camp with some guys stepping up and some not aren't just hot air. I think this defense is being simplified, but also being pushed to it's breaking point in order to weed out the guys who were most responsible for the 110th ranked defense in the country in 2010.

In almost any category, there's nowhere to go but up. But if what we're hearing out of camp is any true indication of progress, then I expect to see a fierce unit that is committed to getting better on each play, in each game. And when you're trying to build something from scratch, that's what you're looking for. I believe this defense will have it's moments. But it will also struggle against some teams. But I do think, overall, it's going to be fun to watch Michigan play defense once again.

Outgoing: Je'Ron Stokes

Confirmed today via a university officials....Rivals is reporting that junior WR Je'Ron Stokes is no longer with the program. No word as to the reason for his departure, but it could have something to do with his one catch for eleven yards last year.

I assume the emphasis being put on the receivers has created quite a battle for playing time. Sounds to me like Stokes might have seen the writing on the wall. But that's just me speculatin'. Best of luck to Stokes wherever he lands.

Outgoing: Tony Posada

Reports have come out, and have been confirmed by a university spokesman, that freshman lineman Tony Posada has left the program. [mgoblog, Ann Arbor News]

Details are sketchy right now, but rumors say that he didn't take to well to the conditioning, as he reportedly showed up for fall camp north of 340 pounds...some 30 pounds over his rumored playing weight.

He was not expected to see any playing time this year. Michigan's OL depth should alleviate any sort of wrench that this could throw into the lineup in the next few years. Both guards have two years eligibility left and the tackle position will lose Mark Huyge, but is staked with walk-ons, Michael Schofield, and is loaded with incoming talent in the 2012 class.

Posada is the second incoming freshman to leave the team, after it was announced last month that Kellen Jones, a four-star LB out of Texas, was no longer with the program. Jones is now on the roster at Oklahoma.

MBN 2011 Preview: Offense

Lots of things to discuss on both sides of the ball, but for the sake of getting this off the ground, let's dive into the offense first. I did about a half hour interview with WiscoBadgers last week where I address a number of offensive and defensive issues looking forward to the 2011 season.

Michigan QBs Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner.
Key Returners:
(projected starters in bold):
QB: Denard Robinson, Devin Gardner
RB: Vincent Smith, Michael Shaw, Stephen Hopkins, Fitzgerald Toussaint
WR: Junior Hemingway, Martavious Odoms, Darryl Stonum, Jeremy Jackson
Slot/WR: Roy Roundtree, Kelvin Grady, Jeremy Gallon
TE: Kevin Koger
LT: Taylor Lewan
LG: Ricky Barnum, Elliot Mealer
C: David Molk, Rocko Khoury
RG: Patrick Omameh, Ricky Barnum
RT: Mark Huyge

Key Losses:
(former starters in bold)
QB Tate Forcier, LG Stephen Schilling, RT Perry Dorrestein

Transitioning from 2010 to 2011
Last year's offense was simply unstoppable, sans the Ohio State game and Gator Bowl. Much of the blame for Michigan's offensive ineptitude in those games can easily be placed on our total lack of ability to stop the other team from scoring. That, no kicking game, and turnovers are the main components of our offensive struggles late last year. Quite simply, it's just not fair to ask your offense to score touchdowns every time they have the ball.

Denard Robinson, who reinvented the role of a Michigan QB into a beautiful hybrid of a speedy back with the ability to throw the ball with relative accuracy, wowed Michigan fans all year. When Rich Rod was asked to step down, fans held their breath to see if Denard would leave as well. But those fears were short lived as Denard quickly reaffirmed his devotion to his teammates and the Michigan program.

But Denard's record-breaking season came at a price, which was more and more evident as the season went on...and that was his ability to stay healthy for an entire game. Denard has great ability, no one questions that, but he also ran the ball like a sophomore who thought he couldn't get hurt. What I am looking for is a guy who can pick and choose when it's time to run, and when it's time to simply throw the ball away and live to see another down.

Entering the 2011 under a completely new system, the big question is whether Borges will adapt his system to suit Denard's ability. And if he does, can Michigan become just as successful, if not more so, with a system that will be new to everyone. I think the last thing Borges wants to do is sabotage a system that has been proven to work, simply to run his own style (sound familiar?).
"We do some things that will feature him," Borges said. "We’re not trying to turn him into a total pocket passer, don’t misunderstand me, but we can do some things with him within the pocket that will allow him to see better down the field and threaten the run from our passing game. He’s a guy who you want to make a good passer, but you also want to be able to threaten that quarterback draw, too, when it isn’t there.” 
Running the ball
Michigan relied heavily on the RB by committee last year, which kept the ball spread around quite frequently among a stable of young backs. Vincent Smith, Michael Shaw, Michael Cox, Stephen Hopkins and Fitzgerald Toussaint all saw decent action last year. Add in freshman Thomas Rawls, who has been making some noise so far this camp, and you have to divide up the pie even more. Expect to see all of these guys, especially early in the year.

Al Borges has said all along that he wants a featured go-to back for this offense. And let's face it, when you want to morph a spread-option attack into a more traditional power offense, you need a dependable back who can get 20-25 carries a game. Think Mike Hart or Chris Perry. Question is, is there either one of those in the names listed above?

Of course any discussion about running the ball must include Denard. Make no mistake, Borges knows he can, and will run the ball. Do not think for a second that Denard is going to look more like John Navarre rather than what we saw last year. Denard is still Denard. And Borges knows that. He might not average 120 yards a game like he did in 2010, but he'll still get his fair share of carries. Anyone would be crazy not to let Denard play to his strengths. However, you'd also be crazy to let him put himself into injury situations like he did so often last year.

Passing the ball
Picture this: 1st and 10. Denard lines up under center. A RB and FB lined up in an "I" behind him. Two WRs split out and a TE lined up on the line. Denard drops back, backs split out to the flats. Denard checks off his receivers and hits the TE over the middle between the LBs and beneath the coverage on a slant for 8 yards.

Okay, now take that image and then picture the next play. 2nd and 2. Denard lines up in the gun. 2 WR's split to the right, 3 to the left. Maybe Vincent Smith lined up in the slot. Line is in a 2-point stance. Denard fakes a quick screen to the left, play-action fake and rolls out right...the whole time looking run the whole way getting the safeties to bite, and hits a slot-WR over the back on the left for a 25-yard gain.

That gives you a picture of what Michigan's passing game can look like in 2011. It will all depend on Denard's arm strength, his field vision and the receivers ability to get open. We're hearing Denard's completion percentage in fall camp has been north of 70%. Um...yes please. Add in a experienced corps of receivers, not Darryl Stonum, and good depth and you have a nice, hopefully potent progression from one year to the next that would lead us to believe that this might be Michigan's strength heading into 2011.

If anything, the pro-style offense makes Denard that much more dangerous and tough to defend. With the spread-option, you knew it was going to be the Denard show. With a pro set, it will hopefully be three or four guys who can decently carry the load.

Up front
Another huge strength of Michigan's offense is it's depth and experience up front. This line has been through the ringer in terms of going from one offensive scheme, and OL coach, to the next. A couple years ago, Michigan had huge holes to fill on the offensive line. That lack of experience led to a lot of guys seeing the field and often. 2011 will be the year that a lot of that experience pays off.

Across the line, Michigan brings back 3 starters from last year, and a host of backups which saw plenty of playing time as well. Standouts like center David Molk, guard Patrick Omameh and tackle Taylor Lewan anchor a line that must adjust, and quickly, to a more power attack. But I don't think that transition will be a problem for this veteran group. From everything I've seen and heard, this group will have no trouble with getting past any scheme hurdles.

Honest expectations
Michigan brings back almost the entirety of one of the most potent offense in the country last year. We need to fill a couple starters on the line, but we have so much good depth there, I don't foresee that being anything that will hold this team back.

If we can limit the turnovers, and add in a defense with a pulse, Michigan's offense should be able to cruise to numbers maybe better than what we saw last year. The workload will be shared better by the skill position players, and that will hopefully lighten the burden on Denard to have to make huge plays on every down.

While the real work that needs to be done is on the defensive side of the ball, the offense should be able to do their part in keeping the defense off the field as much as possible. Maybe less of the breakaway runs by Denard could end up being a blessing in that regard. Long sustained drives are beautiful on two fronts...they keep your defense off the field, and they can demoralize an opposing team. That is my hope and expectation for 2011.

By the way, the name "Denard" appears in the article 24 times.

We're Talkin' Schedules - Nebraska

Woody Division: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Bo Division: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota

Now: Nebraska

2010 Overall Record: 10-4
2010 Big 12 Record: 6-2

Non-Conference Opponents
9/3: Tennessee-Chattanooga (6-5)
9/10: Fresno State (8-5)
9/17: Washington (7-6)
9/24: Wyoming (3-9)

Divisional Opponents
10/22: @ Minnesota
10/29: Michigan State
11/5: Northwestern
11/19: @ Michigan
11/25: Iowa

Crossover Opponents
10/1: @ Wisconsin
10/8: Ohio State
11/12: @ Penn State

Do Not Play

If You Only Watch One Nebraska Game in 2011 (Other than against us): It would have to be at Wisconsin. No. Contest.

If you want to see the two schools that are early favorites to contend for the league crown, then this is your game. Madison, at night, two top ranked teams, Nebraska's first B1G game. What's not to love? If you like big-time college football, then you'll love this one.

Anyone looking for a gauge for how well Nebraska is going to do in their new league, look no further. You can't get any more "Big Ten" this year, than Wisconsin.

Non-Conference Loss: I honestly don't think Nebraska loses an non-conf game this year, but if I had to pick one, it would be Washington. Fresno State could also be a challenge, but not as big as the Huskies. Plus Nebraska is going to pull out all the stops to make up for the Holiday Bowl.

MBN Factoid (!): Nebraska played Washington twice last year. 9/18 at Washington winning 56-21, and 12/30 in the Holiday Bowl losing 19-7.

It's a Trap!: Again, Minnesota. I swear the Gophers are the trap game for almost every B1G team. Nebraska comes off a huge opening to the league against Wisconsin and OSU, and heads into a brutal stretch to end the season. Minnesota is one of the only gimmie's on this league schedule. Coming off a bye-week makes the Gopher game a true "trap" game.

The Game Destined for ESPN3.com: At Wyoming on 9/24.

Final Analysis: Nebraska is welcomed into the league with one of the most brutal schedules of any team. There is no tougher initiation to the B1G than to head to Madison to play Wisconsin at night. Follow that up with a visit by a newly strengthened Ohio State squad, and then a very tough 5-games to end the season...MSU, Northwestern, @Penn State, @ Michigan and then Iowa back home.

We're going to know a lot more about Nebraska, and QB Taylor Martinez by the middle of October than we do now. Personally, I think the combination of playing in a new league, and a tough schedule will expose Nebraska a bit. They're a very good team, no question. But a B1G title contender? Don't drink that Kool-Aid just yet.

Fearless Predictions
Non-conference record: 4-0
Division Record: 3-2
Crossover Record: 2-1
Overall: 9-3

Michigan Preview Chat with WiscoBadgers.com

I want to thank Andy from the Wisconsin blog WiscoBadgers.com for having me on his podcast today to discuss some Michigan Football, preview the Big Ten overall, and of course some Wisconsin chatter as well.

I don't often get the chance to do live radio/podcast, so this was kind of fun, and a new experience. My main goal was to just not sound like a moron. But I could never turn down a chance to talk some Michigan football with a fellow B1G blogger. Check out the audio below, or click the links above, and thanks again to Andy for having me on.

Listen to internet radio with wiscobadgers on Blog Talk Radio

Join the MBN College Pick'em League, Win Prizes!

It's that time of year again. We're very happy to be partnering up with our great sponsor Moe Sport Shops, to bring you our 2011 College Football Pick'em League, hosted by ESPN.

This game challenges you to select the winner of 10 selected games for 14 weeks during the NCAA football season using a confidence scoring system. You receive the amount of confidence points you assigned to each game, but only if you correctly selected the winning team. Best of all, it's FREE to play.

Get in the action now:

Group: Maize and Blue Nation
Password: Hoke

The good folks over at Moe Sport Shops have stepped up to offer prizes to the top three finishers!
1st Place: $75 Moe's Gift Card
2nd Place: $25 Moe's Gift Card
3rd Place: Free T-Shirt

You can sign up at anytime, but you must do so before games start on September 3rd. We'll post a reminder the week before the season. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below. Good luck!

We're Talkin' Schedules - Minnesota

Previously:Woody Division: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Bo Division: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State

Now: Minnesota

2010 Overall Record: 3-9
2010 Big Ten Record: 2-6

Non-Conference Opponents
9/3: @ USC (8-5)
9/10: New Mexico State (2-10)
9/17: Miami University (10-4)
9/24: North Dakota State (9-5)

Divisional Opponents
10/1: @ Michigan
10/22: Nebraska
10/29: Iowa
11/5: @ Michigan State
11/19:@ Northwestern

Crossover Opponents
10/8: @ Purdue
11/12: Wisconsin
11/26: Illinois

Do Not Play
Ohio State
Penn State

If You Only Watch One Minnesota Game in 2011 (Other than the Jug game): Then you either know someone on the team or you really must love Minnesota football. I'll pick Wisconsin simply for the rivalry...even though that game should be over by halftime.

Non-Conference Loss: USC in week one. Welcome to Minnesota Jerry Kill. Getting USC on the road in your first game with a rebuilding Gopher program is just bad luck all the way around. Although I don't think this will be their only non-conf loss.

It's a Trap!: Actually, Minnesota is the trap game for a lot of other B1G schools. The Gophers aren't good enough to have a trap game at this point.

The Game Destined for ESPN3.com: Hmm...New Mexico State or North Dakota State? Reader's choice.

Final Analysis: Minnesota is a program in transition. I don't know if new coach Jerry Kill is going to be able to work magic in his first year or not? They have a long way to go...especially in conference and more importantly, a division which is very good. They do get a break by not playing OSU or PSU. The best Minnesota can hope for is to play spoiler for other B1G teams.

Fearless Predictions
Non-conference record: 1-3
Division Record: 0-5
Crossover Record: 1-2
Overall: 2-10

We're Talkin' Schedules - Michigan State

It's been a while, but we're back on the schedule analysis wagon. Next up...Sparty.

Woody Division: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Bo Division: Iowa, Michigan

Now: Michigan State

2010 Overall Record: 11-2
2010 Big Ten Record: 7-1

Non-Conference Opponents
9/2: Youngstown State (3-8)
9/10: Florida Atlantic (4-8)
9/17: @ Notre Dame (8-5)
9/24: Central Michigan (3-9)

Divisional Opponents
10/15: Michigan
10/29: @ Nebraska
11/5: Minnesota
11/12: @ Iowa
11/26:@ Northwestern

Crossover Opponents
10/1: @ Ohio State
10/22: Wisconsin
11/19: Indiana

Do Not Play
Penn State

If You Only Watch One Michigan State Game in 2011 (Other than against us): Yep, pretty much no mystery here. Ohio State on October 1st. OSU faces it's first and only B1G opponent without 5 of it's suspended starters. On one hand, MSU gets a huge break there. On the other, OSU should still be a tough team to beat, especially in Columbus, where MSU has struggled.

OSU's defense should be one of the toughest tests for the Michigan State offense. Dantonio is 0-7 against Ohio State, his former employer, during his tenure in East Lansing.

Non-Conference Loss: 2011 is a typical non-conference slate for Sparty. Three cakewalks and Notre Dame. So the obvious pick is Notre Dame in South Bend on September 17th, the week after Michigan plays the Irish.

Don't forget about the huge, career-defining fake FG that Dantonio called in last year's overtime thriller in East Lansing. Probably the play of the year. I'm sure Brian Kelly won't forget when the Spartans come calling.

My prediction: Kelly calls an onside kick on the opening kickoff.

It's a Trap!: Minnesota. Hands down. It follows a brutal stretch of games that MSU has to start the B1G schedule. And it falls before a huge trip back to Iowa. See the final analysis below.

The Game Destined for ESPN3.com: Florida Atlantic on Sept. 10.

Final Analysis: Sparty has a brutal stretch of playing at OSU, Michigan, Wisconsin and at Nebraska. That's a killer four games. They do get a break with a bye-week before the Michigan game. A lot of people predict MSU to be a B1G title contender. If they are, they're going to have to go at least 3-1 through those games...and then not lose again.

That four game stretch, plus the trip to Iowa City again (site of last year's 37-6 loss) and finishing the season at Northwestern is really going to challenge this team. Frankly, I don't see MSU contending for the B1G crown again. I think last year's Capital One Bowl loss to Alabama 49-7 signals that MSU had a nice run, but isn't a prime time program. I think a rough opening to the B1G schedule derails this team.

Fearless Predictions
Non-conference record: 3-1
Division Record: 2-3
Crossover Record: 1-2
Overall: 6-6

One Number Counts Up, One Number Counts Down

Picture this, only with the number 2823.
You would think that program that has a 7-game winning streak over it's biggest only rival wouldn't mind if that rival team decided it was time to start showing up again. I mean, if OSU hangs it hat on how well it does against us, then it might just be a good thing for the rivalry if we...you know, acted like Michigan again.

Eleven Warriors is taking notice of the Brady Hoke transition, and the positive effects it is having on not only the football program, but the once-fractured Michigan fan base as well. [HT: mgoblog UV]
Did you know Brady Hoke "gets it"? He's changing the culture?  On and on and on. What is so revelatory about the coach of Michigan having expectations this year? Have I been reveling so much in Michigan's despair that I've failed to realize just how pathetic they've become over the years?

I also get a kick out of how he's riding his Segway around up there (this is how I like to envision he travels everywhere) like he's the second coming of Bo Schembechler (who currently resides in the 7th Circle of Hell) when he's really a homeless man's Rex Ryan who has won as many games at Michigan as I have. Brady, you've been at Michigan for like two months, bro. Quit your posturing.

Also, you know what would be weird? If you were a prisoner on death row, and you kept a clock on your wall counting down the time to your nationally televised execution. This is what has happened in Ann Arbor. I also love how he calls Ohio State, "Ohio", as if it's some slight to OSU or some great psychological ploy? Then again, I suppose Michigan does have beef with the entire state of Ohio, considering Toledo once scored 13 points and beat them a mere 3 falls ago.
Uh oh. I think someone is getting a little anxious. Apparently, DJ Byrnes is so unhappy with hearing about Brady Hoke all the time, he takes a shot at using the Toledo game of 08 as cannon fodder...which is both obvious and obnoxiously irrelevant.

Also, does anyone have a photo of Hoke on a Segway?

But you know what? That's fine. I honestly don't mind the countdown clock, or the day reminder that hang literally just outside the field house doors in Schembechler Hall. Frankly, I love that fact that Hoke embraces our rivalries. OSU fans should relate, since it was Tressel who made it his goal in life from day one to break the rules and lie beat Michigan. Hoke acknowledges the fact that it's been three years since we've reasonably shown up in either of those two games, and this is his way of telling everyone that those days are over.

If either of these two signs irk the OSU fan base...then I'd say Hoke is more clever than we give him credit for. At some point, both of these OSU signs are going to read zero. And just wait and see what OSU blogs have to say about Hoke then.

Brady Hoke Media Day Presser (Video)

Thanks to MGoBlueVideo for posting the presser video for our Monday morning consumption.

Media Day Photos

I should say that the photos of the scoreboards don't do it justice. My shutter speed was not set properly to take advantage of the amazing picture of these screens. Fans will love the new scoreboards.

Media day photo sets elsewhere: AnnArbor.com, MVictors, Detroit News.

Of course, Tim from mgoblog has the details of today's Brady Hoke presser. Video lives here.

Props to Phil from UMGoBlue.com who got there early today for the UM garage sale, and saw a Justin Boren jersey, which by now has been sent into the wild for the modest price of $50. If anyone knows who bought this and what they plan to do with it, I'd be very interested to find out.

Thoughts on 2011 Start With WMU

Source: AnnArbor.com
A football season is just a list of games in the months leading up to fall practice. Fans, bloggers and media members pour over each opponent, looking for which games are win-able, should be close, and will probably not go our way. It's a natural thing to do. It keeps us busy while basketball, hockey and baseball try to fill the void that football leaves behind.

We base these opinions on the upcoming season on the results of the previous year, and how we feel the team might have progressed/regressed during the off-season. This off-season, however, was not the typical off-season for Michigan. Yes, it's our second coaching change in three years, which you would assume would mean the program is in shambles, but thankfully that's not the case. Oddly, Michigan looks to improve on 2010 with a bevy of returning starters and leadership almost everywhere you look.

In almost every way possible, the Brady Hoke transition is a complete success so far. The minute Brady Hoke stepped on campus, the air around the program instantly became clearer. That is reflected in the way he's been able to attract top talent to his football program...both coaches and players, assembling what many experts consider the top 2012 recruiting class in the country.

The players Hoke inherited, by-in-large seem to be singing the current coaching staff's praises. Some of which have dealt with constant coordinator flux their entire careers...mainly on the defensive side of the ball. But for reasons which I cannot explain, the coaching staff now just seems to be a perfect fit. Brady Hoke, Greg Mattison, Al Borges and their position coaches seem as if they've been waiting their whole lives to coach at Michigan. I'm sure this isn't the case for all of them, but at least it feels like it.

And there's a lot to be said for that.

There is a lot of emphasis on beating our rivals this year. Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State are the games that all Michigan fans have circled on their schedules. And I get it. Those opponents are sexy. Those games define your program. They tell you where you are. I am so excited for all three of these games.

But not so fast.

It's fun to look ahead. But right now, the entire emphasis of this program is on beating Western Michigan on September 3rd.

I don't know Coach Hoke personally, and I don't know his assistant coaches, but I can tell you that every one of them are preaching to these players that the most important game of the year is the next one on the schedule. No one in this program is looking past WMU to Notre Dame. And as fans, we shouldn't either.

I get asked a lot how many wins I think Michigan will have this year. Experts in Vegas put the over/under at seven. I don't have a problem with that. But honestly, for me, it's not about a win total. The most important thing I care about for this team this year, is to improve overall in every game.

During the RichRod era, we regressed both offensively and defensively in each of the last 3 seasons. Especially in the last two, we came out of the gate flying. But right about the time we encountered some resistance in the Big Ten schedule, the team, and the season fell apart. That's not lack of talent...that's bad coaching.

To watch Michigan flying around making huge plays against Notre Dame, and then fall into a funk four weeks later was tough on many levels the last two years. Say what you will about Lloyd Carr, but his teams got better as the season went on...for the most part. Unfortunate injuries impeded that improvement in the later years, but the one thing you could always trust was that the Michigan that took the field against OSU would always be the best Michigan team that year.

These last three seasons, the Michigan team that took the field against OSU never stood a chance. Why? Many reasons. Total lack of confidence and swagger. Opposing defenses knew what to expect. Our defense would be shuffled into a hodgepodge of talent being wasted by playing brutally out of position in schemes that a high school offense could score willingly on.

Fill in the blank with your reasons. But the point is, we never took steps forward as a team during the season. We always got worse. By the midway point of the year, we'd be starting from scratch on defense...which never worked in our favor. Sixty-five points given up to Illinois?!?!

So when people ask me how many wins we should have this year, I don't give them a number. All I say is, I just want to see measured improvement from the first game to the last game. If we can do that, by the end of season, we'll be in a good place.

But it all starts in 23 days with Western Michigan.