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Monthly Archives: September 2010

Former four-star safety Vlad Emilien has decided to transfer from Michigan.

Seriously, Angry Michigan Secondary-Hating God, this isn’t freaking funny anymore ($, info in header):

Sophomore safety Vlad Emilien has left the Michigan football team, Scout.com learned Wednesday morning. Emilien, out of Plantation, Florida, requested, and was granted, his release Tuesday in a meeting with head coach Rich Rodriguez. Emilien will have three years of eligibility remaining, over the next four years, although his next stop is not known.

MGoBlog’s TomVH has confirmed that Emilien is transferring, and lists UCLA, BC, Duke, Oregon, and Virginia as potential destinations for him. Emilien was listed on the fall depth chart as the third-string free safety, behind starter Cam Gordon and walk-on Jared Van Slyke, but with Van Slyke out for the season with a broken clavicle this leaves Michigan even more dangerously thin in the secondary.

The Wolverines will have to move someone — my guess is freshman Marvin Robinson — to free safety to fill the cavernous void behind Gordon. Last week’s injury to Carvin Johnson becomes that much more serious with the Wolverines losing another healthy body in the secondary. Any further injuries to players on the two-deep, at this point, would be catastrophic.

Update: The Wolverine’s Chris Balas just put up a (non-paywalled) notebook with quotes from Rich Rodriguez saying that true freshman Ray Vinopal will back up Cam Gordon on Saturday, while walk-on Floyd Simmons will back up Thomas Gordon at spur. Vinopal was not expected to see the field this year, but Rodriguez praised his intelligence and said he’ll be ready to go for Notre Dame.

With Golden Tate gone, Michael Floyd is the focal point of the Irish passing offense.

This week’s edition of The Numbers Game looks at statistics from both this season and last for Michigan and Notre Dame, and includes some of the stats the Wall Street Journal put up before the season to help provide some context:

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A few things strike me from looking at this breakdown:

  • We’re No. 1 in net punting! OK, it was one punt that rolled 20 yards after getting knocked down by the wind, but I’ll take it. If nothing else, this is a great one-week tribute to Zoltan Mesko.
  • Much like Michigan’s matchup with UConn, the Wolverines are about even in returning starters, but have a sizable advantage in total returning lettermen. I thought this would play a factor against the Huskies because of the pace of our offense and their questionable defensive depth, and it did. We’ll see if it has the same effect against the Irish.
  • Dayne Crist had a solid starting debut at quarterback for Notre Dame against Purdue last week, but it looks like the Irish are a little more run-heavy this season after Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate departed for the NFL. With senior Armando Allen and breakout sophomore Cierre Wood, Notre Dame has a solid one-two punch at running back that could pose some issues for Michigan. Receiver Michael Floyd is still there as well, and Greg Robinson will likely spend much of this week devising a scheme to mitigate the damage the potential NFL first-rounder can inflict on the secondary.
  • The Irish return a ton of starting experience in the secondary, but that secondary also gave up nearly as many yards per game through the air last season as Michigan (although their opponent passing efficiency was markedly lower). If the Wolverines can continue to run the ball effectively, there may be the same type of openings in the secondary that there were against UConn.

Stay tuned this week for more coverage of the Notre Dame game, including a Q&A with a prominent Notre Dame blog (still working on it, but it should be up in the next day or two).

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SB Nation BlogPoll Top 25 College Football Rankings

The Wolverine Blog Ballot – Week 2

Rank Team Delta
1 Ohio St. Buckeyes
2 Boise St. Broncos Arrow_up 4
3 Oregon Ducks
4 Alabama Crimson Tide
5 Texas Longhorns
6 TCU Horned Frogs Arrow_up 3
7 Florida Gators Arrow_down -5
8 Nebraska Cornhuskers Arrow_up 3
9 Wisconsin Badgers Arrow_up 1
10 Miami Hurricanes Arrow_up 2
11 Virginia Tech Hokies Arrow_down -3
12 Iowa Hawkeyes Arrow_up 2
13 Utah Utes
14 Arkansas Razorbacks Arrow_up 2
15 Florida St. Seminoles Arrow_up 2
16 Penn St. Nittany Lions Arrow_up 4
17 Arizona Wildcats
18 Oklahoma Sooners Arrow_down -11
19 USC Trojans Arrow_down -6
20 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Arrow_up 1
21 West Virginia Mountaineers Arrow_up 4
22 Georgia Bulldogs
23 Auburn Tigers
24 LSU Tigers Arrow_down -1
25 Michigan Wolverines
Dropouts: Pittsburgh Panthers, North Carolina Tar Heels, Missouri Tigers, Connecticut Huskies, Oregon St. Beavers

SB Nation BlogPoll College Football Top 25 Rankings ยป

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[column]Because of the weird college football schedule this week, which ended with a marquee Monday night game, this will be my final poll unless someone finds a horribly egregious error before tomorrow morning. My top five stands pat except for Boise State, who jumps up to No. 2 after their impressive win against Virginia Tech last night, and Florida, who drop to No. 7 after having a great deal of trouble moving the ball against Miami of Ohio. Full breakdown is below:

Games Watched: Michigan-UConn (duh), Pitt-Utah, USC-Hawaii, TCU-Oregon State, LSU-UNC, Arizona-Toledo, Boise State-Virginia Tech

Moving Up: Boise State gets the aforementioned bump, and fellow BCS-buster TCU moves up the board as well after a decent, but not great, performance against Oregon State — that move up has as much to do with the teams that were in front of them as anything else. Nebraska, Wisconsin, Miami (FL), and Iowa all move up slightly after handling business convincingly against cupcakes this week.

Utah leaps from unranked (not a terrible oversight on my preseason ballot, but I was probably underrating them a bit) up to No. 13 after edging Pitt in overtime. The game really should not have been that close, as Utah outgained the Panthers 405-266, and their offense looked very strong. With very few impressive victories (or opponents, for that matter) this week, that gets the Utes near the top ten.

Penn State gets a nice four-spot jump after a good performance by true freshman quarterback Robert Bolden — albeit against Youngstown State — eased preseason fears that the Nittany Lions would have major issues at QB this year. While Bolden probably won’t be a star this year, he probably won’t be awful, either, and that should be enough to make Penn State a very good football team. We’ll learn a lot more about them this weekend when they face Alabama in the marquee game of Week 2.

Also entering the poll are Arizona, Georgia, Auburn, and yes, Michigan. The first three teams all looked good against inferior competition, especially the Wildcats, who thumped Toledo 41-2 and looked strong on both sides of the ball. I tried to find a reason to keep Michigan out of the poll, but I couldn’t find one good enough — they’re No. 25 with a bullet after one of the most impressive opening performances of the year.
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I was tempted to throw in Notre Dame in the last spot for reverse jinxing purposes, but frankly their victory over Purdue was not as convincing as the Wolverines’ win over a UConn team that I believe is better than the Boilermakers.

Moving Down: Florida, as mentioned, moves down to No. 7 after finishing dead-even in total yards with the wrong Miami to have those type of stats against. If it wasn’t for four RedHawk turnovers, we could be talking about Florida exiting the poll entirely (in fairness, Florida coughed up three turnovers of their own, but that isn’t exactly a good thing either).

Virginia Tech drops down to No. 11 after their loss, but I still believe they’re one of the better teams in the country, which is why you see an 0-1 squad hanging just outside the top ten. Meanwhile, Oklahoma and USC both drop precipitously after very uninspiring Week 1 victories against Utah State and Hawaii, respectively. The Sooners outgained Utah State, a perennial WAC doormat who finished 4-8 last season, by a mere one yard. That’s better than what the Trojans can say after giving up 588 yards to Hawaii — USC finished with 524 yards themselves, but that defense does not look good.

LSU drops a spot, and nearly exits the poll entirely, after eking out a 30-24 win over No. 18 North Carolina, which would be impressive if (1) they weren’t outgained by over 100 yards and (2) UNC wasn’t missing over half their starting defense and a couple key starters on offense due to suspension.

Every team that dropped out of the poll lost except for Missouri, who had to rally from a ten-point halftime deficit to beat Ron Zook’s Illinois squad, 23-13. Rivalry game or not, that’s just not a good way to start the season.

As I said earlier, critiques and comments are welcome, but keep in mind that the poll locks in tomorrow morning — I’ll do by best to make major changes if needed before the poll goes official, but unless something is really off expect this to be my final poll this week.

J.T. Floyd came up with a huge play when he forced UConn's D.J. Shoemate to fumble near the goal line.

I still haven’t had the chance to re-watch the game in its entirety, but I have watched the highlights and most of the offensive plays, so here are my initial impressions from what I saw in Michigan Stadium on Saturday:

  • I was unbelievably impressed with the blocking for Michigan, especially down the field. Check out Vincent Smith’s second touchdown (at the 2:34 mark of this clip) and watch as Martavious Odoms seals off the corner on the outside, tackle Mark Huyge manages to get all the way around the safety and keep him stuck inside, and Stephen Schilling leads Smith down to the goal line in case anyone else needs to be blocked. It was like that all day — great blocking up front from the linemen, and critical blocks from receivers, running backs, and linemen on the second level to spring big plays. There were some issues with run plays getting blown up when the tackles got beat off the edge, but it’s tough to complain about the blocking with the day they had.
  • Vincent Smith and Michael Shaw both looked good running the football — Shaw’s 10-yard loss notwithstanding — and they seem to complement each other well. Shaw brings the speed, while Smith is a more aggressive, north-south runner and a great receiver out of the backfield, and both block well. Even though Rich Rodriguez said the team would play 3-4 running backs, those two saw every meaningful snap, and I’m completely fine with that. Smith could become a major weapon in this offense with his ability to catch and run — we could see a lot of plays like his second touchdown on Saturday, where a screen opens up and all he has to do is secure the ball and make a beeline for the end zone.
  • Even though nobody stood out as having a stellar day in the group, I liked what I saw out of the receivers — the quarterback doesn’t go 19-22 unless the guys he’s throwing it to are catching everything they can, and that’s what the Wolverine receivers did on a very windy day in Michigan Stadium. Seeing Darryl Stonum haul in five catches is a great sign, especially if he can start stretching the field in future weeks. Kevin Koger looked like the big-play tight end we expected him to be after the first half of 2009, finding holes in the UConn zone and catching three passes for 30 yards. Odoms and Terrence Robinson both had big plays in critical situations. Only Kelvin Grady somewhat disappointed me — he had three catches for 17 yards, but I think he missed some holes that could have turned a couple short catches into big yardage. He should bounce back, however, and he will need to with Roy Roundtree almost certainly out for the Notre Dame game.
  • As for the defense, I was impressed with the play up front. Even though UConn tailback Jordan Todman broke 100 yards rushing, many of those came after the game was well in hand, and the team did a great job of limiting yards after contact. Although the team did not manage to record a sack, Craig Roh and Mike Martin both consistently beat their blockers and got into the backfield, and Jonas Mouton looked very good on the blitz. Ryan Van Bergen made his presence known by chasing down a screen and making a tackle on the sideline for a minimal gain, a play that shows off his versatility and athleticism. Obi Ezeh recovered a fumble (luck, I know, but it’s still a good play) and didn’t catch my attention for doing anything horribly wrong — after last year, I’m happy with that.
  • The secondary may not have been tested too much by an inaccurate quarterback and some butter-fingered receivers, but they tackled very well and didn’t give up any big plays besides one very lucky 47-yard bobble-and-catch. It’s really tough to assess the play of the corners on a day where the team played mostly zone and the opposing quarterback struggled with his accuracy, but any day where I can’t single out a defensive back for poor play is a good one. I was really impressed by the tackling — Cam and Thomas Gordon both hit very hard, James Rogers had some nice tackles, and J.T. Floyd came through with possibly the biggest play of the game when he got his helmet on the football and forced a fumble near the goal line. We still don’t know how this unit will hold up in pass coverage against a good passing team, but if they can tackle like they did Saturday to keep yards gained after the catch to a minimum, that will be a very good sign.
  • Special teams was a bit of an adventure, but I think those issues will be ironed out with game experience. Drew Dileo was forced into holding when Jared Van Slyke went down with an injury, and he had some issues that led to a missed extra point and possibly the missed field goal as well (though the wind certainly played a big factor in that as well) — with more practice, that shouldn’t be a problem going forward. Jeremy Gallon will be told to never again run 25 yards and lay out to try to field a punt. Terrence Robinson hopefully won’t lose his footing again on a kick return. Will Hagerup’s only punt didn’t look pretty, but it went 51 yards into the wind — he’ll be just fine. The jury is still out on kicker Brendan Gibbons, but at least he nailed his short field goal attempt and hit all the extra points he had a chance at.

In short, this was a great all-around performance from a team that was expected to have to simply out-gun teams in order to pull out victories. We’ll have to wait and see if UConn is as good a team as they were hyped up to be in the preseason, but I think it’s safe to say that this was much more impressive than waxing Western Michigan to kick off last season.

It’s really nice to be able to make one of these after something besides the spring game. If Denard Robinson’s performance against UConn doesn’t deserve its own YouTube video, then I don’t know what does. Enjoy:

It’s also worth noting that Shoelace took home both the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week awards. From the school’s press release:

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Fresh off his record-setting performance in U-M’s 30-10 season-opening victory over Connecticut on Saturday (Sept. 4), sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson (Deerfield Beach, Fla./Deerfield Beach HS) of the University of Michigan football team earned both national and conference Player of the Week. Robinson was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation National Offensive Player of the Week Sunday (Sept. 5) and picked up Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week on Monday (Sept. 6).

Robinson played in all 12 games last season as a true freshman but earned the start against the Huskies and delivered some record-breaking results. He rushed for 197 yards on 29 carries and scored one rushing touchdown on a 32-yard scamper in the second quarter against the Huskies. His rushing total is the most ever by a Michigan quarterback and the sixth-most rushing yards by a signal caller in Big Ten history.

The dual-threat ability of Robinson showed in the opener, as he completed 19-of-22 passes for 186 yards and one touchdown. His completion percentage of 86.3 is the second-highest in school history, trailing only the 20-of-22 (90.9 percent) passing performance by Elvis Grbac against Notre Dame on Sept. 14, 1991.<!–

Robinson racked up 383 total yards, giving him the school’s all-time record for total offense in a game. He broke the previous mark of 368 yards attained by John Navarre at Iowa on Oct. 4, 2003.

Not a bad start to the 2010 season, right?

Rich Rodriguez’s presser this afternoon contained some important information regarding injuries, including the news that a couple starters will likely be out for the Notre Dame game on Saturday:

  • Freshman spur Carvin Johnson is very doubtful with a sprained MCL, suffered on UConn’s goal-line touchdown run. Considering how bad the injury first looked, this isn’t terrible news, although it makes the Michigan secondary that much thinner. Thomas Gordon and Floyd Simmons will see the majority of Johnson’s snaps until he’s healthy.
  • Slot receiver Roy Roundtree suffered “internal bruising” after taking a huge hit in the third quarter against the Huskies, and he is also doubtful for Saturday. Kelvin Grady and Terrence Robinson should both see more time if Roundtree can’t go this weekend.
  • Outside receiver Junior Hemingway should be able to go after missing the UConn game with a hamstring injury, but the coaches won’t know for certain until later this week.
  • Backup free safety Jared Van Slyke (clavicle) is out for the season. This also hurts the depth in the secondary, but may have a bigger effect on special teams, where Van Slyke was the starting holder on field goals and extra points. Drew Dileo had some issues holding in Van Slyke’s place on Saturday.
  • Redshirt freshman running back Fitzgerald Toussaint may or may not be able to go this weekend with a lingering knee injury.


I spent much of Saturday’s game in Michigan Stadium convincing myself that this wasn’t just an elaborate ruse in which it would later be revealed that Dave Brandon was actually just playing an extremely high-tech video game and nobody was actually running for 197 yards while completing 19-of-22 passes, because those type of numbers only occur when you’re playing an overmatched opponent in NCAA 11 on the Playstation, anyway.

But, luckily, Dave Brandon’s evil genius only goes so far, and that really was Denard Robinson dismantling the UConn defense like he had accidentally left the difficulty on “Varsity” and could therefore do whatever the hell he pleased. At least, that’s what the papers keep telling me, and I’m inclined to believe them.

To watch a player go from connecting on just 14-of-31 passes for the entire 2009 season to systematically picking apart a Big East defense returning eight starters by not only out-running them, but accurately zinging passes downfield, is a sight to behold. There are no words to describe Denard Robinson’s performance on Saturday, because the English language doesn’t allow me to boil down “exceeded all expectations, both reasonable and unreasonable, while looking like evolutionary Pat White and leaving you standing agape at just how fast he plays, every time, even though you’ve already seen it 20+ times this game” into one word. In the future, we may refer to these type of performances as simply “Denard-like,” because even though it’s the first game and I’m trying my best not to get overly-optimistic, that’s just a dynamite football player unlike any we’ve ever seen don the Maize and Blue.

Of course, it wasn’t just Denard out there making plays. The offensive line gave an all-around stellar performance, giving Robinson time in the pocket and getting critical blocks up front and down the field to spring big run plays time and again. Vincent Smith and Michael Shaw did a nice job picking up yards when needed, and Smith especially looks like a solid threat both as a runner and receiver. The receivers caught everything that was catchable, which was practically everything, and they deserve credit for getting open and holding onto the ball — Denard, as far as we know, can’t throw the ball to himself.

And the defense? The unquestioned Achilles heel that was destined to turn every game into a shootout? They played a good, not great, game, which is better than anyone had hoped for and more than good enough with an offense that was moving the ball at will. Yes, there are some issues in the kicking game (namely, holding on field goals) that need to be worked out, and Notre Dame should be a more difficult test defensively, but for now, there’s no reason not to bask in a great victory and let some optimism creep in. There will certainly be bumps in the road, but it appears Michigan is on track to become Michigan again, under a coach whose system is finally being executed the way it was truly designed.

Get ready for Rich Rodriguez’s Virtual Reality Football, where quarterbacks warp downfield 15 yards at a time and crazy zone-read fake-screen passes turn into 43-yard gains when the entire opposing defense falls for the bluff. It should be a fun game.