Tuesday, July 31, 2007

2007 Michigan Preview: The Offense

Let's just get this out of the way real early: Michigan's offense is going to be DYN-O-MITE in 2007. I can't remember the last time they had an offense this talented, maybe the 2000 season with Anthony Thomas and Drew Henson and David Terrell and co.?


Chad Henne (Senior)

Career stats: 666/1109, 60.1%, 7777 yards, 70 TDs, 28 INTs

What's left to say about the kid that will own virtually every Michigan passing record in the books? He's a 4th year starter, a natural leader, and has a cannon for an arm. The only thing left in his sights is beating Ohio State and winning a bowl game. Look for him to have another big season in 2007 because he is surrounded by the most talent he has ever had at Michigan.

Ryan Mallett (Freshman)

The first QB recruit to ever enroll early at Michigan, this kid has all the talent in the world. If something happens to Henne, he is first in line at the backup spot but that would be asking a lot from a true freshman. Then again, Henne himself lead Michigan to the Rose Bowl as a true freshman starter and he wasn't as talented as this kid. 6'7" with a cannon arm and deceptive mobility, he could be a star some day.

David Cone (RS Freshman)

This kid fits every stereotype you can think of for a Michigan QB. He's tall (6'6"), slow a foot, and has a strong arm. Not highly touted coming out of high school in Georgia, he redshirted last year learning the system and will battle Ryan Mallett for the backup job this fall.


Mike Hart (Senior)

Career stats: 750 carries, 3679 yards, 27 rushing TDs, 59 receptions, 516 yards, 2 receiving TDs

Michigan Mike Hart is the heart and soul of Michigan's team. He bleeds maize and blue and is the most outspoken person you will find on the team. Nobody is more able or willing to put the entire team on their back and carry them in crunch time. He's on pace to be Michigan's all time leading rusher, breaking Anthony Thomas' record of 4.472 yards. He also has a chance to join Jamie Morris and Anthony Thomas with 6000 career all purpose yards. Despite his small stature, Hart is a strong inside runner that rarely turns the ball over. He lacks blazing speed, but can crank out 5 and 10 yard runs all day long to keep the chains moving.

Brandon Minor (Sophomore)

Career stats: 42 carries, 238 yards, 2 TDs, 1 reception, 9 yards

Brandon Minor showed up last year and was about 4th or 5th on the depth chart behind guys like Mike Hart, Kevin Grady, and Carlos Brown. In the end, he ended up 2nd on the team in rushing behind Hart. Minor was a bit of an unknown coming out of high school in Richmond, Virginia. When he showed up on campus, however, his combination of size (210 lbs), breakaway speed, and rushing instincts were apparent. A homerun hitter in the backfield, he had a pair of 40 yard carries last year. With Kevin Grady sidelined with a torn ACL, Minor has the backup spot all to himself this year and will be looking to make big things happen.

Carlos Brown (Sophomore)

Career stats: 16 carries, 44 yards, 0 TDs

Carlos was a highly touted speed back out of South Carolina who chose to come north and play Big Ten football for Michigan. Unfortunately he ended up buried on the depth chart last year and bounced around between CB and TB during spring practice. He's back full time at TB for now and is looking to get some more action in 2007.

Wide Receivers

Mario Manningham (Junior)

Career stats: 65 receptions, 1136 yards, 15 TDs

Super Mario made an impact as a true freshman with 100 yards against Wisconsin and 2 TDs in the comeback win against Penn State, but he didn't even begin to make his mark until his 2006 sophomore campaign. After not seeing much action in 2 warmups to start the year, he exploded in the next 3 games against Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and Minnesota with 381 yards and 6 TDs. His season would get derailed with a shoulder injury, but not before firmly stamping his place amongst the favorites for the Biletnikoff in 2007. He isn't the tallest WR in the country (only 6'0") and he isn't a track star, but he might be the best at keeping his speed in and out of breaks which makes him nearly uncoverable on deep routes. His double moves are ankle breaking and he frequently makes great corners look bad.

Adrian Arrington (RS Junior)

Career stats: 42 receptions, 556 yards, 8 TDs

Adrian has battled everything from homesickness to injuries to off the field problems in Ann Arbor, but he's a dangerous receiving threat that perfectly complements Manningham and helps form one of the most dangerous duos in the country. He's a big target in the Marquise Walker mold that knows how to use his body to get open and has very good hands. He really stepped up against Iowa and Penn State last year with Manningham out and came up with 13 catches for 162 yards. Expect big things this year from Arrington as opponents focus their coverage on Manningham leaving him to pick on lesser DBs, much to Chad Henne's delight.

Greg Mathews (Sophomore)

Career stats: 7 receptions, 68 yards, 0 TDs

Those aren't big numbers for Mathews, but as a true freshman and the #4 receiver last year they are exactly in line with what former Michigan greats have done in their debut seasons. Mathews is big and very strong and has great hands. Already a great blocker, he'll get plenty of throws his way as he slides into Steve Breaston's spot as the #3 WR.

Some candidates for the #4 WR spot include true freshman Junior Hemingway, Zion Babb, and Toney Clemons, along with redshirt freshman LaTerryal Savoy. Nobody knows who will win that competition, but rest assured that they will be very talented and have beaten out some other great players.

Tight Ends

Mike Massey (RS Junior)

Career stats: 16 receptions, 123 yards, 2 TDs

The younger brother of Pat, Mike is going to be thrust into the starting gig this year after the losses of Tyler Ecker to graduation and Carson Butler to stupidity. He's a good blocker and has good hands, but needs to work on being more consistent with his route running.

Chris McLaurin (RS Sophomore)

McLaurin has not played any TE for Michigan yet, but he's an interesting prospect with good size and speed. He'll be firmly in the running for the backup TE spot this year.

Carson Butler (RS Sophomore)

Career stats: 19 receptions, 166 yards, 1 TD

Butler's status on the team is still being worked out. He was thrown off the team this past offseason after an altercation with a fellow student and the filing of assault charges. Well, charges against Butler will ultimately dropped and he's trying to beg his way back on to the team. That status has yet to be determined. What doesn't have to be determined is his talent level. He's a phenomenal athlete who could be an NFL TE someday if he caught the ball more consistently. I have no idea if he will be back on the team at any point this year.

Offensive Line

We'll just tackle this as one group. Why? Offensive lineman never get any recognition anyway. Here are some of the guys in contention for major playing time:

Jake Long (RS Senior)
Alex Mitchell (RS Junior)
Adam Kraus (RS Senior)
Justin Boren (Sophomore)
Stephen Schilling (RS Freshman)
Mark Ortmann (RS Sophomore)
Corey Zirbel (RS Sophomore)
Jeremy Ciulla (RS Junior)
David Moosman (RS Sophomore)

The starters at this point figure to be Long at LT, Schilling at RT, Kraus and Mitchell at guard, and Boren at C. Jake Long is as good as they get on the college level. He would've been a likely top 10 pick if he came out last year. Now? Look out award shows and All American lists, because he's coming to collect some hardware. The rest of the line isn't quite as dominant, but the potential is there. Take a look at that list again. Aside from the fact that there are only 2 seniors on it, you might also notice the lack of a redshirt next to Justin Boren's name. In 2006, he became only the 4th true freshman OL in modern times to start for Michigan joining Bubba Paris, Tom Dixon, and Dean Dingman.

As for the line as a whole, run blocking figures to be their strength. Schilling and Long and Boren are all quite capable of pushing people around. In pass protection, the youngsters might make some slips but Long will have Henne's blindside on lockdown. All in all it's a very good line that should dominate the LOS in most games.


What's not to like? Michigan's got the offensive line, the quarterback, the tailback, and the wide receivers to match up with any defense they play. USC is probably the only team in the country with as much talent on the offensive side of the ball. Michigan does, however, have a reputation for being pretty conservative with the playcalling and not going for the jugular when they get a lead, instead being content to sit on the ball and grind out the clock. With some question marks on defense, the 2007 Michigan offense might feel pressure to air it out and put points on the board every week. If so, look out. They've got the talent to win some shootouts. I figure somewhere around 32-33 points per game on the season is well within reach.


Monday, July 30, 2007

It's Almost Football Time

Blogging offseason is going to be winding to a close sometime soon as the joy and majesty that is college football is about to return in a few short weeks. Recruiting news just doesn't do much for me, so you'll have to get your Sam McGuffie fix elsewhere. I'll try to get some previews of the 2007 Michigan Offense and Defense up and perhaps a little schedule analysis (hint: it's nicely set up).