Devin Gardner

Go Blue Blog: The Jackhammer

Well, if last week was rock bottom, this week, Michigan brought out the jackhammer to dig down even deeper. Gary Nova carved up the defense, the offense struggled at times, a late field goal was blocked, and this was just a mess. The real shame of it all is that Michigan lost to Rutgers and this is getting seen as progress because the team didn’t get blown out. Maybe next week, they’ll actually win. But if they don’t, don’t worry guys, because, according to Devin Funchess, “wins are just a statistic.” (By the way, Herm Edwards disagrees.)

It is absolutely staggering to me how these guys, both players and coaches, continue to act as though everything’s fine in their statements. Don’t tell me “it’s just a scratch” after your arm gets cut off. There are eight simple words that somebody needs to say, and it’s astounding to me that someone hasn’t said them already. Ready, guys, here they are:

“We need to get better and we will.”

Such a statement acknowledges that this program is not where it needs to be, while simultaneously expressing confidence in the players and their ability to get the program to where it needs to be. Seriously, how has nobody thought of this?

Hoke Watch: It’s not “if,” but “when.” And “when” can’t come soon enough.

Go Blue.

Follow me on Twitter @KSchroeder2325.

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Go Blue Blog: Well, At Least We Can Still Win the Big Ten. Right?…Right?

Look, let’s just say it: this team isn’t very good. The young guys still need to develop and the upperclassmen aren’t playing like upperclassmen. Through four games, Michigan has as many wins as they do games where they didn’t even make it into the red zone. “Inept” doesn’t even begin to describe the offense Saturday, and it starts with Devin Gardner. No, the offensive line hasn’t been great, but neither has Gardner. I still think his passes look better than they did last year, but his decision-making is every bit as poor. So, I was really glad to see Shane Morris come into the game late. Hoke has yet to name a starter for the Big Ten opener against Minnesota, but I really hope it’s Morris. Yes, Morris will make mistakes; he’s a sophomore. But if Michigan’s going to have a guy at quarterback making sophomore mistakes, I’d rather said quarterback actually be a sophomore, and not a fifth-year senior.

On a positive offensive note, Derrick Green impresses me more each week. Saturday against Utah, I was particularly impressed with his patience and vision. For the most part, he was doing a great job of waiting for the play to develop, then finding and hitting the hole. His week-to-week progress is encouraging, and about the only bright spot on this offense at the moment.

On defense, the front seven had their most impressive performance of the season. Unfortunately, most of the good they did was undone by a secondary that continues to be unable to cover anybody. It’s a big problem when the best player in the secondary is a true freshman. (Worth noting: the same can be said for the offensive line.)

Hoke Watch: This game isn’t going to do any favors for a coach who fans already want replaced. And at this point, I have no idea how anybody can possibly defend Brady Hoke. There is talent on this team.  Too much talent for this team to be 2-2 and not even get into the red zone in half its games. Which is why I’m still somewhat optimistic about the future of Michigan football, even if they can’t turn the season around in conference play. I don’t think this program is in such bad shape that if they were to bring in a better coach in the off-season (*cough* Jim Harbaugh *cough*) that they wouldn’t seriously improve.

Go Blue!

Follow me on Twitter @KSchroeder2325.

Go Blue Blog: Bouncing Back

After last week’s debacle, I think we’re all pretty glad to be on the other end this week, beating Miami (OH) 34-10. Having said that, we need to acknowledge that this team is still not where they need to be. There was a stretch in the first half where they looked downright bad. The offensive line needs to give Gardner more time to throw, Gardner needs to make better decisions with the football, turnovers need to be eliminated, and on the other side, the secondary needs to step up.

Now that we’ve got the negative stuff out of the way, Team 135 did a lot right Saturday. Derrick Green had his best game yet, showing why he was the #1 running back recruit in his class. The offensive line created openings for him and he did a great job hitting the holes and getting to the next level. Amara Darboh stepped up in the absence of Devin Funchess, who was out with an injury. The front seven looked very good, despite missing Desmond Morgan. Shane Morris came in to get some snaps late in the game and had a nice run and made two perfect throws (that were unfortunately dropped).

On defense, Jabrill Peppers returned from injury and showed the potential to be the superstar corner that Michigan recruited. He’s obviously got the physical tools to be great, and he’ll only continue to improve in that department, but what I’m most impresses with about Peppers, especially at this early stage of his career, is how smart of a player he is. He just always seems to be in the right spot, both before and after the snap. I’m anxious to see him play against better competition.

Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room here: Brady Hoke. This week, Matt Hinton of Grantland wrote this column, talking with Brian Cook of MGoBlog about Hoke and where he’s taken the program. Safe to say, the patience is wearing thin at Michigan. Right now, unless Michigan runs the table from here on out, I have a hard time believing Brady Hoke keeps his job. I know what you’re saying: how could Michigan fire Hoke if they end up 10-2? Because the honeymoon’s over, that’s why. After going 11-2 in his first season, as of this writing, Hoke has gone 17-12 since. Against the Academic Fraud-Committing Chickens, Little Brother, and Ohio, he’s a combined 4-6. If they lose to Little Brother again this year, with the Big Ten being down this year, and no other potential impressive wins on the schedule other than Ohio, which itself looks a lot less impressive, after losing to Virginia Tech, who then turned around and lost to East Carolina, by the time Michigan gets to the Ohio game, I feel like it would be a foregone conclusion that Hoke would be let go after the season. If they beat Little Brother and lose to Ohio, it would be their tenth loss to Ohio in the last eleven years. That, coupled with what happened last week would be awfully hard for a fan base who’s already scouting out potential replacements to stomach.

Go Blue!

Follow me on Twitter @KSchroeder2325.

Go Blue Blog: Exercising the Demons of 2007

Okay, I know it was just Appalachian State, but if we’re going to beat up on a cupcake team, I like that it was them if for no other reason than the symbolism. We all know what happened in 2007. And you know what, it still hurts, because Michigan football hasn’t been the same since. Saturday’s win doesn’t erase what happened n 2007, but it was nice to see the team do what they should have done then.

Now on to the actual game. The team looked really good. For all the concern about the offensive line, they were solid, at least in pass protection. Run blocking still needs some work, but the linemen got better as the game went on, and Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith were able to find some holes and break some big runs. The line should be even better against Notre Dame, as Graham Glasgow will be back at center for the Maize and Blue.

I love the way Green and Smith run the football. They’re tough backs, can break tackles, able to find holes in the defense, and even though they may not have blazing speed, Smith especially showed the ability to kick it into another gear in the open field.

How good was Devin Funchess? After last year, I expected him to be one of the better receivers in college football this year, but even I didn’t think he’d look this good. Michigan’s receivers need some work, and Gardner needs to work on getting some more guys involved, but I’m not worried about the receivers as long as Gardner has number 1 to throw to. Funchess is going to be a match-up nightmare for opposing teams this season.

Now, on to Michigan’s quarterbacks. I really believe in Shane Morris. I think he can be the next great Michigan quarterback. I liked what I saw from him is the bowl game last year, considering it was his first career start, and he was a true freshman. Having said all that, I wasn’t impressed with what I saw from him on Saturday. His decision making and accuracy still needs improvement. But, after seeing how much Devin Gardner has improved in those areas, I’m totally confident that new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will help Morris improve and realize his potential. And it’s not like Morris is short on time to do so, as he’s only a sophomore.

As far as Gardner goes, I realize it was just Appalachian State, but Gardner looked 300% better than he did last year. His accuracy was a lot better, with the exception of his lone incompletion, where he missed Funchess, and, with the exception of one play where he held on to the ball too long, he was making better decisions and not forcing things. If this is the Gardner that shows up every week, this is going to be a very good Michigan football team.

On the other side of the football, the secondary still needs some work. Jabrill Peppers is not going to be the superstar corner some were expecting him to be this year, but it’s worth noting that those expectations were always a reach, as Peppers is a true freshman. While I don’t think he’ll be a superstar right away, he can still make an impact on this team, and I really think he’ll do that. From what I saw Saturday, I see no reason that superstar potential can’t be realized later in his career at Michigan, though.

The defensive line looks to have improved immensely from a season ago, and they are incredibly deep. At linebacker, we knew Jake Ryan and Desmond Morgan were going to be good, but I really liked the play on Joe Bolden on Saturday as well.

I see no reason why this team can’t go into South Bend and win, and if I was a gambling man, my money would be on Michigan to do so. Really, I think this game is going to be won up front. Funchess is going to be a gigantic problem for Notre Dame, and if the offensive line can give Gardner time to get the ball to him and open up holes for Green and Smith (and I think we’ll see more from Drake Johnson, too), then it’s going to be a very long day for the Academic Frauds Irish.

Go Blue!

Follow me on Twitter @KSchroeder2325.