Tuesday, July 31, 2007


By Brian Yu, NFL Draft Bible

Greetings! Writing from the greatest city in the world (NYC), welcome to the launch of the Michigan Campus Report! I’m a senior at the University of Michigan and as such, I’ll be reporting quite a bit about the Wolverines and Big Ten football. Eventually, I hope to be able to provide more than just predictions, evaluations, and recaps. So keep a look out for player interviews (*fingers crossed*), Q&A’s, and insider reports from around the country – straight from those who pack the stands every Saturday.

But for now, here’s a recap of last season, and a quick outlook at this upcoming fall.

Following a disappointing 2005 season which saw many calling for Lloyd Carr’s dismissal – yours truly not included – the Wolverines put together a strong 2006 campaign, only to be foiled by our recent inability to win in January. For those keeping score, we haven’t won a bowl game since 2002.

Chad Henne put together a good year…especially at the beginning of the season, looking far more comfortable and fluid in the pocket. (I still maintain that he overthrows or completely misses his receivers way too often, but that’s a story for another time). And unlike 2005, I don’t recall a single moment in which our student section began chanting the backup quarterbacks name. Mike Hart showed no ill-effects from his ankle injury in 2005 and even had Heisman rumblings surrounding him through the first half of the season. Another mid-season Heisman hopeful was then-sophomore Mario Manningham, who torched the Notre Dame defense in week three for 137 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns!

Lloyd Carr’s revamped defense, led by newly appointed defensive coordinator Ron English forced countless turnovers and efficiently stopped the running game; a weakness that plagued the team in the previous year… on my 19th birthday (again, 2005), I watched Laurence Maroney and Gary Russell rush for 257 combined yards, including a 61 yard run by Russell in the last two minutes that led to the game winning field goal for Minnesota. Not good times.

The Wolverines also lost the embodiment of Michigan football when Bo Schembechler passed away on Nov. 17th, the day before the Michigan v. Ohio State game; already dubbed “Game of the Century” as it became the first time in which the two schools would meet as the #1 and #2 ranked teams in the nation.

Between Henne, Hart, Manningham, and all-world tackle Jake Long, the Michigan offense is as good on paper as any team in the nation. But take it from someone in the stands every Saturday, we face way too many third-downs than we should. Another blow to the Michigan offense is the indefinite suspension of Adrian Arrington due to legal issues. Arrington filled in nicely when Manningham missed three games with an injury last year. Sophomores Greg Matthews and LaTerryal Savoy will have to step up in Arrington’s absence to alleviate the double teams that Super Mario will command.

The defense lost many of its key players to the draft, including DT Alan Branch (33rd overall; Cardinals), ILB David Harris (47th overall; Jets), DE/LB Lamar Woodley (46th overall, Steelers), OLB Prescott Burgess (207th overall; Ravens), and CB Leon Hall (18th overall; Bengals). However, there isn’t a whole lot of concern coming out of Ann Arbor, which reflects the faith in defensive coordinator Ron English to maximize performance and talent. One of the most noticeable differences in the 2006 defensive squad was their ability to close in on the ball. And every player hustled. More than a few times, DT Alan Branch made tackles deep into the secondary. So look for players like senior OLB Shawn Crable, sophomore DE Brandon Graham, and senior SS Jamar Adams to have huge seasons.

Personally, I believe the most affected, and venerable, area of Michigan football is now the special teams. Stevie Breaston was one of the most exciting players to watch, especially in the open field. With his departure to the NFL (142nd overall, Cardinals), the Wolverines will have a tough time filling the void on special teams. And you don’t have to be a football-guru to understand that better field position leads to more points. Unfortunately, I don’t know if anyone can replace even half of Breaston’s return numbers. Perhaps just as unsettling is the void left by Garrett Rivas, who in his senior season became Michigan’s all-time leader in field goals. So far, there is no clear-cut front runner for the placekicker position, so only time will tell who wins that battle.

Our very own Michigan Insider, Brian Yu returns to school in August as he will be providing us exclusive reports from the press box in Ann Arbor.

Brian was behind the plate when Shawn Crable struck out three times (!) in an Intramural softball game. Go Gracie!

Email: brian@nfldraftbible.com