Assessing the Michigan Wolverine Football Team after Game 2/Notre Dame Preview:

Overall, it is hard to be too critical since we've only played two games against weak opponents; however, one can see strengths and weaknesses so let's explore this:

Offensively: Overall grade of B+

QB-Navarre had a terrible game second game. He overthrew a lot of receivers all game long, but especially in the first half. He continues to have several passes batted down at the line of scrimmage every game; it is hard to believe he has started 31 games with the same problem. Gutierrez looked sharp, and should be a solid backup in case of injury. He is very mobile especially on the bootleg. Brinton didn't throw, but it is nice to know we have experience there. Notre Dame will be coming hard at Navarre; they know how to beat us, and part of that game plan includes rattling Navarre. Cedric Hilliard is supposed to be back and Gutt's former teammate, Derek Landri along with former M recruits, Greg Pauley, Victor Abiamiri and Travis Leitko. They'll be looking creating turnovers on blitzes, picks, sacks and they have the line to do it. Our offensive line will have their work cut out trying to protect him. I would give Navarre a C+ grade after two games, and my confidence in him has deteriorated.

FB-Dudley has been a pleasant surprise; he has blocked quite well so far. He has had no carries or passes thrown his way in two games. He will be severely tested against the Irish. Thompson came in and caught his first pass, but has no carries either. We sure could use Sanderson here especially in the red zone. This is a weak position, and may be exposed against strong teams like Notre Dame, Ohio State, etc. Dudley will be hard-pressed to block Courtney Watson (Butkus nominee and leading Irish tackler last year), Derek Curry and others; however, he has a solid B+ grade so far.

TB-Perry has been awesome! He looks like the back we have always hoped he'd be. He was quick, fast and made good cuts. He caught one screen and is very dangerous in the open field. I'm not sure how well he did in blocking, but we are lucky to have him. Underwood also looked solid with his first 100 yard game; he is also a dangerous back catching screens and he looks very muscular. Underwood should log a significant amount of playing time. I was more impressed with Jackson than Rembert; he is quicker and probably faster. Even Bradley looks like he can contribute; he is low to the ground and fast. It was also nice to see Bracken come in and play. Hopefully, we'll be able to stay away from fumbles and turnovers against the good teams. We are solid at this position! It is critical we have no fumbles against the Irish at this position if we are to win. Let's give Perry and company a straight A.

WR-We have two of the best in the country with Edwards and Breaston! They are gamebreakers and backbreakers! I don't see any defenses stopping either; they are too hard to double cover without exposing other defensive weaknesses. Bell, Avant and Butler look to be good pass catchers and blockers. Tabb was impressive, but Gonzalez has been uninvolved as he broke his hand. We had 7 solid receivers with two being gamebreakers; unfortunately, with Gonzalez and Avant his hurt, we are down to 5 scholarship receivers here for the Irish. We will probably throw 20-30 times a game depending on how well we do with our running game; we will probably have to throw more against good teams like Notre Dame, Ohio State, etc. We are solid at these positions (Flanker and Wide Receiver); we have speed, quickness, deep threat, crossing, quick toss, solid blocking, etc. We will take a B- though due to drops, overthrows and injuries. The Irish corners, Vontez Duff (their Captain), Glenn Earl (Thorp nominee), Garron Bible and Jason Beckstrom will be tested.

TE-Unfortunately, we haven't show much here. Massaquoi only caught two passes in two games; he, Mingery and Ecker logged most of the playing time and they blocked for the most part. We will be hard pressed to get as much production as last year when Joppru made over 50 catches. It looks like Fisher was back against Houston so possibly his absence in the first game was due to suspension or injury. We cannot say this is a solid position. Time will tell whether it is a weak position; it will be mostly a blocking position as is our fullback/H-back. We'll send in a grade of C+.

Offensive Line: We took one sack in two games; there were several hurries in the Houston game. Pape and Baas are 1st team All-Big 10 and possible All-Americans. Stenavich and Lentz looked solid. Pearson didn't appear to make all of his blocks, and that could be a problem against the tough teams up the middle. When the second team came in, Solomon, Kolodziej, Henige, Christopfel, Bihl, Riley, Gaston and Morgan seemed to be a good group. We appear solid here at every position and as a group; however, injuries could be a factor here. We grade out as an A- so far! The challenge for the Irish game will be to get 200+ yards rushing, no sacks, tipped passes or hurries. This game should tell whether we have a top notch line or not because the Irish are solid in their defensive front. The matchup that scares me the most is Dave Pearson against Greg Pauley or Cedric Hilliard; we may need to double the noseguard with Lentz. Notre Dame had 2 sacks in their 6 tackles for loss against the Cougars with 2 forced fumbles, one pick and 3 pass break ups.

Kicking: Place-Kicking and Kickoffs-Nienberg consistently drove the ball in the end zone or inside the 5. Kickoffs/Kickoff Returns: It looks like we have good coverage on kickoffs. LeSueur and Hood are our deep threats, and the fake reverse was a nice look for the Irish to see. Three of six field goals isn't an impressive performance for the first two games. Hopefully, we'll improve here, but to say that we aren't concerned is an understatement. In order to win a national championship or big ten title, we must be able to count of our kicking game when a close game is "on the line." We will give the kicking game a B grade so far. Rivas appears to have won the placekicking duties for field goals and extra points. Hopefully, the Irish game won't come down to Rivas or Setta; however, if it does, the Irish certainly have the advantage.

Defensively: Group grade is a B+ so far! Only 10 points scored against in two games for a 5 points per game average.

Ends: The second game was a complete reverse of the first game; we were very impressive here. They get a D for the first game, but an A for the second for a B- average. Stevens, Kashama, Massey, Van Alstyne and Woodley must contain Carlisle Holiday, and sack him several times. They must also contain Ryan Grant and Julius Jones on the run. This will be a real test for our ends. The Irish were only 4 of 16 in 3rd down conversions with 5 fumbles (losing 3 to Washington State) and 9 penalties in their first game; we need to continue to keep their self-esteem low by stopping their rushing attack.

Tackles: So far, I've been the most impressed with Watson and Ofili, and the least impressed with starters Heuer and Bowman. Harrison didn't play against Houston; hopefully he'll be back against Notre Dame. We give this group a C+ so far. We definitely could use some recruiting help here, but until that happens we'll simply have to be satisfied with the coaching scheme. We've always played smaller guys here that for the most part are former linebackers converted. They'll be blocked initially, but spin and squirm to the ball. Our linebackers will have to fill to help our line recover from the initial push. I'm concerned at this position; I see Watson as receiving more and more playing time. Our "angle" scheme is one teams like Notre Dame will exploit. Senior Jim Molinaro, left tackle for the Irish, is their offensive captain although they are picking new captains week-to-week this year. Sean Milligan is the other senior on their offensive line. Washington State caused 6 sacks in their 9 tackles for loss including 3 forced fumbles and one pick; however, Notre Dame was 5 for 5 in the red zone for their 29 points.

Linebackers: I was very impressed all linebackers as they also improved a lot between game one and two. Even though Diggs was gone with a family tragedy; I feel comfortable with our starters and depth here. Let's give this group a B+! Reid, Woods, Manning, Sarantos and Kaufman give us solid rotations, and hopefully Reid and Crable will be available. We will certainly be tested by the strong Irish running game.

Corners: Curry and LeSueur look to be solid corners, but they will be tested with the outstanding team of Irish receivers: Stovall and Jenkins, McKnight and Rodamer. I don't think we have great depth here with a true freshman, Hall, as our 3rd corner in. Hood looks to be the 4th. We'll give them a B so far. The Irish will be looking to exploit us here; hopefully, we can get some picks with Jackson and LeSueur. Luckily, the Irish aren't strong at tight end as Godsey was out against Washington State.

Safeties: Marlin Jackson and Shazor give us two solid starters here; Stewart is a solid backup, but after that we are inexperienced with Barringer and Shaw. Burgess is only seeing action on special teams. Barringer is still hurt, and didn't play against Houston. We'll give the safeties a B also. Look for the Irish to try to burn us deep to keep our safeties back so they can run.

Punting/Punt Returns: Finley is doing a solid job! Coverage looks to be good with Hood, Shazor, Mundy, Burgess and others competing as "flyers." Breaston is a game-breaker on returns; you can bet the Irish will be sending their fastest downfield to prevent him from jitterbugging. This group gets an A so far. Vontez Duff gives the Irish a big threat on punt returns as does Julius Jones on kickoffs.

Schedule/Results of Second Week: It looks like our two toughest games will be Notre Dame and Ohio State. The Irish have an outstanding defense. If you look at their roster, they have an awful lot of talent including several players we recruited heavily. Their leaders on offense are Holiday, Grant and Molinaro; on defense, Watson, Duff, Curry and Earl lead a staunch, turnover seeking group. It won't be easy and certainly expect a "nailbiter." Advantage for us in home field advantage; advantage for the Irish is Nick Setta and an outstanding kicking game including the "luck of the Irish." Ohio State was very impressive, and hopefully we'll improve enough to stop their streak at two. Michigan State was also impressive; Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Purdue will all be tough in the Big Ten. Certainly, USC looks to be one solid threat for the Pac-10 title along with Oregon.