Assessing the Michigan Wolverine Football Team after Game 7, 5-2

Offensively: Overall grade of B! Michigan ranks 13th in the nation in total offense and 14th in scoring offense (2nd in the Big Ten). We are ranked 17th or 20th in the major polls as a team. While we are below are pre-season rankings and have been a disappointment as a team. We have show offensively that we can come back. We just came back from 7-28 and 14-35 deficits to defeat Minnesota. We also came back from a 6-24 deficit to 21-24 to Oregon before the punt block; still, we had a shot with the onside kick recovery to win offensively. Similarly, we came back from 20-30 against Iowa to have a chance on our last possession behind 27-30.

QB-Navarre just engineered the greatest comeback in Michigan football history. Still, many will be glad he is only starting 6 more games in his career. He continues to have several passes batted down at the line of scrimmage, overthrows, underthrows, etc.; it is hard to believe he has started 36 games with the same types of problems. Gutierrez looks sharp when he's played and is the backup. He is very mobile especially on the bootleg. Brinton is out for the year, and Clayton Richard made the travel teams as 3rd string although he'll redshirt. I would give Navarre a B grade after seven games although my confidence in him has deteriorated. He gets an A for effort, but his talent is mediocre to above average for a Division I quarterback. He has a great attitude, but is short on talent. He is a likeable person, and a true Michigan man in every way. We'd all like to see him achieve better. Unfortunately, it will be tough for him to beat Ohio State; he will need a lot of team support to pull that off. He is ranked 51st in passing efficiency, 29th in points responsible for and 25th in total offense. Our team is ranked 22nd in passing offense. Our red zone offense has improved to #2 in the Big Ten with 90% efficiency: 27 of 30 attempts with 21 TD's and 5 field goals.

FB-Dudley has been a pleasant surprise; he has blocked quite well so far. He has had no carries and one catch in seven games. Thompson really messed up when he let his man by to block the punt in the Oregon game; he has 3 catches on the season and no carries. We sure could use Sanderson here especially in the red zone; Allison will also be a welcome addition here. The position gets a solid B so far for blocking, but the scheme from the coaches gets an E.

TB-Perry has been solid; he ran for 85 yards on 20 carries and caught 11 passes for 122 yards, and scored 2 touchdowns against Minnesota. He has 859 yards on 156 carries for a 5.5 yard per carry average; he also has 9 rushing TDs. He has 27 catches for 222 yards for 2 TDs; that gives him 11 total TDs. He is our 3rd leading receiver behind Edwards and Avant. Underwood also looked strong, but now has a shoulder injury that may limit his playing time. I've been impressed with both Jackson and Rembert. Bradley looks like he can contribute, too. It has been nice to see Bracken come in and contribute, too; he did play in the Minnesota game. Unfortunately, we have fumbled the ball way too much, and almost gave the Minnesota game away if it were not for Massaquoi's timely recovery. We are solid at this position, but we must limit or prohibit turnovers! Let's give Perry and company an A- . Perry is still ranked 6th nationally in rushing, 10th in all-purpose running, 13th in scoring and our team is ranked 30nd in rushing.

WR-We now have four solid receivers: Edwards (43), Avant (28), Perry (27) and Breaston (21)! They are gamebreakers and backbreakers! Bell, Tabb, Gonzalez and Butler have been uninvolved and have only 10 catches between them in seven games. We really need some recruits here. We will take a B+ for this position thus far. Braylon ranks 26th nationally in pass receptions and now has 43 catches for 575 yards (13.4 yards per catch), but only 40th in yards per game and 23th in total yards. Edwards has accounted for 7 TDs, and the one two point conversion.

TE-Unfortunately, we haven't show much here. Massaquoi only caught seven passes in seven games; he, Mingery and Ecker logged most of the playing time and they blocked for the most part. Ecker, Mingery and Fisher have 6 more catches between them. We cannot say this is a solid position; in fact, this is our weak link offensively. Perhaps, we should just put in another tackle like Kolodziej and use the position to block. We'll send in a grade of D+.

Offensive Line: We only allowed one sack against Minnesota, and have given up 9 sacks in 7 games. Our line couldn't establish a running game against Oregon, Indiana, Iowa or Minnesota. They go from an A- after Notre Dame to a C+. Pape doesn't look like any All-American; I'm beginning to question his toughness and meanness. Lentz has looked better than anyone else, but Baas is our best lineman overall. We aren't a solid 200+ yard per game rushing team which has been our goal. We also don't pick up the blitz very well in our backfield.

Kicking: Place-Kicking and Kickoffs-Nienberg has consistently driven the ball into the end zone for touchbacks, and we have less than a 20 yards kickoff return average so that is good. Rivas has become the placekicker we've hoped for. He did a nice job in the Minnesota and Iowa games, and is now 6 of 7 with 3 of 4 in the 40-49 yard range. LeSueur is an above average returner, and we sure notice a drop-off when Tabb and Hood are deep. We are no threat to teams in kickoff returns, and rank 75th nationally. We are improving here so we go up to a solid B.

Defensively: 3rd down conversions are 30% which is good, but could improve. The defense actually only let up 109 points as special teams accounted for the other 14. Our defense ranks 13th nationally in total defense and 23rd in scoring defense. This group slips to a B-.

What seems to hurt this defense as a group is nobody has stepped up to be the leader. Diggs is our captain, Jackson supposedly has the most talent, Bowman and Heuer are seniors along with Stevens and Kashama. There are talented players, but we don't seem to be seeing a lot of passion and synergy. Reid and Woods lead the team in tackles with 42 each, Jackson has 38, Diggs 33 and Shazor 31. We say Heuer spend most of the time in the Minnesota game inspecting the turf while Bowman was always chasing behind the play after being blocked.

Ends: Stevens, Massey, Kashama and Woodley have done a capable job, but didn't have a sack against the Ducks. It is nice to see Woodley work in behind backup Van Alstyne. Stevens has had trouble with with foot injury limiting his playing time.This group has been responsible for 18 tackles for loss including 7 sacks in 7 games. B-

Tackles: We definitely could use some recruiting help here, but we've all been saying that for years. 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. Heuer and Bowman are simply uninvolved and getting manhandled; it will continue against Big Ten teams like Purdue and Ohio State. I'm concerned at this position; I see Watson as receiving more and more playing time. Our "angle" scheme is one teams exploit and manipulate. Harrison has looked good. It is a mystery why Ofili hasn't played more. Heuer only has 8 tackles in 7 games. Bowman and Heuer have accounted for one sack each in 7 games. After the Minnesota game, our rushing defense is ranked 68th nationally. This position rates a D-.

Linebackers: Diggs is a decent MIKE linebacker, but he is not outstanding! Reid shows signs of improvement, and now leads the team in tackles along with Woods. Woods is no Hobson and is learning the SAM position, but he is working hard while making mistakes. At times, he looks like he's really causing trouble for offenses, but at other times, he isn't even near the play. Woods leads our defense in sacks with 4 and 7 tackles for loss. Manning and McClintock are solid backups. It is too bad Crable has had a shoulder injury because he may have to redshirt now. Sarantos, Burgess and Kaufman have seen very limited play at WILL and SAM. We'll give this group a B.

Corners: Curry and LeSueur look to be solid corners. Hall has done a nice job for LeSueur in his absence. Hood hasn't show much yet, but he hasn't had a chance to play that much either. We are allowing less than 133 yards per game in passing, and only 9 yards per catch. We have 8 interceptions in 7 games, 2 for touchdowns. You'd have to give our corners high marks because they've only been beat for 2 TD passes and they've come up and made some big tackles every game. Let's give an A- here. We rank 2nd in passing efficiency defense and 2nd in pass defense; when was the last time a Michigan defense did this?

Safeties: Marlin Jackson has not looked like an All-American nor a pro prospect at free safety. Shazor is solid against the run, but hasn't given us good coverage in pass situations. Stewart is a solid backup, and should be a starter. If we did this, Jackson could return to corner until LeSueur is healed. Barringer hasn't played much since the opener. Mundy has only been in for a few plays. Our red zone safety play hasn't been impressive, and we were burned deep in Iowa's final touchdown. Minnesota also burned us for 3 long touchdown runs. I'll go B- here.

Punting/Punt Returns: We rank 17th in punt returns with a 14.3 yard average per return., Breaston is a game-breaker; he is ranked 6th nationally with a 16.8 yard per return average. We've had two punts blocked and another returned for three touchdowns and those errors have cost us two defeats. Finley has also been hot and cold with some nice coffin corner punts downed inside the 20, but also some shanks. Finley is ranked 85th nationally while averaging 38.85 yards on 26 punts with a net punting average of 28.2 yards. Our flyers (Cummings and Young) on punt coverage haven't show much either; I can't figure out why we are not using Mundy, Tabb and Hood or other speedier people as flyers on punt coverage. We rank 115th of 117 Division I teams in net punting. Talk about Jekyll & Hyde special teams; 14.3 yards per return, but only 28.2 yards in net punting, we might as well "go for it" on 4th down. Our punting area gets a D+ because even though we have a good punt return team, the net punting has cost us two games in the loss column.

Schedule/Results of Seventh Week: Illinois and Northwestern are sure wins! This would only give us a total of 7. We have Purdue, Michigan State and Ohio State as potential wins or losses; this would give us a 7-5 to 10-2 season, and give us a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl or send us to the Capital One, Outback, Alamo, Sun, Music City or Motor City Bowls depending on how we and other teams end up performing. We are ranked 82nd nationally in turnover margin while Michigan State is ranked 4th nationally; that could be a difference at East Lansing along with net punting (115th vs. 7th for the Spartans). They have the best punter and field goal kicker in the Big Ten. Taplin, Labinjo and Askew are doing a tremendous job putting heat on opposing quarterbacks just as they did against Iowa; they lead the conference with 30 sacks. On the dark side for the Sparties, they are the most penalized team in the Big Ten averaging nearly 10 penalties for 83 yards per game. Purdue is leading the Big Ten in total defense and teams have been limited to the least first downs and least 3rd down conversions of any Big Ten team. Purdue also leads the Big Ten in time of possession with 34:30 minutes per game. Ohio State is leading the conference in rushing defense, red zone offense and they are #2 in red zone defense. Will Smith, A.J. Hawk, Chris Gamble, Dustin Fox, Robert Reynolds and the Buck defense will try to negate their impotent offense without Maurice Clarett with a stringy defense.