Assessing the Michigan Wolverine Football Team after Game 4, 3-1

Offensively: Overall grade of B-; Michigan ranks 7th in the nation in total offense and 9th in scoring offense. We are ranked 10th or 11th in the major polls as a team, and 2nd or 3rd in the Big Ten.

QB-Navarre had a terrible game second game and fourth game; he overthrew a lot of receivers. He continues to have several passes batted down at the line of scrimmage every game; it is hard to believe he has started 33 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 is out for the year, and Clayton Richard made the travel team to Eugene. I would give Navarre a B- grade after four games, and 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 doesn't seem like he can lead us to a 12-1 season. He is ranked 63rd in passing efficiency and 38th in total offense. Our team is ranked 38th in passing offense.

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 four games. Thompson really messed up when he let his man by to block the punt that put Oregon ahead, 21-31. We sure could use Sanderson here especially in the red zone. The position gets a solid B so far; it was up to an A-, but the Oregon game brought it down.

TB-Perry has been solid; it wasn't his fault that our line was outplayed by the Ducks. Underwood also looked solid, but now has a shoulder injury that may limit his playing time. I've been more impressed with Jackson than Rembert; he is quicker and probably faster, but it looks like Rembert is the new backup because of his size. Bradley looks like he can contribute, too. It has been nice to see Bracken come in and contribute, too. Hopefully, we'll be able to stay away from fumbles and turnovers against the good teams. We are solid at this position! Let's give Perry and company an A- due to a few fumbles, and a mediocre Oregon performance. Despite the poor performance, Perry is still ranked 4th nationally in rushing, 10th in all-purpose running and our team is ranked 10th in rushing.

WR-We now have three solid receivers: Edwards, Avant and Breaston! They are gamebreakers and backbreakers! Tabb has been impressive, but didn't play at Oregon. We don't know if it was injury or discipline. Bell, Butler and Gonzalez (broken hand) have been uninvolved. We really need some recruits here. We will take a B+ for this position thus far, but any more injuries here may deplete the position. Braylon ranks 25th nationally in pass receptions, but only 45th in yards per game and 30th in total yards. I think teams are willing to give him his catches so long as he doesn't break long plays; he may wear out as he did last Saturday doing all the running.

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 cannot say this is a solid position. We'll send in a grade of C-.

Offensive Line: We took five sacks against Oregon, and our line couldn't establish a running game with -10 yards. They go from an A- after Notre Dame to a B-. Pape didn't look like any All-American against Oregon; I'm beginning to question his toughness and meanness. Lentz has looked better than anyone else, but Baas is our best lineman overall. We have a long way to go here if we are to be a solid 200+ yard per game rushing team against quality opponents. I'm not sure we could get 200 against the likes of Iowa, Purdue or Ohio State. We also don't pick up the blitz very well in our backfield.

Kicking: Place-Kicking and Kickoffs-Nienberg has consistently drove the ball in the end zone or inside the 5 unless he has been up against a nasty wind; he has been solid. Kickoffs/Kickoff Returns: It looks like we have good coverage on kickoffs. LeSueur is an above average returner, but until coaches decide to use Breaston, we won't have a gamebreaking threat. LeSueur is ranked 17th nationally. Field goal kicking and extra points have been severely disappointing. If you can't even consistently kick an extra point, how can you be considered a good football team? The blocked field goal for a touchdown was a pleasant surprise. We'd have an A- if it weren't for field goals and extra points, but overall grade is a C+ since we are about a D- in that phase of the game.

Defensively: Group grade is a B so far! It would be a B+ if it weren't for our embarrassing punting debacle in Oregon. Only 27 points scored against in four games for a 7 points per game average. Oregon was only 1 of 7 in 3rd down conversions in the second half, and managed only the one field goal. 3rd down conversions are only 22% which is outstanding, and best in the Big Ten. The defense actually only let up 17 points as special teams accounted for the other 14. Our defense ranks 7th nationally in total defense and 6th in scoring defense.

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. I'd say overall, Markus Curry has been our best player. He leads the team in tackles with 18, has one interception and has 3 pass break ups.

Ends: Stevens, Massey and Kashama have done a capable job, but didn't have a sack against the Ducks. They have been inconsistent with quality efforts against Houston and Notre Dame, but lackluster performances against Central Michigan and Oregon. Two A's and two C's average out to a B. It is nice to see Woodley work in behind backup Van Alstyne. Stevens ranks 33rd in pass sacks.

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 Iowa, Minnesota, 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 didn't make the Eugene trip, injury or discipline. These positions rate a C- (strongly considered a D+).

Linebackers: Diggs is a decent MIKE linebacker, but he is not outstanding! Reid shows signs of improvement, and looks definitely like he has more potential at WILL than Kaufman. Woods is no Hobson and is learning the SAM position. At times, he looks like he's really causing trouble for offenses, but at other times, he isn't even near the play. Manning and McClintock are solid backups. It is too bad Crable has had a shoulder injury because he may have to redshirt now. If so, Sarantos, Burgess and Kaufman will rotate as necessary between WILL and SAM. We'll give this group a B+, but those two 19 yard touchdown runs by Oregon in the first half really hurt their credibility.

Corners: Curry and LeSueur look to be solid corners, and have not been burned for a touchdown pass yet. Hall is logging more and more playing time and developing. Hood hasn't show much yet, but he hasn't had a chance to play that much either. We are allowing less than 140 yards per game in passing, and only 9 yards per catch. You'd have to give our corners high marks because they haven't been beat for a TD pass and they've come up and made some big tackles every game. Let's give an A-. We rank 6th in passing efficiency defense and 7th in pass defense.

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 on tight ends as exemplified in the Oregon game. Stewart is a solid backup, but got hurt celebrating after the Notre Dame game and didn't make the trip to Oregon. Barringer didn't play for the past two games, and rumor has it that it isn't injury, but disciplinary. He did have a bad hand and calf injury earlier though. We simply haven't show as much at these positions as I thought. We haven't been burned deep, but we look worse here than last year with June and Drake. I'll go B- here.

Punting/Punt Returns: Talk about Jekyl & Hyde, Breaston is a game-breaker on returns as exemplified against Notre Dame; yet, we start Curry here against Oregon. Breaston is ranked 7th nationally. We get a punt blocked and another returned for two touchdowns and give Oregon 14 points. We go from a solid A after Notre Dame to a D+. Finley has also been hot and cold with some nice coffin corner punts downed inside the 20, but also some shanks. He is only averaging 36.6 yards on 17 punts with a net punting average of 30.5 yards. Our flyers (Cummings and Young) on punt coverage haven't show much either. We rank 110th of 117 Division I teams in net punting.

Schedule/Results of Fourth Week: Iowa will be a tough game as will Minnesota on the road. Purdue will present challenges and Ohio State will be tough to beat. We could end up 11-1 and in a BCS bowl or 9-3 or 8-4 and in the Alamo Bowl unless the improvement begins immediately.