Connecticut vs. Michigan Preview

The first game of the Michigan Football 2010 season will be a real exciting game for a number of reasons. Let's put a few things into perspective! First, we know the obvious and that is that this is a home game in The Big House, and the huge improvements to The Big House including re-dedication of the largest collegeiate football stadium in the world makes this a great start to the season. Second, we all know that Michigan is an underdog in this game in their own stadium that they are re-dedicating. Michigan will be led out to their banner by an Ohio State student, Brock Mealer, who is the brother of one of the players on the Michigan roster, Elliott Mealer. After an automobile accident on December 24, 2007, the Mealer's lost their father, David, and Elliott lost his girlfriend, Hollis Richer, on their way to midnight mass. As a result of injuries sustained in the accident, Brock Mealer was told he'd never be able to walk again. It will be a very inspiring moment for the Mealer's, Michigan fans and everyone on both sides of the field to witness one of life's miracles to begin this event.

Connecticut comes in with a good football team, ranked #31 or #33 in the two major polls for pre-season (Sports Illustrated ranked them #23), with 18 of 22 starters returning from a 2009 team that finished 8-5, tied for 4th in the 8 team Big East Conference with an impressive Bowl victory over a tough SEC South Carolina team. They also defeated Notre Dame at South Bend and a rugged South Florida team. The Huskies were also picked to finish 4th in their 8 team Big East Conference behind Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and West Virginia. The Huskies have a well-respected coach in Randy Edsall who prepares his teams well and is beginning his 12th season there. Edsall was a former assistant at Syracuse under former Michigan coach Frank Maloney. Edsall also coached under New York Giants (2009 Super Bowl Champs) Head Coach, Tom Coughlin, at Boston College and the Jacksonville Jaguars; he played for Coughlin as well when he attended Syracuse. Connecticut plays in a stadium that holds 40,000 so The Big House capacity of over 110,000 will be a new experience for them. This will also be the first meeting between the two teams, and Connecticut has no natural rivals to prepare for each year like Ohio State or Michigan State as we do.

The weather forecast for the game was low to mid-70s and sunny, but as happens in Michigan, the weather has changed to mid-60s with high wins so expect a lot of missed passes and drops. The team who has the wind behind them in the 4th quarter will have a big advantage if it is a nailbiter. Let's first look at the Michigan offense and how it matches up with the Connecticut defense! Michigan will probably start Denard Robinson at quarterback, Vincent Smith at running back, Daryl Stonum, Roy Roundtree and Martavious Odoms at the three wide receiver positions and Kevin Koger at Tight End. Expect to see many substitutions so fresh, speedy players are ready to contribute on every offensive play. These six skill players and their backups at these offensive positions will have a big, quick and tough offensive line in front of them. Most Michigan fans believe that this offensive line will be one of the best in the Big Ten and NCAA in 2010 because of the added depth. Co-Captain, four year starter and Outland Trophy candidate, Stephen Schilling, anchors tough, quick, physical offensive line that returns Dave Molk, Patrick Omameh, Perry Dorenstein and Mark Huyge and all started games last year. This group began the 2009 as a solid blocking unit, but the injury to Molk really hurt their second half performance. Some of Michigan's backups that should play include: Running Backs Michael Shaw, Mike Cox, Stephen Hopkins and Fullback John McColgan, Receivers Martell Webb, Junior Hemingway, Je'Ron Stokes and Kelvin Grady, Offensive Linemen Taylor Lewan, Quinton Washington, Ricky Barnum and Mike Schofield, and Quarterback Tate Forcier. Fitzgerald Touissaint won't play today due to injuries. Coach Rod has had two full recruiting classes and three years to implement his spread offense, and he now has the personnel to run his offensive schemes so we can expect a big offensive year from the Wolverines. In 2009, Michigan was ranked #4 in the Big Ten in rushing and scoring offense, but dead last in red zone efficiency, turnover margin and time of possession so Michigan fans are hoping to see an improved offense that can prove it will score more and turn the ball over less.

The Huskies' defense are led by Bednarik, Lombardi and Nagurski All-American candidate in Senior Outside Linebacker, Lawrence Wilson. Last year, Wilson had 140 total tackles in 13 games and the Alabama native has started 37 games for the Huskies. Edsall suprised many by naming Senior Greg Lloyd as starting Inside Linebacker; he had 91 tackles last year as a Defensive End until he went down with a knee injury in their 11th game. He is the son of former All-Pro Pittsburgh Steelers Linebacker, Greg Lloyd. The Huskies outside or "Husky" linebacker, Scott Lutrus, is also a Senior and one of their Captains. Michigan's three up front linemen: Schilling, Molk and Omameh will have to play their best games to prevent these linebackers from clogging up plays. Up front, the Huskies play a 4-3 scheme. Their two defensive tackles are Juniors, Twyon Martin and Kendall Reyes, and the ends are Sophomores, Jesse Joseph and Trevardo Williams. Reyes is also one of their four Captains. The Huskies have two Sophomore cornerbacks in Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh-Wilson, and two Junior safeties in Harris Agbor and Kijuan Dabney. Connecticut's defensive backfield struggled in 2009. Jasper "Jazz" Howard, former starting cornerback for Connecticut, will be a fifth honorary captain for the season; he was stabbed to death on October 18, 2009. Connecticut will have a tough defense, but it will be hard-pressed to contain a fast, well-prepared offensive unit for Michigan.

On defense, Michigan will have five new starters from a team that finished 82nd nationally and 9th in the Big Ten in 2009. On the defensive line, Mike Martin and Ryan VanBergen return and the third starter will be 5th year Senior Greg Banks. Coach Rod has praised Martin as being the best nose guard he has ever coached, and expects him to be the best nose tackle in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country. VanBergen is starting for his 3rd year. It is hoped that the defensive front will improve its sacks and limit opponent's running games. Sophomore Outside Linebacker Craig Roh will lead a group of linebackers that had significant problems in 2009. As a result of those problems, Senior Mark Moundros has moved to Mike-Middle Linebacker and his teammates voted him defensive captain after starting the 2008 and 2009 campaigns as fullback. Senior Jonas Mouton returns at WILL-Inside Linebacker and true Freshman Carvin Johnson replaces Stevie Brown in the Spur position which is a Hybrid Linebacker/Safety in the 3-3-5 defensive scheme. Redshirt Freshman Cameron Gordon has won the Free Safety or Box Safety position, Sophomores J.T. Floyd and Jordan Kovacs return to the cornerback and Bandit Strong Safety positions and Senior James Rogers will replace Troy Woolfolk at their other cornerback position. Rogers was injured in practice on Wednesday, September 1 and his backups are Freshmen Terrence Talbott, Courtney Avery and Cullen Christian. Some other backups fans should expect to see play are: Obi Ezeh, Kenny Demens, Brandon Herron, Mike Jones and J.B. Fitzgerald at Linebacker, Marvin Robinson, Vladimir Emilien and Thomas Gordon at Safety, Will Campbell, Adam Patterson and Renaldo Sagesse on the defensive front. Backup Free Safety Andy Van Slyke broke his collarbone this week, and won't play. Most Michigan fans are hoping that this group will jell and improve as the season progresses to resemble former great Wolverine defenses. Defensive coordinator, Greg Robinson, is now also personally coaching the linebackers. Robinson has been a successful defensive coordinator for three NFL teams and the University of Texas. We all know that the key to having a successful defense is having great personnel that play together as a unit, and hopefully this group will respond to the challenge. Tackling has been a concern for coaches and fans for Michigan football for several years, even before Coach Rod came to Ann Arbor.

The Huskies return two All-Big East selections on their offensive line with Junior Center Moe Petrus and Offensive Guard Zac Hurd. Hurd is one of their Captains. They also return starters in Junior Right Tackle Mike Ryan and Left Guard Mathieu Olivier. Left Tackle Adam Masters is a new starter and he'll line up against VanBergen most of the time so that will be a matchup to watch along with Petrus on Martin and Ryan on Banks. Hurd and Olivier will be getting acquainted with Roh and Moundros as well. Notre Dame transfer and Senior Quarterback Zach Frazer will lead a very potent Connecticut offense. Frazer was recruited by Michigan and visited during his senior year in high school. Junior Running Back and Doak Walker candidate, Jordan Todman, averages over 5 yards a carry and has a bruising fullback to lead the way in Senior Captain Anthony Sherman. Also, expect to see USC transfer, D.J. Shoemate and Junior Robbie Frey with some carries. The Huskies are a ball control team and value a time of possession advantage. They also have a big target with Mackey Award candidate and Junior Tight End, Ryan Griffin. Frazer will also be looking for his three primary wide receivers in Juniors Michael Smith, Kashif and Isaiah Moore (not brothers). It will be very interesting to see how James Rogers, J.T. Floyd and Carvin Johnson do in their first game against these three receivers. It will also be telling to see how the Huskies are able to handle Michigan's blitz package and pass rush.

Special teams will be a real adventure for Michigan in 2010. The Wolverines lost their placekicker, kickoff, holders and punt specialists so they'll be starting either true Freshman or Redshirt Freshman at all three positions. Practice reports of Will Hagerup's punting have been comforting, but we don't know how our flyers will be. Last year, James Rogers and Zac Johnson rushed down on punt coverage. We won't know until the first punt who our flyers will be since these are not posted on the depth chart. The inconsistency of all the placekickers, Seth Broekhuisen and Brendan Gibbons lead a Michigan fan to conclude that we'll be faced with our opponent's having great field position to start offensive drives and a lack of confidence if a games comes down to the swing of a foot. In a high scoring "shoot out," one hopes the outcome of the game won't be decided by a field goal. The Wolverines will feature a solid kickoff return team with Daryl Stonum, but they'll have a new punt returner in Redshirt Freshman Jeremy Gallon with Martavious Odoms and Terrence Robinson as backups on punts and kickoffs. Michigan also has a new holder in Freshman Drew Dileo who is also a threat to run on a fake. Tom Pomarico has returned as the snapper for punts, extra points and field goals. Connecticut also has a new punter with Freshman Walk-on Cole Wagner, but a returning kickoff and field goal specialist in and Junior Dave Teggert. Last season, Teggert his all 46 extra points and 14 of 23 field goals; however, his longest was a 47 yarder and he was only 4 of 9 from 40-49 yards. The Huskies also feature a dangerous kickoff returner in Todman as well so this area of special teams will be rather unpredictable especially in a first game scenario.

Coach Rod has had a difficult first two seasons at the helm of the Wolverines with a 8-16 record, and recently said in an interview that he has alligator skin as a result of the criticism and controversies that have beseiged him since he left West Virginia in December, 2007 to replace a retiring Lloyd Carr as Michigan's head football coach. The consensus of his supporters and detractors appears to be that he must have a winning season in 2010 to keep his job beyond this third season. He is definitely on the "hot seat" with his job, and the admitted NCAA violations with a letter of reprimand from new Michigan Athletic Director, David Brandon, haven't helped his situation at all.

This game will be one of the most compelling non-conference pairings in Michigan football history due to all the reasons cited, and the other sub-plots that will add to the suspense. Although Connecticut returns many players from a team that was better than Michigan in 2009, it is a new season. I believe that Michigan is hungrier, more motivated and will play better in their first home game of the year much like they did against Western Michigan to start 2009. Ultimately, this game should be decided by the "big uglies" up front on both sides of the ball. Our offensive line must defeat their defensive line, and our defensive line must defeat their offensive line. There is nothing more dangerous in college football than a football program with the tradition and history of Michigan who is an underdog at home in the first game of the year, and been told by 59 NCAA Division I Head Coaches (USA Today Coaches Poll), sportswriters and fans that they are not going to be a very good football team. Who do I predict will win this game? Expect a Michigan win!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

MICHIGAN WOLVERINES 42 Connecticut Huskies 31

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Official Depth Chart less injuries to Toussaint and Van Slyke

Michigan Depth Chart and Game Notes for Connecticut

Connecticut Depth Chart for Michigan

Connecticut Game Notes

Big Ten Network Preview

Coach Rod Press Conference August 30

Daryl Stonum, Mike Martin, Steve Schilling and Roy Roundtreee on August 30

Inside Michigan Football (Part II)

Beanie Bowl

Coach Dews and Gibson discuss Wide Receivers and Defensive Backs

Coach Rod Press Conference August 25-Part I (Part II)

Rodriquez, Barwis receive Letters of Reprimand

Fan Day Video (Ann

Coach Robinson Interview on Fan Day (Coach Rodriquez-Part I and Part II, Coach Magee)

Fan Day Pictures: The Detroit News (Free Press, Flickr,

Michigan Decommitments, Transfers and Resignations in Coach Rod's Era

Austin White Quits

Saturday Scrimmage on August 21

Season Preview with Coach Rod

Coach Rod Press Conference August 19 (Part II)

Offensive Coordinator Calvin Magee Press Conference August 18

Wolfolk breaks ankle, out for the season

Coach Rod Press Conference August 16

Michigan plays Wait and See with NCAA Ruling

Rich Rod and Brandon go to Seattle to face NCAA scrutiny

Two a Days begin

First Day in pads on August 13 with Big Ten Network Tweeting

Coach Rod Press Conference August 12

J.T. Turner granted release to Transfer

Moundros and Schilling to Captain the 2010 Football Team

Michigan State to be a "strong" challenge in 2010

Countdown to Kickoff: Mike Parrish, Director of Football Operations

Countdown to Kickoff: Captain Draft

Fan Day: August 22 1-3 p.m.

Tickets Available for 2010 Football Season $50-65 each

Rich Rod Press Conference: August 9

First Day of Camp: August 9

First Team Meeting August 8, First Practice August 9--Fall Roster

Countdown to Kickoff: Jon Falk and the Winged Helmet

Rumors about Michael Shaw possibly not being eligible for Fall academically

Stonum puts 3 Days in the Washtenaw County Jail

Moundros, Schilling & Woolfolk to represent Wolverines at Big Ten Conference Media Day on August 3

88 Pictures on The Big House: 109,901 Capacity, Largest NCAA Stadium in U.S.

31 Pictures of the open house for The Big House: July 14, 2010

24 More Pictures of the New Big House

23 More Pictures of The Big House

Tickets available for 2010 Michigan Football Season on June 29

Dave Hirth and MDen signs 10 Year Deal with Michigan

Nebraska becomes Big Ten's 12th Team, Divisions and Championship game coming

Conelius Jones to Fork Union, Signing Class of 27 is now 24

Dorsey to Louisville, Kinard to Prep School

Demar Dorsey likely won't be admitted at Michigan even though he's qualified by NCAA

Car Accident Injures 2 Current and 1 Former Wolverine Football Players

Michigan ranked 71st of 120 Division I Teams by The Sporting News in Pre-Season Preview

Orlando Sentinel Ranks Michigan #68 ahead of #69 MSU

Phil Steele has 4 Big Ten Teams in Top 25 for 2010 Season Preview, not Michigan

Spring Scrimmage 2010

May 25, 2010: Michigan Responds to NCAA Infractions with Self-Imposed Penalties

5 Month NCAA Investigation results in Major Rules Infractions in Rodriquez Regime

Mike Martin, David Molk, Vincent Smith to miss Spring Practices

Trust in Rich Rod