Michigan Football Indiana Game Primary Offensive Personnel Grades

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Posted on 6th October 2010 by Ben Krasner in Sports Commentary | University of Michigan Sports

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The offense played pretty well against Indiana, save for a couple of drives and there were some circumstances that led to that.  I would definitely say we left a lot out there, Saturday.  We definitely did not play our A game on offense for the entire game and nowhere was that more evident than the boys up front.  I would go so far to suggest that if our offensive line had done a better job handling Indiana’s front 4 we probably score on at least one more drive.  And, of course, if we don’t drop the ball at the goal line on a bad center-QB exchange we score another time.  Such actions would have changed the game quite a bit because IU would not have been able to play their dink and dunk style of offense and have kept up.  They would have had to press and I believe that would have played into our hands on defense.

Without further ado…

Those that played well:

Junior Hemingway – The best way to put it is that, in our offense, if you are an outside WR that wants the ball you have to demand the attention you seek. If all you want to do is catch screens and hitches, then wait. Wait for the matchup the coaches are looking for against an opponent and be ready for your opportunity. But if you want to be considered a primary weapon in the offense all you need to do is watch Hemingway’s game tape against IU and follow that lead. By getting after it on every play, whether in a route or in blocking or as a decoy, Hemmingway was showing the coaches that he was the man to look for on the outside. Hemmingway simply had a great game, on Saturday, and clearly showed that he’s finally healthy and game ready. Will we continue to see games like this one from Junior if he stays healthy? Only time will tell, but not since the Western Michigan game in 2009 have we seen him as such an obvious, outside, down-the-field threat. Hemmingway’s not blazing with speed and yet played within the scheme to get behind the defense on multiple occasions.  And where, last week, his concentration on the ball failed him, this week Hemmingway caught everything that was thrown in his range and snatched the ball very well.  There’s very little from the IU game for coaches to use on Hemmingway in terms of corrections, and lots to use in terms of building on success.  Line: 3 catches for 129 yards and a TD.  Grade: A

Roy Roundtree – The most consistent and smoothest wide receiver in our arsenal continued his play with a really, really good performance at IU.  There’s a few pieces of film for coaches to use for corrections, but it was great to see Roundtree actually out-run a couple DBs to the endzone on his catch-and-run TD on our second possession.  If he’d have gotten just one good block from Kelvin Grady on his other long catch of the day I’m convinced he scores on that one, too.  Jumping to catch a ball unnecessarily (that admittedly was higher than a coach would like to see from Tate Forcier) cost us a first down when Denard was on the sideline… that was somewhat frustrating, especially because we needed a play, right then.  And there were some isolated blocking items that he graded out a little low at (for me anyway) where he wasn’t as physical as one would like and even lost his block at inopportune timing.  But Roundtree just always suits up and plays ball, and his work is a big factor in making this offense work as well as it is, right now.  He’s caught everything, even the tough one … His 74 yard reception started with a great adjustment to a throw that was behind him.  Roundtree ran consistent routes and had many more routes beyond the underneath options that he was mostly responsible for last week.  It’s almost unreal how well he gives Denard his quick toss option with such preciseness.  Denard really could throw that one with his eyes closed if it weren’t for defenders being on the field that he has to read.  Line: 5 catches for 126 yards and 1 TD.  Grade: A-

Martavious Odoms – Odoms didn’t start the game on the field; he actually didn’t hit the field until close to the end of the first quarter.  I attribute this to (a) Junior Hemmingway’s arrival and (b) our commitment to using an H-back often against IU, which was key in our success.  You then have to rotate Odoms in somewhere and you just cannot take Roundtree off the field at slot.  But when Odoms did get to the field he reminded coaches why he has to be on it.  His forte is the underneath routes, tough running and spirited blocking and that’s exactly what he excelled at against IU.  He would be a great blocker if he had more size (height and longer reach).  Taller DBs can hold him at bay and then shed him or get around him but when he goes full bore and gets into a DBs body that defender is no longer part of the play.  He ran routes well today and caught what was thrown to him.  He also ran tough after the catch.  Wasn’t asked to do a ton but did well.  Line: 2 catches for 19 yards.  Grade: A-

Martell Webb – Webb was the more consistent of the two TE blockers against IU.  He was the more physical TE and the most effective, overall.  His only shot in the passing game came on the same play where Koger caught his TD reception and Webb helpped out by drawing a lot of attention in the middle, there.  Webb sealed the edge well on several plays and did well on the most crucial play of the day – Denard’s game winner.  He only lost points because he sometimes took poor routes to his target and then doesn’t have anyone to hit during the play, or sometimes was simply not quick enough to get to a target.  But he played well within the scheme, didn’t have any penalties and continued to be the blocking asset we need from the edge of the line or from the backfield.  Maybe a little film to coach up with, but not much.  No line.  Grade: B+

Vincent Smith – It’s amazing that certain folk who have access to microphones and keyboards take issue with Smith in the days following him breaking a 56 yard TD, showing continued improvement off his surgery and where executed his role so well, overall.  I attribute this to being myopic on the ball carriers and the scoreboard (we must have blocked well because Denard didn’t get sacked and we scored 42 points, right?).  The truth is 90% of Vincent Smith’s plays are designed to go in between the guards.  Therefore, he’s only going to be the better option (over Denard running it) when Denard sees his defensive keys in position to ’stop’ his outside run option.  Denard isn’t reading the success or failure of the interior offensive line play when he hands the ball to Smith.  If he did, he would have kept several of those and headed outside.  When Smith gets the ball it’s just up to him to make the most of things.  Yes, there is a designed lane and typically when the outside run is contained the inside run is more open.  But credit IU for clogging the middle all day.  When Smith was given the ball on outside read runs, he made hay.  So that should make it pretty obvious that it wasn’t a matter of ‘hitting the hole quicker’ but rather blocking the IU interior.  Smith did everything he could on almost every run, save for maybe 1.  His actions on the option left defenders standing and reading which is what enables Denard to run past them.  Honestly, the only area where Smith lost points against IU was in blocking.  He had one top notch block when we needed it badly on Denard’s game winning TD run (what a great cut block on a blitz pickup) and a couple of other decent blocks prior to that.  But Smith too often just got to his man that he needed to block and didn’t get physical with him.  What’s more, after his option action in the backfield and where he does not get the ball, he almost always turned back to watch the play instead of looking for someone to hit.  We’ve seen him block well before, so it’s likely that this is a temporary issue.  Line: 9 rushes for 80 yards and 1 TD.  Grade: B+

Perry Dorrestein – Perry was Perry.  Against IU you see the same Perry that you see most of the time so far this year.  He is not going to rack up pancake blocks or overpower a D-line all day.  And he isn’t the most mobile of our linemen so sometimes he doesn’t look super in the second level when he’s given that responsibility, but was only tasked with that twice that I recall.  Perry never missed an assignment and never ended up on the ground.  I’d like him to pack more punch when he blocks, but I’m more than content with him taking care of what needs to be taken care of from right tackle.  I have to assume the coaches will view his IU game performance the same way.  Not great, but definitely solid.  Certainly nothing to worry about.  Grade: B

Those who would tell you they should have played better:

Taylor Lewan – Taylor got his first road start of his career under his belt and got his first taste of Big Ten play in the process.  While he generally played his best ball early in the game, play #3 was one he’ll want to forget if he can.  He was absolutely knocked to his butt by a linebacker he was headed out to hit but was not in good position to do so.  He’ll add that to the motivational mix tape.  As the day went on the intensity picked up and Lewan played somewhat less effectively.  He still graded out fairly well but fortunately the refs kept their flags in their pocket because he could have been called for a number of holding penalties.  As a former coach, to me, if a holding penalty wasn’t called I generally say it wasn’t holding, then.  However, Lewan lost enough points to be in this category based on the last drive alone.  Three holds where #44’s jersey was pulled away from his pads (and definitely should have been called) and Lewan was the one who started the tit-for-tat all the way down the field, on that drive, by antagonistically getting his feet into the legs of #44 on the very first play (after dragging him to the ground in what could have been called holding).  He also ended up losing his cool completely at the very end, which was very poor.  Everyone loves the kid’s tenacity and effort and that’s all good.  But control has to be kept as well.  He was the play-side tackle a lot, during the day, and showed very well in many instances.  On the back-side he was not as good.  He found himself on the ground a bit too much today and there’s plenty of both film to coach with this week as well as the mental side of the game.  Basically he get’s a B+ for a blocking grade with subtractions for the couple of holds that were inexplicably not called and the poor decisions on the last drive.  Grade: B

David Molk – Molk wasn’t dominant against IU but played pretty well overall.  IU’s defensive line isn’t too shabby, though not as good as 2009’s.  The interior of our O-line struggled to get good push on most of the zone read plays, Saturday, and Molk was part of that issue – though I would say the guards had more to do with it.  He and Denard combined to drop the ball (literally) on the bad snap on the goal line that was costly.  After a big play they went hurry up and, after getting a penalty on snap one, the defense flinched on snap two.  That flinch made Denard start moving and Molk start moving before they finished the snap.  Actually, he really didn’t have the best day snapping it in the shotgun, either, as several snaps had Denard reaching left or right to catch them.  He was pretty good in the blocking game but maybe not as consistent as one would hope and for someone who likes to hit people as much as he does, it seemed like he was more apt to just mark his man rather than tee off on him.  The center in this scheme moves a lot and Molk did well on his feet, today.  His best play was the chalkboard play of the day – Smith’s 56 yard TD run.  He had to move quickly and take over for Omameh’s block as Omameh headed to the second level.  It was pretty and was the pivot point on the play.  If he doesn’t get there the play gets stopped for a loss.  There’s certainly enough film to coach with, but outside of the snapping Molk played pretty darn well.  Grade: B

Denard Robinson – Denard played about as well as you can play and yet still end up in this category.  His running game was, again, easily excellent with the exception of the couple of series after he went down.  I am convinced that when he aggravated the brusied knee both he and the coaching staff started to over-think what was going on.  They clearly wanted him to avoid hits after that (until they had no other choice) and Denard clearly was hesitant as well.  When he did have the ball in his hands in the running game, on more than one occasion, you could see huge holes that Denard just didn’t jump through as he normally would and in fact did take advantage of earlier in the day.  Eventually, though, the chips were on the table and everyone just said “go”, which is where we (and he) drove the field in a minute and won the game.  As referenced in Molk’s grade, he was half to blame for the botched snap at the goal line – easily his worst mistake from Saturday.  Denard was not as accurate as he has been earlier this season.  Even on a successful play like Roundtree’s 74 yarder, that throw was well behind Roundtree.  Missing Hemmingway on a wide open stop-and-go behind the defense is one Robinson surely wants another shot at, as too was the deep 9 route to Terrence Robinson.  The connection to Hemmingway late in the game was a tough play.  Denard couldn’t stand in the pocket any longer and took a good shot just after releasing it, but that throw was under-thrown and Hemmingway made a great play on the ball.  There were definitely a couple of reads that he made that were incorrect – both in the zone read and in where he did or didn’t run when his number was called.  But even with all of that, he still put up a tremendous showing.  His grade is made up of both the highest of the high and the lowest of the low.  There’s plenty of film work from this game, even for the clear Heisman front runner. Line: 19 rushes for 217 yards and 2 TDs, 10-16 passing for 277 yards and 3 TDs.  Grade: B

Kevin Koger – Koger started the game off with a play where he didn’t hit anyone and then followed that with a great ISO block in the lane that sprung Denard on his first TD run.  And so went the day for Koger who turned in both ‘100′ marks and ‘70′ marks.  He had a much better first half, overall, than he did a second half which is likely why Webb got more action in the second half and why plays went to Webb’s side even when Koger was in the game with him.  Koger played like he was very comfortable with some assignments and very uncomfortable with others and this showed up in his inconsistent physicality.  It was great, though, to see the TEs in the passing game down by the goal line and Koger grabbed his first TD pass of the season on that 3 yard toss.  That play is more important to the season than it was against IU as it gives LBs and safeties yet another item on the high side of their priority list.  Line: 1 catch for 3 yards and 1 TD.  Grade: B-

Daryl Stonum – Stonum wasn’t asked to do a whole lot in the passing game and again had issues with displaying some disinterest out there, Saturday.  But he blocked better and specifically I liked that he blocked all the way through the plays against IU – something he did not do against BG.  My reference made in Hemmingway’s grading about demanding attention is indeed aimed at Stonum.  Until he gets that, he will forever be the guy looking to take the short pass and break a long gain out of it when the coaching staff sees a matchup they like.  His down-field routes today were all right, but not exactly spirited.  Better routes would have gotten him open, I believe, but in his defense he basically ran two routes 95% of the time against IU – the quick screen and the stop and go.  As a DB, if I see that, I don’t need to worry a whole lot about what you are going to run against me.  I’ll sit here until I know you are going deep, and then I’ll turn and go deep with you.  Stonum had a shot at a crossing route mid-way through the game that he did not run well, which was disappointing.  This young man has far too much talent to appear on lists like this as “a pretty good blocker, but…”.  He needs to demand attention and he has to do it in all phases of the game.  I don’t typically include special teams in my grades but he’s not exactly helping himself on kickoff return, here, either. No Line.  Grade: B-

Patrick Omameh – Up and down was the best way to describe Omameh’s IU game.  And he clearly played better in the first half than second half, though some adjustments by IU after half time likely contributed to that.  He was both on top of defenders after pancaking them as well as being knocked on his butt into the backfield.  Didn’t have the easiest matchups today and IU was game for the challenge.  That led to lots of plays where little or no movement of the defensive line was evident.  He did not do a great job of churning the legs to get drive blocks going and was shucked more than a few times by defenders who had good technique.  He had some really great blocks but far too many efforts where he needed to be much, much better.  Lots of film work, here.  Grade: C+

Steve Schilling – Schilling’s here (and not lower) because he picked it up as the game went on and was really quite good in the final third of the game.  His first half was not good – hell the first play of the day he trips and goes down without hitting anyone.  There were so many plays where Vincent Smith is trying to run it up the middle and there’s just no place to go because nothing’s been opened up, yet.  He can have a bad play, or Omameh can have a bad play.  The two of them cannot have bad plays simultaneously or the middle of the line looks piss poor.  It looked to me like IU laid a challenge down to Schilling and he just didn’t respond all that well until adjustments were made later in the game.  His good plays were much better than his bad plays, so he essentially made up for anything that happened in the first half (or anywhere else), but he is asked to do a lot and has the experience and athleticism to do it.  When you’re asked to do a lot, underperforming 25% – 30% of the time or so shows up a lot in film, even when there’s enough to balance it out.  Plenty of IU film examples to work on.  Grade: C+

Those who clearly struggled:

Kelvin Grady – The lone soldier in this category this week, Kelvin is here because he was primary, did have opportunities to make plays by blocking and receiving, and just didn’t most of the time.  We needed him to shove just one guy forcefully on Roundtree’s 74 yarder and if we get that Roundtree scores.  Instead he got in Roundtree’s way as much as anyone else’s and the ‘contact’ that he made on his block attempts … he’s hit guys harder congratulating them for a nice catch.  He is getting to his man quickly and with purpose when he has to block, now he has to play football instead of basketball.  He had one opportunity for a reception that he should have made, even though Robinson threw it behind him and to the inside.  It would have been a somewhat difficult catch because he was marked quickly but he got two hands on it and tried to run before he pulled it in.  And part of the reason he was marked so quickly is because he tipped his route off early.  It’s Terrence Robinson and Kelvin Grady fighting for this second-slot-on-the-field position.  Right now Grady is this guy most of the time, but too many more games like this one against IU could lead to a shuffle.  In this scheme, you simply have to block, be a good decoy often and be ready to catch when called upon.  Based on his IU performance alone, Grady has the decoy role down all right, but has lots of work to do otherwise.  No line.  Grade: C-

Michigan Football Bowling Green Game Primary Defensive Personnel Grades

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Posted on 1st October 2010 by Ben Krasner in Sports Commentary | University of Michigan Sports

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We played a lot of guys and a lot of varied packages all game long against BG,
so this is a bigger list than what might be normal… unless this is the new philosophy?
You’ll see what I mean on several players, below.

The Great/Good:

Mike Martin – He’s about as obvious a top performer as Denard is on offense,
only it’s more expected now because we’ve been seeing it from Martin for three
years. Fast off the ball, often making contact with BG linemen before they are
ready. Split BG double teams simply because they could not close down the gap
before Martin got his head and shoulders in between the blockers. While I will
concede that it’s tough to identify missed assignments on a nose tackle without
knowing precisely what technique he’s supposed to be playing or stunts he might
be assigned on any given play, etc, it’s tough for me not to say that the only
time you see Martin as part of the problem is when he over-pursues or when he
reacts poorly to the play flow change – which is rarely. Coaches had Martin
dropping into zone coverage and he performed pretty well in space. He also spied
the BG QB on a few plays – and also did that well. He made tackles side-line
to side-line as he has each week and he held his anchor point in the goal line
package. Martin had a weak matchup on the other side of the ball as BG’s center
was not very good. However, it was Martin’s quickness, power and ability that
made it so that even guards and pulling H-backs couldn’t make up for the center’s
weaknesses. Martin was a man amongst boys and aside from a lone off-sides penalty,
there’s not a lot of negative to take note of. Grade: A

Ryan VanBergen – Commanded BG double-teams almost as often as Martin did while
also having favorable matchups. BGs OL just wasn’t that great and the more they
had to try to sustain blocks the more that showed. RVB was held several times
(most of them not called) as he was really giving their tackle and guard difficulties.
His responsibilities changed depending on who is playing next to him and what
that player is doing. Sometimes he had contain responsibility and sometimes
he did not. When he had that responsibility, he held it. When he did not, he
went after the linemen recklessly and caused constant problems – especially
for the undersized guys. He applied good pressure when called upon and batted
down a throw at the goal line to force a 4th down. He was our best guy at understanding
when to get his arms up to clog passing lanes from start to finish. There was
a high level of consistency from his side. I doubt our coaches had much to worry
about with him all day. His worst play was where he was clubbed down to the
ground on the screen pass that BG broke for the TD. I believe he was on a slant
and the offensive lineman just went with it and punched him down, opening up
the passing lane. He was blocked well a few times and driven out of plays completely,
which is why he doesn’t get a straight A. But all in all he had a great game
and got his first 2 sacks of the year. Grade: A-

J.T. Floyd – Played all over the field today and from I saw did extremely well.
He covered well. He clearly was coached hard about keeping contain and really
showed up well on that front today. He rotated over with motion and played safety
today and when the TV cameras caught him back there he seemed to be all over
that. He was asked to go in the box like a pressure safety or almost a linebacker
and he was fending off some big boys in the middle of the field. IMO, this looked
like something new for him but it was a good new look to throw out there even
if he did struggle with playing in that space two out of three times. It allowed
us to play our young kids at CB. With Indiana coming up next we’ll need to be
able to play 4 CBs on the field together and they got experience with that,
today because of what Floyd was able to do in other spots. He is not a press
corner at this point in his career and that showed up a little bit, but nothing
that took away from the scheme. He got a nice shot on the QB by pursuing a play
that he cut back against our otherwise over-pursuing defense, which had to feel
good for Floyd. Maybe a play or two he wishes he could redo but he was asked
to do a heck of a lot and I doubt the coaches had too much on the negative side
to hit Floyd with, this week. Grade: A-

Greg Banks – Here’s one that might surprise some people, but Greg played a
solid game. He, too, took advantage of a below average BG OL and benefited from
single-man blocking for just about the entire game. He held point and, similar
to RVB, took care of his responsibilities. He was consistent – when I watched
the replay he’s another position that you almost know exactly what to expect
play to play and there’s just not a lot of worry. He isn’t explosive or tough
to handle, and that showed up on the film as well. But the majority of the snaps
where we have 3 D-linemen taking care of 5 offensive linemen with no worry -
and in fact getting penetration while holding up on the ends – Banks was fine.
He gets asked to hold up on the end and not make any mistakes. IMO he does this
with flying colors against BG. He will struggle against better talent and better
athletes, but he played well today. Grade: B+

Kenny Demens – Played early and in certain packages and played well, then also
came in late in the 4th quarter for additional work. It’s interesting how they
use him on the goal line packages as the deepest man which really allows him
to run downhill at the play. He really did well in goal line situations. He
also played in place of Obi in some more main stream situations and did pretty
well. He clearly needs experience but shows plenty of potential. He scraped
the line of scrimmage well to get in on plays that went the other way and did
not get or stay blocked except for one or two instances (he needs to thank those
D-linemen for that for sure). Demens doesn’t seem to have a lot of coverage
responsibilities yet unless someone gets injured. In mop up duty in the 4th
I thought he showed good instinct and attacked the ball carriers often. He wasn’t
as impressive as he was on the goal line, but he played well against BG. Grade:

Jordan Kovacs – Kovacs had another good game and a lot of snaps, with just
a few plays I’m sure he wish he could have back. He’s not the best coverage
guy and he definitely shouldn’t be left on our opposing teams best receiver
in a one-on-one situation if you want to have a successful outcome, but he got
that assignment twice against BG. One time our D-line pressured the QB enough
so that his coverage didn’t matter and the other we got burnt a bit for a good
pickup. Kovacs did a solid job on their two-man games and covered the underneath
option in those two-man games and did as well as we can expect from him (IMO).
His run support was stout as always. His zone coverage skills are adequate and,
from what I see, if our linebackers would keep their depth on their drops Kovacs
would end up looking even better because passes wouldn’t be completed in front
of him. He’s our only guy that consistently went after the ball. When it was
time for Kovacs to tackle he came with an effort on the ball damn near every
time – a punch, a rake,hit helmet… something was going to the ball. Kovacs
also bails out our defense more than others do when mistakes are made. If a
linebacker goes the wrong way, Kovacs ends up with that tackle. Against BG,
those tackles were mostly made after 3 or 4 yard gains so the damage was minimized.
Grade: B+

Courtney Avery – Hey the young guy stepped in there and I think played extremely
well in his first real big dose of playing time. He wasn’t asked to do a heck
of a lot, necessarily, but I think we are all going to be glad he got so much
time against BG (thinking Indiana game, here). He was playing an inside CB spot
or nickel/dime spot and was asked to take away inside release routes (slants,
quick hitches or short ins) and did well. Of the three youngans (Avery, Talbott
and Cullen) Avery was least likely to have his feet stuck in cement and be reaching
out a receiver he was tightly aligned with. He notched two tackles and nice
pretty nice pass breakups. This was about as good a beginning as you can ask
for. I mean, the most memorable mistake he made? Being flagged for having the
same number as another guy on punt return. That’s pretty much exactly what you
want out of a true freshman playing extensively for the first time. He clearly
has to get better, and could easily be a player that would openly tell you he
needs to play better, but I’m putting him here because he had a good game. Grade:

Will Campbell – Will’s up here because he did very well in what he was asked
to do in the primary role, specifically in goal line situations. He was the
immovable object. Actually he was better than that because he penetrated – he
didn’t just squat there and play the role of the mountain. He looked like a
4-point machine of dominance in there against this OL. When he was in a 3-point
stance he wasn’t as good – what a difference. When he’s in a 4-point stance
he has no choice but to use his legs and drive forward. When he’s in a 3-point
stance he stands up and tries to shove everyone forward bench-press style. Later,
when he came in later in the 4th quarter on the nose, in a 3-point stance, he
was not as good. His leg drive looked non-existent and he wasn’t able to get
much push matched up alone on the center that Martin dominated all game. He
did bat down a pass nicely and was our only backup who did well consistently
throwing his arms up in the air to block lanes. Again, this grade is 85% on
his primary work against BG and only 15% on his backup role. Grade: B+

Those who would probably tell you they could have played better:

Kevin Leach – You know what… Kevin isn’t asked to do a ton, but what he does
he does pretty well. He’s an assignment guy, not a big play guy or a physical
force guy. He’s a coverage backer and he took away what looked to be the first
read for BGs QB more than a couple of times. He gets good deep drops quickly
and plays well within the scheme in his nickel defensive assignment. He was
called on to rush the QB from the outside and put better than adequate pressure
on the edge which helped lead to Banks’ sack. He also rushed over the B gap
on occasion. Actually, when he rushed, the BG QB’s first read was to where he
vacates – so basically just a coaching gamble that doesn’t pay off both times,
but he also got picked up by the running back too easily. He did well on special
teams from as much as I could see and had a couple tackles there. His issue
today was that he got blocked on the play-side too easily. OL were able to cut
him. RBs were able to pick him up, too. There’s no shortage of drills in practice
that address those issues and he just has to be better at anticipating what
the blocker is going to do and initiating the contact so he’s under his own
control. Grade: B

Terrence Talbot – Saw a little less action than Avery. Looks more the part
than Avery does, physically, but let’s his feet sink into cement out there too
much. I expect this out of freshman so it’s hard to knock him all that much
during these first games of his career, but he’s not going to get away with
it in Big Ten play and there’s lots of footage fit for coaching this week. With
experience will come the game quickness on reads and reactions that seems to
be there. Lotta work to do, but great to get him in there and he did a pretty
decent job. Grade: B-

Craig Roh – Wow, where was Craig Roh all day? Well, quite frankly, he was blocked!
And when he wasn’t blocked well you would find him running past the play in
behind the QB and out of sight. BG clearly made him a point of emphasis and
sent plenty of attention his way. If you watch a replay you will see him frustrated
pretty much all day. He simply couldn’t get through. Then he tried to outrun
the OL – and he ran right out of the passing lanes. He was also given a lot
of pass coverage responsibility against BG and I don’t believe I saw the QB
test his zone all day. His drops looked pretty good until they were out of picture.
Honestly, it was his strong suit on this day. One play where he did have an
opportunity to make a play was on the play where the pass was dropped but it
popped off the receivers knee and ended up being caught by the running back
trailing the action. On that play he was unblocked and had a clear path to the
QB. He was sluggish in recognizing the opportunity and his feet failed him.
He also was undecided in attacking the QB at full speed for a hit or throwing
his arms up to block the passing lane. The result was a good pass that became
an adventure. Maybe it was the matchup or BG’s style of play or he just didn’t
have his motor cranked up as high as usual. Whatever it was, he just wasn’t
the usual Craig Roh we’ve been watching and this came against Bowling Green?
He recorded just one tackle and one assist. But he didn’t play poorly, he just
wasn’t the play maker this team asks him to be and needs him to be: Grade:

Jonas Mouton – Continued his frustrating play by both being explosive and johnny-on-the-spot,
followed by moments where he totally abandoned his fundamentals and his mistakes
led to BG making plays/yards. His best areas of work against BG were in obvious
passing situations. He had great drops today; real good depth. With he on one
side and Leach on the other the seams were covered like glue – or at least well
enough that the BG QB would have had to force something – which is exactly what
happened on Mouton’s INT. He also did pretty well rushing off the edge and with
his hand on the ground – pretty much a giveaway that he’s headed to the QB when
he’s set up like that. When he did rush he was getting good matchups but was
choosing to go around the running back or H-back instead of driving through
them and collapsing the pocket around the QB. When he was defending the run
he was again both up and down. He made some solid hits and he did a good job
of not over-pursuing plays. Often, though, he was moving around as if he was
unsure of his next move. He literally got trucked over by an H-back in his gap
responsibility because he went in there tentatively. He got blocked too often
and abandoned contain too often. I don’t know how much or hard coaches would
be on Jonas – a 5th year senior. If I had to guess they would harp on not giving
up contain when he has that responsibility and attacking the football with a
little more authority, but probably just chalk the rest up to consistent inconsistency
and need for repetition. Grade: C+

Obi Ezeh – This wasn’t a matchup that favored Obi and he didn’t see a ton of
playing time as a result. When he was in there he did a fair job when plays
were designed to head in his direction. His troubles came from a tendency to
over-pursue and taking poor angles to the action. He’s always a step slow in
pass coverage and that showed up today, even though the coaches were clearly
trying to keep him off the field in most passing situations. Didn’t allow any
big plays, really. he was a non-factor in just about all of BG’s biggest plays.
And he did blow up several lead blockers – that’s just clearly what he does
best. If BG would have run more of that kind of offense Obi would have seen
the field more. It’s possible that lead to over-pursuing the plays that he was
in the game for – wanting to make the most out of a smallish opportunity. Sluggishness
reacting on goal line plays doesn’t help his grade. Grade: C+

Cullen Christian – Cullen saw extensive action and looked like he needed to
get his first prime game action out of the way. The feet being stuck in cement
while reaching for receivers was very apparent and to be expected. he got a
couple tackles and played… like a freshman. Plenty of coaching film available.
He looks like he’ll need some time to let the game slow down for him, but clearly
has some talent. I would argue that he didn’t do anything in this game to prove
that he is more a future corner or more a future safety. That’s something that
I’ll monitor through the rest of the season. I think it’s clear that Cullen
will continue to get PT and it will be fun to watch him mature on a week-by-week
basis. Grade: C

Those who clearly struggled:

James Rogers – Rogers played a little softer today than he has in the first
three games. I am not sure how much of that was scheme related and how much
was just him being “safe”, but he stayed well deeper than I expected
and when he did come up he came up in a press look and didn’t do too well. Neither
he, nor Floyd, are press corners but they did show that look today. If Rogers
is going to continue to do this he’s going to need to work a lot on his technique
or … well… let’s just leave it at that. He allows himself to get and stay
blocked and he must get better at avoiding blocks or getting off them with quickness
and physicality. It would be one thing if he were maintaining contain on the
outside, but it’s even worse when he over-pursues the action and then is completely
done for. He was our edge on the screen pass that was busted for a TD. Contrary
to what was said, we only missed one tackle on the play. We simply lost contain
in the second level, in part by Rogers, and then had no speed from Rogers or
others to track it down. If this is as bad as it gets with Rogers, we’re going
to be fine. But he could have stepped up today against an inferior opponent
and definitely did not. Grade: C

Cam Gordon – Cam cam cam… Cam did not have a good game. However, I’m keeping
this very short because TV doesn’t pick him up a lot. I’m also keeping this
short because I think he’s out of position and so I don’t know what the future
holds for him. Cam supported the run very well. That’s the good part. His coverage
and his ability to rotate over in a timely fashion are weaknesses that showed
up again, today, and I fear someone is going to expose us big time. His lack
of track-down speed has already been well documented and when he gave up contain
and over-ran the screen pass action … oy. He get’s a A for effort and for
supporting the run. That’s about it. Is this guy a future OLB or hybrid? Games
like this make me interested to see him tried at Mouton’s spot or Thomas Gordon’s/Carvin
Johnson’s spot. Lots of coaching work to do, here, and plenty of film to use.
Grade: C-

Thomas Gordon – Gordon didn’t get as much PT against BG as almost any passing
situation it was Avery sitting where he typically would be on the field but
in a different role (corner versus hybrid safety/LB). BG’s short passing game
was our chief concern or at least not giving their raw QB anything too easy.
Consequently, Gordon was asked to do a lot less than in previous weeks as he
is not as good a cover man. That didn’t help TG, though, because when he did
get his opportunities he didn’t exactly shine. He started the game off ok -
late covering a route but sticking his nose in and stuffing a running play at
the line. Later he was very blockable on the outside plays, BG’s running back
ran over him on the only short yardage play TG would see… He was the lone
missed tackle on BGs screen that popped for a TD. That missed tackle was the
last we’d see of TG until mop-up time at the end of the game as he was replaced
by Leach for the second half. Grade: D+

Michigan Football Primary Offensive Personnel Grades – Bowling Green Game

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Posted on 29th September 2010 by Ben Krasner in Sports Commentary | University of Michigan Sports

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Just went slo-mo through the BG game to put a coach’s eye on everyone to see where we were great, good and not so good on Saturday. Here’s what I saw from Saturday’s primary offensive lineup.

The Great/Good:

Denard – obvious, of course.  The accuracy of his throwing continued to be impressive, especially because of the amount of it that happens on the run.  The running is impressive as always.  And the tough part about telling him to go out of bounds more often… the second touchdown run (47 yarder) would not have happened by ‘playing smart’.  The last thing you want the defense to be able to do is just funnel him to the sideline so he feels compelled to shuffle out of bounds.  It’s just going to have to be a balancing act and he’s going to have to pick his poison while remaining tough.  The reality is he’s taken (and will take in the future) bigger hits both in bounds and out of bounds than the one where he got injured falling out of bounds with a player around his legs.  The key to keeping him healthy is letting the running backs take most of the hits and DR taking a couple of plays out of bounds if he has to (which he DID do against BG – by the way).   Grade: A

Omameh – Lots of good two-level action from Omameh.  He’s best when he’s on the move, not when there’s a single, heads-up assignment that he needs to move down field.  Was better and better as the day progressed.  Pancakes started to pile up in the 3rd quarter.  Mostly low and strong… Seemed to have the least problems with BG’s D-line. Grade: A-

Roundtree – deceptively good routes albeit some of them are shallower than one would like – I attribute this solely to speed – timing is more important than speed in the big picture, but with more speed would come more passing combination flexibility and pressure on the opposing DBs.  Tough to tackle, too.  Wiggly, wormy guy with great hands.  As dangerous as you can be while lacking speed.  Snatches the ball well.  Grade: A-

McClogan – some good iso blocking and gotta love the TD catch on the play action roll-out.  Missed one blocking opportunity on a lead at the goal line by taking a false step and seemingly hesitating which allowed BG to string out the play and force both he and Smith out wider than originally designed.  Also had 3 tackles on special teams.  Doesn’t get a lot of snaps but made a heck of a lot out of what he got today.    Grade: A-

Shaw – first off, this guy’s blocking has to be acknowledged.  Whether it’s a lead block, a kickout, a helper or in pass pro, this kid did a great job.  His running game is tougher than Smith’s but he is more hesitant and less opportunistic than smith. Too many hops and skips and adjustments. He seems to be a cerebral runner and his feet follow that as well.  But when he just gets after it and runs hard he looks very, very dangerous and much tougher to bring down.  Overall he ran well, but blocked even better. Grade: B+

Lewan – Lewan is often the quickest guy off the line.  I counted three plays where he left ahead of the snap and did not get called on any.  Lewan just wants to hit people.  Sometimes he’s too eager, it seems, and doesn’t let the combo block between he and schilling develop enough – that’s where one of the chop block penalties came from.  He is one guy who you can count on to move the man across from him, down the field.  Couple of missed assignments – but not much in the negative department.  Just things he can probably get better at (footwork, pad level and working within the combo blocks/ scheme).  End of the 3rd quarter and into the 4th, Lewan was becoming dominant and mentioned, in his interview with me after the game, that he saw the other guys sucking wind big time.  With improvement, Lewan will start to dominate even when his opponents are fresh. Grade: B+

Webb – the more punishing of the TE blocking combo, rarely misses a block.  If and when he does, he quickly tries to make up for it.  On Denard’s 47 yarder, he missed his first block completely but headed down field and made a couple of nice blocks to make up for his miss.  It’s actually enjoyable for me to watch him block.  Grade: B+

Odoms – again, excellent blocking.  Good routes, good hands.  That ‘illegal block below the waist’ was flat ridiculous.  I have no idea what BG’s coach was screaming about whatsoever during that play.  Lewan went low on a guy, I’m assuming it was something along those lines.  Would like him to be utilized a bit more but didn’t seem to get open like Roundtree did, at least not on the shorter routes and on the outside. Grade: B

Grady – very quick and very sly.  He’s the guy the defense has to try not to forget about.  Leaving him in single coverage situations or loose in underneath routes is a major mistake.  Few opportunities but did well.  Grade: B

Koger – The other part of a straight up deadly blocking combo.  You can count on Koger to get out into space and take a guy out of the play.  When he lined up tight, on the line, he’s just not as good.  Fortunately he spent most of the game in the twin H-back look with Webb and did well out of it.  Grade: B

Smith – This was the toughest running Smith has done since he came to Michigan and it was nice to see.  Arm tackles were broken more often.  He even lowered the gear and tried to run over a tackler (didn’t work, but good to see the ol’ college try).  His opportunities came with traffic and he generally did something with them.  Coming off knee surgery, hopefully this is a sign his getting stronger and more confident in his running into and through people.  Grade: B-

The “pretty good but probably would admit they could play better”:

Molk – Regardless of the illegal hit on a defenseless player (which the TV never did show but that I remember was correctly called from the game) Molk also struggled some with BG’s front.  BG was giving a lot of jab steps for false movement which was throwing off the timing of our linemen a bit and this seemed to cause Molk to be reaching and out of sync on his blocks a lot.  Getting driven back into the backfield on the play where Hopkins fumbled was probably his ugliest.  Credit BG for the strategy and also for working to get into Molk’s pads when he did look to make contact – something he probably always will struggle with.  Couple of low snaps from Molk during the game time that mattered, also.  Grade: B-

Dorrestein – PD can more than hold his own at RT.  If he struggled anywhere it was getting out on the BG backers and especially so when he was on the back-side of the play and he definitely did struggle there.  His assignments made a number of plays – albeit 6-8 yards down the field, not in the backfield.  He’s also not going to overpower a lot of people and that showed up today, even against an undersized front.  But he plays well within the scheme and did especially well on the play-side today.  Grade: B-

Gallon – Looks good with the ball in his hands and I think we’ll see more of just that.  Looks like he has quite a ways to go when he does not have the ball (routes, blocking, attentive to the play, and of course… punt returning (if you’re going to let the punt drop, get away from it… and get well away from it.  Don’t follow it over to the sideline where it and BG players are).  Caught another punt on the 4 while running towards the goal line and then turned to the sideline and got tripped and went out at the 11.  Grade: C+

Stonum – wasn’t featured much today, so I don’t really want to put him down here.  As always, seems to run routes pretty well when he knows there’s a pretty good chance of the ball heading his way.  Other times he just disappears.  Caught him ending his block while the play was still going too often to keep him in the “good” ones.  We kept things pretty vanilla today and I think he knew that.  Still wish he would just play ball every snap.   Grade: C

Those Who Struggled:

Schilling – Actually… a lot of this should be credit to #91 on BG – Chris Jones.  Jones was a full time starter as a freshman last year and resumes his work this year.  Schilling had a tough time with Jones all day.  Jones actually controlled Schilling, didn’t give much ground and even tracked down several plays in the first half.  He was often too high, a step behind and simply kept at arms length a lot.  Jones also bothered Molk on a few plays, especially close to the goal line.  However, Schilling needs to be ready to play substantially better tackles than Jones in the future.  Grade: C-

Hopkins – he’s here because he was playing early and so was a primary player by that measure alone.  He’s a true freshman and had a true freshman type roller coaster ride with his most memorable play being the fumble.  He simply wasn’t ready to protect the football.  It’s not all on him – Molk was taken back into the backfield which started the whole mess – but a runner’s first responsibility is that ball and so… there you go.  Good on-field learning experience for him.  I also felt he sold himself short on a couple of runs where he went with a short gain rather than being patient and finding the alley.  This is pretty assuming on my part – it could easily be that the coaches have him running a certain way – but it seems clear it will come up in coaching and film review that he left yards on the field.  Grade: C-

Hemmingway – yikes.  Still has to get his season going after missing the early portion.  Missed the sure TD by getting distracted by the DB falling down, missed some blocks and didn’t hold some others.  He also doesn’t seem to have all his gas in the tank yet.  Lots of coaching points sent his way, this week, I’m sure.  Grade: C-

Nothing I saw from our primary lineup was worthy of a “D” and … heck… 721 yards while playing 3 different QBs.  Lots of good things on film.  I disagree with the ESPN talking heads, though, that we “dominated” with our offensive line (they were spewing this even in the first and second quarter).  That greatly undersells what I felt BG was able to do. Our runners found lanes, but I guarantee our coaches aren’t praising our guys for dominating BG’s front 4 except for very late in the game.

Michigan Football Beats Up UConn To Open 2010 Season

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Posted on 5th September 2010 by Ben Krasner in Sports Commentary | University of Michigan Sports

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Brock Mealer led Michigan into the stadium and Denard Robinson led Michigan up and down the field, Saturday, as The University of Michigan rededicated the bigger and better Big House in style, beating up on a UConn team some thought might be able to go into Michigan Stadium and pull out a win, in a 30-10 victory to kick off the 2010 football season in Ann Arbor.  An NCAA attendance record 113,090 fans watched Robinson run for 197 yards (a new Michigan record for rushing yards by a quarterback) and throw for another 186 while frustrating UConn defenders and coaches throughout.  Michigan’s embattled coach, Rich Rodriguez, must have wanted to privately exhale profoundly afterwords.

With so much emotion pent up throughout Wolverine Nation, who better to lead the team out onto the playing field than Brock Mealer.  Told he would never walk again, the young man who grew up an Ohio State fan and who obtained his undergraduate degree from Ohio State led Michigan out of the tunnel and out on the playing field steadying himself with two canes and with his brothers Eliott and Blake on each side – the poster moment following a long and arduous rehabilitation process that took place in the strength and conditioning facilities at the University of Michigan and Schembechler Hall.  I’m not sure how many dry eyes were present in Michigan Stadium during that walk, but I know mine were blurry from the tears.  From there the wound up crowd would be treated to plenty of highlights.

Michigan started the game on defense and promptly shut down Big East Conference favorite UConn for a 3-and-out on their opening series.  With little certainty on defense and lots of young players being used in a system some questioned leading up to the game, Michigan showed they might have come a long way from the horrid defense they fielded in 2009.  They pressured UConn quarterback Zach Frazier early and his feet never seemed to get under him after that.  They forced a timely turnover (for a change), held UConn to 4 of 15 on 3rd down conversions and even blocked a kick on special teams.  Holding an experienced team to only 10 points was something of its own to behold.

While Denard stole the spotlight on offense, it wasn’t without other performers chipping in as well.  Vincent Smith scored one touchdown on the ground and one through the air in his first action since having off-season knee surgery following an injury during last year’s Ohio State game.  Daryl Stonum had 5 catches and converted on 3rd down, and the rapidly improving offensive showed why it indeed may be the second biggest key to a successful season outside of healthy and competent quarterback play; plowing open holes and running lanes and keeping Michigan out of tough second- and third-and-long situations.

The win sets up a big early season show down and road test for Michigan at South Bend, IN, where they will take on rival Notre Dame.  The Wolverines desperately want to show the world that they are an improved ball club and winning on the road is a key objective in that effort.  They have only won a single road affair under Rodriguez’s leadership (a 2008 road win at Minnesota) and likely need early season success to build confidence in young players and systems that could finally be finding their stride.

Couple of Pittsburgh Steelers Updates

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Posted on 29th July 2010 by Ben Krasner in In The News | Sports Commentary

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It’s always great to see the Steelers put so much emphasis on getting their rookies signed ahead of camp (at this point, only Maurkice Pouncey is unsigned).  The last rookie not to be signed in front of training camp … Mr. Wreckless With His Wanker himself, Ben Roethlisberger.  He missed 4 days of camp in what really wasn’t an ugly holdout or anything.  Still, given the effort the Steelers put into getting their rookies into camp right from the start, and followed with the numerous newsworthy items to come from Roethlisberger since… kinda makes you want to wonder a bit.

Colbert’s extension is yet another reinforcement of keeping things strong from the inside of the organization out.  It’s hard to vote against him, what with the Steelers going 103 – 56 – 1 while he’s been in his position, since 2000.  Most importantly, that stint includes two Super Bowl Championships and what most consider to be one of the classiest operations in the league.

Finishing up with Flozell… actually this could be one of the biggest ‘under-the-radar’ (can a 6-7 340 lb guy fit under the radar?) signings of the offseason for any team.  After tackle Willie Colon was placed on injured reserve, officially ending his season after he tore his Achilles tendon in June, the Steelers were in need of an experienced tackle.  Flozell was available after Dallas decided to cut loose the aging mammoth lineman and it will be interesting to see just how much Adams has left in his Silverado sized fuel tank.  He should be able to step right in and start at tackle from day one and shore up that need for the upcoming season.  It’s my guess, though, that age will become a factor towards the end of the season and he will probably be more of a depth player in the second year of the contract after either Colon returns or the team drafts youth into the position if Colon cannot get back to 100%.

Steelers Give Coach Mike Tomlin Extension

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Posted on 13th July 2010 by Ben Krasner in Sports Commentary


I saw, today, that the Pittsburgh Steelers have given head coach Mike Tomlin a contract extension that will take him through the 2014 season.  The three year extension comes after an up and down 9-7 season where the Steelers missed the playoffs by losing 5 straight games and looking very mortal in the process.  I like coach Tomlin and I think that he is a good leader.  I think he can put things together well as long as he has a good staff behind him.  I’m just not sure how strong he is as a coach that has to overcome a whole in his staff or the roster.

9-7 is not a record to sneeze at, really.  My other team – the Detroit Lions – would love to sniff that record sometime soon.  However, missing the playoffs the year after winning the Super Bowl is hardly the time to extend a coach… right?  Extend him immediately following the Super Bowl victory and nobody is going to question it.

It will be interesting to see how Tomlin does this season with all the stuff that has happened this offseason.

Couple Of Detroit Lions Updates

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Posted on 13th July 2010 by Ben Krasner in Sports Commentary

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Here’s some Detroit Lions news I came across yesterday:

Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 NFL Draft 1st Round Recap Video Blog

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Posted on 22nd April 2010 by Ben Krasner in Sports Commentary


Pittsburgh had a tough off-season but took a nice step forward with their first round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.  Here’s my video blog recap.

Detroit Lions 2010 NFL Draft 1st Round Recap Video Blog

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Posted on 22nd April 2010 by Ben Krasner in Sports Commentary

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Yes… I am a closet Detroit Lions fan.  Irrespective of that, the Lions had a solid 1st round of the 2010 NFL Draft.  Here’s my video blog recap.

NFL Draft – Pittsburgh Steelers Preview

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Posted on 22nd April 2010 by Ben Krasner in Sports Commentary

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With the tumultuous offseason that the Steelers have had, the only thing I am certain of is that the character of the potential draft picks will be scrutinized more than most other teams, this time around.  The Steelers gave away their most recent Super Bowl MVP for off-field problems and Big Ben has been suspended for at least a quarter of the season – if not a third of it – for similar reasons. But the biggest problem for Pittsburgh last season was their inability to control the line of scrimmage and run the ball – or protect their QB for that matter – and that’s where they need to start infusing talent in my opinion, specifically with interior offensive linemen to attack and open up the running game between the tackles for Mendenhall.  Honestly, if I’m Pittsburgh, I take two prospects here if two are available that make sense.  Other than offensive linemen, I’d like to see Pittsburgh take a CB to help their pass defense, possibly a defensive lineman to infuse a little more youth and strength, there, and consider a WR to replace some of the quickness and catching ability that they lost in jettisoning Holmes.  Running back is also still a bit of a question mark, especially in terms of depth with Willie Parker not yet signed.

Pittsburgh obtained a QB for a stop-gap in Byron Leftwich, from Tampa Bay, which likely buys them the time they needed for Ben to come back from suspension.  They won’t be great at QB with Leftwich, but they probably will be good enough to win some games during a truly innocent looking start to the 2010 season schedule.  In other words, they probably won’t be looking to draft Tim Tebow, just because he’s a huge character asset and because they need a QB that they can trust to be on the field.  I doubt they will take a QB at all.  Ben’s not likely going anywhere – unless he becomes a habitual problem or he burns the bridge himself.

The WR position is a different story – I think they need to address that.  Ward is getting old, unfortunately, and that needs some attention.  Holmes was the reliable down-field target and now that’s gone.  Randel El was picked back up but he’s not going to provide too much more and for too much longer.  Mike Wallace and Limas Sweed are now the big question marks.  Sweed has not been an answer at WR so far but has some talent.  Wallace was a pretty nice surprise last season but now he becomes a question of consistency – Can he be relied on while he is covered by the other teams’ #1 cover man?  Last season he was often not covered by a great cover man.

Bottom line, first round pick must be an interior offensive lineman and there are only a couple of 1st round worthy names to consider at their slot at 18 – Maurkice Pouncey and Mike Iupati.  So the question will be if they want a guy with the flexibility to play center, or just get a bull of a guard.  I don’t really think they can go wrong, so it will be interesting to see if they do in fact go this way and, if so, who they go with.  There hasn’t been any talk of either prospect having any character issues, which makes this even more of a certainty in my opinion.

Second round pick … I really think they could go for another offensive lineman for the interior if a good prospect is present that makes sense.  Will they?  Who knows.  If they don’t, then I would hope they find a nice cornerback prospect left on the board or try to move up to get one if those prospects are running low.  Depending on what they want to do at running back and with Willie Parker – and who is sitting there available with the #20 pick in the second round – it’s possible they also add a RB to the mix with Mendenhall, too.  The second round pick is nowhere near as cut and dry in my mind as the first round pick is.

Third round again becomes a reaction to what Pittsburgh does in the second round.  They either take an offensive lineman or a cornerback, I would say.  Or, if the right prospect is available, a WR or RB.  Defensive lineman becomes intriguing if a guy has slid or has become undervalued and sits available at the 18th pick in round three.

Fourth round pick likely becomes best available and for depth.  They could continue working in the secondary because they need prospects there, or they could use the second or third round to address the secondary.  To me, the same positions keep repeating themselves over and over again.  The needs are pretty concentrated on this team, so offensive line, cornerback and wide receiver just keep popping up as the paths to take in this draft, with defensive tackle and running back as the darker horses.

The Steelers also have four fifth round picks, a sixth and a seventh, so there’s plenty of room for play if they need to maneuver a little bit in the later rounds to get guys that are rated higher than others on their draft board.