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.

Michigan Football Spring Practice Kicks Off

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Posted on 16th March 2010 by Ben Krasner in Sports Commentary | University of Michigan Sports

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It’s Tuesday, March 16th 2010!  And spring practice has commenced for Michigan Football… with a hell of a lot of work to cover and a lot of questions to answer in a very short period of time.

Push Forward Michigan Men!

What is there to say, really, other than – thank god another terrible season is officially behind us.  Technically, “last season” is over when the bowl games are over with or at least when signing day arrives in February and all of the last of the season’s efforts are finalized.  This year, though, has been different as there have been off-field distractions surfacing on what feels like a weekly basis.  With the looming NCAA investigation, a lame duck athletic director being replaced by a new incoming leader and all the factions and infighting that have developed, the past 365 days feel like they’ve been worth 900 in the books.  But for now all of that is press history and what matters is making our way forward on the practice fields, in film study and in the classroom.

‘Shirts and shorts’ kicks off spring practice so we’re talking about making hay on fundamentals and understanding the playbooks and breakdown drills to get things rolling.  These practices are crucial for acclimating the true freshman who have graduated ahead of schedule and have enrolled early for the winter semester and in seeing how quickly playbooks can be absorbed and how much has been gained (or lost) by the entire team in the off-season weight training and conditioning programs.  These are also great for reinstituting practice routines and tempo – something Coach Rodriguez loves to focus on.

We’ll see how things go.  Expectations are high and there are as close to concrete expectations as a coach is often going to get in front of Rodriguez and company and a brand new updated Big House full of fans will be waiting come the fall to see how things shake out.  It all starts now with spring practice.

Michigan Football Signs 27 Student Athletes For The 2010 Class

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Posted on 3rd February 2010 by Ben Krasner in Sports Commentary | University of Michigan Sports

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The Wolverines have signed a speedy and deep 2010 recruiting class of student athletes to be added to the roster for the upcoming 2010 football season.  Several of the recruits have already enrolled after graduating early from their respective high schools and will be eligible to participate in spring practice, with the remaining recruits set to join the program in the late summer.

Highlighting the class are 3 top prospects in positions of great need – QB Devin Gardner, CB Cullen Christian and Safety Demar Dorsey.  Dorsey, from Boyd Anderson High in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, was a recruit that originally committed to Florida well before his senior season of football, but who grew apart from the Gators after the relationship became rocky.  He was a late signing day addition to the Wolverines, having only made up his mind on where he would attend college the night before.  He projects to be a player who could play multiple positions in the defensive secondary and even play some offense and kick returner due to his exceptional speed and athletic abilities.  Dorsey loves to throw his body into hits and make plays in the secondary, making him look like someone who could become the true impact safety that Michigan has lacked for so long.

QB Devin Gardner, from Inkster High School (MI), is a tall and still raw dual-threat QB talent who is already enrolled and hopes to impress coaches enough during spring practices to warrant giving him a shot at some playing time as a true Freshman.  The most striking assets Devin brings to the table are from the physical side, as he rises 6′-4″ from the turf and has plenty of room for development in the weight room for added durability and strength.  While improving markedly over his junior season, he is still very raw in mechanics and often resorts to throwing from the run or displaying unorthodox technique in the passing game.  Devin’s not the fastest runner from the QB position but should have plenty of speed to run a read-option offense.  Seemingly the in-between choice for Rich Rodriguez, Devin is faster than Tate Forcier though nowhere near as good a passer, while being a better passer than Denard Robinson albeit not nearly as fast or as gifted a runner.  Rich Rodriguez will now have some interesting decisions to make with his roster of QBs, now having 3; each of which offer something different and perhaps none of them being fully fledged enough to run his show completely, yet.

And Cullen Christian is a corner that has great size, quickness and fluidity … but who might need to work with a speed coach to gain the next level of speed required to keep up with the truly elite WRs that he’ll often face in college.  He could play safety, also, and there are some who believe that will be where he ultimately ends up.  However, with Michigan so thin at corner and with Cullen displaying all the tools necessary to be a good one, I expect him to find some early playing time at corner and stick in that position.  He will join a once thin and now young Wolverine secondary and likely be asked to contribute early.

Other noteworthy additions include Marvin Robinson, a safety/linebacker hybrid from Lake Region High School in Florida who I feel will ultimately end up at a linebacker position after starting out at safety, Jibreel Black, a versatile defensive line prospect who could wind up lining up at two or maybe three defensive line positions before it’s all said and done and who possesses a strong motor, Josh Furman, a running back/safety/linebacker who possesses great measureables and blazing speed, and Will Hagerup, a punter (yes a punter!) with a big leg, solid technique and a great shot at being the replacement for the departed Zoltan Mesko.

The remaining 2010 Michigan Wolverine recruits:

  • QB/ATH Conelius Jones – Spartanburg, SC (Spartanburg High School)
  • RB Austin White – Livonia, MI (Stephenson High School)
  • RB Stephen Hopkins – Flower Mound, TX (Marcus High School)
  • WR Ricardo Miller – Ann Arbor, MI (Pioneer High School)
  • WR Jerald Robinson – Canton, OH (Canton South High School)
  • WR Jeremy Jackson – Ann Arbor, MI (Huron High School)
  • WR Drew Dileo – Baton Rouge, LA (Parkview Baptist School)
  • WR DJ Williamson – Warren, OH (Warren G. Harding High School)
  • OC Christian Pace – Avon Lake, OH (Avon Lake High School)
  • DT Terry Talbott – Huber Heights, OH (Wayne High School)
  • DT Richard Ash – Pahokee, FL (Pahokee High School)
  • DE Kenny Wilkins – Washington, PA (Trinity High School)
  • DE Jordan Paskorz – Allison Park , PA (Hampton High School)
  • DE Antonio Kinard – Youngstown, OH (Liberty High School)
  • OLB Jake Ryan – Cleveland, OH (St. Ignatius High School)
  • OLB Davion Rogers – Warren, OH (Warren G. Harding High School)
  • S Carvin Johnson – Metairie, LA (Archbishop Rummel HS)
  • Ray Vinopal – Youngstown, OH (Cardinal Mooney High School)
  • CB Courtney Avery – Lexington, OH (Lexington High School)
  • CB Terrance Talbott – Huber Heights, OH (Wayne High School)

Overall this class has plenty of speed to upgrade the Wolverines roster all over the field, though at times being undersized and other times being somewhat unproven.  Plenty of WR and Slot WR prospects to try to increase production out of those key areas for Rich Rodriguez’s offense, and a nice haul of athletic defenders to replenish a defense searching for answers at almost all levels.  A solid B+ class for Rich Rodriguez and company.

Go Blue!

Boubacar Cissoko Booted From Michigan Football Team

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Posted on 27th October 2009 by Ben Krasner in Sports Commentary

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Boubacar Cissoko, a promising young cornerback from Detroit Cass Tech High, was removed from the Michigan Football Team for ‘unspecified violation of team rules’, Coach Rich Rodriguez announced on Tuesday. Cissoko had been suspended from playing with the team on Saturday for similar reasons in weeks previous, but had worked himself back onto the playing field through meeting daily objectives and saw time during Michigan’s loss against Penn State on Saturday. Apparently, the positive momentum of his efforts was short lived.

Speculation by those surrounding and reporting on the team seems to indicate a variety of possible issues, most assuming a direct violation of the same things that he had been working on in recent weeks being the main undoing. But others, including Cissoko’s high school coach, shed a bit different light on the subject.

A number of sources claim that Cissoko had a poor work ethic and was incompatible as a teammate. Others focus instead on the fact that he was consistently struggling to get to class and doing well enough once there. What’s clear, given his previous publicized issues (shouting at a police officer who pulled him over, for example) is that Cissoko simply needs to get his head on straight before he completely throws away the opportunity that so many wish they had.

There’s no shortage of stories that sound like this: Talented high school sports star goes to play at college but fails to manage all that surrounds him and take advantage of his gifts and ends up disappearing from sight. It’s unbelievably sad, I think, to hear this story over and over again.

Boubacar, if you’re out there or reading this, please understand I am not angry about anything you did, nor do I feel the need to bash you at your time of difficulty like some others do. I’m just disappointed that things didn’t turn out differently and especially at a school/progam with as many available resources as Michigan has to offer to counter the incredible demands of FBS college football. I hope you find your way and are able to still eventually put your strong athletic talents to use for another program.

I hope to see Boubacar find a smaller program away from all the BCS madness so he can focus on gettting stronger mentally and educationally while still letting his physical tools just open the doors he needs to keep progressing. It’s pretty clear, if ge can his head straight, MAC schools can serve as ample proving grounds for the NFL. Who knows, maybe hindsight will prove that to be the kind of route he should have originally taken.