Michigan vs. Illinois: The Drubbing

These are the types of games you dream of when the weather is bad.  With how much rain was coming down, I was expecting a lot of fumbles and miscues.  But obviously the offense planned for such weather, and Denard only threw the ball 11 times.  I mean, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, why bother throwing it when you can run as well as he can?

Fitzgerald Toussaint’s impact is still notably absent.  You can tell the coaching staff isn’t overly thrilled with him, because Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes got carries in the first half.  I’m a big fan of both of these young running backs, and both of them have a unique set of skills that will make them assets.  Rawls runs like he is Jerome Bettis, and loves to try to run over people, which is great unless you’re playing Alabama.  He had 9 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown, and while 63 of those yards may have been on one carry in garbage time, I’m still a fan of his downhill, physical running style.

His touchdown run is at 8:35 of that video.

Meanwhile Hayes is a faster back, and he showed his good hand-eye coordination when he dropped the ball and was able to pick it back up and keep his stride.  Sure this play was incredibly lucky, but Hayes still managed to rack up 66 yards on 10 carries and showed good burst when he hit the hole.

Toussaint needs to get a better average going if he doesn’t want to lose carries, because 62 yards on 18 carries is not good enough.  The big issue is he needs to go back to last year when he would just run downhill, and wouldn’t try to run so much East and West.  We don’t need him to break massive touchdown runs each play, he just needs to be a threat that can take the pressure off Denard, and right now, he doesn’t scare anyone.

The passing game was non-existent, with Denard throwing only 11 passes, but between the weather and the amount of interceptions that Denard has thrown thus far, I could have cared less.  Devin Funchess did have an absolutely amazing catch for a touchdown in the third quarter, and I swear this kid has the potential to be one of the best tight ends to come through here.  He looks like he could be as good as Rob Gronkowski, given his size, leaping ability and hands.  Sure he may have dropped one early on, but I’ll give him a pass with the rain.

FUNCHESS.

Also, I’m not even going to mention the injuries to Denard and Ricky Barnum, because everyone knows that with the lack of depth on this team, if any starters are injured for a serious amount of time, they will be in trouble.  Thankfully both were able to come back and finish the game.

Defensively, Michigan had another stout performance.  I was seriously thrilled watching the game and watching all of the young guys make plays.  Jake Ryan is Clay Matthews 2.0.  He’s an absolute beast, and was rightfully named the defensive player of the week in the Big Ten.

It was another strong performance from the young guys, with true freshman defensive end Mario Ojemudia having a really strong game, where he had a fumble recovery and a sack.  James Ross and Joe Bolden continued to look solid at linebacker, and honestly, both of them look like they are upperclassmen.  Neither one has made any overly bad plays where they look like true freshmen, not since the Alabama game at least.  Kenny Demens also showed why he is a great coverage linebacker, sure he may not fight off blocks real well, but his interception was a fantastic play.

The defensive line looked like they also played a lot better, there were more guys in on the line rotation, and I loved how Ondre Pipkins played.  I also enjoy watching Craig Roh; he’s had to play three different positions in four years and has done a superb job at all three.  He doesn’t have the explosiveness that Jake Ryan has, but he was damn good.

I am, however, still not a fan of Will Campbell.  It’s really too bad about his development, because he has the size, but he has just not gotten any better.  He’s done an okay job of not getting pushed off the line as much, but he has serious problems with his leverage and staying low.  He also hasn’t done a great job wrapping up guys, but at this point it is what it is.

Any game that a defense holds and offense to 134 yards total offense, and gets two turnovers, all while pitching a shutout, there isn’t going to be much to say negatively.  And the special teams also did a great job; it was nice to see what Dennis Norfleet can do returning punts, which as it turns out, is a lot.  Norfleet was an absolute steal on signing day, and while he hasn’t gotten into the end zone, his impact in the return game should not be overlooked.

Meanwhile, this was the bonehead play of the game, courtesy of Josh Furman.

Perhaps a little patience next time.

In recruiting news, after months of speculation, Michigan has parted ways with offensive guard David Dawson.  Dawson was a highly rated recruit that is listed as the 7th best guard in the country according to Rivals.  During the Summer he talked about going down to the University of Florida for a camp, and the coaches quickly shut that idea down, but apparently Dawson hadn’t shut down the idea of checking out Florida.  The coaching staff has a strict no visit policy, and the rumors are that Dawson was trying to go to Florida for a visit and was trying to organize one while still staying committed.

This was obviously not okay with the Michigan coaching staff, and it was a “mutual” break-up, but if you read around on the recruiting message boards, it seems as though Dawson was going to end up in the  SEC all along.  If you look at his Twitter timeline, he clearly had no intentions of ever showing up here, asking other Florida recruits to follow him back, and talking about how awesome the Florida offensive line coach.  He now lists his top three as Alabama, Florida and LSU, but I would bet anything he ends up with the Gators.

It’s too bad that they’re not going to get a highly rated in-state recruit, but if someone doesn’t want to be here, then there are plenty of people that want to come to Michigan, and we’ll be better off without him.  They already have four, four-star, offensive lineman in their 2013 class, and with this extra scholarship now open, perhaps they can take a shot at five-star linebacker E.J. Levenberry again.

I trust the coaching staff, and until they give me a reason not to trust them, especially recruiting wise, I will always defer to them.  I try not to get caught up in stars and rankings, because a lot of them end up being biased, and nobody can tell how an athlete’s long-term development will end up.  Patrick Omameh was a two-star and he’s been a three-year starter at right guard.  Meanwhile, Will Campbell was a five-star, one of the highest recruited prospects in the country, and he is just getting his first crack at starting as a Senior.  And with how the true freshmen have played so far this year, I think that Brady Hoke and his staff know exactly what they’re doing.

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