Saturday, July 09, 2005

Michigan Football Rumor Mill

(The following information comes from multiple sources close to or within the program)

I’ll occasionally update this when there’s enough information to make it worthwhile.

-Clayton Richard’s decision to sign a pro baseball contract did weaken Michigan’s depth chart but that’s about it. Matt Gutierrez is healthy and ready to go. A lot has been made of Matt challenging Henne for the starting qb spot. The coaches will give Gutierrez a chance to show he’s the better guy, however, it’s very difficult to pin the champ 1-2-3 in the center of the ring. This is why Henne will be the starter barring injury. Mark it down.

- Each position is loaded with depth where 4-5 guys “could” step up and turn an unknown into a strength. The problem being that it’s very difficult for the coaching staff to differentiate between players who haven’t gotten pt in the past. Look for a lot of players to see pt in the first few games as the staff tries to let the cream rise to the top. It could be all the way until the Big Ten opener before the best players are playing.

-As expected, new Def. Line coach Steve Stripling is already having an impact on the defense. The coaching staff is very excited about the prospects for the d-line. Expect a significant increase in Michigan’s sack total.

-Gabe Watson’s “suspension” is not a big thing right now in terms of him not playing this season. The coaching staff finally had enough of the poor conditioning and tried to light a fire under his rear. As long as nothing drastic happens, Gabe will definitely be there for the season-opener.

-Gabe #2? There are high hopes for Alan Branch at the defensive tackle position. Branch is a big body capable of dominating the running game. He’s extremely athletic and has grown leaps and bounds in terms of his strength and understanding of the game. With Massey and Gabe ahead of him in the rotation, Branch will need to make it hard for the coaches to take him off the field by excelling in the playing time he gets.

-As I stated in my Michigan Football Preview, Adam Stenavich is once again in a position battle. Despite being named to the Lombardi watch list, Stenavich can’t seem to separate himself from Mike Kolodziej. However, I cannot see Lloyd benching a three year starter on the OL. Kolo will get playing time but look for Stenavich to hang onto the spot as long as he plays respectably.

-As it has been the previous few years, the OL is a problem area coming into the season. The coaches have not had all of the expected starters available for practice so they don’t have any way of knowing how they’ll look come September. Plenty of people are getting reps but some of the more important players are either hurt, or underperforming.

-It’s been known for quite sometime that the coaches were hoping Dave Baas’ replacement at center would be Ruben Riley. I personally think this will still be the case but like many of the Michigan OL, Riley hasn’t been 100%. Leo Henige is also a possibility at center.

-The hype about Jake Long being one of the better tackles Michigan has had is not hype. According to the coaches, he’s the real deal.

-Michigan is deep at wr but the depth features a lot of guys who haven’t played. The “buzz” is that in time, Mario Manningham will be the best wr on the roster. He’s a game-changer. The coaching staff would really like to have Dutch, Arrington or even Carl Tabb step up as a dependable option so I wouldn’t expect Manningham to jump right in. However, if they aren’t getting what they want from the #3 wr position, don’t be surprised if Manningham starts dominating people this year.

-Chris Graham is a brick at lb. Expectations need to be reasonable here, but the staff is very excited about his potential.

-Most people know the guys who have performed well for Michigan but the following are players who haven’t gotten significant pub (at least nationally) to date that the coaches feel can have big impact years: Prescott Burgess, Chris Graham, and Jake Long

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