Tondar's Daily Rant

Prepare yourself for the writings of Tondar the Destroyer, Baron of Atlanta, Rightful Heir to the Throne of Spain, from whom all babies come. As his will be blogged, so let it be done.

Friday, January 18, 2008

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2008

Initially, Tondar predicted 4 losses for next season. I figured with Mallet and Arrington, they could provide enough offense, so that the experienced defense could do most of the heavy lifting and winning (kind of like Ohio State this year).

Well now that the dust has settled and we have a better idea of who will be back for 2008, Seth has some analysis and it turns out that he agrees with Rivals.com.

Yes, it hurts to lose Henne, Hart, Long, Arrington, Manningham and Kraus. But it also gives RichRod a perfectly clean slate without massive expectations for his first year. I think that's important in the transition. We have some great young receivers left over stilll (though as James notes, we can't expect this forever considering we fired the best receivers coach in the history of the NCAA). On the offensive line, we have a bunch of square pegs stepping in, but at least the kids from last season are now upperclassmen.

If Michigan is to have a good season, despite Rich-Rod's spread, it's going to have to be the defense that carries it. I think Ron English was an excellent coordinator, but the guy we got is a gem himself. Scott Shafer is going to be a major program head coach in five years. You last saw him when he was using Stanford's no-talent defense to shut down USC. Last year, the defense was a soft spot, mostly because they got hit almost as hard by graduation attrition as the offense is getting hit this year.

D-Line:
The whole D-Line is back -- 3 seniors and a junior -- which means this will probably be the highlight of our team. Tim Jamison, who got a medical redshirt for his injured freshman year, is still the dumbest jock with talent in the Big Ten. Brandon Graham showed more and more flashes of friggin awesome as the year progressed. Taylor is coming back -- probably our best defensive player. Marques Slocum started stepping it up late in the year, and Jason Kates and John Ferrara got some playing time, and should be better than the Yellow Brick Road, Will Johnson, who will be a 5th year senior, but will have to prove himself to the new coach (I always thought he was earning starts with his Academics and team-first attitude, 'cause it certainly wasn't his play). Adam Patterson and Greg Banks are probably ready to sub in behind Graham and Jamison. But Johnson is a really big hole unless he starts playing better or loses his job to someone over whom you can't run an entire offense.

Linebackers:
Obi Ezeh kind of grew up over the season, but he's still the Ryan Mallett of the defense. And though we lost Crable, which hurts, and Chris Graham, which doesn't, I think Austin Panter and Jonas Mouton could start making an impact. Up the middle, John Thompson will be back from injury, and he's going to be a force, and Brandon Logan might be ready now too. Overall, thanks to Thompson and Ezeh, linebacking will be only slightly worse than last year when the season begins, and perhaps better by season's end.

Cornerback:
Corner is a strength, safety is a weakness. The backfield takes a huge loss with Jamar Adams, who was quietly a great safety, and Brandent Englemon, another guy you could trust but with less talent. Morgan Trent reminds me of the old Buckeye Dustin Fox -- he's short, has bad ups, isn't super fast, isn't super big, but he can tackle and get the job done with smarts and inspired play. He's a strength. A bigger strength is Donovan Warren, the latest true freshman cornerback to emerge as a star for Michigan. He's already better than Leon Hall was at this point in his career, probably on par with Marlin Jackson and a bit lower than Charles Woodson. That's still friggin awesome for a true sophomore. If you're investing in jerseys this year, I might recommend No. 6. Brandon Harrison is a decent nickelback, and getting better -- he'll be a senior now, so maybe that means he's learned how to tackle. If not, James Rogers and Troy Woolfolk (yes, he's related) are supposed to be decent backup freshmen in the wings.

Safety:
Harrison might also go back to safety, where he played the year all of our safeties died (2005). Stevie Brown will probably be the full-time free safety -- he got a lot of time last year but looked entirely lost. He's a junior now, and has all the talent in the world. As for the Strong Safety, your guess is as good as mine. Maybe young Michael Williams can step up. Maybe a true freshman. Maybe Antonio Bass. Probably Harrison then.

Overall, this backfield is young but already experienced. Harrison's a 4th year senior who played all four years, Trent's a 5th year senior starting for his fourth season, Warren's a true sophomore who was a starter last year, and Brown's a true junior who started a handful of games last year. Considering the experience of Harrison and Trent, and the stardom of Warren, I think the secondary will be a strength of the Wolverines. How much of one will depend entirely on whether Stevie Brown wakes the hell up, and whether Harrison can play his true position (nickelback) or has to fill in as safety all the time.

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