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Michigan vs Western Michigan Preview

September 2, 2011

 

 

The Wolverine Den welcomes Mike Randazzo to give his preview of the Michigan v. WMU game.  Tell him how much you like it and hopefully we can get him to do this every week!

NAMES TO KNOW

1. Alex Carder (QB) – Carder is a junior and the returning starter who threw for 3300+ yards last season and is the star of the Western Michigan offense.  He had a solid game at Michigan state in 2010, throwing for 220 yards and rushing for 40, leading the team in both categories.  Nobody should be concerned about him as a running threat though with his longest carry being 21 yards and season total at ~200 yards (20% of those in East Lansing).  The first name that pops into my head for a comparison is former Indiana QB Ben Chappell.  They’re both around 6’2″ 224lbs and known for being accurate passers who don’t make a lot of mistakes. 

2. Jordan White (WR) – The rare 6th year senior, White was granted an extra year of eligibility after missing both 2006 and 2008 due to injury.  He’s the leading receiver returning for Western and had 94 catches for 1300+ yards and 10 touchdowns a year ago.  I expect Carder to target him early, and often, to establish the passing game.  

3. Dann O’Neill (OL – Right Tackle) – The name may sound familiar because O’Neill was originally a 4-star commit in Michigan’s 2008 recruiting class that included current starters Mike Martin, Patrick Omameh, Ricky Barnum, and others.  Dann transferred to Western in 2009 and after sitting out a year he started 10 games in 2010, while missing two due to injury.  He’s a giant (6’8″ 307lbs) on the right side of the line and will be the guy Western tries to run behind.

OFFENSIVE STRENGTH

The key to Western’s success is clearly going to be the passing game.  Some people think Carder will get a shot in the NFL after another year or two in college, and Jordan White is a very good receiving target with a lot of experience. With Michigan’s secondary being so shaky last season, the Broncos will likely come out throwing to try to open up lanes for the run game. 

OFFENSIVE WEAKNESS

Part of the reason Western might be throwing a lot is that their offensive line is shaky at best.  They lost 3 starters from last year’s sub-par squad, and will be starting two backups this week, one at Left Guard and one at Center because of some injuries they’ve suffered in camp.  Both starters are junior college transfers, and while Left Guard Deon Cammock is massive (6’6″ 342 lbs), Center Kasimili Uitalia is on the smaller side (6’2″ 290 lbs) for a guy who will have Mike Martin hovering over him on every snap.  Western wasn’t great running the ball last year, and could take a step back early this season until the new starters get some more experience.

DEFENSIVE STRENGTH

On paper, the defensive line for WMU doesn’t seem very intimidating with starting DE’s Paul Hazel listed at 6’5″ 210 lbs on the weakside and Deauntay Legrier listed at 6’1″ 249 lbs on the strongside.  They make up for that with speed on the edge and a lot of experience combining for 78 tackles and 11 sacks last season.  The interior of the line adds more size, rotating a few 300 lb guys, and overall every starter from the line returns from 2010 giving it a lot of experience.

DEFENSIVE WEAKNESS

The secondary doesn’t look horrible to me, but that could be because I watched a year of Michigan playing 4 true freshman who looked totally clueless at times.  Western did lose 3 starters from 2010, and since every starter on the line and at linebacker are returning, the secondary will definitely be their weakness.  Louis Toler will be considered their “lockdown” corner and did have 5 interceptions last season, but that was when he wasn’t matching up against the best WR all game.

MY GAME EXPECTATIONS

Coach Hoke likes to use the line “This is Michigan” in his press conferences when asked if the Michigan job was still considered elite, or when asked how he’s built such a strong recruiting class for 2011.  I think he’s trying to get fans to follow that approach too and get some of that Michigan swagger back that has been lost for the last few years.  In 2009, a lot of people predicted we would lose to Western in the opener and fans were genuinely nervous for that game.  I hope that never happens again, and I’m following Coach Hoke’s lead and saying Michigan will not lose this game.  Of course anything can happen on a Saturday, but a loss would be a complete embarrassment and nobody should try to convince themselves that Western should win.  

What I do see happening, though, is that the score will be a lot closer than people expect.  I feel Michigan could come out in their spread-like offense and score a lot of points getting guys out on the edge with the undersized DE’s, but I don’t think the coaches are going to do that.  All Spring and Fall the coaches have talked about trying to get to a power-running game, and this is their chance to see how much of that they can use the rest of the season.  I think they’ll hand the ball off to Shaw, Toussaint, Smith, and Hopkins a lot and try to get them to run between the tackles, which could be a challenge given the size/experience of the interior of Western’s line.  I also expect to see Denard doing a lot of 3, 5, and 7-step drops so the coaches can see how he handles it when guys can actually hit him.  He’ll scramble if things are bottled up, but I don’t expect any designed runs or read options unless we start losing and the coaches need to open it up.  

On defense, we should be able to get pressure from our front-4 because of the instability in Western’s line, so I don’t know how many blitz packages we will see.  Coach Mattison wants to pressure the QB, and all the talk this fall are about his disguised blitzes to force the offense to make mistakes.  My guess though is that he doesn’t want to show too much of that before the Notre Dame game if he can get pressure with just the DE’s.  To make up for the lack of blitzing there will likely be a heavy rotation on the line to keep guys fresh, getting Roh, Black, Martin, Van Bergen, Campbell, Washington, Brink, Heininger, and maybe even Frank Clark and Jake Ryan time at various spots.  

 

The coaches don’t care what the public thinks, and with the installation of countdown clocks they clearly care about rivalries.  Those two things combined convince me that both the offense and defense will be vanilla, unless it becomes necessary.  They won’t want to show too much to Notre Dame, and will look at this as another opportunity to assess the talent and how successful they can be with some of the new concepts the rest of the season.

OUTCOME

Michigan wins 31-17

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