Big Ten: Jason Olesnavage

The Revolving Door: Michigan

June, 17, 2010
Tenth in a series examining key players departing, staying and arriving at Big Ten schools in 2010.

Going ...

Brandon Graham, DE: Graham didn't win Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors last fall, but no defender in the league looked more dominant than No. 55. His numbers were simply insane: 26 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, two blocked kicks, one recovery of a blocked punt for a touchdown. Graham's stats and leadership will be sorely missed up front.

Donovan Warren, CB: Michigan's secondary wasn't good in 2009, but it could have been even worse without Warren's contributions. He led the team with four interceptions, including a pick-six at Iowa, and also topped the chart in passes defended with seven. Warren earned first-team All-Big Ten honors from the media.

Staying ...

Stephen Schilling, G: Schilling has been through it all at Michigan, and he'll help anchor a line that should be one of the Wolverines' strengths this fall. An honorable mention All-Big Ten selection in 2009, Schilling has started 36 of his 37 career games at tackle or guard. ESPN's Mel Kiper ranks him as the No. 4 senior guard for the 2011 NFL draft.

Troy Woolfolk, CB: If Michigan's defense turns things around this fall, Woolfolk figures to play a major role. The converted safety has built up his confidence at the cornerback position and brings both experience and talent to the secondary. After a strong spring, Woolfolk will step into Warren's spot and cover the Big Ten's top receivers.

Coming ...

Cullen Christian, CB: Michigan has an obvious need in the secondary, and Christian should see the field this season, especially since Demar Dorsey isn't coming to Ann Arbor. Christian is an intelligent player with good size who can read quarterbacks and understands coverage schemes.

Will Hagerup, P/K: Graham and Warren are major losses, but Michigan really will miss All-American punter Zoltan Mesko this fall. The Wolverines also lose kicker Jason Olesnavage, so Hagerup will make a major impact in 2010. Like Mesko, Hagerup has excellent size (6-4, 210) and was heavily recruited coming out of high school. Michigan's specialists struggled this spring, so Rich Rodriguez will turn to Hagerup.

More revolving door ...

I'm man enough to admit mistakes, so here's one: I haven't given special teams nearly enough attention in the blog. As we saw throughout the 2009 regular season and bowl season, the kicking game often makes the difference in the final outcome.

Consider this a fresh start.

Let's take a look at who's back, who's gone and how the special-teams units look for each Big Ten squad in 2010. We'll start with the first six teams (by alphabetical order) and examine the other five later Tuesday.


  • Kicker: Derek Dimke and Matt Eller both return. Dimke went 5-for-5 on field-goal attempts (all beyond 30 yards) after taking over for Eller, who struggled in his second year, connecting on only 4 of 11 attempts.
  • Punter: Senior Anthony Santella returns after ranking sixth in the league in punting average (41.3 ypp).
  • Kick return: Troy Pollard is back, but Arrelious Benn and A.J. Jenkins both depart. Illinois finished ninth in the league last fall in this category (19.3 ypr).
  • Punt return: Jarred Fayson and Jack Ramsey both come back. Illinois ranked last in the league in punt returns in 2009 (4.2 ypr)
  • Quick thoughts: Illinois needs to upgrade its kicking game to have any shot at turning things around in 2010. The return game really struggled (114th nationally in punt returns, 105th in kick returns), and kickoff coverage wasn't good, either (90th). Dimke provided a nice spark late in the season, but Illinois has too much talent not to make a bigger splash in returns.

  • Kicker: Sophomore Nick Freeland returns after connecting on 14 of 25 attempts in 2009. Redshirt freshman Mitch Ewald and senior Nick Ford also are in the mix here.
  • Punter: Junior Chris Hagerup is back after finishing eighth in the league in punting average (40.5 ypp).
  • Kick return: Ray Fisher, who led the Big Ten in kick return average (37.4 ypr), is gone. Wide receiver Tandon Doss, who led IU with 25 runbacks, returns for his junior season.
  • Punt return: Indiana loses Fisher but brings back Doss. The Hoosiers finished second in the Big Ten in punt returns last fall (10.3 ypr).
  • Quick thoughts: Fisher is a major loss in the return game, but Doss certainly has the ability to fill the void. Indiana must figure things out on field goals, as it ranked last in the Big Ten in percentage last fall (.560). The offense should be pretty dynamic in 2010, so any help the kicking game provides would be huge. Indiana covered punts well but needs to improve on kickoffs after finishing 93rd nationally (23.2 ypr).

  • Kicker: Daniel Murray handled all of Iowa's field goals in 2009, connecting on 19 of 26 attempts. Junior Trent Mossbrucker also returns.
  • Punter: Senior Ryan Donahue will contend for All-Big Ten honors this fall after averaging 40.9 yards per punt in 2009.
  • Kick return: Senior Derrell Johnson-Koulianos is back after finishing second in the league in kick return average (31.5 ypr). Running back Brandon Wegher and wideout Paul Chaney Jr. also are back.
  • Punt return: Senior Colin Sandeman is back, and he'll compete with Chaney and possibly others for the top job.
  • Quick thoughts: Special teams should be a major strength for the Hawkeyes in 2010. Johnson-Koulianos showed against Ohio State how dangerous he can be on kickoff returns. Donahue and Murray are two of the league's more experienced specialists. Iowa's coverage units fared well in 2009, ranking ninth nationally in kick coverage (18.4 ypr) and 21st in punt coverage (5.7 ypr).

  • Kicker: The Wolverines must replace Jason Olesnavage, who connected on 11 of 15 attempts in 2009.
  • Punter: Michigan suffers a big loss here as Ray Guy Award finalist Zoltan Mesko departs. Mesko led the Big Ten in punting average (44.5 ypp).
  • Kick return: Wideout Darryl Stonum is back after averaging 25.7 yards per runback with a touchdown in 2009. Michigan's No. 2 option, Martavious Odoms, also returns for 2010. The Wolverines ranked third in the Big Ten in kick returns last fall (23.8 ypr).
  • Punt return: Junior Hemingway is back after leading U-M in punt returns (8.6 ypr). Odoms had six punt returns last fall, though Michigan could look to its younger players here.
  • Quick thoughts: Replacing Mesko won't be easy, and Olesnavage quietly turned in a strong season, especially from long range. Incoming punter recruit Will Hagerup will step into the fire right away for the Wolverines. Kick returns should be a strength, and Michigan did a decent job on coverage last year, ranking 20th in punt coverage and third in the Big Ten in net kickoff coverage.

  • Kicker: The Spartans suffer a big loss here, as first-team All-Big Ten selection Brett Swenson departs. Swenson went 19-for-22 on field goals last fall and led the Big Ten in kick scoring (101 points).
  • Punter: Senior Aaron Bates returns after finishing fifth in the league in punting average (41.6 ypp).
  • Kick return: Wide receiver Keshawn Martin is back after becoming arguably the Big Ten's most dangerous return man last fall. Michigan State needs a No. 2 option here.
  • Punt return: Martin did a nice job on punt returns in 2009, averaging 7.4 yards per runback.
  • Quick thoughts: Swenson leaves a major void at kicker, as Dan Conroy and Kevin Muma compete to replace the back-to-back All-Big Ten selection. Martin really blossomed on returns during Big Ten play and could be a huge X-factor for Michigan State this fall. The Spartans' coverage teams were average in 2009. If Conroy and/or Muma can hold their own on field goals, special teams could be a real strength for Mark Dantonio's team.

  • Kicker: Eric Ellestad is back for his senior year after connecting on 13 of 17 field-goal attempts, with all the makes coming from within 40 yards.
  • Punter: Minnesota loses Blake Haudan, who had a very solid 2009 season, ranking third in the league in average (42.6 ypp). Sophomore Dan Orseske will step in this fall.
  • Kick return: Wideout Troy Stoudermire is back after once again getting a ton of action on returns, recording 43 runbacks for 1,057 yards (24.6 ypr). Duane Bennett and Hayo Carpenter are possible No. 2 options.
  • Punt return: Sophomore wideout Bryant Allen is back after averaging 12.2 yards on six runbacks last fall. Minnesota led the Big Ten in punt return average (14.7 ypr), although the Gophers also had the fewest opportunities (9).
  • Quick thoughts: Haudan was a very solid punter in 2009, so Orseske will have some big shoes to fill. Stoudermire and Allen are fine options on returns, and Ellestad did a nice job on the kicks he should make. Minnesota really struggled on kickoff coverage, ranking 102nd nationally (24.1 ypr). If the offense starts slow again this fall, Minnesota will need to be sharp in the kicking game.

Michigan's defense comes out hot

November, 21, 2009
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- One of the weakest units in the Big Ten looks pretty good so far today.

Michigan's maligned defense has held Terrelle Pryor and the Buckeyes' offense in check. I like Michigan's decision to move Troy Woolfolk back to deep safety after moving him to cornerback midway through the season. The defensive line has shut down Ohio State's run game, and Mike Martin came up with a big sack on Pryor, losing his helmet in the process.

You got the feeling defense would translate into offense for Michigan as Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson led a balanced drive into the red zone. But a questionable third-down call -- I hate the bubble screen -- led to a short field-goal attempt, which Jason Olesnavage missed.

Tough blow there for Michigan as Ohio State still leads 7-0.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier and running back Carlos Brown are both listed as probable for Saturday's game against Delaware State (Big Ten Network, noon ET) after dealing with concussions.

Here's Michigan's full injury report, issued Thursday night.

  • C David Molk, foot
  • CB Zac Johnson, shoulder
PROBABLE (75 percent chance of playing)
  • QB Tate Forcier, concussion
  • RB Carlos Brown, concussion
Forcier, who sustained a mild concussion in the fourth quarter of last week's loss to Iowa, returned to practice Wednesday. Head coach Rich Rodriguez said Monday that if healthy, Forcier will make his seventh straight start at quarterback. This is certainly not the game to take many chances with Forcier, and Michigan would be wise to get backup Denard Robinson a good chunk of playing time no matter what. Senior Brandon Minor likely will get the start at running back, but it appears as though Brown, who didn't travel for the Iowa game after sustaining a concussion last week in practice, will be on the field as well.

Rodriguez named defensive end Brandon Graham, kicker Jason Olesnavage, linebacker Ohene Opong-Owusu and left tackle Mark Ortmann as the Wolverines' game captains for Saturday.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Like most fifth-year seniors, Michigan's Mark Ortmann and Jason Olesnavage have pretty much seen it all.

They've been to the Rose Bowl and lost to Appalachian State. They've handed Florida its only postseason loss under Urban Meyer and endured the worst season in team history last fall. They've experienced a coaching change and been a part of the biggest game in recent Big Ten history at Ohio State in 2006.
 Leon Halip/Getty Images
 The Wolverines need Tate Forcier to bounce back from Saturday's loss to Michigan State.

"We’ve been through everything," said Olesnavage, the Wolverines starting kicker. "So from our perspective, I don’t think one loss is going to send us in a downward spiral."

Michigan's old guard isn't the only faction of the team with an inventory of experiences. The Wolverines' freshmen have only five games under their belts and only a few months on a college campus, but arguably no other group of young players in the country has been through more in such little time.

They have dealt with the preseason allegations of NCAA violations against head coach Rich Rodriguez and his assistants, which put Michigan's program under the national microscope leading up to the opener. They have dealt with adversity in games against Notre Dame and Indiana, only to rally back behind their fearless freshman leader, quarterback Tate Forcier. And now they've experienced their first defeat, to a rival no less, as they fell 26-20 in overtime to Michigan State last Saturday.

It was another lesson learned, which Wolverines players hope will pay off as they move on to Saturday night's road showdown against No. 12 Iowa (ABC, 8 p.m. ET).

"We work hard and we deserve what we get," said Ortmann, the Wolverines' starting left tackle. "We didn’t deserve to win on Saturday. Michigan State brought the fight to us, and we weren’t prepared for it. But as tough as it was and as bad as we played as an offense, we still had a chance to win. It gives an inspiration to the rest of the team that we are capable of coming back at any time, if needed, to win a game.

"I think people will go into Iowa with their heads up.”

(Read full post)

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Michigan has issued its injury report for Saturday's game against Eastern Michigan.

  • Guard David Moosman (shoulder)
  • Guard Tim McAvoy (knee)
Michigan gets a boost from Hemingway's return. He and freshman quarterback Tate Forcier had great chemistry in the season opener against Western Michigan, hooking up for two touchdowns. Moosman is a starter, so his absence hurts a bit after he sustained a separated shoulder last week against Notre Dame.

John Ferrara likely will replace Moosman against Eastern Michigan, and redshirt freshman Elliott Mealer also could be in the mix at guard.

Michigan also announced its game captains for Eastern Michigan: wide receiver Jon Conover, defensive end Brandon Graham, kicker Jason Olesnavage and wide receiver LaTerryal Savoy.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Believe it or not, there was a bit of actual football news today at Michigan. Head coach Rich Rodriguez released his depth chart (page 14) for Saturday's season opener against Western Michigan, and as expected, three quarterbacks were listed as possible starters. For what it's worth, freshman Tate Forcier comes first, and then junior Nick Sheridan and freshman Denard Robinson.

"I anticipate playing all three of them," Rodriguez said Monday.

Other notable items on the Wolverines' two-deep:
  • True freshman Vincent Smith is listed as a co-backup at running back with Carlos Brown, behind starter Brandon Minor. Sophomore Michael Shaw, who logged a lot of playing time last year, is the fourth-stringer.
  • Sophomore wide receiver Kelvin Grady, a former Michigan basketball player, is listed as a backup behind Martavious Odoms in the slot. Junior Hemingway and Greg Mathews are the other projected starters at receiver.
  • Brandon Herron is listed as the starter at "quick" end (linebacker-defensive end hybrid), with true freshman Craig Roh as his backup.
  • True freshman William Campbell is listed as the third string nose tackle behind Mike Martin and Renaldo Sagesse. I thought he'd be higher.
  • Youth will be served in the secondary this fall. Though the starting four consists of junior Donovan Warren and sophomore Boubacar Cissoko at cornerback and junior Troy Woolfolk and sophomore Mike Williams at safety, several freshmen are in position to play, including corners J.T. Turner, J.T. Floyd and Teric Jones, and safety Vladimir Emilien.
  • Rodriguez said senior Jason Olesnavage is the frontrunner at kicker, though Olesnavage is listed as a co-starter with both Brendan Gibbons and Bryan Wright.