Big Ten: Kelvin Grady
Mike Shaw and Fitzgerald Toussaint are listed as co-starters on Michigan's Week 1 depth chart for Saturday's season opener against Western Michigan. Shaw emerged in preseason camp and appears to have the inside track to start against the Broncos, although coach Brady Hoke said Monday that Toussaint still could win the top job.
Shaw has been a fairly solid back at Michigan, averaging 5.04 yards a carry with 11 touchdowns in his career. Toussaint came to Michigan as a heralded recruit but redshirted in 2009 and missed much of last season with various injuries.
Vincent Smith is clearly Michigan's third-down back, but it will be interesting to see how the carries are dispensed between Shaw and Toussaint on Saturday.
A few other depth chart notes:
- Will Heininger is listed as a starting defensive end opposite Craig Roh, even though walk-on sophomore Nathan Brink drew praise from the coaching staff throughout camp.
- I'm a little surprised to see Brendan Gibbons handling field goals ahead of freshman Matt Wile. Gibbons made only 1 of 5 attempts last season as the kicking game really hurt the Wolverines. Wile came in with some strong prep accolades but will handle kickoffs, punts and possibly longer field-goal attempts for the time being.
- J.T. Floyd and Courtney Avery are listed as co-starters at cornerback opposite Troy Woolfolk. Floyd likely will get the starting nod against Western Michigan.
- Kelvin Grady will join top kickoff returner Jeremy Gallon, while four players are listed as potential starters at punt returner: Junior Hemingway, Drew Dileo, Gallon and Martavious Odoms.
- Sophomores Mike Jones and Cam Gordon, along with junior Kenny Demens, are listed as the starting linebackers ahead of older players such as J.B. Fitzgerald and Brandon Herron.
- Aside from Wile, the depth chart includes only two freshmen in backup roles: cornerback Blake Countess and strongside linebacker Jake Ryan. Freshmen running backs Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes aren't listed on the chart.
But the Wolverines' offensive coordinator is seeing players grasp his system better than they did in spring ball. Borges told me Wednesday night that quarterback Denard Robinson is making strides, and no particular position group is lagging behind so far in preseason camp.
"They're basically all on schedule," Borges said. "Nobody in the first couple of groups looks completely confused anymore. In the spring, we were suffering through a lot of growing pains. Now it's good play, good play, bad play; where in the spring it was good play, bad play, good play, bad play, two good plays, two bad plays. We've ironed out a few of those bad plays.
"We haven't arrived, but all the kids know more than they did in the spring, which they should."
Borges is using the first five or six practices to reinstall what he did during the 15 spring workouts. He wants the players to gain confidence in a simple package of plays before throwing anything more at them.
"The system is not ingrained yet," he said, "so you've got to be careful."
Michigan's running back competition will take time to sort out, as true freshmen Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes are competing with veterans like Michael Shaw and Vincent Smith, among others. But Borges likes what Michigan has at receiver despite the decision to redshirt starter Darryl Stonum.
"Junior [Hemingway] is a productive player when he stays healthy," Borges said. "Roy [Roundtree] caught a ton of passes a year ago. [Martavious] Odoms has got speed and is definitely a threat, whether you line him up within the slot or outside. [Kelvin] Grady is a real good athlete with good lateral quickness and good hands. Jeremy Jackson is a tall, rangy type kid.
"We're not bad out there."
Strongest position: Wide receiver
- Key returnees: Roy Roundtree (72 receptions, 935 yards, 7 TDs); Darryl Stonum (49 receptions, 633 yards, 4 TDs); Junior Hemingway (32 receptions, 593 yards, 4 TDs); Kelvin Grady (17 receptions, 211 yards)
- Key losses: None
- The skinny: It's a close call between the receivers and the offensive line, but Michigan brings back everyone on the perimeter and must replace two starters (Stephen Schilling and Perry Dorrestein) up front. Several receivers made significant strides last season as Denard Robinson blossomed with his passing skills. Although Michigan's wideouts must limit dropped passes and adjust to a new system, they boast the experience and talent to help the unit this fall. Roundtree is a bona fide All-Big Ten candidate and Stonum, Hemingway and Grady all can stretch the field.
- Key returnees: S Jordan Kovacs (116 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble); CB Troy Woolfolk (46 tackles and a pass breakup in 12 starts in 2009); CB J.T. Floyd (66 tackles, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 4 pass breakups); S Cameron Gordon (77 tackles, 3 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries, 3.5 tackles for loss)
- Key losses: CB James Rogers (40 tackles, 3 interceptions); S Ray Vinopal (33 tackles, 1 interception, 3 passes defended)
- The skinny: The secondary's struggles in 2010 were well documented as opposing teams consistently found gaps and attacked down the field. Several young players who had no business being on the field so early were tossed into the fire and got burned. The good news is Michigan should be healthier with Woolfolk's return, and players like Gordon, Floyd and Courtney Avery should benefit from a year under their belts. Michigan needs improved fundamentals from its defensive backs and far fewer breakdowns that lead to big gains for the opposition. The kicker position also could fit here after a disastrous 2010 season.
But his arm was the biggest key on Michigan's scoring drive to open the second half. Robinson, who completed just 4 of 10 passes in the first half, hit Kelvin Grady for a 12-yard gain on fourth-and-2. Two plays later, he executed a good pump fake and lofted the ball to Darryl Stonum for a 22-yard touchdown.
Robinson has become the first player in NCAA history to record 1,500 rushing yards and 1,500 passing yards in a season. Despite his decline in Big Ten play, that's simply remarkable.
He'll need both his legs and his arm if Michigan intends to make a historic comeback.
Michigan just forced a fumble, as Wisconsin has now committed turnovers on consecutive drives after entering the game with just seven all season. The Badgers have to be a bit worried after blowing a big lead in the Big House two years ago.
Wolverines trail 24-7 early in the second half.
- A source tells The Altoona Mirror that Penn State quarterback Rob Bolden failed his concussion test Sunday. Bolden's health situation means Matt McGloin likely will be in the starting role against Michigan, Donnie Collins writes in The Times-Tribune.
- Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz takes full responsibility for the clock-management issues at the end of the Wisconsin game, Sean Keeler writes in the Des Moines Register. The Hawkeyes have been on both sides of close games in recent years, Andrew Logue writes in the Des Moines Register.
- Michigan State is giving you reason to believe, even if Las Vegas still doesn't, Bob Wojnowski and Matt Charboneau write in The Detroit News. Michigan State is still haunted by its last-second loss to Iowa in 2009, Denny Schwarze writes in the Lansing State Journal. The Spartans have enjoyed a fairy-tale season to date, Dave Curtis writes in The Sporting News.
- Big Ten notes from the Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein.
- Illinois gets some good news on the health of No. 2 running back Jason Ford, Mark Tupper writes in the (Decatur) Herald & Review.
- Purdue coach Danny Hope is optimistic that quarterback Rob Henry will be ready Saturday, Mike Carmin writes in The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier.
- Indiana hopes to get offensive tackle James Brewer back on the field this week, Dustin Dopirak writes in The (Bloomington) Herald-Times (subscription required). When Ben Chappell doesn't throw a pick, Indiana wins, LaMond Pope writes in The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
- Northwestern rallied around D-line coach Marty Long during a health scare last winter, Tina Akouris writes in the Chicago Sun-Times.
- It looks like Ohio State will take the redshirt off of linebacker Etienne Sabino, Bucknuts.com's Dave Biddle writes. If so, the Buckeyes coaches have mishandled Sabino's situation, Ken Gordon writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
- Michigan receiver Kelvin Grady talks with ESPN about Twitter, annarbor.com's Michael Rothstein writes.
- Minnesota assistant Thomas Hammock has given the offense a more aggressive approach, Marcus Fuller writes in the (St. Paul) Pioneer Press. A former Gophers assistant endorses Kevin Sumlin as the team's next head coach, Fuller writes.
Adam Rittenberg: So, Bennett, we meet again. Good starts for both the Irish and the Wolverines on Saturday, and it should be a great one in South Bend. Let's talk offense. What do you think Knute Rockne and Fielding Yost would say about these two systems matching up?
Yet, for all the talk of the spread offense, Notre Dame stuck to an old staple to beat Purdue: the running game. Running backs Armando Allen and Cierre Wood together averaged better than six yards per carry, and the Irish were happy to hand off and stick to the short passing game as the Boilermakers defense played Cover 2 and protected against the deep ball. I don't think Michigan will attack Notre Dame the same way, and the bubble wrap will have to come off quarterback Dayne Crist in Week 2.
As for the Wolverines, Denard Robinson was incredible. But I didn't see a whole lot out of the backs and receivers, and now it looks like Roy Roundtree won't play. Is Michigan a one-man offense, and can it win on Saturday that way?
AR: Good point about the Irish run game, and I think the matchup between Michigan's defensive line and Notre Dame's offensive front could decide the game. Despite the loss of Brandon Graham, Michigan boasts good experience and talent up front with Mike Martin, Greg Banks, Ryan Van Bergan and dynamic sophomore Craig Roh. They'll try to take advantage of a young Notre Dame line that, despite all the talk about weight room progress, remains unproven in my eyes.
Robinson was ridiculous against Connecticut, and you can't expect him to duplicate the performance in South Bend. Then again, the guy only needs about a foot of daylight to break through the line, and then, good luck trying to bring him down. Vincent Smith and Michael Shaw both scored touchdowns in the opener, but they'll need to be more effective out of the backfield against the Irish. Roundtree would be a big loss, but wideouts Darryl Stonum and Kelvin Grady, and tight end Kevin Koger all are good targets for Robinson, who also hooked up with Terrence Robinson for a 43-yard gain.
In many ways, Michigan won the UConn game at the line of scrimmage. How do you see the two groups matching up on Saturday?
BB: The Irish played well in the trenches against Purdue, but Michigan presents a tougher challenge. With the way Brian Kelly runs the spread, the ball is out of the quarterback's hand quickly, so that neutralizes the pass rush to some degree. The key in my mind is whether the Notre Dame line can open running lanes when the Wolverines drop men into coverage.
Defensively, the front three for Notre Dame proved stout against Purdue, and surprisingly the backups gave them a solid rotation. Ian Williams looks like a perfect fit as nose tackle in a 3-4, and Kapron Lewis-Moore and Ethan Johnson can make plays off the edge. I think the pressure is on the Irish linebackers to make plays in this game. Manti Te'o should be a stud and the perfect antidote to Robinson, but he missed a lot of tackles in Week 1. Darius Fleming is their hybrid guy, and he was stuck on the sidelines with cramps for most of the Purdue game. Once Robinson gets through the first line of defense, can the Irish contain him in the open field?
How about the Michigan pass defense? Connecticut missed some opportunities there, but the Huskies don't have guys like Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph at their disposal.
AR: Totally agree about Connecticut missing some major opportunities to attack downfield, especially in the first two and a half quarters. Michigan is extremely young in the secondary and likely will be down another starter, as linebacker-safety Carvin Johnson sprained his knee in the opener. Michael Floyd absolutely shredded this defense a year ago, so you can bet Notre Dame will try to get him the ball a lot on Saturday. We'll likely see a lot of Floyd vs. Floyd, as Michigan's J.T. Floyd as emerged as the team's top cornerback and forced a big fumble against UConn. Cue the Pink Floyd music.
I'm interested to see how Michigan approaches Rudolph, a matchup problem for pretty much any team he faces. Linebackers Jonas Mouton and Obi Ezeh played well in the opener, but they'll certainly be tested by No. 9. Roh brought a ton of heat against UConn, but he might have to drop back more in this game.
OK, Bennett, you're on the spot. Your Michigan-UConn pick didn't work out so great, and some of my new friends in Ann Arbor were calling you nasty names Friday night. Who wins Saturday and what's the biggest key to the game?
BB: Well, I'm happy to play the villain in Ann Arbor as long as they still let me in the bars there. I have little doubt this will be a close game, possibly as exciting as last year's shootout. Notre Dame will have its hands full with Robinson, but I think the Irish have a more well-rounded offensive attack. And they will take advantage of that young secondary while making just enough plays of their own defensively. A special-teams play might be the difference. Brian Kelly gets his first big win as the Irish squeak by.
Now tell me why I'm wrong.
AR: You're always welcome in Ann Arbor. Just tell them you know me.
It'll definitely be a close game, and like last year, we should have a dramatic finish. Michigan's young secondary concerns me, and Crist will make plays downfield to both Floyd and Rudolph. But I also have my doubts about Notre Dame's line play and the overall toughness of that team. Robinson is certainly the X-factor here, and while Michigan can't run him 29 times again, he'll make some big plays. If special teams makes the difference, Michigan could be in trouble. Notre Dame jumps ahead, but D-Rob leads the Wolverines back in the fourth quarter for a narrow win and continues to grow his legend in Ann Arbor.
In many ways, it was Denard Robinson's most impressive drive of the game, as he made three big throws on third down to keep the chains moving. Connecticut seemed poise to carry over the momentum it generated late in the first half, but Robinson didn't let it happen, making a great throw to Kelvin Gray on third-and-11. He continued to move the ball even though Connecticut's defensive line picked up its play.
I'm amazed by how little room he needs to get to the second and third levels on defense. With 22 carries for 155 yards, Robinson already has set the Michigan single-game quarterback rushing record, breaking Steve Smith's mark (147) set against Minnesota in 1983.
The Huskies did a nice job near the goal line, forcing a Brendan Gibbons field goal. Michigan leads 24-10.
(And then there's Purdue, which didn't include a depth chart in its game notes for Notre Dame. Ugh.)
I've had the chance to review depth charts from those programs that released them today -- two-deeps from Illinois, Michigan State and Minnesota are coming soon -- and I checked in on several coaches' news conferences.
Here's what stood out:
- Even though Indiana will shift to a 3-4 defensive alignment this year, the depth chart lists a 4-3 with Darius Johnson and Fred Jones as the starting ends and Chad Sherer and Tyler Replogle flanking junior college transfer Jeff Thomas at linebacker.
- Interesting to see several veteran offensive linemen like Justin Pagan and Cody Faulkner listed as backups rather than starters. Junior Andrew McDonald steps into some big shoes at left tackle as Rodger Saffold departs to the NFL.
- The backup quarterback job remains open, as Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker are both listed as No. 2 behind Ben Chappell.
- Indiana expects big things from redshirt freshman Duwyce Wilson, listed as a starter at wide receiver, kick returner and punt returner.
- Sophomores Micah Hyde and Greg Castillo are listed as the starting cornerbacks. Shaun Prater doesn't appear on the depth chart after dealing with a leg injury in camp. Prater hasn't been officially ruled out for the Eastern Illinois game, but I wouldn't expect to see much of him on Saturday.
- James Ferentz is listed as the starting center, a spot where Iowa might be a little thin following Josh Koeppel's motorcycle accident Monday morning.
- Starting defensive end Broderick Binns is suspended for the opener, so Christian Ballard is listed as a possible starter at both end and tackle. Mike Daniels and Lebron Daniel are the next options behind Ballard.
- Sophomores Denard Robinson and Tate Forcier and freshman Devin Gardner are listed as co-starters at quarterback. Head coach Rich Rodriguez reiterated Monday that Gardner won't redshirt this fall.
- Vincent Smith and Michael Shaw are listed as co-starters at running back, with Michael Cox behind them.
- True freshman Carvin Johnson is listed as the starter at the spur position (safety/linebacker). Pretty big surprise here, and a testament to Johnson's work in camp.
- Senior James Rogers steps into Troy Woolfolk's starting cornerback spot opposite J.T. Floyd.
- Receivers Martavious Odoms and Kelvin Grady clearly showed enough in camp to be listed as starters or possible starters against Connecticut.
- Sophomore running back Arby Fields returned to practice Monday and wore a no-contact jersey after being sidelined with a shoulder problem. He's listed as a co-starter at running back with Jacob Schmidt and Stephen Simmons. Northwestern wanted a clear No. 1 running back to emerge in camp, but Fields' injury changed the plan.
- Junior Bryce McNaul is listed as the third top linebacker alongside returning starters Quentin Davie and Nate Williams. McNaul won the job in camp.
- Venric Mark is the only true freshman listed on the depth chart, both as a backup wide receiver and a co-starter at punt returner. I'll go out on a huge limb (sarcasm) and predict Mark will be the man on returns for the Wildcats very shortly.
- Junior defensive end Nathan Williams, a projected starter, will miss the Marshall game with a knee injury. He should be back shortly thereafter. Solomon Thomas will start in Williams' spot Thursday night.
- Starting cornerback Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring) is questionable for the Marshall game, but corner Devon Torrence (hamstring) should be fine.
- Sophomore C.J. Barnett's strong performance in camp lifted him ahead of Orhian Johnson on the Week 1 depth chart. Johnson missed a chunk of camp with an injury.
- Start salivating, Buckeyes fans, because running backs Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry likely will handle kickoff returns against Marshall.
- Sophomores Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin and freshman Robert Bolden are listed as co-starters at quarterback for the Youngstown State game.
- Sophomore Devon Smith's strong camp landed him a starting spot at both receiver and kick returner, and a backup role on punt returns.
- Redshirt freshman Garry Gilliam is listed as the starting tight end, as Andrew Szczerba likely will miss the opener with a back injury. Penn State obviously is thin here after losing Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler.
- Veterans Nate Stupar, Chris Colasanti and Bani Gbadyu are listed as the starting linebackers, with promising younger players like Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges right behind them.
- After a very impressive camp, freshman running back James White appears at No. 3 on the depth chart behind both John Clay and Montee Ball. White also is the No. 2 punt returner behind David Gilreath. His emergence likely will result in veteran Zach Brown redshirting the season.
- Senior Blake Sorensen likely will start at outside linebacker, as Mike Taylor continues to rehab after undergoing a second procedure on his knee in camp. Culmer St. Jean and Chris Borland are listed as the other starting linebackers.
- The starting cornerback spots remain open, as Niles Brinkley, Antonio Fenelus and Devin Smith will compete in practice this week.
Here are some nuggets and observations:
- We get to see Tate Forcier's wing-less helmet very early in the show, although we know now that he has regained his wings. Forcier seemed to be No. 3 in the quarterback rotation during drills, behind both Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner. "Denard and Devin got most of the reps today," DiNardo said. But head coach Rich Rodriguez maintains the race is open. Forcier, to his credit, made some crisp throws in the practice.
- The BTN crew picked Robinson to be the starter when the season opens Sept. 4. Although he misfired on a few outside throws in individual drills, he looked more comfortable overall as a passer.
- Gardner's size and mobility make him a pretty exciting young prospect. He likely won't be the starter for the opener, but you figure he'll be in the mix at some stage. "He has the most ability of the three quarterbacks," DiNardo said.
- We learned quite a bit during the M drill, where a running back dashes through a line of four blockers and four defenders. Michael Cox had several nice runs, following a block from tight end Brandon Moore on one play. Kelvin Grady followed a block by Erik Gunderson and shot through the line, while burly back Stephen Hopkins broke through tackles with a powerful run on one play. Defensive standouts in the drill included end Jibreel Black, safety Brandin Hawthorne and tackle Will Campbell, who made a very nice tackle on Hopkins. There also were some good team efforts, including blocks from Michael Schofield and Quinton Washington, and a team tackle by Richard Ash and Jonas Mouton.
- The secondary remains a concern, but a few players stood out in individual drills. Safety Vlad Emilien had a huge hit against Fitzgerald Toussaint, and safety Josh Furman forced a fumble by freshman receiver Ricardo Miller in a 1-on-1 matchup.
- There's no reason defensive tackle Mike Martin shouldn't have an excellent year for Michigan. He's got excellent strength and good size at 6-2, 299. "There’s very little he doesn’t do well," DiNardo said. Campbell also looked good in this practice, both physically and with his play. DiNardo thinks Campbell will be most effective when lined up directly over the center. "He's really picked up his game," Griffith said. Griffith also likes the freshman Black.
- It was really fun to watch Martin and center David Molk go at it in a 1-on-1 drill. A ton of strength in that matchup, which it appeared Molk won. Offensive tackle Perry Dorrestein and defensive tackle Renaldo Sagesse also had a good battle. It was a pretty good day overall for the offensive line. DiNardo particularly likes tackle Patrick Omameh.
- We didn't see a ton from the linebackers, although the first group in one drill was Craig Roh, Mouton and, yes, Mark Moundros, the team's starting fullback, at middle linebacker. It'll be interesting to see how much Moundros pushes Obi Ezeh and others for playing time.
- Cox looked the best among the running backs, although several of them have impressive speed, including Toussaint. Hopkins certainly stands out from the group because of his size (6-foot, 227 pounds).
- The BTN crew really likes Michigan's wide receivers, especially Roy Roundtree. They also noted the play of freshman Jeremy Jackson, one of the team's bigger receivers at 6-foot-3. "They’ve got the right number at wide receiver," DiNardo said. "You can't say that about every position in the program."
- In interviews, Martin talked about the defense being closer this year, and Rodriguez expressed concern about the kicking game.
- Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema tweeted about a potential scheduling agreement with Nebraska or Notre Dame but didn't say anything more after Tuesday's practice, Tom Mulhern writes in the Wisconsin State Journal. Badgers linebacker Chris Borland tells The Sporting News' Dave Curtis how he ended up in Madison.
- Former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett will learn today if he can move to a halfway house to serve out the remainder of his sentence.
- The quarterback competition is heating up at Michigan, and Rich Rodriguez wants the candidates to display better ball control. Wolverines slot receivers Kelvin Grady and Terrence Robinson are getting some work at running back, Angelique Chengelis writes in The Detroit News.
- An in-depth look at the NFL decisions of Iowa players Bryan Bulaga (leaving) and Adrian Clayborn (staying) from The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette's Marc Morehouse.
- Punter is a big question mark for Penn State this spring, Jared Shanker writes in The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News. A bigger void for the Nittany Lions can be found at defensive tackle, as standout Jared Odrick departs, statecollege.com's Mike Poorman writes.
- Minnesota needs a go-to wide receiver, and Da'Jon McKnight hopes to be the guy, Kent Youngblood writes in the Star Tribune.
- Purdue hires a new play-by-play man for football, though he's a familiar voice to Boilers fans.
- Walk-on Leon Beckum is in the mix for a starting linebacker job at Indiana this spring, Dustin Dopirak writes in The (Bloomington) Herald-Times (subscription required).
- Some way-too early conclusions from Illinois' practice so far this spring from the (Decatur) Herald & Review's Mark Tupper.
Now he'll do double duty. Sort of.
Grady, who started eight games at point guard for Michigan in the 2008-09 season, is back with the basketball squad in a scout-team capacity. Head coach John Beilein doesn't expect Grady to play in games this year, though his role in preparing the regulars for upcoming opponents will be important.
Grady practiced Sunday on the scout team as Michigan prepares for Tuesday's game against No. 5 Michigan State, which boasts its own two-sport player in tight end/forward Dion Sims.
Football remains Grady's top priority and he'll be ready for spring practice in March. Grady and Beilein will decide after the basketball season whether a permanent return to the hoops squad will take place.
"Basketball is a flow sport and there isn’t the huddles in between, but I think that they've kept him in very good shape with football and there were some flashes yesterday, very good ones," Beilein told reporters. "And then there were some times where he was grabbing his knees a little bit, but overall I thought for the limited amount we did [Sunday] he did well learning the scout team and learning some of the actions he needs to do to imitate what Michigan State does."Grady had 10 receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown in nine games last fall.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Happy hump day.
- It looks like Iowa's Kirk Ferentz has Joe Paterno's number, Pat Harty writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Ferentz is a realist about his team's injury status, Andrew Logue writes in the Des Moines Register. Iowa could upset Penn State again, Dave Curtis writes in The Sporting News.
- Paterno doesn't care about the revenge factor for Penn State, Cory Giger writes in The Altoona Mirror. He's more concerned about his linebackers, Jeff Rice writes in the Centre Daily Times.
- After poor performances on defense, particularly in the secondary, Michigan State has shuffled the depth chart, Joe Rexrode writes in the Lansing State Journal. Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio doesn't think much of quarterback Kirk Cousins' critics, Shannon Shelton writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- Jim Tressel is a better coach than Pete Carroll because he doesn't lose to bad teams, CBSSports.com's Gregg Doyel writes. Ohio State still has a Big Ten title to play for, and possibly a shot at the national championship game, Ken Gordon writes in The Columbus Dispatch. SI.com's Andy Staples has it right by not punishing Ohio State in this week's rankings.
- Does John Clay really want to be Wisconsin's starting running back? He needs to decide, Michael Hunt writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Minnesota will have starting cornerback Marcus Sherels back on the field Saturday at Northwestern, Kent Youngblood writes in the Star Tribune.
- Every Illinois fan remembers fondly what happened the last time the team went to Columbus, Shannon Ryan writes in the Chicago Tribune.
- Purdue quarterback Joey Elliott prepares for the blitz against Notre Dame, Mike Carmin writes in The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier.
- Kelvin Grady has a new outlook on life after switching sports at Michigan, Angelique Chengelis writes in The Detroit News.
Posted by ESPN.com'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.
The fourth installment in a series examining the best and worst outcomes, within reason, for each Big Ten squad.
Tate the Great and "Shoelace" Robinson flummox opponents, the defense rebounds under Greg Robinson and Rich Rodriguez's history of Year 2 turnarounds continues.
Rodriguez's spread offense starts to take shape around the freshmen quarterbacks, who are suited to the system. The veterans at running back, wide receiver and offensive line ease the transition early before Tate Forcier and/or Denard Robinson takes control by the start of Big Ten play. Senior Brandon Minor headlines a strong stable of running backs and earns first-team All-Big Ten honors by rushing for 1,400 yards. The receiving corps also steps up, buoyed by the return of Junior Hemingway and former Michigan hoopster Kelvin Gray. Michigan's defense overcomes inexperience up front and in the secondary, and plays as a cohesive unit. Brandon Graham leads the league in sacks while linebacker Obi Ezeh tops the tackles chart. Punter Zoltan Mesko gets a lot less work but still wins the Ray Guy Award.
Michigan begins by doing something it last accomplished in 2006 -- win the season opener. The defense holds off Tim Hiller and Western Michigan, setting up a matchup against Notre Dame. Graham and Mike Martin bulldoze the overhyped Fighting Irish line and punish Jimmy Clausen all afternoon as Michigan pulls a mini upset and prevails 24-14. Loaded with confidence, the Wolverines stomp all over both Eastern Michigan and Indiana to complete a 4-0 start.
The team hits the road for the first time and regains in-state bragging rights by rallying to beat Michigan State in the fourth quarter. Michigan vaults into the top 20. After a loss at Iowa, Michigan handles Delaware State easily. The Wolverines split their next two games against Penn State and Illinois but pound Purdue on Nov. 7, as Robinson rushes for three touchdowns.
The last two regular-season games won't be easy, as Michigan visits Madison before hosting archrival Ohio State. But by now, the offense has started to ro
ll and the young defenders have settled in around Graham, Ezeh and Donovan Warren. Michigan wins a close one at Wisconsin before taking Ohio State to the brink on Nov. 21. It'd take a lot to see the Wolverines upset the Buckeyes, but hey, this is a best-case scenario, so what the heck. The streak ends at five games as Terrelle Pryor throws three picks.
At 10-2, Michigan heads to the Capital One Bowl and beats Mississippi in a shootout. Fans finally embrace Rodriguez and his style, forgetting 2008 and all the player departures during the transition. Minor finishes as a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, and Graham wins Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. Michigan is back.
A 2008 redux at quarterback, more mistakes crop up on defense, Mesko leads the nation in punt attempts and Michigan misses a bowl for the second straight year.
Despite more experience elsewhere on offense, the quarterback position dooms the Wolverines again. Rodriguez plays all three candidates and none settles into a rhythm, allowing defenses to load up to stop the running game. Opponents double-team Graham and wipe away the pass rush, allowing their quarterbacks to exploit the obvious weaknesses in the secondary. Mesko leads the nation in punting and Michigan stumbles out of the gate again.
Another season opener, another loss, as Michigan falls to Western Michigan and Hiller, who tosses four touchdown passes. Clausen takes note the next week and eclipses Hiller's touchdowns total by one as Golden Tate and Michael Floyd make Michigan's secondary look silly. The Wolverines get booed as they head to halftime down 28-7 and never get within 14 points of the Irish. After an underwhelming win against Eastern Michigan that evokes memories of last year's Miami (Ohio) triumph, Michigan evens its record at 2-2 by outlasting Indiana.
The problems on offense can't be masked for long, and Michigan's first road trip results in a long afternoon for Forcier and Robinson. Michigan State further establishes itself as the team to beat in the state with a 31-17 victory. Things only get worse the next week in Iowa City, as Michigan fails to get on the scoreboard against the talented Hawkeyes defense. After taking care of Delaware State, the Wolverines see their home win streak against Penn State end at five games.
Another loss follows at Illinois, as Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn hook up for three touchdowns. Needing a perfect finish to keep its bowl hopes alive, Michigan survives against Purdue but drops its final two games against Wisconsin and Ohio State. The Buckeyes roll once again, extending their win streak to six games as Pryor accounts for six touchdowns (4 pass, 2 rush).
At 4-8, Rodriguez's future seems very much in doubt. After some extensive deliberation, AD Bill Martin decides to keep the coach, but says a significant improvement must be made in 2010. Several key players leave the team, including one of the freshman quarterbacks, which puts Rodriguez and his staff in a negative light yet again. Mesko winds up as Michigan's only first-team All-Big Ten representative. Ohio State wins its fifth straight league title and the Rose Bowl.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Kelvin Grady's new Michigan teammates often chide him about having a smile tattooed on his face.
One possible explanation is that Grady, who joined Michigan's football team this summer after playing two seasons for the Wolverines basketball team, has yet to get his bell rung in a Big Ten game.
But that's not it. His smile comes from a healthy dose of perspective.
After Grady quit the Wolverines hoops team after the 2008-09 season, his future in both sports and school seemed uncertain.
"It crossed my mind that I wouldn't have anything," said Grady, who started 25 basketball games as a freshman before seeing his time reduced last year. "I'd be out. I'd be just like the rest of the guys back home who dropped out of college and didn't have anywhere else to go. But I'm too strong. I've got too much will. I've got a family that supports me. I've got a brother [Kevin, a senior running back for Michigan] that's working hard.
"There were too many things going to the point where I could drop my head and say, 'Nah, it's over.' I knew I was going to fight."
Grady has fought his way into the rotation at slot receiver despite not playing football since high school, when he was an all-state running back for East Grand Rapids High. He rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior, and originally intended to play both football and basketball at Michigan before going the hoops route.
The 5-foot-9, 168-pound sophomore is pushing projected starter Martavious Odoms and others for reps at the slot, which typically is the most productive receiver spot in head coach Rich Rodriguez's spread offense. Grady is currently classified as a walk-on, but Rodriguez expects to award several scholarships at the end of preseason camp, so Grady's chances of earning one look good.
"He's learned the system," Rodriguez said. "We've been, I don't want to say surprised, but really pleased with how quickly he's picked it up. He, in a sense, is a true freshman. ... It's a natural for him. It's been a good move."
Rodriguez spent a year and a half teasing Grady about playing football. The coach attended Michigan basketball games, noticed Grady's obvious athleticism and thought he'd be a good fit at slot receiver.
But only after Grady left the basketball team and contemplated leaving Michigan did the talks with Rodriguez get more serious.
"It was just one of those things, jokingly [where Rodriguez said], 'We gonna get you, we gonna get you on the field,'" Grady recalled. "And I would always look at this and be like, 'Nah, you're not going to get me. There's no way I'm getting on that football field.' But then the opportunity came and I really thought about it and put things in perspective. It's definitely something I wanted to do."
Rodriguez didn't make Grady any promises about playing time and told him he'd need to prove himself, first in Michigan's taxing strength program and then on the field at camp.
"If you're going to come over and try football, you better have a passion for it and you better love it,'" Rodriguez told Grady.
So far, it hasn't been a problem.
"Sometimes, I have to pinch myself because I'm here," he said. "At one point, my back was against the wall, didn't know where I was going to go. It's a blessing, man. It motivates me, it keeps me up, it keeps my smiling, it keeps things in perspective."