Big Ten: Troy Woolfolk

Big Ten mailbag

August, 14, 2012
Adam is taking one last bit of time off this week before the season kicks into high gear. So I've taken over his regular Tuesday mailbag slot. I'll also be doing another mailbag later this week and may do both Thursday and Friday if there is enough demand. Send your questions here if you've got them.

On to the mail ...

Dan S. from Davenport writes: People have been talking up Matt Barkley at USC as being the Heisman favorite this year. It had me wondering: why hasn't Denard Robinson been discussed more in the talks? Having seen both QBs in action at ND games (I'm a ND fan), I personally believe that Denard had a better way of disabling any defense better than Matt Barkley. I'm not saying this based on their performances in just the Notre Dame games, but in seasons as a whole. It seems like Robinson is the more talented QB who can not ony throw the ball but take off and be just as dangerous running the ball. Why don't people give him as much attention as Barkley is just my bottom question?

Brian Bennett: Dan, I believe Robinson is very much in the preseason discussion. People basically know what to expect from Shoelace after his past two years. He has been a Heisman candidate in the early part of the season but hasn't stayed consistent throughout. And simply put, a quarterback can't complete only 55 percent of his passes and throw 15 interceptions, as Robinson did a year ago, and expect to win the Heisman. But if he can improve his passing numbers considerably, and if Michigan can have a huge year, Robinson will be right in the mix.

Robert R from Enlightened City writes: Please don't take this as a personal attack, I just strongly disagree. What I disagree with is your stance on the NCAA rulings on Penn State. You have constantly said that Penn State has no grounds for appeal because they accepted the NCAA sanctions. I don't deny that they accepted them but argue that the way the sanctions were portrayed to them was not just. The key element you are missing in your opinion is that the NCAA threatened Penn State to a 4-year death penalty if they didn't accept the smaller ones without appeal. They had no choice but to accept the far less severe penalties or else, even if they won a case later, which I believe they probably would have, all of their players would have already left and the program would still be in complete shambles. Thus the agreement can't be taken seriously because they were forced to sign it by unfair means. I think the key thing that people are missing is even if you agree with the punishments, the punished must have their right to due process. The NCAA by essentially not allowing appeal, not going through their normal procedures, making a decision just days after the Freeh Report came out, and lacking any jurisdiction in their rule book to even punish Penn State makes this a greatly mishandled punishment, violating the foundations of our country, and modern theories on human rights. ....

Brian Bennett: Robert, I appreciate your reasonable and respectful stance on the issue and wish more people could take that same approach. I do not have a law degree, which I'm sure is shockingly new information. However, I just don't see how you can argue due process here. The NCAA is not a court of law. It is a voluntary, membership-led organization. Penn State could have chosen to fight the sanctions, even though it would have been very messy and probably would have led to a much worse situation for the program. Instead, it agreed to them and waived its right to any hearing or appeal. That consent decree would be the first thing the NCAA's lawyers would bring out in court, and it seems to me it would be very difficult to challenge. I could be wrong, but I just don't think this is a case Penn State could win (and it certainly won't have any support from the public at large in such a fight). And I believe it's best for everyone if all parties try to move forward.

Jordan from Philadelphia writes: With the transfer rules at Penn State, is there a window of opportunity to transfer? In other words, can I player transfer anytime he feels like it in the next for years without having to sit out?

Brian Bennett: The wording in the NCAA rules on Penn State reads as follows:
"Penn State football student-athletes can decide to transfer from now until the 2013 season (before participating in preseason practice with Penn State) and play immediately at the new school."

I checked with an NCAA spokesperson earlier this month as to whether that meant players needed to transfer before the 2013 fall practice began or if also applied to 2012 preseason practice. I was told it meant both. So if that's the interpretation, any player who began practice this month with Penn State can't transfer and be immediately eligible until after the season. And the free pass expires next August.

Jim P. Albuquerque, NM, writes: Denard Robinson from Michigan did not claim he could hang with Usain Bolt in a 40-yard dash. He said he could beat him. Taylor Martinez runs a 4.3 in the 40. Can Denard beat Taylor Martinez in a 40 or 100 meter race? What are your thoughts? Should Denard be in track or football if he is the fastest man in the world?

Brian Bennett: Hello, Jim, and watch out for Heisenberg down there. He's a bad man. Anyway, I saw where Robinson said he could beat Bolt in the 40-yard dash. I'm sure it was mostly in fun, and any good competitor has to have confidence in himself. But let's be real. Bolt gets faster as he goes down the track, but if he trained for the 40-yard dash, he'd blow everyone away. The man ran 9.63 seconds in the 100 meters while slowing down at the end. Even Robinson's former teammate, Troy Woolfolk, says it wouldn't be close.

Robinson vs. Martinez would be a better match, and I think it would be close. Martinez has sneaky speed and seems to really accelerate once he gets going. I'd still bet on Robinson, though I'd love to see it either way.

Richard E. from Colorado Springs, Colo., writes: Man! Your worst case for my Illini was some scary stuff! Shouldn't you have saved that for Halloween!?

Brian Bennett: Sorry about that. Just know that is absolutely the worst-case scenario. Some pointed out the extreme disparity in the scenarios, from 11 wins and a Big Ten title in the best case to 4-8 the other way. That's because, to me Illinois is really a big mystery team. It's very hard to predict how its season will go. I don't expect such a big swing for many other teams in that series.

DC Spartan from Washington, D.C., writes: Hi Brian! Love the blog and read it every day. Connor Cook and Tyler O'Connor looked sharp at the fall scrimmage -- each had long TD passes -- and Cook did well in the Spring. Personally, I'm very excited about O'Connor's abilities. Is there a possible QB battle brewing in East Lansing?

Brian Bennett: Thanks for the kind words, DC. There's no controversy at all in Sparta. The coaching staff has extreme confidence in Andrew Maxwell, and remember they have now seen him in practice for four years. O'Connor is drawing good reviews but will almost assuredly redshirt, barring an emergency. Michigan State does need him and Cook to develop in case they need to fill in for Maxwell, however.

Eric from Lake Villa, Ill., writes: How do you think Northwestern will do with USC transfer Kyle Prater joining the team?

Brian Bennett: The word out of the Wildcats' camp is that Prater is banged up and has missed the past couple of practices. Remember that he was hurt at USC as well and wasn't 100 percent this spring. So tamper down your expectations of Prater, at least early on. But Northwestern still has a deep, talented receiving corps. Scoring points will not be the issue in Evanston.

Steven from Madtown writes: Is Montee Ball a jaywalking ticket from pulling a Honey Badger and getting kicked out? It seems like a lot of the media has knocked him down a few pegs from his "recent trend of legal troubles," but a trespassing ticket and being in the same building as a fight hardly seems like situations where any conclusions about one's character can be drawn.

Brian Bennett: Steven, I was uncomfortable with some of the things being written and said about Ball last week. It seemed to me people were jumping to conclusions and speculating about what had happened without any information. We could still find out that there was more to his attack or that he was involved in a fight that led to it, but as of now we have no evidence of that and have to take his word for it. Anyone who read details of the trespassing citation knows how minor that was. Did getting his name in some of these offseason headlines damage Ball's reputation a bit nationally? I think it did. But I also think people will forget about them once he starts scoring touchdowns.
Several Big Ten players who didn't hear their names called in New York during the weekend still received some good news about their football futures. As soon as the NFL draft concluded, the undrafted free agent scramble began.

Here's an initial list of Big Ten UFA signings. Every Big Ten squad except Indiana had a player signed through free agency. We'll be sure to post more as they become official.


Several players seem to be in good situations, whether it's playing for their hometown team (Kinnie, Netter) or near a family member (Lynn, whose dad, Anthony, coaches running backs for the Jets). It's still shocking to see Brewster on this list rather than the draft one. I'm also surprised Moye, Wiggs, Linthicum and Dimke didn't get drafted.

Other Big Ten players have tryouts with NFL squads, such as Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa (Tampa Bay), Minnesota wide receiver Da'Jon McKnight (Minnesota Vikings), Indiana offensive lineman Chris McDonald (Miami, Green Bay) and Minnesota safety Kim Royston (Minnesota Vikings).

Big Ten lunchtime links

April, 30, 2012
For lunch: codfish, Heinz beans and links. With a Shirley Temple, since we're tapering.

WolverineNation links: Last hurrah

April, 26, 2012
Chantel Jennings writes Insider: Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin is cherishing his final moments in Ann Arbor before moving on to his dream of being an NFL player.

Michael Rothstein writes: Troy Woolfolk and Ryan Van Bergen discuss their ways of coping with being on the NFL draft bubble.

WolverineNation Roundtable Insider: The WolverineNation panel discusses football captains, tough basketball matchups and how Michigan might finish in the final 2013 recruiting rankings.

Tom VanHaaren writes Insider: Tom VanHaaren shares exclusive recruiting information to subscribers of The Den Forum in this weekly feature.
NEW ORLEANS -- Will Heininger might have played his last game at Michigan.

All week, the Michigan coaching staff held out hope the senior defensive lineman would be able to play in Tuesday's Allstate Sugar Bowl despite a foot injury.

Now, it looks like it isn't going to happen.

"Heininger probably won't be ready," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Sunday. "He's tried and it's just going to be a shame because he's played his senior year like a senior should and done a great job as a leader up front."

Heininger's absence likely means Will Campbell and Quinton Washington will see increased playing time next to defensive tackle Mike Martin. Heininger started all 12 games for Michigan this season, making 23 tackles and four tackles for loss, including one sack.

Campbell played in 12 games this season, making 11 tackles and two sacks. Washington played in eight games, making one tackle.

Hoke also said Thomas Gordon will likely start over Troy Woolfolk at free safety. and Will Hagerup beat out Matt Wile for punter. When asked what nudged Gordon, Michigan's third-leading tackler, over Woolfolk, Hoke said Gordon has been more consistent.

WolverineNation: Defense found its mojo

December, 12, 2011
WolverineNation has more on the Michigan football program:

Michael Rothstein writes Insider: New coordinator Greg Mattison worked nothing short of a miracle to turn one of the nation’s worst defenses into one of its best.

Rothstein writes: DBs J.T. Floyd and Troy Woolfolk bonded last year while missing much of the season with injuries, including the bowl game. That won’t be the case for the Sugar Bowl, as both are likely to start.

Tom VanHaaren: Recruiting chat wrap

Big Ten awards race tracker: Week 12

November, 16, 2011
Let's see where some key individual award races stand with two weeks left to go in the regular season:

Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year

1. Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson: Russellmania is back on top this week after a nearly perfect (16-for-17, four touchdowns) performance at Minnesota. He will shatter the NCAA record for passer efficiency if he maintains anywhere close to his current pace.

2. Wisconsin running back Montee Ball: It's odd to have two players from the same team be the top two candidates. But it's also hard to argue right now. Ball leads the Big Ten in rushing yards and also just set the league touchdown record with two games to play.

3. Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead: After an off week against Northwestern, Burkhead bounced back with a big performance against a very tough Penn State defense. And he almost got to show off his passing skills while playing under center for several snaps.

4. Iowa wide receiver Marvin McNutt: A.J. Jenkins may have been named a Biletnikoff semifinalist, but for my money McNutt is the best receiver in the Big Ten right now. He has 11 fewer catches and 44 fewer receiving yards than Jenkins but has three more touchdowns and a better yards-per-catch average (16.8 to Jenkins' 14.9).

5. Iowa running back Marcus Coker: He didn't have a great game against Michigan State, but Coker still ranks second in the league in rushing and third in rushing touchdowns. With Silas Redd having an off day against Nebraska, Coker moves ahead of the Penn State back.

Just missed: Redd

Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year

1. Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still: The Nittany Lions lost last week, but Still was dominant. His play to force a fumble that set up Penn State's last touchdown was the perfect illustration of how great he's been this season.

2. Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David: Speaking of great, David made the key tackle in the game by stopping Redd on a fourth-and-1 run. There aren't many better linebackers in the country.

3. Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus: You can't ignore Mercilus' 12.5 sacks, 17.5 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles. But his prospects are fading a bit as Illinois continues to falter.

4. Wisconsin linebacker Mike Taylor: One of the most improved players in the league, Taylor had a 13-tackle showing against Minnesota and now leads the Big Ten in tackles with 108.

5. Ohio State defensive tackle John Simon: He's tied for third in the league in sacks (6) and is sixth with 13.5 tackles for loss as the anchor of the Buckeyes' defense.

Just missed: Purdue DT Kawann Short

Thompson-Randle El Freshman of the Year

1. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller: He still has a way to go as a passer, but Miller has shown remarkable poise in the clutch and is a tremendous runner. He made an amazing play to beat Wisconsin and another fantastic one to tie the score last week at Purdue in the final minute. Big Ten defenses will have to worry about him for a long time.

2. Michigan State defensive end Marcus Rush: Jerel Worthy and William Gholston get most of the attention on the Spartans' defensive front, but Rush has been a valuable player there as well. He has 43 tackles, two sacks and eight tackles for loss on the season.

3. Michigan cornerback Blake Countess: The true freshman has emerged as a starting corner, moving veteran Troy Woolfolk to safety. He has displayed excellent cover skills and has six pass breakups in nine games to help Michigan's defense improve.

Michigan's Jordan Kovacs to play

November, 5, 2011
Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs will return to the lineup Saturday at Iowa after missing last week's Purdue game with a knee injury.

Kovacs led the team with three sacks and was third on the team with 42 tackles heading into last week's game. The redshirt junior was named one of 20 quarterfinalists for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which is awarded to college football's defensive player of the year for his play and character.

Michigan started cornerback Troy Woolfolk at safety last week in place of Kovacs. Safety Carvin Johnson left the team earlier this week.

The Wolverines will likely need help in the secondary against the passing attack led by Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg and receiver Marvin McNutt.

Big Ten lunchtime links

November, 2, 2011
So there was this big news yesterday. I may need to take a leave of absence.
  • Minnesota receiver/returner Marcus Jones is out for the year with a knee injury.
Michigan will be without starting safety Jordan Kovacs for today's game against Purdue.

Kovacs is out with a knee injury. He's questionable for next week's game at Iowa.

Kovacs ranks third on the team in tackles (42) and leads Michigan with three sacks, as he has been very effective on blitzes. He also has an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Senior Troy Woolfolk will shift from cornerback to safety to fill Kovacs' spot against the Boilers. Woolfolk made six starts at safety in the 2009 season. Freshman Blake Countess will fill Woolfolk's starting cornerback spot.

Big Ten lunch links

September, 13, 2011
These links go out to King Leonidas.
It will be weird for Michigan fans to see former star running back Mike Hart on the opposite sidelines wearing different colors this week. But Hart says he is prepared. Hart, who is now a quality control coach at Eastern Michigan, told the Detroit News' Angelique S. Chengelis that his heart now firmly resides in Ypsilanti.
"I'm committed to this team," Hart said. "This is who I am. I am Eastern Michigan. I coach at Eastern Michigan. I want Eastern Michigan to win every game. I don't cheer for Michigan ever anymore. I watch the game and I watch as a coach trying to see what they're going to do."

Hart said he doesn't care what the Wolverines do and is only trying to win a MAC championship at Eastern Michigan, which is 2-0 but has played a pair of FCS teams. He's not expecting to be overwhelmed by a flood of memories at Michigan Stadium.
"I think once you get in there, I'm so focused on the task at hand that I probably really won't notice," he said. "When I walk in it might be, 'Whoa, I'm on the other sideline,' but I've got a job to do."

Those are all the right things to say, and when you're a competitor your main goal is always to get your team a victory no matter who you're playing. But my guess is that Hart was watching Saturday night's game against Notre Dame as a little more than a dispassionate observer, and that he would love nothing more to get back to Ann Arbor as a coach some day.

In other Wolverines news, head coach Brady Hoke said Monday that running back Fitz Toussaint, who missed Saturday's game with a shoulder injury, should hopefully be ready for Eastern Michigan. Cornerback Troy Woolfolk is battered and bruised; he wore a hand cast Saturday after dealing with an ankle injury all week, and then he took a shot to the face in the game. But Hoke said Woolfolk would keep on playing. The health status of linebackers Cam Gordon and Brandon Herron will continue to be monitored this week. Junior Brandin Hawthorne is now listed as the starter at weakside linebacker.

Halftime: Notre Dame 17, Michigan 7

September, 10, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Quick analysis of the first half at Michigan Stadium, where Notre Dame leads Michigan 17-7:

Stat of the half: Some numbers don't lie. Notre Dame has 268 total yards to just 90 for the Wolverines. The Irish have been clearly the better team, and might have a bigger lead if not for two interceptions, one of which led to Michigan's only score. Denard Robinson has accounted for 88 of his team's first-half yardage, but Notre Dame has for the most part contained Shoelace the first 20 minutes.

Best player in the half: Michael Floyd. It was obvious coming in that Floyd was Notre Dame's best offensive weapon, and he has delivered. With Michigan cornerback Troy Woolfolk not starting and playing only a handful of snaps because of a hand injury, the Irish have looked to Floyd often. He became Notre Dame's all-time leading receiver with a seven-catch, 112-yard first half.

Best call: Two plays after Jordan Kovacs picked off Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees, Robinson got the defense to bite on a play-action. He had all kinds of time and waited for Junior Hemingway to get free from cornerback Gary Gray. Robinson threw it up, and Hemingway dived into the end zone for a 43-yard touchdown. That got the Big House crowd back into things, but big plays have been few and far between so far for the home team.

Disconcerting start for Michigan

September, 10, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The Big House was electric to start this game, after a touching ceremony to honor Desmond Howard and the sun set for a true night experience.

But the early proceedings did not go well for the Wolverines.

They went three-and-out on their first series, as Notre Dame showed good pursuit after Denard Robinson's first, seven-yard run. Even worse, the Irish zipped down the field for a touchdown on the ensuing possession, opening huge holes for running back Cierre Wood. Right now, Notre Dame looks better in the trenches, and that could be an early warning sign for Michigan.

Also, Troy Woolfolk did not start at cornerback for the Wolverines after wearing a cast in warm-ups. Without him, the defense might have trouble covering Michael Floyd and the other Irish receivers.

But it's early, even here at night. Remember Michigan got off to a shaky defensive start last week and recovered nicely.

Notes from Michigan-Notre Dame warmups

September, 10, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Greetings from the Big House Night Club.

We're almost ready for Michigan-Notre Dame under the lights, and the atmosphere is already rocking. The Wolverines handed out yellow pom-poms to fans, and the student section in particular is making great, coordinated use of them. It looks cool and should be a good sight on TV.

Also pretty cool: Both teams' special throwback uniforms for this game. I was lukewarm on the striped Michigan duds when they were unveiled, but they look much better in person. And Notre Dame's are sharp as well.

Personnel news: Michigan cornerback Troy Woolfolk had a cast on his right hand during warmups. Woolofolk had an ankle problem earlier in the week but was supposed to be full go. It will be interesting to see how he handles the matchup with the big, physical Michael Floyd if he is indeed lined up against the Notre Dame star receiver tonight.

Linebacker Cam Gordon is not expected to play for the Wolverines tonight for the second straight week. Reserve linebacker Marell Evans is still not eligible.

Almost time to kick it off under the lights.