Having turned the page to Michigan, I’m struggling to come up with words to describe how big I think this game will be. Count me as one of the people who were glad that the Wolverines stepped up and played a nice first half against Western Michigan.
Watching a replay of the game (courtesy of ESPN360.com), you could immediately see what has Michigan fans so enthusiastic about incoming quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson. Forcier has an uncommon moxie for a true freshman, and the well-hyped speed of Robinson is absolutely legit. Forcier didn’t have any deer-in-the-headlights moments that you’d presume to see with a kid making his first start in front of 100,000 people, and even though Robinson’s throwing mechanics are incredibly wonky, he’s immediately a threat with his foot speed. After watching Robinson drop a snap and ad-lib a broken play into a 43-yard touchdown run, I wrote this:
“Denard Robinson is way faster than Colin Kaepernick.”
I kept my eye on the vaunted Brandon Graham for much of the first half. (Admission: I turned the game off a bit into the 3rd quarter when I realized the Wolverines weren’t scoring again.) Graham seemed to do his best work against the Broncos’ right tackle, which doesn’t say much, considering he only had one assisted tackle for his day against a MAC team. That said, Graham was in the backfield quite a bit, and his speed rush moves disrupted the Broncos passing attack. Still, seeing Graham on the left-side of the defensive line had me feeling much better knowing that he’ll have to beat Sam Young to get to Jimmy Clausen.
One thing that I think the Irish coaching staff will notice right away is the potential for forced fumbles with the young Michigan quarterbacks. Neither Forcier or Robinson really tucked the ball away, and I was shocked at how loosely Forcier carried the ball when he was buying time behind the line of scrimmage. Forcier better reset his internal clock this week during practice, or you can expect to see a wild scrum for more than a few loose balls after Brian Smith or a blitzing safety come flying in from the blind side. Also, I think a point of emphasis for the Irish defense will be, quite crudely, putting the hurt on these quarterbacks. If Forcier is going to run the ball so brazenly, I’ve got to believe that Coach Tenuta will have his vocabulary spit-shined up and full of wonderful adjectives that will have the Irish playing like heat-seeking missiles aimed directly at the diminutive 190-pound quarterback.
The last thing that I noticed about the ESPN broadcast was how incredibly biased announcers Mike Patrick and Craig James were on the recent allegations leveled against Michigan. I would expect something like that from a website like MGoBlog, but these were serious allegations brought about from a thorough investigation by a reputable media source. James calling the controversy “a witch hunt,” was a slap in the face to the writers and reporters at the Free Press, and the announcing team seemed to do their best to stump for Rodriguez and the Michigan staff, while doing everything they could to avoid mentioning that there were some fairly serious allegations leveled.
We’ll get into it more as the week goes on, but to me the biggest issue raised by the Free Press is the allegation that graduate assistants or members of the football support team were present at the summer workouts and 7-on-7 scrimmages. Forget the voluntary/non-voluntary workout business, the NCAA is very cut-and-dry on who can attend those workouts, and the people reported to have been there is a very big (aka potential major violation) no-no.
Here’s looking forward to a very good (and thankfully, short) game week. We’ve got a lot of good stuff on tap this week.
Everybody enjoy your Labor Day.