Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Michigan Football Roundtable: Team MVP

Another new feature around here in anticipation of the Michigan football season. The Michigan Football Roundtable will feature me and a few friends (including new Ace of Sports bloggers Joe and Webstarr) talking about our expectations for this upcoming season. And yes, I do rock at Photoshop, thank you.

Today's question: Who will be the team's MVP this season?

Joe: I wish I could say the whole defensive line, but that’s a cop-out. The line is the most experienced unit coming back this year, and I think it will be the team’s strong point. I’m going with Tim Jamison. Jamison is a pretty safe pick because he’s experienced (fifth-year senior, played in 38 games) and accomplished (second on the team in tackles for loss last year, third in sacks). Also, Brandon Graham, the other end, is going to be the one getting double-teamed all year. This will leave room for Jamison to get in and do his thing. He is the most experienced player on the best unit on the team. I saved my ballsy pick for last week’s question.


Sam (aka Sweegor the Magnificent):
Between the Barwis porn, the highlight videos of 5'7" guys making their high school opponents look silly, and the constant assurances that this team has absolutely, positively, unquestionably, and indubitably THE!!! MOST!!! TALENT!!! of any Rich-Rod assembled team in the history of man, Michigan fans occasionally forget that their team probably isn't going to be any good this year. One quick way to throw cold water on your Barwis-induced tumescence: remind yourself that Morgan Trent is the team's best player.

This is not so horrible of a thing. Trent has good height, quickness, and technique. His speed is so outrageous that when, last week, a newspaper reported that Morgan Trent ran a forty-yard dash in 4.13 seconds, other newspapers repeated the statistic (for a frame of reference, rifle bullets fly the forty in 4.14 seconds, so, yes, the stat is wrong). In one famous instance, he hawked Percy Harvin from behind in last year's Capital One Bowl, saving a touchdown. The Michigan defense subsequently kept the Gators out of the red zone, saving Michigan points and amounting to a huge momentum shift. (And all this despite being from the genetically inferior north. If Trent had gone to an SEC school and gotten some of that Southern Speed Mario Manningham and Charles Woodson so sorely lacked, that 4.13 would have been legit, and on a slow track.)

Trent has earned a lot of ire from the Michigan fan base for his lack of ball skills. Michigan fans don't see the excellent technique and speed he demonstrates during the first three seconds of the play, when the television camera's eye is on the quarterback. Instead, they only see him occasionally ruin his good position by poorly reacting to the ball as it, and the television cameras, arrive. He has improved drastically over the last two years in this area, even if much of Michigan's fan base hasn't noticed. To many, he will always be the sophomore who Anthony Gonzalez and then Dwayne Jarrett destroyed in the last two games of 2006. Well, right now, those two guys are in the NFL and Trent is in Ann Arbor developing into one of the top cornerbacks in the Big Ten.


Morgan Trent is not a great player. There are certain instincts a corner needs to have to dominate a game, and it doesn't seem that Trent has them. He is also mediocre in run coverage, although more out of him being a slim player than any lack of effort. No one else on the roster is a great player either, at least not yet. Perhaps Brandon Graham, Steve Brown, Terrance Taylor or Greg Mathews will be one by the time Michigan steps foot in Columbus this November, but there's no reason to be confident that any one individual will. I could rant for a few more pages about each specific player, and my lack of confidence in him making the leap to superstardom, but I won't. Instead, I'll be grateful for a solid dependable player on a team with far too few of them. Morgan Trent may not be a superstar but he's currently Michigan's best player. Unless someone else develops unexpectedly into an All-American caliber player, he'll be Michigan's best player in January too (although Michigan probably won't be playing in January...close the Barwis video, step away from your computer, and take another look at the roster).


Ace: Even though he wasn't my choice for breakout player (I went with Carson Butler for that one) I actually think Carlos Brown will emerge as the team's MVP. Even though Brandon Minor is being penciled in as the starter in Michigan's crowded backfield (in large part due to Brown being injured during spring practice), I believe Brown will be the one who emerges as the back who gets the most carries this year, and he'll be the sparkplug that ignites a Michigan offense with a lot of inexperience in the passing game.

Brown, who came to Michigan as the #5 running back in his class (according to Rivals), showed flashed of his incredible promise when Mike Hart was injured last season. Over a three game stretch (Purdue, at Illinois, Minnesota) Brown ran for 311 yards on 51 carries (a very impressive 6.1 yards per carry) with four touchdowns.

(Touchdown run vs. Purdue last year. Carlos Brown is fast.)

The fact that Brown has been seeing practice snaps at quarterback during fall practice certainly doesn't hurt his chances of being the team's best player. If Justin Feagin doesn't emerge as a viable option for the designated zone read quarterback, Brown has a very good shot at getting his own package of plays in RichRod's offense. The ability of these plays to keep opposing defenses on their toes despite Michigan's lack of a mobile quarterback is paramount to the Wolverines' success this year.

If Brown can emerge as Michigan's number one back (a big if, but I'm confident it will happen) and provide a new dimension to the offense when he takes snaps at quarterback, I think he will be the team's most valuable player, in the true sense of the term. I fully expect the defense to be very solid this year, but the offense is a complete wild card. Carlos Brown is the wild card within that wild card. If he runs wild, Michigan could become the wild card in the Big Ten. I've completely lost myself, but hopefully you catch my drift.



Mikey said...

So what do you guys think is the probability that Carlos Brown will take snaps? Any chance that the infamous "wildcat" formation will unfold for the Michigan offense aka Darren McFadden vs. LSU?

Ace said...

I don't know about the wildcat, but I'd be pretty shocked if Brown didn't at least take some direct snaps. I'd like to see Michigan throw out some formations where Threet (or whoever starts at QB) ends up split out wide with Brown at QB, to throw off the defense and open up the possibility of some crazy throwback plays.

Sam Weiss said...

Very, very likely. If Feagin isn't ready to be a decent college QB this year, (A). apparently he isn't, and B). no one should have expected him to be) it makes more sense to put a faster, more experienced, better athlete in the shotgun. I doubt we'll see the wildcat or any throwback plays. The Wildcat simply because it's a pretty stupid formation that only worked because two of the very best running backs in the country were on the same team. And despite its reputation as a new age offense, the spread doesn't lend itself any better to trick plays. In fact, maybe the opposite. Remember, according to his defenders, DeBord created tendencies in order to break them. Magee, who will call the majority of the plays, doesn't have such intrenched tendencies.

Ace said...

Way to rain on my throwback parade, Sam.

Also, I'll say the obvious, which is that maybe DeBord should've broken those tendencies a big more often. And not all in one game (Florida).