Sunday - September 23, 2007
QB: I was pleased. Mallett threw a couple of passes that could have been dangerous, but he also fired off some absolute lasers, like the one to Arrington in the first half, and did a beautiful job converting a late 3rd and long to Mathews. He has an ability to be accurate on the run that cannot be taught (and that neither of his predecessors has/had) and that allows DeBord to once again 'move the pocket' away from play action, as he is fond of doing. There should be no question, though, that this team will be better with Henne back. 0-2 vs. 2-0 masks the fact that we are very very limited with Mallett at QB. It's possible that Mallett could handle more of the offense, but the fact is the coaches won't allow him to, and that's one reason we need Henne back.
RB: Mike Hart for Heisman. Okay, not that no one else deserves it, but Hart certainly is making a case for himself. 650 yards through 4 games and he carried the team against Penn State, with a true freshman backup QB against a good defense. 150 yards against Penn State is a major achievement, and his blocking (on blitz pickup, on Mallett's touchdown run ...) is no small bonus.
WR: Still nothing deep, but we have 3 good WRs who are able to catch passes all over the field. Contrary to the constant complaints of fans, we are using the middle of the field and Mathews and Arrington are consistently getting open there. Manningham will get loose deep soon. That will come. The only complaint against this WR corps, and it's not a complaint against any one player, is that it doesn't have the diversity that some of our *great* wide receiving corps have had. Mathews and Arrington are very similar in what routes they can run, and you can see in the way he uses Manningham that DeBord would like to find a receiver for quick hitches and long handoffs but hasn't found one yet. Manningham is not slippery like Steve Breaston and is not that receiver.
OL: Very good. I never felt the OL was at fault in the first two games, so I won't call it improvement. Penn State has a good defense and when you telegraph where you're running and still get 175 yards running there, you've done a good job. Pass protection is harder to read, since PSU's pass rush is not the strength of the defense.
DL: Superb. Graham is kiling folks and Johnson and Jamison are solid. Jamison may not be "unblockable" , the way he's often described in spring and fall practice, but he's been solid. They were not the problem the first two weeks, really.
LB: Better. Graham and Thompson are good at getting where they are going and delivering hits when they know where they are going. We'll see what happens when they have to read and react. The pass coverage continues to be a bit weak. Quarless got open repeatedly, even if Morelli didn't always find him. When we encounter offenses that do a better job of using the TEs and RBs in the passing game, we may be tested again.
DB: Excellent. Warren and Englemon should have been starting from Day 1. Englemon is simply in the right place almost all the time and that is the primary job of the safety. And Warren is unusually advanced for a freshman. Between the expected and realized improvement of Trent and the unexpectedly advanced ability of Warren, we have the ability to play whatever combinations of coverages English wants.
On to Penn State
Senior QB Anthony Morelli was a 5* recruit. 5th year senior Austin Scott was a high 4* recruit. Junior WR Derrick Williams was the #1 recruit in the country. None of them is a particularly good player. Morelli still looks like an underclassmen with a strong arm and nothing else. Scott, fumbles aside, is just not a consistent gainer or a big play guy. Williams is an inferior version of Steve Breaston.
Recruiting rankings are no guarantee of future performance, but there is a consistent pattern at Penn State that highly rated offensive players bust and highly rated defensive players form the backbone of top notch defenses. Penn State simply has not been a well coached offensive team in years.
In fact, it's interesting to me, as a Michigan fan, that for all the constant complaints about our coaching staff, we have 3 national powers on our schedule and we have a decided coaching edge in 2 of those games.
At least three games on Saturday were lost on bungled last minute drives. Ball State had a wide open receiver drop a potential TD pass with under 1:00 to go. Ditto Texas Tech, in the endzone, on 4th down. And Iowa would have beaten Wisconsin but for a wide open receiver tripping over his own feet on a long ball. I'm not sure I've ever seen that before.
The Big 10 is not making freinds and impressing pollsters this year. Wisconsin's my pick for "next Big 10 team to let down the conference" after Michigan vs. App State and Iowa vs. Iowa State and losses to Duke and Florida Atlantic.
I'm looking for 1000 yards and 100 points out of WVU when they play Louisville. Louisville's defense makes Notre Dame fans laugh. WVU could easily score 28 points on the opening drive if they play their cards right. It was a nice upset win for Syracuse, but boy, the fact that Syracuse over Louisville is that big an upset pretty much tells you how irrelevant Syracuse has become, and that's a direct indictment of head coach Greg Robinson. Pasqualoni had seen better days, but he never fell this far.