With the non-conference season wrapped up in Ann Arbor, I’ve teamed up with the host of The Whole Ten Yards Radio and FBSchedules.com writer, Clayton Tinkle, to touch on the five toughest questions from the first four games of the season.
This is part one of a two-part series of answering some pressing questions. Stay tuned for five inquiries concerning the conference portion of the schedule.
1. Devin Gardner has played three games in the No. 98 Tom Harman jersey. His stats over those three games: 639 passing yards, 6 TD’s, 6 INT’s, 55.8% completion, 249 rushing yards, 3 rushing TD’s. There’s no questioning Gardner’s tremendous character, but considering all factors, has really “honored” the No. 98 jersey?
Tyler: It’s only logical to assume Devin Gardner has been feeling terrible about his performance as of late, especially considering he was chosen to wear this jersey. He seemed to orchestrate the offense beautifully against Notre Dame the night Tom Harmon was being honored—I found myself feeling proud of Gardner for that night—but it’s been an ugly, uphill battle ever since. It was a true testament to his character and leadership when he called himself out after the Akron game, but back-to-back dismal performances against opponents like that is inexcusable, in my opinion. If we were basing this solely on what we’ve seen from Gardner every Saturday on the field, the answer would be a clear no. But there is a lot to be said for his presence on the team, and that’s where he continues to earn the right to wear the No. 98 jersey for Tom Harmon. Because the idea is to create leaders of young people, and that is what’s happening right now with Devin Gardner. So yes, I believe he has “honored” Tom Harmon’s jersey and will continue to do so with class.
Clayton: Devin Gardner, I’m going to let you finish–but Tom Harmon was the greatest No. 98 of all time! OF ALL TIME! In all seriousness, though, was he really expected to play just like Harmon? No. Was Roy Roundtree Desmond Howard-esque when he put on the 21 jersey? These jerseys are an honor, sure. It’s more of a character thing, though, in my opinion. Gardner has played poorly, but that has nothing to do with his number. He’ll get out of the funk and have the offense running in complete harmony.
2. Many fans are becoming aggravated with the lack of Derrick Green at running back. The coaching staff seems very confident in Fitzgerald Toussaint. Are you looking for change? Or do you share the beliefs of the coaching staff?
Tyler: I talked extensively about this situation here. I don’t believe it’s time to throw in the towel on Fitzgerald Toussaint for a few reasons. He had a thousand yard season a couple years ago, showing us what he is capable of; not every part of his game (mental or physical) is fully recovered from that broken leg suffered last season; and the offensive line is doing a terrible job of opening up running lanes. I don’t think it’d be a terrible idea to throw Green into the mix a little more than he currently is, but I’m leaning towards the staff’s side here and saying Toussaint is unfairly criticized and should be given some time yet.
Clayton: There’s a reason Tyler and I are writing about Brady Hoke and his coaching staff and not on the field. The coach knows the players better than anyone on the planet, and that will show in time. Toussaint has shown flashes of brilliance; Derrick Green is a freshman. If the idea is that Green will come in and put up gawdy numbers and Montee Ball-like touchdown numbers, then, please, let me know where this came from. Green will get his snaps in time; until then, the rock is Toussaint’s for the taking.
3. The Akron game was easily blamed on the “hangover” coming off the high energy from the previous week against Notre Dame. What do we have to blame, if anything, for the awful performance against Connecticut?
Tyler: This is a tough one to answer. It’d be easy to point towards a lack of preparation or a simple case of underestimating your opponent, but I almost have to rule those out because of the previous week against Akron. I think part of what Michigan ran into was the offensive struggles–MIGHTY offensive struggles. Quite frankly, Michigan could easily be 2-2 right now. But I think another factor is the fact that both Akron and Uconn were competing in unconventional ways, becoming more passionate than skilled, and Michigan wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that. The bottom line, though: there is no excuse.
Clayton: Lack of conversions on first down, pass protection, and turnovers. Reasons–excuses, if you will–are a plenty. Ultimately, it boils down to a mindset. The Wolverines were obviously in a better mindset against the more talented Notre Dame team they defeated in Ann Arbor. When they’ve had to, they have put together a drive to score or have come up with a stop on defense. This team can make plays, and they’ve shown that. If Brady Hoke is anything, he’s a high character coach. That will show coming out of this bye week, as the Wolverines will put together a complete performance. If not, I’ll never come back to TBHR to do a feature ever again.
4. Brian Kelly made some bold remarks regarding the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry, saying it’s really more of a regional rivalry. In all, he blatantly downplayed the enormity some people associate with this game. Was Brian Kelly out of line with his comments?
Tyler: Brian Kelly had a string of funky comments in early September where he bashed the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry and then declared it to be a “great and historic rivalry two days later. I believe it’s a possibility that Kelly was trying to prepare his team in some manner for this game, but the bottom line is that he went out of line by degrading something much larger than himself.
Clayton: Brian Kelly is out of line with any comment he makes, I thought that was understood. In all honesty, I think Kelly was just trying to downplay this so his players wouldn’t go in too hyped, to the point where they let the atmosphere beat them. Obviously, that didn’t work. Kelly went back and corrected himself when he realized his tactics obviously had the opposite effect, but it was a little too late. I don’t think he was out of line, he was just trying to do his job by preparing his kids.
5. Who is your non-conference MVP?
Tyler: Jeremy Gallon–no doubt. This offense has often needed a spark, and it usually comes from this guy. He has tremendous hands, good ball skills, incredible agility, and you can’t forget about that unteachable gift to be the reliable target in any situation. I love the way he plays, and he’s a huge part of why Michigan is unbeaten to date. Without Gallon, it isn’t very difficult at all to imagine a .500 Wolverine team right now.
Clayton: This probably isn’t the popular choice, but Jeremy Gallon is hands down the MVP on this team thus far to me. He has more receiving yards (328) than Toussaint has rushing yards (320). Gallon also has one less touchdown (4) than Toussaint with 57 less touches. If this offense has needed a big catch on third down, Gallon has stepped up. If this team has needed a pick-me-up to get in a rhythm, Gallon has provided that. Oh, yeah, then there was this.