Chat with Michael Rothstein
Welcome to WolverineNation! On Thursday, reporter Michael Rothstein stops by to chat about the state of Michigan football.
Rothstein joined ESPN.com in 2011 after covering the University of Michigan for AnnArbor.com, Notre Dame for the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Journal Gazette and a host of colleges for the Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, Va.). A Syracuse graduate and an East Meadow, N.Y. native, he lives in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Send your questions now and join Rothstein Thursday at noon ET!
Michael Rothstein (12:28 PM)
Hey everyone. Sorry for the delay. There was an issue on my end that needed fixing but I'm here now so let's get to the questions.
T.I.M. (So Cal)
Mike, USC has sceduled some real soft (Arkansas St.!) future opponents. I think, in an effort to expand West Coast recruiting, Michigan needs to arrange a game with the Trojans in the LA Coliseum (not just hope for a Rose Bowl appearance). In turn, the return visit of USC to the Big House would be a college football happening. What do you think?
Michael Rothstein (12:30 PM)
I think that'd be great, T.I.M., if for nothing else than the L.A. Coliseum is such an iconic place. Covered Notre Dame-USC there and there is so much history in that stadium. Don't know if it would happen (it would have in the now-long-dead Big Ten/Pac 12 partnership that never ended up happening) but that would be a fun matchup for sure.
Jeff (parkersburg) [via mobile]
How does the running back position look for this year
Michael Rothstein (12:32 PM)
Right now, that Fitzgerald Toussaint is your guy. After that, it's kind of an open question. I get the feeling Justice Hayes will have a role in the offense out of the backfield somewhere, perhaps as a third-down back. Still maintain Drake Johnson -- if you've been following these chats I've been high on him for a while -- could see some carries. But Toussaint is going to be the guy to start the season. If he runs like he did in 2011, he'll be the one to finish it, too.
potsie (erie, pa)
how good will our backup qb be this year, if gardner goes down early in the year?
Michael Rothstein (12:35 PM)
If Gardner goes down and you like Michigan, panic would be an appropriate response. The rest of the quarterbacks there have no significant experience and only one, Shane Morris, even has a scholarship. Either Morris or Brian Cleary might be able to get Michigan out of a game with a lead, but if there is a long-term injury, any projection of what Michigan could do this season would be completely invalid. He's that important. More than once I've said he is the most important player to his team in the Big Ten. Also believe he'll eventually be an NFL starter.
Tell Coach Beilein he needs to man-up and play VCU home and home -
Michael Rothstein (12:36 PM)
Michigan and VCU might play each other in Puerto Rico this year. As far as a home-and-home, scheduling is a tricky issue. Had not heard they were even discussing this.
Michael (Manila, Philippines)
UM has all the tools to come together and win all their games, and play for the National Title. I have this gut feeling. All the coaches and players have been working tremendously hard. They love each other up there like family, so I believe team chemistry already has a leg up. Its going to add up to wings and barring injuries, we may see a really excellent team on the field. Do you believe they can go undefeated?
Michael Rothstein (12:38 PM)
I do not. Every other team has been working hard, too. If Michigan gets past Notre Dame, it should go into November undefeated. After that, though, is a gauntlet of games which will cause some issues. I maintain Michigan goes 10-2 this regular season, with losses to Northwestern and Ohio State. They could go unbeaten, sure, but I just don't see it.
Do you think Gardner will be better than Denard?
Michael Rothstein (12:39 PM)
Completely, totally different players. From a passing standpoint, no doubt in my mind. From a rushing standpoint, not a chance. From a "quarterbacking" point of view, I think he'll be so much different than Robinson it won't be accurate or fair to make any sort of comparison. Gardner is a pro-style type of quarterback who can run. Robinson was a run-first quarterback with exceptional speed who was recruited for a read option spread offense. Technically Gardner was, as well, but they have such different skill sets.
Don Holifield (Hammond, IN)
i understand jake ryan is aiming for an october return, most likely the week of or before the state game. is a late september return possible? all of the news of his progress has me wondering.
Michael Rothstein (12:41 PM)
The coaches seem optimistic but an ACL tear is still an ACL tear and those things take time. Even if Ryan is ready and actually out there, the mental recovery process is going to take time as he's playing. I think, at this point, he will return at some point this season. Whether he'll return as the Jake Ryan who played last season or a Jake Ryan finding his way on the knee again for a little bit will remain to be seen.
michigans d-line, are they on track to gain more pressure on the QB?
Michael Rothstein (12:42 PM)
They believe so, sure, but much like a lot of positions this season Michigan won't know what it has there until Aug. 31 (and probably, Sept. 7 against Notre Dame). At this point in camp the offensive and defensive players know all of the moves their teammates will throw at them so it is a difficult test to get a read on inexperienced players in game situations. The talent is there, but a lot of these guys haven't played yet.
Greg (Cincinnati, OH)
Who do you see stepping up due to Darboh's season ending injury?
Michael Rothstein (12:44 PM)
Jehu Chesson. He's going to get the first crack at it, followed by Joe Reynolds. The real beneficiary here could be tight end Devin Funchess. He was already going to see a lot of targets this season. He might see even more now. But a reminder here -- Darboh had exactly as many college receptions as I have: Zero.
I can't see CMU scoring at all...do you agree?
Michael Rothstein (12:46 PM)
I disagree, especially if Michigan is up big. Michigan, again, if it is up big, is going to want to get young guys experience in a game like that. And if it is a close game, then either Michigan's offense is having some major issues in your scenario or Central has put up some points.
Tyler (Jersey City)
Does Michigan have enough speed on defense to contain Braxton Miller? What underclassmen receiver should we keep an eye on this year?
Michael Rothstein (12:48 PM)
The first question is, at this point, unanswerable because the defense you see next weekend and the one in November could look completely different due to the Jake Ryan Factor, potential injuries that occur in a season, etc.As far as WR, Jehu Chesson is a guy to watch. Thought he might win the job out of camp even before Amara Darboh's injury. He could surprise some people this year.
Don Holifield (Hammond, IN)
devin funchess is one big kid. we all have heard he needs to work on his blocking but his pass catching is obviously his strength. with the depth at tight end for michigan, is there any chance funchess eventually moves to receiver?
Michael Rothstein (12:49 PM)
Not sure, but I'd go with not this year. Michigan still has some tight end depth issues and Funchess' probably NFL position is at tight end as well. He's a mismatch there. At receiver, his speed wouldn't be nearly the asset it is at tight end. His blocking was always going to be a work in progress at Michigan because prior to last year, he had not played with his hand on the ground at all. It's a learning experience getting off blocks and running routes like that.
how big of a blow is losing Darboh? i know he has zero career catches, but it feels like he was the clear #2 WR throughout spring and fall practices ...
Michael Rothstein (12:51 PM)
People can say it is a big blow and maybe it ends up being that, but we won't know until next season when he plays. As you mentioned, his career catch total is zero. So to say a guy who has zero career catches -- when everyone else behind him also has zero career catches and are either the same year or a year younger than him -- is a major loss is probably overstating things a little bit. I'd expect Jehu Chesson to fill in fine.
Don Holifield (Hammond, IN)
when are the redshirts for this year released? and who do you see redshirting, assuming the info isnt available yet.
Michael Rothstein (12:53 PM)
There won't be an official list or anything because it isn't something that has to be declared. It just sort of...happens. There's a good chance most (or all) of the offensive linemen redshirt. Same with the defensive linemen except for Taco Charlton. I would be surprised if two of the receivers don't redshirt and at least one of the freshman running backs. At other spots, it is kind of difficult to say. You'll get a better idea when Michigan releases its depth chart. Anyone not on there has a shot at redshirting, although I'd anticipate Michigan using at least a handful of freshmen on special teams at least.
Jonathan Wright (Greenville, SC)
How is the Michigan defensive backfield looking this year? It seems the backfield has been Michigan's Achilles heel the past several seasons. Will it be improved from years past?
Michael Rothstein (12:56 PM)
There are some nice pieces back there, including cornerback Blake Countess and safeties Dymonte Thomas, Thomas Gordon and Jarrod Wilson -- although Wilson still appears to be in a position battle with the converted corner-turned-nickel-turned-safety Courtney Avery. I don't think the DBs were a huge issue the past two seasons. There just was no depth there so if someone was injured or suspended (i.e. J.T. Floyd in the Outback Bowl) there was a question of who would really replace him. Now, there is more depth -- young depth, but depth -- there.
What's a realistic ceiling for Michigan, starting a freshman PG like Walton?
Michael Rothstein (12:59 PM)
I've been pretty good at predicting basketball careers at Michigan lately (thought and tweeted during Hardaway Jr.'s freshman year he'd be a first round pick, for instance). Derrick Walton has a chance to be very, very, very good. He's not the same player as Trey Burke -- Walton is more of a distributor -- but that is what MIchigan needs this year with offensive weapons at every other spot on the floor. As far as team ceiling, if Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas take typical freshmen-to-sophomore leaps, they could be a Final Four team again. Certainly can contend for the Big Ten title. There is just a lot of talent through the Top 10 guys on that roster right now.
matthew (port huron, mi)
What is going on with Green? Has he disappointed?
Michael Rothstein (1:00 PM)
He's a freshman in his first college camp. He had a bit of an injury. Let's slow it down on the "disappointed" talk. He's a talented guy. Give him some time to get used to the college game.
Connor (Michigan )
Do you see true freshman receivers in Jaron Dukes, Damario Jones, and Csonte York being big contributions this year? i feel these kids have great size and speed to play this year, and they have a lot of potential.
Michael Rothstein (1:01 PM)
Maybe. The chance increased for one of them to get some playing time with Darboh's season-ending injury. Don't think you'll see all three on the field, but at least one could go on the Darboh plan of at least playing some special teams this year to get used to the speed of everything. Still think a freshman receiver this season would be no higher than fifth on the current depth chart behind Gallon, Chesson, Dileo, and either Jackson or Reynolds. Yes, Dileo and Jackson are in the slot, but they have the experience. And Dileo has the best hands on the team.
Michael Rothstein (1:02 PM)
Well, that's my time for this week. Really appreciate all of the questions. If I didn't get to you, shoot me a Tweet @mikerothstein. Have a great weekend. Next week at this time, there will be football so close.