True freshmen review from opening game
Written by Matt Pargoff   

Brady Hoke had said in recent weeks that he expected to play a lot of true freshmen this season and the Michigan head coach held true to his word, with 12 first-year players taking the field against Alabama. Upon reviewing the broadcast of the game, we break down who saw action and provide our take on their performances.

LB James Ross – The young player out of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s saw by far the most action of any Wolverine true freshmen, playing extensive at linebacker in the first half of the game. He first entered the contest during Alabama’s third possession. He was used at middle linebacker in combination with Jake Ryan and Desmond Morgan for the most part, but also saw playing time at the weakside spot  in conjunction with Ryan and Kenny Demens. After a getting called for a penalty on a kick return late in the second quarter, Ross saw his playing time reduced and did not return to the rotation until the late in the third quarter. He played regularly for the remainder of the game.

There were a lot of glairing problems on the defense, but Ross held up fairly well considering his inexperience. There really did not seem to be a major drop off between him and Demens. For the game, the true freshman recorded two assisted tackles and was credited with half a sack.

 TE A.J. Williams – The 283 pound tight end was expected to see playing time and was worked into the game plan throughout the contest with Alabama. He entered the game in short yardage situations as a blocker, either as the lone tight end or in concert with fifth-year senior Mike Kwiatkowski.

While he did not go out for a pass at any point in the game, Williams looked solid as a blocker. He was mostly used when Michigan was running the ball, but was also on the field for Jeremy Gallon’s long reception late in the second quarter and the touchdown play that followed. He was also called on as a pass blocker later in the game on a play that saw a completion for a first down.  It will be interesting to see how his role develops down the road and if he becomes more incorporated into the passing attack.

RB Dennis Norfleet – When running back coach Fred Jackson said that the young freshman was the quickest player he had ever coached at Michigan, there was some thought that it may simply be hyperbole, but Norfleet certainly looked the part in the opener against Alabama. He saw action exclusively on special teams, returning eight kickoffs for 177 yards. Two of his best efforts were wiped out by penalties.

While there may be some reluctance on the part of the coaching staff to play him much on offense, given his diminutive 5-7, 161 pound frame, he looked like a player that could potentially provide a spark to the offense when called on to do so. He will likely create the most buzz among fans of the Maize and Blue as someone to watch out for going forward.

DT Ondre Pipkins – The highest rated member of the Michigan 2012 recruiting class, Pipkins entered the game in the first quarter, after quarter Denard Robinson’s first interception sent an already tired defense back onto the field. He only saw one play on the series and was not a major factor, but returned to play an entire defensive series early in the third quarter and was mixed into the lineup throughout the fourth quarter.

For the most part, he did not get pushed around, but did not do much to distinguish himself either. On Will Campbell’s sack in the third quarter, Pipkins did a good job busting through a double team to provide pressure up the middle and was part of the distraction that allowed Campbell to run down the quarterback from behind. Pipkins was credited with one assist on a tackle for the game.

DE Mario Ojemudia – Ojemudia did not enter the game on defense until the final two possessions, but still managed to be involved in three tackles, including one solo stop and a tackle for a loss. It is somewhat difficult to judge that performance given that Alabama had in some of its backups and the game was well out of reach. However, he did show a good nose for the ball.

Still undersized at 6-3, 231 pounds, on one play he fought off a double team to make the solo stop that was noted after a four yard gain. Given Michigan’s depth at the position, fans should expect to see more of Ojemudia this season.

S Jarrod Wilson – While he entered the game for one play in the first quarter – on the defensive series that followed Robinson’s first interception – Wilson ultimately did not see much action in the opening game. He returned to the field for the final two defensive series and saw work on special teams, but was not involved in any stops.

LB Joe Bolden – The January enrollee took the field on Michigan’s final two defensive series. He was credited with an assist on a tackle, but looked a bit tentative on a few of the plays where he was in action. Bolden also saw work on special teams.

CB Terry Richardson – The cornerback out of Detroit Cass Tech entered the game with Bolden and Ojemudia for the final two defensive possessions of the game. With Alabama attempted to run out the clock with its ground game, he did not have an opportunity to become involved in any plays.

LB Royce Jenkins-Stone and FB Sione Houma – Jenkins-Stone and Houma saw action exclusively on special teams and were not involved in any plays of note. Because of that, it was difficult to make many judgments on their performance.

WR Amara Darboh and TE Devin Funchess – The two young freshmen were on the field for Michigan’s final possession, which only lasted one play as redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy’s first collegiate pass was intercepted. It is possible that Darboh slipped in for other plays during the game and was simply not visible in review of the broadcast, but he was not involved in any plays.



Matt Pargoff

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