How the Michigan Football Suspensions Affect the Wolverines in Outback Bowl
Michigan announced suspensions for three of its players just two weeks before its season-ending tilt with South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. That's not good.
Two of them are starters. That's also not good.
Two are also seniors, which means their Michigan careers are effectively over. That, too, is not good.
If you're wondering when we're getting to the silver lining, well, sorry.
Here's more from ESPN.com redarding the suspensions:
Michigan has suspended three players, including starting cornerback J.T. Floyd and punter Will Hagerup, from the Outback Bowl against South Carolina for a violation of team rules.
Those two players, along with senior linebacker Brandin Hawthorne, will not travel to Tampa, Fla. for the New Year's Day game against the Gamecocks (No. 10 BCS, No. 11 AP) because of the suspension.
"It is an honor to play football for the University of Michigan and we have high standards and expectations for everyone that represents our program," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said in a statement. "These young men used poor judgment in each circumstance, and these suspensions are teaching moments for our team."
Nothing was offered by Michigan past "violation of team rules," but a lengthy apology offered by Floyd to ESPN.com's WolverineNation site indicated that his transgressions were of the young and intoxicated kind:
"I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to the University of Michigan, my fans, my friends, my coaches, my teammates, but most importantly, my parents, my daughter, and my family for a poor decision I made this past weekend in celebration of successfully completing my undergraduate degree.
"I have given my heart and soul to this program, and it truly disappointments me that I will not be with my teammates in Florida. This is a deep pain that I am dealing with to the best of my ability. I am 23 years old and despite the successes I've had on and off the field, I made a very uncharacteristic and immature decision. This decision contradicts the expectations that I have set for myself, and the expectations that others have set for me as well. I do sincerely apologize, and I have already started to learn from this experience. I will continue to use this experience as a driving force to become a better man."
He goes on after that, if you're interested in reading.
That isn't to say that Hawthorne and Hagerup were involved in whatever Floyd was talking about, but the fact that their suspensions were simultaneously announced makes it a little more likely.
At any rate, if Floyd got himself in trouble through late-night revelry, at least it wasn't worse. It sure as heck could have been.
The loss of Hawthorne isn't especially bad for Michigan. He collected only 18 tackles on the year—good for, as luck would have it, 18th-best on the team—and seven of those came in the team's 63-13 laugher against UMass.
Losing Hagerup is much harder, considering he took care of a majority of Michigan's punting duties and averaged about 45 yards per punt on the year. He is not the only punter on the roster, however, as backup punter and kicker Matt Wile has booted nine punts in 2012.
Wile averaged just 32 yards on those punts, but he was only used situationally. In other words, all of his punts came from inside the 50-yard line, and he put seven inside the 20 with only one touchback. That's good punting.
Moreover, Wile also handles kickoff duties for the Wolverines and routinely puts the ball in the end zone for a touchback.
Hagerup is the only player of the three with any eligibility left, but this may be a breaking point for his career, as this isn't the first time he's been on Hoke's bad side.
Hagerup was suspended for four games to start the 2011 season, and some Michigan reporters think this will be enough to make Hoke look elsewhere for special teams help in 2013.
The biggest issue for Michigan is the loss of Floyd.
Who's going to break up more passes in the Outback Bowl?
He was a key starter in the secondary for a Michigan defense that ceded only 155 yards per game through the air, and the loss of top corner Blake Countess in the season opener thrust Floyd into the role of covering No. 1 wideouts.
Shifting into Floyd's role on the other side of the field after Countess' injury was Courtney Avery. Well, for a while, anyway. Avery was benched shortly thereafter in favor of super freshman Raymon Taylor, who hasn't relinquished his starting role since.
Avery's going to have to come back for every-down duty as Michigan just doesn't have anyone else on the roster who's spent time at corner in anything but garbage time.
Backup corners Delonte Hollowell and Terry Richardson are also going to be available for Michigan, though neither has been a serious contributor on the field yet this year.
An interesting development from the past few days has been the shift to cornerback for kick returner and running back Dennis Norfleet, per AnnArbor.com.
Norfleet's certainly got the athleticism to shift to defensive back, and it can certainly be argued that his 5'7", 161-pound frame is better suited to the secondary than as a ball-carrier. He is only tackling (sorry) this task over the course of bowl practices, though, and learning to be a cornerback isn't easy.
Brian Cook of MGoBlog.com, for one, is not exactly thrilled about where Hoke is plucking his new cornerback from:
I'M JUST GLAD WE HAVE SO MUCH DEPTH AT RB THAT WE CAN MAKE THIS MOVE /jumps— mgoblog (@mgoblog) December 14, 2012
If there's any consolation for the Wolverines, it's that South Carolina just finished suspending a couple players of its own, including wideout D.L. Moore. Moore only caught eight passes on the year, though, so it's not as if his absence will cancel out the loss of Floyd for the Wolverines.
Hey, we told you there was no good news.
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