Michigan Football: Grading Every New Starter's Week 1 Performance

Adam BiggersSenior Analyst IISeptember 1, 2013

Michigan Football: Grading Every New Starter's Week 1 Performance

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    Although he accounted for three touchdowns (two rushing), quarterback Devin Gardner wasn't the only productive force Saturday during Michigan's 59-9 dismantling of Central Michigan at The Big House. 

    In fact, if it weren't for those three scores, Gardner's stat line of 8-for-13 and 162 yards, including seven rushes for 57 yards, wouldn't seem all that impressive given the opponent. 

    It was Gardner's first season opener as the No. 1 quarterback, so his performance is worth noting. Fitz Toussaint took the field as the No. 1 running back for the first time since Week 11 of 2012; he rushed for two touchdowns—again, a performance worth noting, although he's not technically a new guy.

    For all intents and purposes, Gardner and Toussaint helped usher in a new era of Wolverines football. They're veterans, but, in a sense, they were new because of the throwback feel of Team 134. 

    Unfamiliar faces—some of which have experience but aren't regulars—such as seniors Joe Reynolds and Jeremy Jackson, did well, too. 

    This slideshow will examine some of the key first-timers' performances and touch on what the old-but-new guys did during the Wolverines' devouring of the Chippewas. 

B: New Pair at Safety

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    Courtney Avery is in the midst of recovering from a knee surgery, so he didn't play Saturday. Thomas Gordon didn't suit up, instead serving a one-game suspension for violation of team rules. 

    The pair of senior safeties are valuable to Michigan's defense, but the next men up—Jarrod Wilson and Josh Furman—played well in the season opener against the Chippewas. 

    Combined, the two have 37 games of experience, with 24 of them coming by way of Furman. Wilson has appeared in 13 games. 

    Other than a game-opening 17-yard connection between Central Michigan quarterback Cody Kater and receiver Courtney Williams, Michigan's secondary didn't give up many deep throws. 

    The Chippewas finished with 144 passing yards, averaging just 5.1 per completion. Because of that, the pair of fresh safeties are worthy of a "B". 

B+: Dymonte Thomas and Joe Reynolds Make an Impression

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    Dymonte Thomas made his presence known in his first game at Michigan, and Joe Reynolds joined the party with a strong showing in a rare appearance. 

    After Thomas blocked a punt in the first quarter, Reynolds scooped it up and went 30 yards for the Wolverines' first touchdown of the day. 

    Thomas was part of a stout defense that held Central Michigan to 200 total yards. Reynolds was part of an offense that scored 59 points. His 45-yard catch in the third quarter helped set up a one-yard touchdown from running back Fitz Toussaint. 

    Not a bad debut for Thomas, nor was it too shabby of a day for Reynolds, a senior who should see plenty of time at receiver, along with Jehu Chesson and Jeremy Jackson, now that Amara Darboh is out for the year. However, Reynolds suffered a minor injury and his status is unclear at the moment. 

    Jackson was useful Saturday, hauling in a 17-yard catch during the same drive in which Reynolds made his catch. 


C: Drake Johnson, the No. 1 No. 2 RB?

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    If Michigan is using a two-back set this season, then Drake Johnson, technically, started Saturday. He was the second back to get a carry, hence, he was the first No. 2 in the game. 

    Johnson had two carries for nine yards. He made a tackle after an interception, but that heads-up play put him on the sideline—and the Michigan coaching staff isn't releasing a return date for the redshirt frosh who hails from the Wolverines' backyard, Ann Arbor Pioneer High. 

B: Wealth of Talent and Youth

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    There weren't a ton of "new" starters Saturday, but after Michigan took control of the game, there were floods of redshirt and true freshmen taking the field—27 of them to be exact: 11 true frosh, 16 RS. 

    That was the plan, obviously. Notching a 59-9 victory over Central Michigan was a great opportunity for the Wolverines to integrate their youth into the action. 

    That being said, O-Line relievers such as Ben Braden, Kyle Kalis and Erik Magnuson each gained valuable playing time. A team can never be over-prepared up front, especially with Notre Dame waiting around the corner for Sept. 7. 

    Never in doubt no matter the personnel, the Wolverines cruised along Saturday. And much of that success can be attributed to the second-teamers' (and lower) energy. 

B: Shane Morris Is One Play Away from Being No. 1

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    A turn, twist, bump or bruise could eject Devin Gardner from the driver's seat, creating a need for Shane Morris, a true freshman, to take over the reins of the offense. 

    After a shaky Under Armour All-America Game showing in January, Morris' skills were in doubt; his 4-star ranking, per 247Sports, was dissected and questioned, too. 

    The former Warren De La Salle star answered his naysayers, going 4-for-6 for 59 yards. He threw an interception late in the fourth quarter, but it wasn't grossly misfired—he threw with a little heat, the receiver bobbled the ball and Central Michigan came up with the snag.

    Again, not a huge deal. The glimmering stat for Morris is this: He averaged 9.8 yards per connection. That's a small sample size, but it's one that prompts optimism. 

A-: Kenny Allen Kicks It into High Gear

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    A single punt may not say much, but in the case of Kenny Allen, his 51-yard boot in the fourth quarter said a lot. Michigan has depth and talent at punter, despite the suspension of Will Hagerup. 

    Allen, a former star kicker/punter at Fenton High, was happy to give Team 134 everything he had—no matter how much or little—toward the first win of the year.

    Go my first college punt today but most importantly team 134 got the victory!!! #GoBlue

    — Kenny Allen (@KennyAllen91) September 1, 2013

    MLive.com Wolverines beat writer Nick Baumgardner tweeted that Matt Wile kicked a 70-yarder in pregame practice. Michigan should be fine at the position. 


    Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81