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August 22, 2010

Gordon, defense struggle at Saturday's scrimmage

Michigan's coaching staff has been raving about safety Cameron Gordon since the spring, but during Saturday's scrimmage the redshirt freshman was one of the biggest culprits of a day-long epidemic: tackling woes. The good news is Rich Rodriguez, Greg Robinson and Gordon are confident those mistakes can be fixed …

"Yesterday probably wasn't his best day practice-wise, but other than that he's had a really good camp," Rodriguez noted.

Saturday's scrimmage was described as "an offensive explosion" by redshirt sophomore wide receiver Roy Roundtree. He wasn't bragging but he clearly experienced success with the offense. His defensive brethren didn't disagree, though they saw promise in that the glaring errors came down to execution and not understanding.

"We were in position to make plays - I was in position - but we didn't wrap up," Gordon said. "I think we were all a little excited, especially us young guys to show what we could do and we had a breakdown in fundamentals. But those are easily correctable mistakes.

"Something Coach [Tony] Gibson said to me after our scrimmage was, 'Cam, every hit doesn't have to be a big hit.' That's a key for me and for all the guys. Any tackle is a good tackle. I don't have to level somebody because in the stat book they all count the same way. I'll get better and we'll get better."

Two weeks into camp and two weeks before Michigan kicks off the season Sept. 4 against Connecticut, it still appears that Gordon will start the opener. There was very little mention Sunday of sophomore Vladimir Emilien as the talk, from Rodriguez and Robinson, centered on Gordon.

"He's getting comfortable," Rodriguez said. "He's a really physical guy and the game is important to him. Again, he hasn't played on the big stage yet so there will be some nerves and mistakes, he just has to limit them, especially in the position he's at. You make a big mistake back there and it's six points. I think Cam understands that. He's as conscientious as any kid on our team and we look for a big year from him even though he's only a redshirt freshman."

Robinson responded with a wry grin when asked about Gordon's troubles during the scrimmage.

"I think it was great for him because those were coachable moments," the defensive coordinator said. "When you go and study the film he will be better today and it was better to make those mistakes today than two weeks from now.

"There were some good things going on with Cam too, believe me. But it was really about getting in position properly and how he started the play and how he finished. Those things, you can fix that on the sideline, but when it's a scrimmage, you don't have times to coach. I think Cam after seeing the film is a better football player already."

Rodriguez was pleased overall with the scrimmage.

"I thought it was a pretty good scrimmage," he said. "I was happy nobody got hurt - that was a good thing. I saw some good and bad on both sides, on offense and defense.

"Offensively, our execution with a little bit of a wet ball was pretty good. Defensively there were some good moments, but we didn't tackle particularly well. That was the most disappointing thing about the scrimmage was we didn't tackle well, and I think we had a couple turnovers, which was the first time in a couple days we had turnovers in practice on offense.

"Some guys stood out a little bit and other guys still have a ways to go before they can play for us.

"Individually I though our quarterback play was solid. Our slot receivers, Roundtree and [Kelvin] Grady and [Jeremy] Gallon all had pretty good days. Mike Shaw had a pretty good day running the ball, Mike Cox had a few good runs, Vincent Smith had a few good runs. I thought we were pretty solid up front offensive line-wise, which is kind of to be expected because we have a little more experience up there.

"Defensively, Mike Martin has had a tremendous camp. We limited him yesterday because we know what he can do, but he's been really good and probably our most consistent defensive player since camp started."

- Fifth-year senior linebacker Jonas Mouton did not participate in Saturday's scrimmage but Robinson said he is fine and will be back Monday.

- Redshirt junior center David Molk was limited Saturday but more for precautionary reasons than injury.

- Rodriguez is continually asked who will replace All-American Brandon Graham and the simple answer is no one. However, sophomore rush linebacker Craig Roh is a strong candidate to contribute more significantly this fall.

"He played last year at about 225 pounds as a true freshman and did a good job," Rodriguez said. "Now he's probably closer to 240 or 245 pounds and running just as well if not better.

"It's that added experience of being out there, you can see it. He's a guy that we want to move around a little bit. He's a very active, high-motor player. To be able to carry 245 pounds it will allow him to hold up a bit better against those bigger guys, especially that first game.

"With Brandon Graham, we don't want to compare anyone to BG because he's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of player … a first-round draft pick and was dominant against everyone he played.

"We don't have a guy that is BG ready right now, but who does? We have several guys that can create pressure. Craig is one of them, on the pass rush."

- Brock Mealer addressed the media before Rodriguez (we'll have more on that later). Fans have repeatedly asked how he will lead the team out onto the field. According to Rodriguez, Mealer, who was paralyzed in a 2007 car crash Dec. 24 that killed his father and his brother's girlfriend (redshirt sophomore O-Lineman Elliott), will walk ahead of the Wolverines as they walk arm-in-arm behind him. He will touch the M Go Blue banner and will then drift off to the side as the Maize and Blue storm the field, like always.

"It's going to be a pretty emotional time," Rodriguez said. "We spent some time with his mother yesterday. Having seen Brock over the last year or so and how much time and work he's put in - I've seen him working out, seen him after he's worked out; he's dedicated his life to proving he can walk again.

"To be able to do that in front of our fans, on national TV and all that will be quite emotional. It will be inspirational and already has been for our entire team."











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