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September 20, 2011 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-09-20

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 7

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 7

Pankratz benefits
from local talent

Junior running back Vincent Smith rushed for 118 yards on nine carries in Michigan's 31-3 victory over Eastern Michigan at Michigan Stadium on Saturday.
Smith emerges as Michigan's
third featured runnng back

Daily Sports Writer
Birthday parties aren't usually
But sophomore Ainsley McCal-
lier can't help laughing whin she
thinks back to a celebration she
attended in elementary school.
The theme was Michigan field
hockey. And when a picture of
the attendees was taken on Ocker
Field that day, McCallister never
imagined that she would later
return to that same turf not as a
party guest, but as a midfielder
for the Michigan women's field
hockey team.
The photo is still on McCal-
lister's wall, acting as a memento
of her earliest field hockey days.
And she's not alone on the team as
one who grew up surrounded by
Michigan's field hockey program.
Like Pioneer High School
alumnae freshman Emy Guttman
and redshirt sophomore Haley
Jones, McCallister - who wentto
Huron High School - grew up in
Ann Arbor. And all three decided
to stay in their hometown for a
chance to playforhe Wolverines.
If yuu had asked any uf them
a few years ago if they imagined
coming to Michigan, the answer
is a resounding no.
But Michigan coach Marcia
Pankratz isn't surprised that each
player changed her mind.
"A lot of these players grew
up with Michigan," Pankratz
said. "They bleed maize and blue.
They've dreamed of wearing the
uniform their whole lives. They
love it and want to win champi-
onships for Michigan."
McCallister echoed those sen-
timents while recalling the day
she committed.
"Once I came on junior day and
got the offer, it was eye opening,"
McCallister said. "I saw what a
great school it was,and fell in love
with the program. It makes you
want to represent the block 'M."'
These attitudes aren't surpris-
ing considering the University
is located in a field hockey hot-
bed. Both Huron and Pioneer are
consistently the top-ranked high
school programs in the state. Ann
Arbor Community Recreation
and Education offers club teams
for players as young as eight. Pan-
kratz cites this "rich tradition of
field hockey" as a reason she's
always eager to recruit local play-

"There are some great coach-
es in this area," Pankratz said.
"There are wonderful athletes
and we love having players out
of this particular area because
they're' all well coached and
strong players."
This strong sporting com-
munity not only builds relation-
ships between the local athletes
- Guttman, Jones and McCallis-
ter have all played together since
middle school - but also forges
early relationships with Michi-
gan's program.
Jones defeated McCallister on
Ocker Field for the 2008 MHSAA
State Championship title. Gutt-
man remembers frequenting the
Michigan games as a child. While
these circumstances seemed to
have foreshadowed the futures of
the three athletes, it is these early
interactions that prove advanta-
geous for Pankratz when itcomes
to recruiting.
"(Recruiting) rules prevent
you from having any communi-
cation with players before their
junior year unless they're on
yuur campus," Pankratz said.
"Because they're here and cme
onto campus, we get to establish
relationships early, which is nice.
"We get to know their fam-
ily, get to know them and know if
they're a good fit."
More than anything, the play-
ers appreciate the support from
family members when playing for
the Wolverines.
"I like being close to my fam-
ily," McCallister said. "It's nice
that they can come and see me
compete, whereas if I went some-
where else they wouldn't have
had the same opportunities."
For highly recruited high
school athletes, the appeal of leav-
ing their hometown is a big draw
when deciding where to commit.
When convincing Ann Arbor's
talents to stay local, Pankratz
emphasizes the possibility to
maintain independence and have
new experiences despite living in
the town theyhave always known
- something Guttman, Jones and
McCallister all attest to.
"Living in the dorms and being
downtown, I rarely go home,"
Guttman said. "I don't feel like
I'm in my hometown. I feel like
I'm away.
"I would not want to be any-
where else but here."

Junior moves from
third-down back
to Hoke's main
halfback weapon
DailySports Writer
Despite standing at just
5-foot-6, Vincent Smith isn't
looking up to others anymore.
After the junior rushed for
118 yards on just nine carries
in the Michigan football team's
win over Eastern Michigan,
Michigan coach Brady Hoke
announced him as the new fea-
ture back on Monday.
"I think Vince right now
has earned that right, his per-
formance and his production,"
Hoke said. "He played good
with his vision on where to go
and listening to (running backs'
coach) Fred (Jackson) as we go
through the game about press-
ing the ball more on the line of
scrimmage and then reacting
off the center's tail end."

But Smith is looking side-
ways. In the running back
battle during fall camp, he was
beat out by both senior Michael
Shaw and redshirt sophomore
Fitzgerald Toussaint.
While Smith won the third-
down running back spot, which
Hoke said Monday kept him "in
the picture," he had just three
total carries in the first two
Despite Hoke saying Smith
was the lead back, both Shaw
and Toussaint remained ahead
of Smith on the 22nd-ranked
Wolverines' depth chart.
After Hoke and offensive
coordinator Al Borges both
insisted they wanted to find a
lead running back to take about
20 carries per game, it appears
Michigan is headed for a run-
ning back-by-committee sys-
"We don't want it that way,
but I think we're there at this
point in time," Hoke said.
Whether it's alone or not,
Smith is leading the charge, at
least for next Saturday's game
against San Diego State. His

first two carries against the
Eagles went for 38 and 27 yards,
He had three more rushes for
mere than 10 yards throughout
the game.
Meanwhile, Toussaint is
coming off a shoulder injury
that caused him to miss the
Notre Dame game, and Shaw's

against San Diego State, Smith's
third-down duties - and obvi-
ously his height - won't change.
The two are more related than
it initially appears.
Smith won the position
mainly because of his superb
blocking abilities.
Counterintuitively, his stat-
ure gives him a bonus in that


"You can't see him," fifth-
year senior center David Molk
'He likes to said. "No one can see him."
But his blocking relies on
it, that's the more than a sneak attack. On
a team that finds a way to slip
veird thing "toughness" 'into nearly everya
press conference, it's fitting
LbOut him. that Hoke's shortest non-place-
kicker on the team is one of the
leaders in the category.
"He likes to hit, that's the
ad has declined each weird thing about him,' Molk
Freshman running back said. "As a little guy, you'd think
as Rawls had one more he'd shy away from it or cut-
than Shaw last Saturday. block some guys to get away
aint came back for 11 car- from heavy contact.
id 46 yards against East- "But he will seek out and
chigan. , go find the biggest guy on the
no matter how many defense and just nail him. I love
s he gets as the lead back that about him."

carry t
ties an
ern Mi

Michigan eyes the curse of an AP top-25 ranking

Daily Sports Editor
It took the voters an extra
week this season, but the Michi-
gan football team is ranked in
the AP top 25 once again.
After starting each of the last
three seasons unranked, the
Wolverines climbed onto the
board after
second-week NOTEBOOK
victories over
Notre Dame in 2009 and 2010.
Michigan jumped to No. 22 on
the charts after a 31-3 win over
Eastern Michigan on Saturday.
And while the rank might be a
confidence boost, the players
feel like it pins a target on their
"I think it's a curse," senior
defensive tackle Ryan Van Ber-
gen said Monday. "I would rath-
er not be ranked until the end of
the season when it goes down
to bowl games. When you're
ranked, all it does it is put some-
thing on a chalkboard for the
other team. ... That's a big stat, if
you can get a win against a top-
25 team. People notice that."
With a 3-0 record, the Wol-
verines now sit atop the Big Ten,
tied with Nebraska in the Lead-
ers division and Illinois and Wis-
consin in the Legends division.
But the wins haven't been so
impressive. It took a 28-point
fourth quarter to topple Notre
Dame, 35-31, on Sept. 10. And
Michigan still hasn't scored a
point in any first quarter.
"I think we're vastly over-
rated," senior tight end Kevin
Koger said. "I mean, that's just
how it is. We have so much stuff

to work on. We have alot of time
to get it fixed, but for us to be in
the top 25 right now is kind of
Michigan'coach Brady Hoke,
whose all-time record reached
50-50 with Saturday's victory,
said he didn't vote for his team in
the USA Today poll - the Wol-
verines are No. 21 on that poll.
But did Hoke talk'to the team
about the ranking?
"Does it matter?" Hoke asked.
Well, no.
Michigan may spurn the No. 22
ranking, the Wolverines have to
be pleased with what both the
offense and defense have done
inside the 20-yard lines this sea-
The defense has struggled to
slow opposing offenses down
through three games. But once
teams enter the red zone - inside
the 20-yard lines - Michigan's
defense has been a brick wall.
Defensive coordinator Greg
Mattison's corps have been
world-beaters in defending
against red-zone offenses. Oppo-
nents have emerged with points
just six times in 10 red-zone trips
- two of those scores being field
goals - good for second in the
Big Ten.
"Coach Mattison emphasizes
the red zone as being one of the
most important things," Van
Bergen said.
"Everybody thinks the offense
gets better in the red zone -
that's not our perspective. The
field gets shorter and there's the
same amount of guys out there.
We think that we have better

odds in the red zone, when it
comes down to it."
Michigan has come away with
four takeaways in the red zone,
with two fumble recoveries and
two goal-line interceptions.
The team's turnover margin
of plus-six ranks fourth in the
nation - Michigan was minus-32
over the past three years.
Van Bergen attributed the
turnover turnaround to added
emphasis in practice.
"We're constantly going after
the ball in practice against our
own guys, regardless of if it's
tackle or not," Van Bergen said.
"The main emphasis is strip the
ball no matter what. We jump
on incomplete passes every time
like it's a fumble."
Added Hoke: "Tight cover-
age, pressuring the QB, effort
and guys getting to the football.
Those four components usually
turn into turnover opportuni-
And on the offensive side of
the ball, Michigan has feasted in
the red zone.
The Wolverines have scored
on each of their 10 trips inside
the opposing20-yard line - with
only one field goal. Their near-
perfect red-zone touchdown
percentage sits at seventh in the
nation and first in the Big Ten.
Mass texts are rarely the answer
to anything.
But that's just how Hoke left
San Diego State's football pro-
gram - Michigan's opponent
this Saturday.
Hoke, who coached the Aztecs
for the past two seasons, was
hired to replace former Michi-

Michigan coach Brady Hoke and the Wolverines will face San Diego State, the team he coached last year, this Saturday.

gan coach Rich Rodriguez on
Jan. 11 this year.
Since his transition occurred
over San Diego State's win-
ter break, Hoke was stuck. He
couldn't gather his players to
meet one final time like he did
when he left Ball State. The way
he notified the Aztecs, though,
was nothing short of unortho-
dox. Hoke's decision to leave the
Aztecs created a buzz across the
nation, but it also set off a buzz in
each of his players' pockets.
"I texted them all, just a mass
text," Hoke said.

"I don't know how you tell
people. We were on a little bit of
a schedule, time-wise."
Before leaving, Hoke was
involved with scheduling the
game between Michigan and San
Diego State. He never thought
he'd be coaching on the home
sideline during that game at
Michigan Stadium.
When he arrived at Michigan,
Hoke stood just nine months
away from playingthe same play-
ers he'd recruited, made promis-
es to and brought to the national
platform. And the same players

he'd texted his goodbyes to.
"I told Dave Brandon, 'Let's
buy that (game) out,"' Hoke said,
laughing. "The game's sched-
uled, you've got to play it. It
would have been way too hard
for both teams to try and find
new opponents."
But that wasn't sentimental.
"Because they're good," Hoke
Hoke eventually tried to
downplay the matchup.
"It's San Dieg State playing
Michigan, that's all it really is."
But it's so much more.



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