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November 07, 2013 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-11-07

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Thursday, November 7, 2013 - 7A

Quick to talk, quicker m
i space on the field

By ZACH HELFAND trip. That left an impression.
Daily Sports Editor "I didn't play much, but, just
being there, Michigan fans
The running back took the are nasty, man," he said to the
handoff out of the shotgun snap Omaha World-Herald. "They're
and raced to the left. A charging ruthless.
safety sealed the edge, so he cut "Honestly, I'm not a big fan of
right, the move subtle and explo- Michigan," he continued. "Noth-
sive. His body moved weight- ing would make me happier than
lessly, but he had separated yards to go up there and shut them up."
from the defender. The second Michigan mostly let the com-
safety lunged and dove, but the ment alone, at least publically.
ball carrier hopped back left, legs Mostly, the team praised his abil-
pumping like pistons. ity.
Escaping the attempt, Ameer Michigan coach Brady Hoke
Abdullah was in the open field said Abdullah was a special ath-
now, racing toward the pylon. lete. Junior defensive end Frank
Abdullah, Nebraska's budding Clark said he is the best back
star at running back, has spent a Michigan will see this year "by
lot of time there this season. far," but said the talk is just talk.
In eight "He can
games, Abdul- talk all he
lah already wants," Clark
has 1,108 yards "Nothing said. "A lot of
on the ground people do a
and averages would make me lot of talking
seven yards but can't back
per carry. Both happier than to... it up at the
figures rank end of the day.
first in the Big shut them Up." And we're just
Ten and sixth gonna. go out
in the nation. there and play
He's also the our game."
Cornhuskers' most potent offen- With the ball in his hands,
sive weapon, and this week espe- Clark said Abdullah is small,
cially, the key for the Michigan but he can burst through holes
defense. and lower his shoulder through
"All I know is he's really, really contact when needed. In real-
good," said Michigan defensive ity, Abdullah is 5-foot-9 and 190
coordinatorGregMattison. "He's pounds - undersized but still
fast. He breaks tackles. He's a only one inch and 10 pounds
really good athlete. He steps over less than Michigan's running
people. He could be one of the back, fifth-year senior Fitzger-
best running backs we've gone ald Toussaint. But Abdullah runs
up against. In my opinion, he can with such a feathery quickness
do it all." that he often looks smaller. He
This week, that includes talk- flits through holes with a twitch.
ing. Abdullah, a junior, picked In the open field, he has the
up 101 yards and a touchdown vision and agility to extend
last year against Michigan. As runs and the strength to break
a freshman, he didn't see much through arm tackles.
action when Nebraska came to Abdullah emerged as a sopho-
Ann Arbor, but he did make the more with 1,137 yards, but his

Nebraska running back Ameer Abdul-
lah is the Big Ten's leading rusher.
junior campaign has made him
the best back in the confer-
ence through two-plus months.
Abdullah has rushed for more
than 100yards in every game this
year except for a loss to UCLA.
He had 98 in that game. Against
Illinois, he went off for 225 yards
on 20 carries.
Nebraska will rely on that pro-
ductionon Saturday.Inlastyear's
game against the Cornhuskers,
Denard Robinson was knocked
out with an injury, and Michigan
lost 23-9. This time, Nebraska's
quarterback, Taylor Martinez,
will be out with a litany of inju-
ries. That puts the pressure on
redshirt freshman quarterback
Tommy Armstrong Jr., who is
expected to start (though Ron
Kellogg III replaced Armstrong
against Northwestern last week).
Borges said Armstrong runs
the same offense as Martinez.
Michigan ranks toward the top
of the Big Ten in rush defense,
but it hasn't faced a talent like
Abdullah thus far.
Allow him one twitch, and
he'll find open field. And that will
talk louder than anything he's
said this week.

Irvin hunts playing
time as spot-up shooter

By NEAL ROTHSCHILD
Daily Sports Editor
Without even looking down,
Zak Irvin back-stepped from
inside the arc in the corner, hands
extended over his head. Mean-
while, sophomore guard Caris
LeVert pounded a hesitation drib-
ble on the left side to get into the
lane, and the Wayne State zone
defense descended on him, leav-
ing Irvin open. After a hop step,
LeVert fired a chest pass to the
corner. With his left foot planted,
Irvin drew the right foot in and
lifted, dropping in a 3-pointer in
the first half of Tuesday's exhibi-
tion win against Wayne State.
A minute earlier, the same
sequence revealed itself. This
time, it was sophomore guard
Nik Stauskas drawing attention
from the left, and Irvin was on
the opposite wing rather than the
corner. No matter - same pass,
same step, same release and same
result.
Two possessions after the cor-
ner 3-pointer, LeVert found him-
self driving once again on the left
side. The Warrior double-team
swarmed him, and he snapped
an overhead pass to Irvin, now
on the left key. With more time
to collect himself, Irvin took an
extra step, left then right, to get in
rhythm and made the shot.
That would be his third
straight 3-pointer, underscoring
a 13-point night on 5-for-8 shoot-
ing for the 6-foot-6 freshman for-
ward in the 79-60 victory.
But more important than
helping to rout an overmatched
Division II opponent, Irvin's per-
formance showed how he can
fill a role in Michigan's dynamic
offense: spot-up shooter.
"Whether he's spotting up in
the corner or whether he's on
the wing or out front, if he stands
there, people will find him," said
Michigan coach John Beilein.
Watch his highlight tape and
you'll see Irvin in high school and
AAU creating for himself, fin-
ishing around the rim, and also

TERRAMOLENGRAFF/Daily
Freshman guard ZaklIrvinis carving a niche as a shooter amid a logjam at the wing.

knocking down the jump shot in
rhythm.
There's a good chance that the
last skill will bringthe most value
to the Wolverines this season.
"That's definitely something
I've been working on, where I'm
able to get the ball quickly and
(be able to put it) in the bucket,"
Irvin said.
With a logjam of talent on the
wing, Irvin may not have a lot of
creative freedom with the ball in
his hands, so he can rely on the
catch-and-release jump shot to
convince Beilein to put him on
the floor.
When and where Irvin will
play will hinge on the lineup
Beilein opts for on a given night
or in a given game situation. In
the preseason, Beilein has started
two big men in the frontcourt in
fifth-year senior Jordan Morgan
and redshirt junior Jon Hor-
ford. He'll concoct a new lineup
when sophomore forward Mitch
McGary is healthy enough to
return to the floor. If that new
lineup retains either Horford or
Morgan, it will be more difficult
for Irvin to see the floor, with
four wings and perhaps even a
second point guard vying for two

positions on the floor.
Sophomores LeVert, Staus-
kas and Glenn Robinson III will
dominate the minutes at the "2"
and "3" positions, penetrating
the lane and needing consistent
shooting on the perimeter to keep
defenses honest.
When Beilein opts for a small-
er five, Irvin has played the "4,"
a similar role to Evan Smotrycz
two years ago, wielding a quick
release from range and the ability
to slash to the rim, but with more
strength and athleticism.
Rather than look to a player
two inches taller than Irvin in
the 6-foot-8 Smotrycz, Beilein
compared Irvin to another recent
"4," one two inches shorter than
Irvin.
"Just having that one extra
shooter - a little bit like when we
would play small and have (Zack)
Novak out there, it's that one
extra shooter out there who can
really impact an offense," Beilein
said.
Split the difference in height,
and you get a guy with the same
first name as Novak with the laid-
back demeanor and quiet confi-
dence of Smotrycz, a neo-Beilein
dynamic offensive threat.

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