Welcome to the WolverineNation roundtable, where staffers Chantel Jennings, Michael Rothstein and Tom VanHaaren discuss pressing issues and topics surrounding the Michigan sports landscape.
1. Six Michigan football alumni are playing in the Super Bowl. Who are you most interested in seeing play and why?
Tom VanHaaren: Tom Brady in the Super Bowl is always something to watch. His control of the offense and poise even when things aren't going well is second to none, and it's probably a big reason why he has been so successful. I know they say defense wins championships, but I'm interested to see how Brady plays against the Giants' defense this time around.
Michael Rothstein: This is actually a pretty interesting question -- and I'm going to go with two guys. First is Brady. Every time I watch him play, I shake my head more and more at how he was never the full-time starter at Michigan and split time with Drew Henson. Yes, Henson had immense talent, but man, Brady might go down as the best quarterback in NFL history. I think he's in for a big game, as something tells me he remembers the last time the Patriots faced the Giants in the Super Bowl. Then there's Mario Manningham. He has had a rough season with injuries and the emergence of Victor Cruz. Curious how he gets used next weekend. Frankly, though, I'm more excited to see what commercials get trotted out this year.
Chantel Jennings: I’m going with punter Zoltan Mesko, not because I want the Patriots to have to punt often, but because in the past five years at Michigan, I don’t think there has been any better crowd hand signal in Michigan Stadium than Mesko’s “Z.” Recently, when Michigan has to punt there is a painful sigh that comes from the fans. But, when Mesko was punting there was a silver lining to the punts: the crowds got to throw their Z’s up. I often do it when I’m watching a Patriots game from my couch.
2. The Michigan basketball team plays OSU on Sunday. What one part of the Wolverines' game needs to step up the most if they want to win?
TV: Jordan Morgan has already stepped up his game, but he now has a huge task in taking on Jared Sullinger. Last season against the Wolverines, Sullinger averaged a double-double with 15 points per game and almost 12 rebounds. Morgan will have to keep him in check on the boards, and try to do that while staying out of foul trouble as well.
MR: Tim Hardaway Jr. Michigan isn't going to win any in any tough road environment without its supremely athletic sophomore guard. He has been settling too much for contested 3-pointers again -- this is something he admits -- and not driving to the basket. Once he remembers how good of a slasher he is, you'll see the full potential of this Michigan team. But for the Wolverines to have a shot at big things down the stretch and in March, they need to find a rhythm for Hardaway Jr. This starts Sunday.
CJ: I’m not sure how well Michigan is going to match up in a man-to-man defense with Ohio State. So I think we’ll be seeing a bit more 1-3-1 and 2-3 zone defense. But, the Wolverines’ zones have looked a little spotty (read: gaping) at times this season. The Buckeyes have a strong enough inside and outside presence that Michigan is going to have to run its zone defenses efficiently and cleanly.
3. What was the biggest surprise in this year's football recruiting class so far?
TV: This question made me think for a little bit, and there are the obvious -- switching Kyle Kalis and getting Tom Strobel to commit -- but I'm going to say something else. Something that I don't think a lot of people are talking about. The fact the Michigan coaches got most of these prospects to commit so fast, and without seeing a down of football coached by Brady Hoke and his staff.
That says a lot, to say the least. The coaching staff built enough trust and comfort with their commits that they were able to secure them with just their words and personalities. Usually with a coaching change you'll see prospects wait to see how a season goes, or wait to see what the product looks like on the field, but not with Hoke. That is a tremendous reflection of what these coaches can do.
MR: Nothing really surprises me anymore with recruiting, but then again I've covered a kid who took a limo to his college announcement at the College Football Hall of Fame (Jimmy Clausen). I'd say the surprise for me this season, with Michigan, was the Caleb Stacey decommitment last week. Not that it was a stunning move -- Michigan has taken a lot of offensive linemen in this class and could snag one or two more -- but he committed so early and his switch was somewhat sudden that it was at least a little surprising.
CJ: I’m still surprised that Michigan hasn’t grabbed a top running back commit. So far, it’s just Drake Johnson in the 2012 class. He’s talented, but he’s only a two-star prospect. I know the offense will be changing once junior quarterback Denard Robinson leaves and that Fitzgerald Toussaint has two more seasons of eligibility, but I figured the coaching staff would fight much harder for at least a three-star recruit considering how much we saw the run game this past year.