Michigan's Kenny Demens OK with escaping spotlight, but is a big winner in our year-end grades
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
He was sitting on a platform in a room full of people. Four teammates were interspersed throughout the room on similar platforms, speaking with reporters about the upcoming Sugar Bowl.
No one was talking to Kenny Demens.
The Michigan football team's middle linebacker should be a star. He led a top-20 defense in tackles, and was responsible for the defensive playcalls that confounded some very good offenses.
Yet, with coach Brady Hoke casting a spotlight on the defensive line and the secondary becoming a new source of strength, Demens was, more or less, lost in the shuffle. Not that it bothers him or anything.
"I don't mind. Not at all," he said during an interview in New Orleans. "Guys like Mike Martin and (Ryan) Van Bergen deserve the credit. Those guys take up the blocks that allow me to make plays. They deserve all the attention they've gotten.
"As long as I'm making plays and we're winning, I don't care at all who gets the credit."
In AnnArbor.com's year-end grades, Demens gets a tip of the cap for his effort this year by earning one of four "A's" doled out to defensive players.
We also graded every other offensive and defensive player on the two-deep roster, as well as the key specialists. The primary factors considered were overall performance and consistency, with expectation level also taken into account.
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Junior Hemingway: His numbers (34 catches, 699 yards, four TDs) aren't elite, but few receivers made more of their chances than Big Play Hemingway. The emphasis on the running game diminished his stats, but he had few drops on the balls he did get and made jump balls seem routine. He finished third in the country with 20.1 yards per catch and was named Sugar Bowl MVP for his two acrobatic TD catches. A
Roy Roundtree: Some players benefit from coaching changes, and others don't. It's unavoidable, and Roundtree falls in the latter group. He fell from 72 catches last year to 19 this year, matching the sharpest decline in the Big Ten (and the guy he matched, Indiana's Damarlo Belcher, played just six games before getting kicked off his team). Coaches will say the drop off can't all be put on him, and that receivers do more than catch balls, both of which are true. But the fact stands that, for one reason or another, Roundtree disappeared too often from the passing game for someone of his talents. C+
Jeremy Gallon: Standing 5-foot-8, there were doubts about how, or if, the sophomore would fit into Al Borges' pro-style offense. Gallon responded by becoming the team's second-leading receiver (31 catches, 453 yards, three TDs), and Michigan doesn't beat Notre Dame without him. He also became a devastating blocker, instrumental in an offense that relies so heavily on the run. A-
Drew Dileo: The sophomore had just nine catches, but two went for TDs and another picked up a big first down on third-and-long against Ohio State. He could become a bigger part of the offense next year, particularly if Darryl Stonum doesn't return. B+
Martavious Odoms: The senior was a no-show for much of the year, slowed by an off-season forearm injury. But he turned it on late, snagging TDs in the final three regular-season games. B-
Kelvin Grady: The senior became a victim of Gallon's stellar play. The former basketball player had just five catches for 75 yards and could never find consistent playing time. INC
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Taylor Lewan: The sophomore is a two-year starter who is a physical specimen with great pro potential, but discipline was a question after committing seven penalties in seven starts last year. This year: Three penalties in 13 starts. Sky's the limit for him. A
Michael Schofield: The sophomore was thrust into starting duty due to the ankle injuries to left guard Ricky Barnum, and he responded by basically taking Barnum's spot. He played well and earned a starting spot next year either at left guard or right tackle. A-
David Molk: He won the Rimington Trophy as the nation's top center, and played in the Sugar Bowl on one leg. What more could you want from your center? A+
Patrick Omameh: After two tours as a starter, Omameh has shown to be a capable option at right guard. But he often was the weak link up front this year, and was consistently a step slow when he pulled. He was a major culprit for the breakdowns against Michigan State. B-
Mark Huyge: A quiet, steady producer at right tackle. Nothing more, nothing less. Now is making a run at the NFL and training with Mike Barwis. B+
Ricky Barnum: He was Wally Pipp'd by Schofield, more or less. He started the season with a one-game suspension, then played well through the rest of the nonconference season. He went down with ankle injuries, though, and never started in Big Ten play, even as he returned to health. D+
Elliott Mealer: There was such a sharp drop-off from the five starters and Barnum to Mealer, the junior never saw the field except in mop-up duty and after an injury to Lewan and Barnum. Has yet to show he can be an effective offensive lineman, and could be passed by a freshman next year. INC
Rocko Khoury: Khoury was the backup center this year, but never saw the field except late in blowouts and on the opening series in the Sugar Bowl, when he showed how fortunate Michigan is that Molk never went down with a serious injury. INC
Kevin Koger: The senior had a career year (third-leading receiver at 23 catches for 244 yards and a team-high four TDs) despite the inconsistencies of the passing game. Was a vocal leader off the field and solid blocker on it. Has great pro potential. A-
Steve Watson: He was overshadowed and buried on the depth chart by Koger. Not much of a factor, other than as a blocker in power sequences. INC
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Denard Robinson: OK, he was sixth in interceptions this year with 15 and his accuracy was, let's say, inconsistent. But put it this way: Do the Wolverines win 11 games without him? Hell, do they win 11 with Michigan State's Kirk Cousins, whom the coaches ranked the second-best quarterback in the Big Ten this year? No. There's room for improvement — miles of it — but he makes Michigan a winner. B+
Devin Gardner: The sophomore got some key snaps this year, which should pay dividends as he works his way into the lineup down the road. He showed mobility in the running game and found success on bootlegs, but was erratic in the passing game. B-
Stephen Hopkins: After losing the tailback battle, the sophomore switched positions midseason and found a home. He still has a case of the dropsies, but showed growth in the protection schemes and showcased plus-speed for a fullback. He also could add a dimension in the passing game as his role expands. B+
John McColgan: He is what he is: A walk-on who, as someone built like a truck, was a capable blocker but limited to just that. C
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Fitz Toussaint: He answered questions about his health (missed only one game) and vision (biggest growth area this year) while reaching 1,000 yards in his first tour as a starter. Not enough can be said about his ability to keep the offense churning, and Robinson in one piece. Only blemishes are no-shows in two of the season's three biggest games: Loss to MSU and Sugar Bowl win against Virginia Tech. A-
Vincent Smith: He had such a strong fall, he was able to steal snaps from Toussaint well into the season before finally giving way against Purdue. He's a smaller, shiftier runner and should provide a nice complement as a senior next year. He also is the team's best blocker and receiver at this position. B
Michael Shaw: He was considered the favorite to become the team's lead tailback throughout fall camp, then faded into an afterthought during the season. His 31 carries were a career low. D
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Craig Roh: The junior didn't record a tackle in the first two weeks after enduring a difficult fall camp and adjusting to the new scheme. In the final 11 games, he came on strong with 32 tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble. Only knock was a bout of inconsistency with holding containment against outside runs. A-
Mike Martin: Facing perpetual double teams, the senior was able to rack up 64 tackles, a team high among defensive linemen, 3.5 sacks and the program's first safety in almost a decade. A
Will Heininger: The senior surpassed all expectations in his career, going from a 220-pound baseball player to a scout-team punching bag for Jake Long to a starter at tackle this year. He wasn't a star, but also wasn't expected to be on this line. He was solid, carving out a nice legacy for himself. B+
Ryan Van Bergen: He became the captain of the resurgent defensive line, calling out the plays and audibling with Martin on the line. The senior finished with 45 tackles, a team-high 5.5 sacks, three recovered fumbles and one forced fumble. Played on one leg in the Sugar Bowl because of the injuries to Heininger and Brink. He was a warrior. A
Jibreel Black: A nice young piece for this team, Black was able to challenge Roh for snaps at weak-side end despite Roh playing so well. Expect to see both in the lineup next year. A-
Frank Clark: He didn't play much until the Purdue game, and remained buried behind Roh and Black even then. Still, he showcased the raw athleticism players rave about and appears to have a bright future. B+
Will Campbell: The former five-star recruit appeared in every game this year, a first for the junior, and started the finale against Virginia Tech. That's growth. However, it's becoming evident that, barring an off-season revelation, he'll never fulfill the lofty expectations set for him. He's simply too inconsistent, and his technique remains flawed. C
Nathan Brink: Coaches rave about the sophomore for his technique and coachability, but he remains limited in talent and size (he's only 6-foot-5, 263 pounds). Could make a jump next year with another off-season to bulk up. C-
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Jake Ryan: Coaches refer to him as "unorthodox," but they can't help but smile as they say it because they know what they have on their hands in the redshirt freshman: An elite playmaker in the making. A-
Kenny Demens: Has there ever been a more quiet season from a leading tackler on a top-20 defense? The junior, often overshadowed by the dominant line, finished with 94 tackles and was instrumental in the team's great success on third- and fourth-and-shorts. A
Desmond Morgan: The second leg of a stellar freshman pair at linebacker, Morgan suffered an injury in fall camp and still was able to work his way into the lineup. He had more dips than Ryan, but flashed intelligence and instincts. His greatest potential, though, might come in the middle once Demens graduates. B+
Brandin Hawthorne: Hawthorne made five consecutive starts early in the season before giving way to Morgan and playing little down the stretch. He was spectacular against Notre Dame, but his play slowly waned from there. C
Brennen Beyer: Another freshman who saw time on defense. Was solid in limited action. B-
Mike Jones: It's easy to forget he was listed as a starter for the opener. It's easy to forget because he didn't play a significant snap all year. F
Brandon Herron: He'll be remembered for his two touchdowns in the opener — a school record for a defensive player — but otherwise forgotten. Well-liked by his teammates, but his playing time was victimized by the youth movement at linebacker. D
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Blake Countess: He made several all-freshmen teams, and deservedly so, as he never really looked like a freshmen after catapulting into meaningful minutes against San Diego State. The only crack in his freshman resume was a sub-par performance in the Sugar Bowl. Otherwise, he showcased the kind of talent, instincts and persona that could make him the next great Michigan corner. A-
J.T. Floyd: A leg injury sabotaged his 2010 season. Nothing could dampen his 2011. Floyd finished with two picks, eight pass break-ups and a forced fumble during a breakout season, performing well even when paired with the ineffective Troy Woolfolk. A-
Jordan Kovacs: I said in the preseason the junior would experience a drop-off this year in the new scheme. I'm a fool. Kovacs is one of the Big Ten's surest tacklers and finest safeties. He'll be the defense's undisputed leader next year as a fourth-year starter. A
Thomas Gordon: He seems to be inconsistent in practices, which led the staff to start Woolfolk over him three times in the final four weeks of the regular season, but there's no disputing what he's done in games. He had 67 tackles and became a wrecking ball when it came to turnovers. Recovered a league-high four fumbles, forced two others and picked off one pass. A-
Troy Woolfolk: The senior entered the season saying he was faster and smarter than ever after losing 2010 to a leg injury, but never did find his form. He struggled at corner before being displaced by Countess and moving to safety. He wasn't much better there. C-
Courtney Avery: The sophomore was a nice player in nickel packages and made few mistakes in his limited role. He'll be remembered best for picking off the pass that sealed the win against Ohio State. B+
Raymon Taylor: He didn't see the field much as a true freshman, but coaches rave about his ability to play. INC
Marvin Robinson: He was the primary backup at safety until Woolfolk was moved there, then his legal troubles caught up with him. F
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Brendan Gibbons: The contrast between last year and this is tremendous. Gibbons, 1-of-5 last year, has clicked nicely with Hoke and special teams coach Dan Ferrigno and turned in a 13-of-17 effort this year, including making all three attempts (and the overtime winner) in the Sugar Bowl. It's a true testament to the power girls wield over college guys. A
Matt Wile: Hoke criticized his placement on kickoffs early in the season, but the true freshman got better and was excellent against Ohio State and Virginia Tech. He has the strongest leg among field-goal kickers and could factor in there as well going forward. B+
Jeremy Gallon: The sophomore hit the gas on offense, and did the same on special teams, where he became a revelation as a punt returner. After averaging just 4.3 yards per return last year and struggling to secure the ball, Gallon was third in the Big Ten this year at 10.1 yards per return. A-
Martavious Odoms: He was forced into being the primary kick returner when Darryl Stonum was redshirted. He averaged just 21.2 yards per attempt (none longer than 33) and Michigan finished ahead of only Illinois in the Big Ten. D+
Drew Dileo: It's not often the holder becomes a key component of field-goal units, but the sophomore receiver was 3-for-3 in picking up first downs this year on fakes, providing an added dimension for which opponents must account. Only mistake all year was a bobbled snap on an extra-point try. A
Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.
Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 2:20 a.m.
Jake Ryan has to be my favorite player on the team besides Denard. He came in as a consensus 2-star and has blossomed into one of the best players on Michigan's D. Go Jake! And Go Blue!
Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 8:36 p.m.
Wrong on Craig Roh! Not getting a tackle in the first two games nearly cost us one of them(ND). He works his tail off but I don't see him any higher than a B-. This kid still has room to grow and improve, so I anticipate next years grade to mirror what you gave him this marking period.
Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 8:31 p.m.
I couldn't get past Odoms grade. A B- is wrong, wrong, wrong. He shouldn't be penalized for being injured. The kid did everything the team asked him to do once he was able to be on the field. No other reciever showed the consistency of catching, blocking, and simply being clutch, other than Hemingway, then Odoms. Were it not for him we'd have at least lost two additional games. Odoms grade should be a solid A! I'll get back to the list now...
Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 7:47 p.m.
I would have to give Fitz an A for getting over 1000 yards even though he wasn't the clear starter until at least 1/2 way through the season ... in the Sugar Bowl Va. Tech had everyone up on the line and made it tough to run (DRob's couldn't run either). We need to punish teams that do that by having a better passing attack with quick short passes. Jake Ryan also deserves an A ... for a freshman he had a great season and made a major contribution to the team. Here's my grades for Mr. Meinke: * Player Predictions: C (example: "I said in the preseason the junior would experience a drop-off this year in the new scheme. I'm a fool.") (A for honesty though) * Game Predictions: C- * Writing skills: A- Overall good job Mr. Meinke.
Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 7:12 p.m.
Kyle Meinke: Never played a snap in Div 1 football, but was able to grade an 11 win football team with prejudice. C-
Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 6:59 p.m.
The O line was really dominated by Virginia Tech and earlier by Michigan State and Iowa. Can't say it's an A/B line. Can't wait for Kalis, Magnuson, Bars, Braden, and Stacy to arrive and start 'pumping up. Would be nice to have a massive and athletic O Line like Alabama. Kalis especially is huge, looks like he could put on another 50- weigh 350- and still be lean.
Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 6:22 p.m.
I think Jake Ryan deserves an A. He was everywhere on the field, and overshadowed Roh in my opinion. I expected more from Roh in his third year. I think his grade was a bit high. Love Blake Countess. I think Clark, Ryan, Countess will all be all-Americans if they keep it up. I also think you were generous with Fitz. He had his moments, but he had a few games where he was ineffective (like the Sugar Bowl, like the Notre Dame game, the MSU game). He tends to do well once he hits a hole, but didn't show enough of breaking tackles in the backfield to merit such a high grade. In the Sugar Bowl, he seemed to play very tentative and missed a few openings with that crowded defensive front. The O-line didn't do him any favors, but that's where a back has to take over and make things happen. Also, does Fitz catch passes out of the backfield? Things to work on. He has tremendous upside, and will get there, but didn't show it all quite yet.
Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 5:27 p.m.
A bit harsh on some of the guys don't you think? These guys work their butts off everyday and do the best they can. Unless they get into trouble off the field, in my book no one can get a F for that.
Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 4:37 p.m.
I will give the team collectively an A-, they really pulled together and gave the 1st year coaches a great season. The coaches grades: BH - Good job bridging the divided M fan base. Good job with Assistance Coaches hire and player relationship building. Great job recruiting. The only knock I have is, he need to take more control from the sidelines during game time. A- GM - From 108th to top 20 defensive finish in the nation...nuff said. A+ AB - Good OC, although he struggled building chemistry and sync with the offense in the attempt to institute his new system. There wasn't any sync in the passing game between the QB's progression, the linemen/rb's blocking assignments and the WR's routes. Some say that JH bailed out DR, but actually, those 2 bailed out AB. I think this is the largest area of concern for next year if M is going to be a BT championship contender. C-
Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 4:30 p.m.
The BIG question here Kyle is who will grade our COACHES? Let me try!! Fred Jackson - A Greg Mattison-A+ Brady Hoke- A++ BIG AL BORGES--- A REALLLY BIG A MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEANchigan football.....the RR (WcIMFH) era is now Shut!! As we now ROLL with Hoke and the morning Donut!!
Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 6:10 p.m.
Nothing like a BIG A for BIG AL..... I would also give you a BIG A Meanie!! Judging from your picture....just sayin....
Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 3:39 p.m.
Nice and informative article. Who am I to argue? I hope Roy Roundtree steps up in 2012. Good chance Mr Stonum will be unavailable so we'll need to see the two incoming freshman recievers step up and fill in that gap. I am also looking to see the return of the injured Cam Gordon, so watch out for him.
Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.
Both sides of the line struggled against real competition and without the dynamic play making of DRob, Fitzie JR and the other receivers at times, the offense was painful to watch. Lewan and Molk got beat as often as the no names on the O line. The D line just didn't show up most games which gave Kovacs the opportunity to make so many tackles. Neither D end could contain and, while it was a struggle with injuries, our D seemed to wait to capitalize on the opponents mistakes which proved hard to watch when they didn't make many - e.g. MSU.
Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.
Well I agree with most of the grades except 4 Demens, Roh, Denard, and Woolfolk! Demens struggled making solo tackles. He alone missed atleast 5 in the Sugar Bowl. He is a solid player that will get better with an off season under his belt with Hoke and company but this year he was more like a B-. Roh, was the biggest dissapointment in all 3 phases of the game! His stats were not good (very comparable to last years). He was a non factor in 7 games and the 8th bad game he had 3 tackles but continued to show no ability to control the outside. He was sealed almost everytime an outside run play was called by Vtech until Jake Ryan or Kovacs came down to help! I would not be suprised if he gets beat out next year at the end position by Frank Clark who has shown more skill at the position and is only going to be a sophmore. True grade C-! Woolfolk was an absolute F this year and nothing but a failer! He was suppose to be the #1 corner and was so bad they could not even play him at FS or as a back up corner. He was consistantly out of position and has no tackling ability (every thing is diving at the other teams players knees with his head). I think Denard should be in the A range because he makes every offensive lineman get a better grade. If Cousins was the QB there would be a lot more sacks and those guys would not get as high of grades. With new systems I think we saw the best outcome possible this year and with another offseason to get great coaching this team will be much more cohesive as a group on D and I think we will see a big step in Denards passing skills between this year and next because his timing will get better! Go Blue!
Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 6:27 p.m.
I was not a big fan of Woolfolk's play but an absolute F? That's sort of hard on him. He kept a good attitude despite not playing as well as I'm sure he'd like and didn't make himself a distraction. (My only true beef with him was his publicly calling out Tate a few years ago when keeping it internal may have been better, especially since Woolfolk was not a perfect player himself). I think we were better on the field when Woolfolk was not playing a major role, but he busted his butt and even broke his leg for the team. Never a public complaint. That's worth something.
Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.
I'm hesitant to go along with nicking Roundtree and Shaw simply because they fell from favor. Hemingway and Toussaint just became primary players. Can you fault Shaw for 199 yards on 31 carries? If that were one game, it would be spectacular. Were there many plays called where Roundtree was Denard's first option? I really don't know. Personally, I've always thought that Hemingway was the more talented receiver anyway. Still, I didn't see those guys performing poorly on the field, they just weren't in the spotlight. Frank Clark may well have a big upside, but if he doesn't tootsie-roll himself into the luckiest interception of the season, many folks wouldn't even know who he is. Prior to that one moment in the Sugar Bowl, his season was largely forgettable. He probably went from a C- to a B+ on the strength of one play.
Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 1:49 p.m.
Demens was a very solid player, but unspectacular. But as the article states, he was overshadowed by the really good play of the interior defensive line. Next year, he'll need to do more since RVB and MM are gone. Roundtree must also really step up his game next year being the top returning receiver. Especially if Stonum is gone. This year he just didn't get open enough to help out Denard. Also, look for Dileo to get a lot more catches next year - Michigan's Wes Welker! Jake Ryan appears to have a huge upside also. The guy has a nose for the ball which is very hard to teach.
Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 1:48 p.m.
Will Hagerup??? F
Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 3:10 a.m.
Yeah, no kidding, he was so subpar this year that Kyle forgot about him completely, Lol!