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Position Grades: Michigan

(Sigh) Okay, I suppose we’ll do one of these things.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re actually reading this week’s edition of Position Grades, you either don’t want to read them but simply can’t look away, or you’re a sadistic person who was rubbing your hands in anticipative delight. Either way, let’s just go ahead and get this over with, shall we?

Quarterback: F

Wishful thinking, I realize, but at this juncture it’s time for this coaching staff to do the right thing and let Tommy Stevens start. Yes, that was a horrible pick-six that he threw on the run with his opposite throwing arm, but he certainly looked a lot more mobile and showcased a stronger, more accurate arm.

I appreciate everything Trace McSorley has done for this program with his leadership and “Goonies never say die” attitude, but it’s clear at this point that his injuries are affecting not only his mobility, but his ability to throw accurate balls, and he needs time to heal up. The overthrowing of a wide-open DeAndre Thompkins in the final minute of the first half blew PSU’s best chance at having some positive momentum going into the locker room and making this a more competitive game in the second half than it otherwise ended up being.

Running Back: F

Miles Sanders was held to 14 yards on seven carries, which is hardly surprising considering how ferocious Michigan’s defensive front seven is. The fumble by him at midfield right after PSU blocked a Michigan field goal attempt trailing only 7-0 was downright inexcusable, and marked the second straight week that momentum was killed by an avoidable mistake. Journey Brown made the most of his lone carry, taking a sweep to the right side of the field for eight yards.

Wide Receiver/Tight End: D+

Pat Freiermuth led the way with 51 yards on three catches and rising freshman star Jahan Dotson also caught a pair of balls. Unfortunately, this unit once again had its struggles, and KJ Hamler was held in check, garnering only one catch for 20 yards.

Offensive Line: D

The O-line went up against one of the toughest D-lines in the country and got manhandled, giving up a season-high five sacks, as Trace and Tommy were forced to run for their lives countless times, and struggled to open holes for the rushing attack. I understand that Michigan’s D-line is absolutely ferocious and loaded with guys who will be playing on Sundays very soon, but this PSU O-line isn’t the patchwork lines of the first couple of seasons in the James Franklin era, this is a group that has its share of veteran former blue chippers and high 3-star recruits and should at the very least, not get absolutely mauled the way they did yesterday. It’s time to start wondering whether Matt Limegrover is really the guy to get this O-line playing to its full potential.

Defensive Line: C

At times, they were able to stuff Michigan’s ground game in short yardage situations, and they did have their moments (Yetur Gross-Matos tallied another sack) but once again, the pass rush was inconsistent as it has been all year.

Linebacker: C-

Look, I appreciate Koa Farmer’s decision as a high school recruit to come all the way from California and take a chance on Penn State at a time when they were at the nadir of their sanctions, but it’s painfully clear at this juncture that he is the weakest link of the linebacking corps. Michigan damn well knew this and continually tried to run in his direction, as evidenced by Karan Higdon breaking off a 50-yard run on Michigan’s opening drive that ended in a touchdown, and set the tone for the rest of the game for the Wolverines. Jan Johnson had a very admirable performance, with a team-high 10 tackles and a key pass break-up on 4th down when the game’s outcome was still theoretically in doubt. Cam Brown wasn’t too shabby, either with his six tackles and a pass break-up.

Secondary: C

John Reid had a couple of nice pass break-ups and Garrett Taylor led the way tackling-wise with seven of them, as he continues to grow comfortable in his role as a starting safety. Taylor also should have had himself a scoop-and-score on the blocked field goal but for a seemingly phantom “block in the back” call.

Special Teams: C

Blake Gillikin averaged 46 yards on his eight punts, including a long of 74 yards, but if you take away his longest punt, it becomes a pretty meh 42-yard average per punt. Rafael Checa was unavailable for kickoffs, so it was another walk-on Justin Tobin who took over kickoff duties, but failed to put either kick into the end zone for a touchback. The C grade is due in large part to Nick Scott’s blocking Quinn Nordin’s field goal attempt.