Way Down in the Hole: The Michigan Offense Through the Lens of The Wire

Originally I wasn't sure if I was going to do a list for the offense, but any excuse to revisit The Wire for an afternoon is good enough for me.  Again, if you have yet to watch The Wire in it's entirety I would suggest not reading this for two reasons:  1) there are a great deal of spoilers contained within, and 2) you should be devoting all your spare time to watching the greatest show to ever grace the medium of television.  On with the offense:

The Offensive Line: The Barksdale Crew

Way back in the beginning of the series no one in the Baltimore P.D. knew who Avon Barksdale was.  Here was a man who was controlling the entire drug trade on the west side of Baltimore and the police didn't even know what he looked like for the majority of the season.  Sounds like an apt description of the offensive line.  There are a lot of people who are quick to point to Robinson's emergence this year as the key to the drastic offensive improvement over last year, but that overlooks the real guys who run things.

Taylor Lewan as Wee-Bey - Wee-Bey was a soldier.  He was one of Avon's most trusted associates, and the kind of guy who did everything necessary for the good of the crew.  Lewan is stepping in to much the same role.  He has turned in to an absolute beast at LT, going so far as to hold Adrian Clayborn to an uncharacteristically poor day two weeks ago.  Yet just like Wee-Bey, Lewan isn't unstoppable, and the only thing that gets him in the end is his own crimes.  If Lewan can clean up his late penalties and false starts, there is a great chance he has a helluva career at Michigan.

Steven Schilling as Avon Barksdale - Schilling--in the same way that Avon led the Barksdale crew--is the leader of the offensive line and offense as a whole.  Schilling is a team captain and a RS-Sr who is a four year starter on the line.  Both Avon and Schilling are known for their strength and attitude--Schilling is a punishing run blocker.  However, both are ceremonial leaders--figureheads--who leaders on the surface and who motivate their underlings and scare their enemies.

David Molk as Stringer Bell - Avon was always the technical leader of the Barksdale crew, but Stringer Bell was the man behind the curtain.  He was the business man, the strategy man, and the member of the Barksdale crew who ensured that everything ran smoothly.  Schilling and Molk are both Carr recruits, and while Schilling has stepped into the role of team captain this year it is Molk who is the most important piece of the puzzle on the offensive line.  The Barksdale crew survived without Avon, but without Stringer there would be chaos.  Judging by what happened last year after Molk's injury, we can say the same about his role on the line.

Patrick Omameh as Shamrock - Shamrock steps in to assist Stringer Bell once Avon goes to prison after season one.  He is a solid second in command and an intregal part of what the Barksdale Crew is trying to accomplish. Omameh's career has followed much the same arc.  He began his career on no one's radar as only a 2-star recruit.  However, once injuries plagued the offensive line last year, Omameh was given the chance to step up into a larger role and became a very important contributor on the offensive line.  There have been some slight problems (Omameh sometimes struggles to contain large DTs, and Shamrock struggled to comprehend why you wouldn't want to take minutes during a meeting of drug dealers), but Omameh was and continues to be David Molk's right hand man on the line.

Perry Dorrestein as Stinkum - Both Stinkum and Dorrestein are loyal members of their respective groups.  Stinkum stepped up in the Barksdale crew to become a valuable lieutenant, and Dorrestein stepped up last year when injuries necessitated his move into the starting lineup.  Both are effective pieces, but neither are stars.

Mark Huyge as Bird - Huyge began the season in the starting lineup, but just like Bird's days were numbered on the street, so were Huyge's days numbered in the starting lineup.  Bird was eventually put away on the testemony of Omar for killing Omar's accomplice and boyfriend Brandon.  Huyge couldn't hold off the push from Taylor Lewan for the starting LT job.

Receivers and Backs: Dealers and Soldiers

These are the guys on the street.  They are the ones who are responsible for moving the H, defending turf, and dealing with the worst of life on the streets of Baltimore.

Darryl Stonum as Brother Mouzone - This comparison would have absolutely stood up even if Stonum had never started wearing his Rick Vaughn style glasses to press conferences.  Brother Mouzone is an absolute badass.  The most deeply intense and violent character outside of Omar.  During the second half of the Iowa game you could see Stonum shift in to Brother Mouzone mode.  His eyes tightened and his face beamed intensity.  He proceeded to put on a clinic against the overmatched Micah Hyde.  He finished the day with 9 catches for 97 yards.  Add this to his performance against UMass earlier in the year (3 catches, 2 TDs, 121 yards) and you have a stone cold killer at WR, just like Brother Mouzone.  When Stonum gets that look, opposing DBs better watch out.

Stonum_brother_mouzone_medium

Junior Hemingway as Bubbles - There wasn't another character over the course of The Wire's five season who I rooted for harder than Bubbles.  Everything seemed to go wrong for him.  He couldn't kick the drugs, he was repeatedly harrassed by another addict, then he was inadvertently responsible for the death of Sherrod at the end of season four.  Bubble journey was heartbreaking, but as I watched the end of the series when Bubbles kicked the drug habit and was finally invited upstairs to eat with his sister, it got pretty dusty in my living room.  Hemingway's career has gone much the same.  He was always one of the recruits that I hoped would pan out.  He came in with loads of hype and physical ability, but his first three years on campus were injury ridden and downright unlucky.  The beginning of this season seemed to offer more of the same as Hemingway missed the first few games with yet another nagging injury.  But a funny thing happened, he finally got healthy.  Now Hemingway is coming off his best career game and is one of the top receivers on the team, and I couldn't be happier for him.

Martavious Odoms as Dennis "Cutty" Wise - When Cutty first appeared in season three I didn't have much hope for him.  He just seemed like the kind of guy who wasn't equipped to deal with the transition to life outside of prison.  As the season progressed things stayed tough for him, but there was a certain quality to his character that began to shine through.  Something about Cutty that told the audience he would find a way to make something of himself, and he did just that when he opened the boxing gym and started mentoring young kids.  Odoms baggage wasn't his past but his size.  Five foot eight is small for a wide receiver, especially an outside receiver, but that has never stopped Odoms from being an asset.  As a true freshman he was the top receiver on the team, and as a sophomore his role in the passing game diminished but he showed himself to be one of the better run blockers in the receiving corp.  This year he started out playing outside receiver so that Roundtree could start in the slot, and Odoms didn't miss a beat.  He is a tenacious blocker and a sure handed receiver.  His injury this year is unfortunate, but I have no doubt that once it heals Odoms will return better than ever.

Roy Roundtree as Butchie - This isn't a eye sight joke, I promise.  Although Roundtree struggled with eye problems early in his career, he has now moved on to become the go to receiver for Denard Robinson.  Butchie held much the same role in Omar's life (who we will get to later, but I imagine you can see where this is going).  When Omar was in trouble he would always turn to Butchie, and Butchie would always be there to help him out.  Robinson leans on Roundtree much the same way.  Roy has routinely been Denard's favorite target on the field, and his knack for catching almost everything is comforting for a quarterback.

Jeremy Gallon as Snoop - 

Jeremy_gallon_2_medium

Enough said.

Martell Webb as Prop Joe - Prop Joe did a little bit of everything.  He ran the drug trade in East Baltimore, he fixed appliances in his small store, and he supplied almost all of the Heroin to Baltimore through his connection with The Greek.  Webb has developed a role that is very similar.  Webb has lined up as a tight end in short yardage situations to block, he has grown into a role as an H-back that serves as a lead blocker for Denard and the running backs, and he even catches passes.  Webb is a smart and reliable player that doesn't get taken advantage of by defenses, just like Prop Joe.

Kevin Koger as Slim Charles - Slim was the enforcer for the Barksdale crew when Avon was in prison.  Slim was calm and reliable under both Avon and Prop Joe.  Koger, with the exception of a stretch of drops last year, has largely been a sure handed tight end who is capable in both run blocking and receiving.

Michael Shaw as Bodie Broadus - Both Bodie and Shaw began their career as kids who were too young to properly deal with the responsibility they were handed.  Shaw was forced into starting duty as a true freshman for a few games until Brandon Minor got healthy enough to take over, then injured enough to throw Shaw back in the game.  Bodie was tasked with overseeing a gang of kids no older than him as they sold heroin in The Pit.  As they grew older both Shaw and Bodie gained more responsibilities.  After struggling under pressure from the Stanfield crew over much of season three Bodie was able to build up his corner in season four into a strong revenue producer.  Similarly, Shaw struggled to get much playing time last year but has stepped into a larger role this year and been largely productive when not injured.  Let's just hope that Shaw's injury problems don't lead to a fate similar to Bodie's at the end of season four.

Vincent Smith as Poot - Poot wasn't the hardest dealer on the block, nor the most ruthless, but he was effective in his role.  Smith is much the same.  Smith's small size and lack of top end speed make it tough for him to be a home run threat every time he touches the ball, but that doesn't diminish his importance.  Smith is a good run blocker and an excellent pass catcher.  He will always have a role on the team because of the little things he does so well.  He just won't ever be the number one guy.

Stephen Hopkins as Kenard - Few expected a freshman to step on to the field and have his performance demand a larger role in the offense the way that Hopkins has done this year.  While inconsistency and injuries have slowed the other running backs, Hopkins has shown an ability not only as a punishing lead blocker but also as a savvy north/south runner capable of breaking arm tackles and moving the chains.  In much the same way, no one saw Kenard stepping into the big time the way he did.  Kenard always talked a big game, but he made waves with his gutsy decision to follow Omar into that store and shoot him down.

Tate Forcier as Wallace - The tale of Wallace is a heartbreaking one.  He was a kid too young for the game, too sweet for it.  He was the one who tipped off Stringer Bell to the whereabouts of Omar's accomplice Brandon, and Wallace was horrified by the sight of the mutilated body that was left outside his house.  He wants out of the game and is eventually picked up by the police and shipped out of town for safety.  But the game draws him back in and he is eventually murdered for his betrayal in what might be the most gut wrenching five minutes of TV I have ever watched.  Forcier started out too young as well.  Leading the offense as a true freshman and getting beaten up physically behind a patchwork offensive line and beaten down mentally by the weight of a 1-7 record in the Big Ten.  By the time this season rolled around he had already been "taken out" by Denard Robinson.  Hopefully Forcier's time as a second stringer can be the second life that Wallace never had.

Denard Robinson as Omar - As if there was any doubt.  The unquestioned best character of The Wire, the scariest man roaming the streets of Baltimore, and an absolute human wrecking crew.  So far the record breaking performances of Denard Robinson have been nothing short of amazing.  He almost single handedly destroyed Notre Dame and Indiana with last minute drives and downright gaudy stat lines.  He is one of the most dangerous players in the country.

It couldn't have been anyone else but Omar.

--

Bonus: Special Teams

Kicking Game as Snot Boogie - Dead before the season even started.

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