BY NICK SPAR
Daily Sports Editor
Published October 4, 2010
1. Denard Robinson, quarterback (football)
It’s hard to imagine that, just a month ago, the early-season Heisman frontrunner wasn’t even Michigan’s clear-cut starter. With each zigzagging run and touchdown pass, we easily forget just how lost he looked under center at times last season, especially when he tried to pass the ball. But here’s what’s easy to remember: the Wolverines wouldn’t have salvaged victories over Notre Dame or Indiana (or Massachusetts, for that matter) if it weren’t for Shoelace. While Tate Forcier led his own game-winning drives over the Fighting Irish and the Hoosiers a year ago, only a quarterback who seems to dominate at will on every snap can compensate for the miserable state of the Wolverines’ defense.
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2. Lexi Zimmerman, setter (volleyball)
Despite a 1-1 record last weekend for the volleyball team, Zimmerman stays put at No. 2. For starters, the loss came to No. 4 Penn State, a team akin to John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins in the realm of college athletics. (The Nittany Lions have won 115 of their last 117 matches, dating back to 2007.) In that match, as well as the team’s victory against Ohio State, Zimmerman managed to post more than 30 assists and more than 10 kills. With each assist, she’s inching her way closer to the all-time Big Ten record. And none of the Michigan athletes who tie their shoes or cleats or skates had incredible eye-popping performances in the last week, so Zimmerman still deserves the hype more than a week after breaking the Michigan assists record.
3. Nkem Ezurike, forward (women’s soccer)
Ezurike is climbing the rankings after yet another clutch performance on Saturday. She scored a game-tying goal in a double-overtime 1-1 draw against Northwestern. It was already the second time this season she scored a game-tying goal that helped the Wolverines earn a draw. The freshman has six goals in her first 10 collegiate games.
4. Michigan offensive line
The offensive line had an entirely different role against Indiana than it did against Bowling Green. Only two players — Denard and Vincent Smith — had carries against the Hoosiers, whereas virtually every running back and quarterback on the Wolverines’ roster had a carry against the Falcons. At times, the line didn’t open up enough holes for Smith. But as long as the offense is putting up its usual 42 points per game, the unit as a whole is doing enough to hold its spot in my book.
5. Alex Hunt, outside hitter (volleyball)
Hunt has been arguably the most consistent player for Michigan this season, maybe even more consistent than Zimmerman. She has tallied 250 kills, more than double that of any other Wolverine. Thirty of them came last weekend, but her high level of play is nothing new, as of two weeks ago she was named Big Ten Player of the Week.
6. Junior Hemingway, wide receiver (football)
Hemingway surges into the rankings after hauling in the most important pass of the day against Indiana — a slightly underthrown ball that he went up and grabbed with less than 30 seconds left in a tie game. The 42-yard reception brought the ball to the Hoosiers’ four-yard line and all but sealed the deal for Michigan. Hemingway also had a 70-yard touchdown catch early in the third quarter, making him the fourth Michigan receiver this season to have 90-plus yards in a game.
7. Sam Critser (women’s tennis)
In just her second collegiate tournament, Critser won her section of the draw at the Wolverine Invitational after rolling through three consecutive matches. Michigan controlled the tournament from start to finish. Junior Michelle Sulahian won the other half of the draw and the doubles teams took seven of their nine matches.
8. Roy Roundtree, wide receiver (football)
Hemingway may be ranked ahead of Roundtree, but Roundtree is becoming Denard’s favorite target. He has surpassed 80 yards in three of the first five games and has totaled 14 catches for 244 yards in the last two. Roundtree also gets credit for responding well against Notre Dame (8 catches for 82 yards and a touchdown) after being injured from a huge hit in the opener against Connecticut.
9. Zara Saydjari, forward (field hockey)
Through two weeks, the field hockey team has taken ownership over the ninth spot. Last week, goalkeeper Haley Jones earned the spot for posting her third shutout of the season. This week, Saydjari takes Jones’s place after scoring both goals in a 2-1 upset win over No. 6 Michigan State. The field hockey team also almost took down No. 1 Maryland two days after Saydjari’s performance, but the Terrapins ultimately held on for a 4-3 win.
10. Danielle Tauro (women’s cross country)
At Michigan’s first scored meet of the season, Tauro finished sixth individually at the 20-team Wisconsin Invitational last weekend. She shattered her personal-best 6000-meter time and helped the Wolverines to a fourth-place finish.