Hello. Here are some spring practice items. Please read responsibly: these are impressions from a couple of practices, not even a whole spring session. The latter is notoriously unreliable; the former is even more so. Even if everything in here is the gospel truth the rest of spring and fall camp will change the picture considerably.
BTW: more rumblings at Touch The Banner.
Not a lot of intrigue: Wilton Speight is an unchallenged #1. John O'Korn is still a nose ahead of Brandon Peters for second-team snaps. Peters is flashing talent but is still behind the veterans with his command of the offense. He will offer a little dual threat if and when he ascends to the starting job. Speight's been up and down early.
Similar situation here: Chris Evans is the guy. He's added a little muscle—up to 212 at the latest—and has full command of the offense. He knows why he's doing the things he's doing, and occasionally makes spooky jukes based on his anticipation of the situation. Breakout year is likely.
Because it's running back Michigan will rotate a bunch. Various reports note that Ty Isaac is looking good and Kareem Walker is coming on, which continues a theme from Michigan's bowl practices. Higdon has been limited with a minor injury.
Kingston Davis's decision to transfer was his alone—Michigan was already at 85 before his departure—and is likely because he was fifth on the depth chart with more guys arriving this fall and it was fullback or nothing for him. This should be a very deep and good platoon.
Wide receiver & tight end
One of the biggest questions entering spring: who is the #1 receiver? Early returns are very encouraging about Donovan Peoples-Jones. Top five receivers are immediate impact guys about 33% of the time, and Peoples-Jones looks to be in that group. It took him just a few practices to establish himself. He's also got a minor injury and hasn't been in pads for a few days but that hasn't stopped the rumbles.
Kekoa Crawford lacks DPJ's explosiveness—as do most humans—and looks about like he did when he got on the field this year: very good blocker, big target, good routes. Strong belief he can be a quality #2 receiver this year, and an okay #1 if necessary.
With Grant Perry still being held out, Eddie McDoom is getting a long look in the slot and "doing McDoom things," which I interpret to mean breaking tackles on end-arounds. A surprise name is Nate Schoenle, a redshirt freshman walk-on from Ann Arbor. Schoenle has good size—listed at 6'2" on the roster—for a slot and when he committed his coach thought he had a shot:
“Nate’s a late bloomer but his upside is pretty steep, so they’re getting a pretty good preferred walk-on candidate,” said Gabriel Richard coach Mike Girskis. “He’s got fantastic speed, decent size and he’s working really hard in the weight room. His potential is exceptionally high from what I can see; I think he’s going to start as a project and wind up a steal.”
Girskis has called Schoenle the best receiver Gabriel Richard has had, citing his 40-yard dash time of below 4.5 as proof of his ability to excel at the college level. He also said his high academic scores are evidence of his capabilities as a quick learner.
Those academic scores were enough to get him pre-admitted to Ross. He's making the most of his opportunity. Slot is a place where 'Bama's running out Oregon State and BGSU transfers, so Schoenle's in the right spot to make an impact as a walk-on. There's one report that's not sure who #29 is; a dollar says it's Schoenle.
Folks who have been intermittently available include Drake Harris and Moe Ways. Tarik Black has also sat out some; when he's in he's a tough cover with his size and physicality. He's a contested-ball guy at worst with some long speed upside.
At tight end (or maybe wide receiver), Zach Gentry has been making a ton of catches early with the second unit. Nate Eubanks is getting a significant amount of run, some problem with drops. With Asiasi gone, TJ Wheatley is getting first team reps—Bunting's been held out some. Wheatley looks like a terrific receiver but his blocking remains a work in progress.
Ruiz is key
As always, difficult for sideline observers to discern much about the most complicated spot on the field but one thing seems clear: Mason Cole is going to move back outside. Michigan is running Patrick Kugler, Cesar Ruiz, and redshirt freshman walk-on Andrew Vastardis at center, and while Cole has probably taken some reps there all the reports I have talk about him on the outside with various mentions of the other three guys at center.
Kugler is leading right now but the Ruiz hype is real. Like Mike Onwenu he's shed a significant amount of weight and is still stunningly large for an underclassman: he's at 320, down from 340, and people expect him to push his way into the starting lineup sooner or later.
Onwenu, meanwhile looks the part, "bullying" various folks lined across from him. You can mark his name down in pencil as a starter.
Right tackle is currently Juwann Bushell-Beatty, with Bredeson sticking inside at guard. I assume they'll look at Bredeson on the outside if they think Ruiz and Kugler can play together; this is not based on any practice reports but rather your author's charting of last year's OL.
OL numbers are currently very low with a couple of guys not in pads, with a significant number of walk-ons on the second unit. Michigan of course tried to recruit a bazillion OL last year, and until the rest of the folks arrive in fall it's going to be patchwork.
Four-star Atlanta (GA) Westlake CB Myles "Spider" Sims announced his commitment to Michigan today, less than a month removed from an unofficial visit to Ann Arbor. Sims is a Michigan transplant—his parents worked for GM—so this is a homecoming of sorts.
— SPIDER (@simsmyles) April 7, 2017
One of Michigan's top 2018 targets, Sims is the fourth commit in the class, joining IN OG Emil Ekiyor, MI DE Aidan Hutchinson, and GA OLB Otis Reese. All are four-star prospects.
4*, #11 CB,
4*, #8 CB,
4*, 80, #17 S,
3*, 88, #38 CB,
4*, #17 CB,
There's a significant split in Sims' rankings, though if his offer sheet is any indication, that gap is going to close in the direction of the bullish Scout/Rivals rankings.
A major reason so many top programs want Sims is his size. At 6'3", 173 lbs. (Scout and 247 list him at a more specific 6'2.5"), he projects as either a corner in the Stribling/Clark mold or a rangy safety.
[Hit THE JUMP for scouting, offers, video, and more.]
Silent no more! Michigan has pulled a long, very well regarded defensive back out of Georgia.
— SPIDER (@simsmyles) April 7, 2017
4*, 5.9, #8 CB
4*, 80, #17 CB,
3*, 88, #38 CB,
4*, #17 CB,
Informative update cometh.
Your initial impressions of Wilton?
“I’ve been very impressed with Wilton. Wilton is a conceptual learner, and so some of the things that we’ve put on his plate up until this point in the spring, I mean, he’s a quick study. And football’s important to Wilton. Winning is important to Wilton. So, very impressed with him.”
I don’t want to say you’re inheriting a quarterback, but he was here before you got here. What are the challenges of that, because he was actually here before Jim got here as well—what are the challenges of stepping in and having a guy who’s already been tabbed the starter and going from there?
“I wouldn’t say that it’s a challenge for me. I think it’s probably more of a challenge for Wilton to adjust to a different style of coaching than what he was used to, than what he had in years past. We haven’t had any issues. I think Wilton understands that, as the quarterback for the University of Michigan, the expectations
You’ve moved back to the college game from the pro game. Do you have to change how you coach or your expectation level when you’re dealing with a college kid as opposed to who you’re dealing with in the pros?
“No, you don’t have to change how you coach, but you have less time with your players. I think it’s more of a challenge when you’re trying to put a lot of volume or put a lot on their plate to get them to the point where they can handle all of the information and all of the strategy that you try to implement at times. But the kids here at the University of Michigan, they’re tough and they’re smart so they’re able to adjust and adapt to some of the concepts, for example, that we’re going to use this upcoming season.”
Why come back to the college level?
“I want to win a national championship.”
[After THE JUMP: working with Wilton, rotating centers, and Don Brown’s headache-inducing defense]
[Robert Kalmbach photograph collection at the UM Bentley Library]
- How do you show Red the door when he built the door? A long discussion on what you do when he’s had one foot out for awhile and refuses to go.
- IS Mel available? Under any circumstance? What is the circumstance? If this gets messy do we need Mel?
- Craig offers his mediation services pro bono.
- Nobody reads these bullets do they?
- Wi not trei a holiday in Sweeden this yer?
- See the loveli lakes
- And the mani interesting furry animals
- Including the majestic pterodactyl
- and the pitching
- and DPJ
You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.
Segment two is here.
THE USUAL LINKS
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Maybe he's good. Show this to your local Ohio State or Michigan State fan the next time they foam at the mouth about Jabrill Peppers:
More importantly for your purposes this video offers some clear explanations of how Michigan's defense is structured. Editor Brett Kollman makes an assumptions about why Don Brown put Peppers where he is that are incorrect—it's not because Ben Gedeon is slow, it's because that's how he's run his defense forever—but otherwise it's a definitive assessment of Peppers. Spoiler: he's good at football.
I got dibs on the swooping motions. Basketball is looking to fill its 13th scholarship spot with somebody, whether it's Mo Bamba or a transfer or an out-of-nowhere late recruit. Transfer options keep popping up, with former Wright State PG Mark Alstork currently the hot name. Alstork's going somewhere, whether it's the NBA or a grad transfer. He says he's mostly focused on the NBA...
“I’m really taking it as I’m going to the NBA draft and NBA team workouts and potentially get signed or get drafted that’s what I’m going to do,” he told the Free Press Tuesday. “But if not, I just want to have my options open and that’s why I got my release papers.”
...but he's evidently keeping college options open, as a guy with a sub 100 ORTG should. Michigan is one of them.
Michigan is an option because Billy Donlon was Alstork's head coach a year ago. Here's a surprisingly comprehensive and informative highlight reel for a guy from Wright State:
Not bad, and the ORTG is easily explained away: Alstork shouldered huge usage this year. His 34.7% usage rate was seventh nationally, so there's a lot of Dion Harris "oh shit, there's no more shotclock and my teammates are bad" shots in there. This is why he has a post-like 23 TO rate and shot just 41% inside the arc this year. Those numbers were 13 and 48 the previous year when Alstork had a still-heavy but not absurd 25% usage rate.
Upsides seem considerable: he's 6'5" and should be plug and play in Donlon's defense. He shot 84% from the line and 38% from three, so he's clearly got Beilein-level shooting chops. He had a Waltonesque DREB rate, and got to the line a bunch. I'd take him in a second.
Another name that recently popped up for Michigan's 13th slot is Shakwon Barrett, a 6'3" point guard out of Canada who will be on campus this weekend.
— Shakwon Barrett (@SB11_LT) January 30, 2017
Barrett is a MAAR-style late riser currently with just one D-I offer in hand, that from Tulane. Beilein's done well with guys like that recently, but with Simpson and Eli Brooks already young PG sorts it seems like a grad transfer is a better fit than a freshman. Barrett spent a couple years at Findlay Prep, one of those basketball factories, before a grad-year transfer to Montverde Academy, another one of those basketball factories, so he's no doubt been scouted up and down and passed over by everyone. That's not great; by contrast MAAR just hung out at his high school getting ignored.
That's good, but that's uh what? ESPN puts Michigan in their early top 25 at #22. That's good. The thing I've seen people mutter about on the internet after they read this article is not:
Forward D.J. Wilson's game flourished down the stretch to the point that the NBA seems like a foregone conclusion, and that's a heavy blow, at least relative to the opportunity cost of a fully realized Wilson back on a college floor for one more season.
FWIW, I don't think that's any inside information of Eamonn Brennan has, but rather an assumption—"seems like a foregone conclusion." I haven't heard anything's changed. The status quo is that Michigan expects both Wilson and Wagner back but they'll submit their names to the NBA, as one does.
One mitigating factor. This is a quibble in a Jourdan Lewis scouting report I otherwise almost entirely agree with, but cumong man:
Struggles with bigger receivers. Gave up 109 yards on seven catches to Michigan State’s Aaron Burbridge in 2015.
On 19 targets. Struggling is a bit much. It is true that NFL QBs are going to be able to hit the windows Lewis's lack of size provides more frequently and he'll probably be best as a nickel guy. I just have to defend the man's honor for that game.
Slims down to... 360. If you immediately thought "Michael Onwenu," sorry we're talking about your mom:
The 6-foot-3 sophomore from Cass Tech High School amazed Michigan's staff with how quick his feet were and how well Onwenu was able to use his weight and power without grinding to a halt. Jim Harbaugh and company were focused on letting Onwenu adjust to the college game, get his feet wet, learn the ropes. The weight, surprisingly, wasn't a concern.
It's still not, really. But that didn't stop Onwenu from dropping 15 pounds this offseason -- down to around 360 -- to help him polish up some of that footwork. He moved extremely well for a 375-pounder. Imagine what he might be able to do at 360 -- or less?
"I think I want to get lower, just for my health. I don't really have a target, but just want to get lower," Onwenu said last week. "I move better."
Good news, though: your mom is probably the starting RG.
Don't do this, also don't have a roofing business. Kentucky fans did not like the refereeing in their loss to UNC, so they harassed one of the refs at his place of business:
Business at Weatherguard Inc., has become somewhat more normal since phone calls with a Kentucky area code were blocked. Little business got done last week after around 25,000 contacts were made through social media after Higgins officiated the Kentucky-North Carolina game, which the Wildcats lost by two points.
He’s still dealing with the fallout from those thousands of negative emails and phone calls and the reviews on Weatherguard’s Facebook page that dropped its rating from 4.8 to 1.2. It’s back up to 3.0, but that’s still not good when weighed against the competition, Higgins said.
He’s also got the unseen victims to take care of — his wife and family, some of whom wanted him to stop officiating after 28 years, and his employees. They were nervous and a little shaky, Higgins said, driving around the Omaha area in company trucks after everything they’d heard.
False reports were even filed with the Better Business Bureau, using names such as Adolph Rupp, the legendary former Kentucky coach, and Calipari John, a reversal of the current Kentucky coach’s name.
1) It's a miracle this has not happened to TV Teddy. 2) It was always going to be Kentucky fans. 3) Why does a ref who worked the Final Four have to have a side hustle? Or, rather, why is refereeing a side hustle for a guy working a billion-dollar tournament?
Game changing call here, what a joke. pic.twitter.com/kcxSfH7bTF
— Matt Smith (@SamENole) April 4, 2017
Since said refs destroyed the final game of said tournament I think this is relevant.
Etc.: Incoming C Josh Norris lands at #21 on ISS's latest rankings. Doris Burke is moving to men's basketball exclusively. Indiana G James Blackmon puts name in draft sans agent. I don't know how I feel about this basketball change. Partridge on recruiting.