Peppers at 10, which seems low.
Adam asked and we received:
— UGP Ann Arbor (@UGPGoBlue) April 2, 2015
If You Could Go Back. Deadspin recently had one of those articles asking fans what one event they would change if they could have one. I would choose to go back to when I found an ancient lamp and have it produce an unlimited wishes genie. Then I'd have Gingell kick that field goal at the end of that game when an I-AA team almost upset us, and sigh in relief that Crable's juuuuust a bit late hit on Troy Smith didn't ruin Michigan's national championship season in 2006. Then I'd spend about five wishes per play on Gardner's career, all of them on "this time ____ blocks somebody and…"
Another dude tried a thread on alternate histories. Dominoes in college football are particularly um, dominoe-y. If you imagine Carr goes out on top in 2006 Michigan might have anointed DeBord as Lloyd desired, or made a play for Saban, or most likely settled on the top candidate at a Midwest school, Cincinnati's Mark Dantonio.
And It Was All Yellow. The spring game lately has been more of a public punting practice but there's actually a long tradition behind what used be called the Blue-White Game (yes Penn State uses this name as well). The first reference Wolverine Devotee could find in the papers was for Kipke's 1930 team, but it may have started earlier. Here are the 1930 and 1934 articles he referenced:
Return of the Fritz. This is an interesting alignment snapped from a spring practice video:
Harbaugh likes to go heavy so not very surprised they'd bring back our favorite Gopher killer. Not sure if that's A.J. Williams split wide. There's a cool triple-option veer they used to run out of this at Nevada with Kaepernick that I'd love to see brought to Michigan.
Survey. Same guy who capped the above does that informal survey of people who will click on a survey link on this blog. Please be one of those people.
Etc. So long Michigan Men's Football Experience, and Women's Football Academy, things that people found awesome but had to go with the coaches' needing all the time they can spare for football things. Sauce Castillo Night in Sacramento—if you want the MGoShirt order fast before people with copyright attorneys on retainer decide they came up with it first. More practice video.
How is this still a thing?
Brady Hoke is watching a Mike DeBord offense to study football. I do not have a joke.
— Bryan Mac (@Bry_Mac) April 1, 2015
Mike DeBord offense. How is this still a thing?
Your Moment of Zen:
Looking forward to tomorrow's event. Logistical details can be found here.
It's going to be a bit strange. Michigan has never had an actual spring game before. Carr generally provided an open practice with an attached scrimmage and was all too happy to cancel the thing if given any pretext to. Rodriguez seemed to want to play a game but having only seven offensive linemen rather prohibited that. Hoke was cut from Carr's cloth; if possible it seemed like he was even more opposed to the entire idea. Punting exhibitions were ironically common.
These intrasquad practices were always difficult to glean data from, but they did give you a pretty good picture of who was on the first team and who was on the second at that moment. Saturday will not provide much clarity in that department.
If he had a draft order that might, but we don't. We only know that Malzone was the first QB taken and others didn't follow for a while. We can also make a couple of guesses based on the distribution of certain players, but the depth chart will remain fuzzy.
On the other hand, it'll be a better crucible to observe folks in. Ones versus ones and twos versus twos often saw whoever the second string quarterback was spend his day running from large angry men. While this was in fact an excellent preview of Devin Gardner's life, hopefully that won't be the situation going forward. An even spread of talent on both sides may not give us as much insight into who the coaches think is ahead; it should give us more ground to form (admittedly useless) opinions of their own.
But let's form them anyway
There are a few things I'll be looking out for.
hello sirs [Fuller]
The Peppers disposition. We all know Peppers is starting, and his team has two other legit safeties on it—Jeremy Clark and Delano Hill. His team does not have a third corner. The obvious conclusion is that Michigan will be moving Peppers to the slot in nickel situations on Saturday.
That makes a lot of sense. I've been yammering on about Hybrid Space Players forever. Peppers promises to be that, at long last. The Hybrid Space player is a triple threat. He can cover like a corner. He can defend an edge run like a safety. And he can blitz like a linebacker. He resolves a number of the questions spread offenses pose by flat-out winning the one-on-one battles the spread issues, against all comers.
I thought Dymonte Thomas might be that guy until he disappeared down the depth chart. Peppers has, uh, not. How he's deployed is going to be be a fascinating subplot.
How 3-4 is it? How 4-3 is it? We've tackled this in multiple posts over the past few weeks: a lot of inside chatter holds that Michigan is moving to primarily a 3-4 this year. I'll be watching to see how accurate that is. This is going to be difficult with the lack of anything resembling a weakside end on the Blue team. Meanwhile, the Maize team has only Lawrence Marshall.
There is going to be ample shoehorning no matter what happens. The nature of that shoehorning should give us an indicator as to how "multiple" the defense is, and if they're really going to run a 3-4.
Formations and personnel on offense. Harbaugh has the MANBALL rep, but the real calling card of his offense is diversity. A gentleman named Colin Davy presented a measure of offensive complexity/diversity at Sloan and a friend of his sent it along to me. San Francisco is highlighted:
That edition of San Francisco deviated from Harbaugh's first three years, which were more WR-averse than any other team in the NFL. Harbaugh ran a ton of three-wide shotgun last year…
…and San Francisco had its worst offensive output under Harbaugh. Probably not a coincidence.
But even so the thing that leaps out after watching a bunch of Harbaugh games is just how much weird stuff there is. People tend to think manball is synonymous with pro-style, but whatever Harbaugh is doing is its own beast. Unless you've seen anyone else line up in a goal line set on first and ten from their own 30, that is. Maybe you have.
Mixed in with the popular conception of the Harbaugh offense is shotgun, zone read, pistol, you name it. Last year he adapted because he had to—injuries slashed his tight end corps to ribbons. What will that adaptation look like with Michigan's personnel?
We got excited about the result of Canteen vs Countess last year; we should have been worried. [Fuller]
Skill positions. Usually the easiest group to get a handle on because breaking tackles, cutting quickly, and catching the dang ball are somewhat competition-invariant. This is not a hard and fast rule—Freddy Canteen was the star of last year's spring game-type substance and did little when the live bullets started flying. But there are going to be a lot of receivers competing for time and attention as Michigan tries to find a #1.
Quarterback. I may be looking at the quarterbacks to see if any of them are any good. Previous spring games have actually been pretty good about delivering information here: Forcier was a revelation after he enrolled early, Denard was a revelation after his freshman year, Bellomy never looked plausible, and last year was extremely ominous. A first glimpse at Malzone and Speight will be interesting. And has Shane Morris developed enough to stay in the conversation?
Interior DL. Both sides have starters that look like plausible Big Ten starting lines: Henry and Glasgow versus Hurst and Mone. I think Glasgow is going to be Glasgow. (This is a good thing.) The other guys are all potential breakout players if they can put the proverbial It together.
Countess. Lewis is a lock at one corner spot. Countess is a favorite for the other… until Wayne Lyons comes in. Michigan's coaches are again asserting that they want to be a super-aggressive man to man outfit, which was Countess's achilles heel last year. Does having an experienced DBs coach help him out? Is he capable of putting his nose across from a wideout and preventing him from doing what Will Fuller did to him last year?
Norfleet. IT COULD HAPPEN, OKAY.
Hackett's first gameday. Last year's spring game was the worst. Michigan played Phil Collins constantly. The band sat in the corner, irritated that they were even there, until deciding to play for about 20 minutes straight near the end. Their constant noise was the only way to get Special K to cut out his constant noise.
Hackett's recent comments on how he envisions the gameday experience are as encouraging as possible and this will be the first opportunity to see them in action. I'm not expecting miracles immediately. The athletic department is a large ship that takes some time to steer. I will be looking out for gameday changes that might stick.
Spring Game Visitors: Commit Watch?
Michael Onwenu and Donnie Corley are among this weekend's top visitors. [Fuller]
Let's skip the preamble. You want this weekend's visitors list. Thanks to a primer from Allen Trieu in the Detroit News and a quick overview from 247's Steve Lorenz, here are the top targets who'll be on campus this weekend.
Since they've been discussed so much of late, let's start with the in-state prospects:
- Four-star Detroit King WR Donnie Corley. Michigan seems to have made up a ton of ground on Corley since Harbaugh took over, to the point that they may be out in front along with Tennessee. Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Ohio State are also heavily involved.
- Four-star Southfield RB Matt Falcon. The top back in the state, Falcon has Tennessee as his leader, and while Michigan is gaining they'll have to make a big impression this weekend—Falcon is slated to visit UT at the end of the month and could decide shortly thereafter, per Sam Webb ($).
- Three-star Farmington WR Desmond Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick has stuck with his Louisville commitment so far, even after getting a Michigan offer, but that could change soon, especially if teammate David Reese decides to flip his commitment after a recent offer.
- Four-star Plymouth OT Michael Jordan. The usual Midwest suspects—Michigan, MSU, ND, and OSU—comprise Jordan's top four. He's been a steady presence on campus lately, but there haven't been rumblings of an imminent decision.
- Four-star Farmington Hills Harrison DE Khalid Kareem. After a brief commitment to Michigan State, Kareem has also been in Ann Arbor several times for unofficial visits. Notre Dame is also a factor.
- Four-star Cass Tech OG/DT Michael Onwenu. Onwenu previously favored Ohio State, but backed off that stance after the Mike Weber kerfuffle. Michigan looks to be in very good position to land him.
- Three-star Farmington LB/FB David Reese. Like Fitzpatrick, Reese is a Louisville commit pondering a flip after getting a Michigan offer. He could make the change as early as this weekend, and that could set off a string of in-state commitments—at the very least, Fitzpatrick would be likely to join him.
- 2017 four-star Orchard Lake St. Mary's LB Josh Ross. James Ross's younger brother has made quite a few visits to Ann Arbor.
- 2017 four-star St. Joseph WDE Corey Malone-Hatcher. An offer from Alabama last week shows that Malone-Hatcher won't be an easy pull.
- 2017 four-star Cass Tech WR Donovan Peoples-Jones. A potential five-star, Peoples-Jones has been on campus a lot lately but also is getting major attention from Ohio State.
If there's a commitment this weekend, Reese seems to be the most likely candidate. Now, for the out-of-state visitors:
- Three-star TX OT Austin Anderson and three-star TX OT Riley Anderson. The twin linemen both received offers from Michigan in early March.
- Three-star TX S Chris Brown. A teammate of four-star LB Dontavious Jackson, who'll also be on campus, Brown's best offers so far are from Michigan and Louisville, though local schools could jump into the fray.
- Three-star AL RB Kingston Davis. The big back hails from Prattville, the same Alabama high school that produced 2015 signee Keith Washington; Michigan will hold one of their satellite camps there this summer.
- Four-star MD OG Terrance Davis. Davis is a big-time national recruit, but he appears to have legitimate interest in Michigan.
- Four-star TX ILB Dontavious Jackson. Michigan won't have an easy time prying Jackson away from Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and Texas, but offering Brown helps; for now, the Wolverines are very much in it.
- Four-star IN QB Brandon Peters. Outside of the in-state prospects, Peters is the recruit who's had the most commitment speculation. While Michigan looks like the favorite, however, it's reasonable to expect him to take planned visits to Nebraska and Vanderbilt the following two weekends before he comes to a decision.
- 2017 five-star IL SDE AJ Epenesa. An Iowa legacy, Epenesa was offered last month; he's projected as one of the very best 2017 prospects in the country.
- 2017 four-star GA S Isaiah Pryor. In a promising sign, Pryor will be on campus for the second time in two weeks, this time with his family in tow, per 247's Steve Wiltfong ($).
- 2017 OH RB Todd Sibley. Considered an Ohio State lean, Michigan leapt into contention when they offered Sibley a couple weeks ago, though overcoming the childhood favorite Buckeyes will be a difficult task.
That's not quite an exhaustive list—for one, expect a bunch of in-state underclassmen to check in—but it hits the highlights. This is a very impressive visitor list for a spring game.
Meanwhile, Michigan is hosting a visitor today: three-star Lakewood (OH) St. Edward CB Tony Butler, a Pitt commit, is on campus and Lorenz reports he's likely to earn an offer ($). Butler's former head coach at St. Eds, Rick Finotti, is now at Michigan after being hired by Harbaugh as director of football operations. That connection could help, and I'm always open to Narduzzi-approved defensive recruits.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Jim Hackett talked to the Daily yesterday, and the words that he said were as encouraging as possible for a fan who likes his college football to be as distinct as possible from the pro experience:
The topic of conversation soon shifted to the student experience at Michigan Stadium and the tendency of many students to leave games well before they end. Hackett believes the issue will most easily be resolved by the improvement of the on-field product.
“I don’t want to sound sarcastic,” Hackett said. “What I don’t want is more entertainment that’s not football. I think that works in the pros, but we’re in college. I believe college shouldn’t be like the pros. It shouldn’t cost like the pros.”
Hackett specifically noted that he didn’t want the games to feel “corporate,” a complaint that was commonly voiced by Michigan fans during Brandon’s tenure.
I am still a little hesitant to open the ol' heart to the new AD because I remember the brief, stretchgate-inspired Brandon honeymoon that we all had a few years back… but I'm hopeful that Hackett takes the project of making Michigan Michigan seriously, and am more so every time he is quoted.
We're even seeing some specific steps discussed not only amongst the fanbase but with the guys in charge. After a student complained about the piped-in music, Hackett replied thusly:
Hackett asked the new coach what he thought of piped-in music during warmups. Harbaugh was firm in his answer.
“I don’t care. We don’t need it,” Harbaugh said.
Hackett agreed with Harbaugh, noting that in the past, the loud music has almost discouraged him from sitting through the team’s warmups when he has visited Michigan Stadium. As a result of the preferences of the coach, athletic director and many fans, the Athletic Department is in conversations with the band to have it play more during games.
I did not dream of a day when Michigan would look at the music during warmups as an issue to be addressed, let alone the actual in-game experience. I don't even mind the warmups music that much. I did treasure the quiet buzz of anticipation 45 minutes before the game, though, and if that comes back the stadium will be a step closer to what it used to be.
That thing it used to be was merely itself. The band, the lack of advertising, the silences in between the shouting. The natural up and down of a crowd was an important part of my formative experiences as a sports fan, and I still wince at the idea that doing something for the entertainment of the people in attendance actually, you know, entertains them. Too often piped-in music turns fan participation off instead of on. It's a convenient way to cover the fact that you have a lack of atmosphere. I prefer an athletic department that asks the hard questions about how to create one out of the materials they've been given. If MLS can do it—hell, if Detroit City can do it—there's no reason Michigan can't.
Here's hoping Hackett's the man to do it.
We talked about this some on WTKA today: it sounds like when the Adidas contract comes up in a year, Michigan is seriously considering a switch even if that move costs them some money.
“In my first months here, the question of which brand we wear is a big one,” Hackett said during the fireside chat. “We’ve organized — this is a secret — a project team to look at the question of, there’s really three players: Adidas, Under Armour and Nike.”
"Was" a secret if you're talking about it in a fireside chat with students. Adidas or UA will offer the most money; Nike offers the gear it seems like most of the athletes prefer… and it opens doors in recruiting, especially basketball. Like it or not, that is fact.
The mere fact that there's something other than a number in a spreadsheet being considered here is an excellent development. I don't understand people who care a ton about the style of an athletic clothing supplier, but there are evidently legions of them.
Personally, I would prefer Under Armour, which tends to create (or maintain) signature looks for the schools they have. Adidas and Nike both love to suit people up in things that say "this team is part of Adidas or Nike"; UA is better about working for the team, the team, the team.
Okay yes Maryland's flag uniforms are kind of a disaster, but it's not like they've got anything iconic to hang their hat on. Meanwhile I love what they've done with Northwestern and they've left Auburn's classic look virtually untouched. But UA is a distant third when it comes to recognition and door-opening.
It's a tough decision.
Charlton and the rest of his DE buddies are mysteriously absent
Michigan released their spring game rosters numerically, which is not helpful unless you're a blogger with a content hole to patch. Here are the teams laid out by position, with the assumption that we're still in 4-3 under land:
|Shane Morris/Wilton Speight||QB||Alex Malzone|
|Ty Isaac/Wyatt Shallman||RB||DeVeon Smith/Derrick Green|
|Joe Kerridge||FB||Bobby Henderson/Brady Pallante|
|Amara Darboh/Drake Harris||WR1||Jehu Chesson/Da'Mario Jones|
|Jaron Dukes||WR2||Mo Ways/Freddy Canteen|
|Bo Dever/Jack Wangler||WR3||Dennis Norfleet/Brian Cole|
|Jake Butt/Ian Bunting||TE||Chase Winovich/AJ Williams|
|Logan Tuley-Tillman||LT||Mason Cole|
|David Dawson||LG||Erik Magnuson|
|Graham Glasgow||C||Patrick Kugler|
|Dan Samuelson||RG||Kyle Kalis|
|Ben Braden/JBB||RT||Greg Froelich|
|Chris Wormley||SDE||Henry Poggi/Tom Strobel|
|Ryan Glasgow||NT||Bryan Mone|
|Willie Henry||3TECH||Maurice Hurst|
|Allen Gant||SAM||Jared Wangler|
|Desmond Morgan||MLB||Joe Bolden|
|Royce Jenkins-Stone||WLB||Ben Gedeon|
|Blake Countess||CB1||Channing Stribling|
|Jourdan Lewis/Ross Taylor-Douglas||CB2||Reon Dawson|
|Brandon Watson/Terry Richardson||NICKEL||AJ Pearson|
|Dymonte Thomas||SS||Jabrill Peppers/Jeremy Clark|
|Jarrod Wilson||FS||Delano Hill|
I don't know what happened to the WDEs. They must have been omitted by accident unless Mario Ojemudia, Lawrence Marshall and Taco Charlton all have transfers pending. Mike McCray and Noah Furbush are also absent. Maybe they're also at this hybrid end spot that got accidentally nuked as well.
UPDATE: Marshall is on there. Other guys not so much.
Couple weird depth chart hints:
- Walk-on city at WR on the blue team. If you assume Drake Harris is not going to be full go, which you should, then the Maize team is way overloaded on scholarship WRs.
- Juwann Bushell-Beatty is the sixth OL on the Maize team while the Blue team only has four scholarship OL, one of whom I picked at random to be the right tackle.
- Ondre Pipkins, James Ross, Drake Johnson, and Khalid Hill are other scholarship absentees. The latter two were expected as both are still recovering from ACL tears. Pipkins and Ross are new injuries, and in Pipkins's case an extremely disappointing one.
The program had its draft for the spring game over the weekend, right?
What kind of experience was it like for the coaches and the players seeing them all-
“Oh, it’s a great experience, yeah! It’s something that we’ve done in the past with coach Harbaugh so it’s an exciting time. You go through the roster and you pick out your strengths and weakness and you pick out your positions and you’re going through and strategizing as the draft goes on because you have to fill those positions and make sure you don’t lose out on somebody. Really as a coaching staff it makes you a better coach because you’re trying to build a team and build them to strength, so it was a fun time. Really fun.”
What was your draft strategy?
“Well, you’ll see that on Saturday.”
Is there going to be trash talk between you and DJ?
“No, we wouldn’t do that. Nah, we wouldn’t do that. DJ’s a good guy, but we’re competitive, which is fun.”
Where are you now with the offensive line, and Graham [Glasgow] is back practicing with the team?
“Yeah! Graham’s back, he’s back and glad he’s back, and the offensive line is- they’re doing good. They’ve taken another step forward, which we’ve foreseen them to do and they’re on track and I think finishing up the Thursday practice, Saturday practice, pushing into the strength and conditioning phase and then going into training camp, they’re right on track and they’re taking steps forward, which is really, really exciting.”
Did Graham missing time stunt the development there for those guys?
“No, it didn’t stunt [their growth]. If somebody’s not around somebody’s got to step in and that’s what we preach and it worked out just fine.”
Mason Cole was getting work at center-
“Yeah! We put Mason in there, which was good for Mason. He’s an athletic guy and did some really, really good things there so that’s good for Mason and it’s good for Michigan.”
[After THE JUMP: Jim Harbaugh, talent evaluator extraordinaire, and we circle back to the center]