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]
Show me the Peppers! [Fuller]
Ace: Aside from the quarterbacks, which position group and specific player will you be keeping the closest eye on during the Spring Game?
Seth: Safety, Peppers.
I have a pretty good idea of what the corners can do—Countess can zone like a boss but isn't sized or speedy enough for lockdown press man—and I can't really tell what happens on the OL or DL without video. Quarterback is missing one or two contenders. Where the slot side safety lines up will tell us how aggressive they think they can get, especially when it's Peppers in that spot.
|My recurring nightmare|
Also I'm anxious to see who among Dymonte, Clark, and Hill can play when Peppers comes down to nickel. Hill has a bad rap in my brain from getting so turned around against Lippett on the TD pass that debarked the end of the game and the beginning of Dantonio's Revenge for Imagined Slights Hour. I hate it when a bad play is what sticks out to me about a guy and I really want to start banking some nice thoughts. Same for Dymonte and Clark. One of those three or Stribling is going to be at least half a starter in the nickel, and if it's Stribling we are back to a nickel who's not a run defender (ie Countess). The floor on this defense is pretty okay; I want to see how high the cathedral can go.
Alex Cook: I feel like this is a somewhat obvious answer, but I'll be focused on our secondary, which projects to be the best unit on the team by a fair amount. The offensive line is compelling for an entirely different reason; I'd like to see some breakout performances on the D-Line; QB is a clear concern, of course; but I'm very excited about the secondary.
Jabrill Peppers is the headliner there and, after a freshman year ruined by injury, Michigan fans surely are going to be thrilled to see him out there. He's probably the best player on the team and -- depending on if he plays on offense / special teams units -- he could be the most important non-quarterback on the team. Beyond Peppers, there's Jourdan Lewis, who's very good in my opinion, locking down one of the corner spots; I'm most optimistic about he and Peppers of anyone on the squad this year. There's Jarrod Wilson, who's unremarkable in the best way possible; there's Blake Countess, who didn't play well after recovering from ACL surgery (but could be in for a rebound season); there's Channing Stribling, who stands out immediately because of his size; Wayne Lyons won't be there, but he could start. There's a lot of depth there and if you're looking for a group to get excited about, watch the secondary.
[After the jump: aggresssssssssssiveeeeeeeeeee]
It didn't take long for "Rudock waiver approved" to go to "Rudock to Michigan." ESPN's Dan Murphy:
Confirmed that Jake Rudock plans to be at Michigan next fall. Story coming soon.
— Dan Murphy (@DanMurphyESPN) April 1, 2015
Rudock's 2014 stats were briefly addressed in the previous post: 61%, 7.1 YPA, 16:5 TD:INT. He faltered late and was pulled from the lineup for CJ Beathard, not that Beathard did much to inspire confidence himself. If the Rudock problems are Rudock problems then Michigan has a meh starter—still a huge win. If they are Greg Davis/Kirk Ferentz paleolithic goober offense problems, Rudock could be one of the better quarterbacks in the league next year and help the Harbaugh era off to a good start. Either way it's a massive relief.
Via Bruce Feldman:
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) April 1, 2015
"Hearing" is not quite reporting, but if Feldman says something you can just about take it to the bank. And Rudock is not quite in the boat, but every sign available points to his desire to transfer to Michigan.
Rudock would be a massively important pickup just because he changes the floor on the Michigan quarterbacking situation from "weeping in a pile" to "decent Big Ten starter." If Rudock's been significantly hampered by the Greg Davis effect he could be better. Last year Rudock completed 61% of his passes for a decent 7.1 YPA with 16 TDs and 5 INTs, something that sounds like heaven. He's also a decent runner with a couple hundred yards last year even without sacks removed.
What do you know about your defense now that you didn't know six weeks ago?
"I think we have a pretty good handle on our personnel right now in terms of strengths and weaknesses of guys individually and I think as a unit, too. It's been a really good spring. We've had quite a bit of reps out there in practice, in four hour practices. I think the main thing that I figured out about our defense is that they are willing to work. The guys, they competed every day we've been out there and they've really put the time in."
You said you kind of have a feel for their strengths and weaknesses. Would you say what their strengths are right now?
"Yeah, no, not necessarily more than that. Like I said, I think our group is really willing to work. They’ve been great in terms of learning our scheme throughout the spring. They come to meetings prepared, they come to practice prepared. I think that anytime you've got a hungry group that way I think there's good things ahead."
You came out here about a month ago said you wanted to throw as much at them as you could and then sort of whittle it down from there. Have you started to figure out what you think is going to work?
"Yeah, we have a pretty good idea. Starting on Saturday and then today's practice we started to move that way and narrow it down and sort of hone in on some of the things we’ll be doing more of and they've really responded well to that, too. We probably got to a point there later in the spring where it was becoming overload for them, which was good. We pushed them to that limit and they saw we scaled back how they performed; a credit to them, They've grasped what we've thrown at them."
You said everyone would start with a clean slate. Who are the impact players?
"I think to name just a few guys – there are a lot of guys who really made strides throughout the spring. There are some guys we just pointed out the other day on film from day one of spring until now they've made huge strides. Lawrence Marshall is a guy who– he's a young guy, he's a freshman – the first two practices it didn't barely look like he could lineup. Now he's out there and he's playing really well for us. We expect him to help us. But there's a lot of guys. There's a whole group of guys that are veterans who’ve played a lot of football around here that have made those improvements as well. I just think that they're pushing each other really well and they’re in the mindset every day whether it's meetings or practice to come to get better."
You guys lost both ends. Who's at the head of the defensive ends this spring?
"We’ve got several guys playing there. Wormley's playing some end, I mentioned Lawrence, Royce Jenkins-Stone is playing some end, we've even moved Mo Hurst out there a little bit to play some end, so we've done a combination of a lot of things. I think one of the bonuses to what we do schematically is the concepts carry over in fit so we're moving guys in different spots so when you do get injuries, you get nicked up, that's part of football– we have some guys we can put in there."
[After THE JUMP: linebacker talk and your regularly scheduled batch of Jabrill Peppers questions]
Michigan's most recognizable player spent most of 2014 in sweats. [Fuller]
Who's going to be the star?
The last time Michigan entered a season with this little in way of proven standout players, Rich Rodriguez was in his first year as head coach. This season should—will—be better, but that uncertainty lingers. We don't know who's going to start at quarterback or running back. Any attempt to fill in the starting receiver spots should be done in pencil. There's no behemoth tackle destined for NFL riches, or a Steve Hutchinson promising pain with every pull, or even a David Molk delighting line play enthusiasts with his nimble reach blocks.
The defense, down a barbarian, would be similarly faceless if not for the presence of Jabrill Peppers, whose status is still based far more on his seemingly limitless potential than anything he did in three games last season before falling to injury. Only one returning defender so much as earned all-conference honorable mention in 2014: Blake Countess, who by all accounts had a down year.
This is, admittedly, cause for concern, though the 2008 comparison doesn't hold up when accounting for depth, talent, and the like. Brady Hoke's strong recruiting has left Jim Harbaugh with plenty of potential stars to coach. Saturday's Spring Game should provide the first hints as to who will step into featured roles this year, and which numbers will grace the replica uniforms at the M Den. (The newest addition is the #4 jersey, and with all due respect to De'Veon Smith, we all know why that's the case.)
Some candidates are more obvious than others. Jourdan Lewis looked the part of a lockdown corner for much of last season, and a greater emphasis on press man coverage should play into his strengths. Taco Charlton is only getting bigger and stronger after making some eye-opening plays as a sophomore. While he won't be confused for David Harris, Desmond Morgan is a steadying presence in the middle. Practice reports have Peppers living up to his sky-high expectations.
Heck, there's even a chance Michigan finally sees one of their blue-chip offensive line recruits translate recruiting plaudits into collegiate success. And if that happens, at least one of those running backs should break out, right?
It's unusual for Michigan to be in this position. Even the Rodriguez-Hoke changeover had Denard Robinson as a comforting constant. Unlike the last couple transitions, however, there's talented depth on both sides of the ball. There may not be proven stars littering the two-deep, but the ones on the coaching staff provide a lot of hope that'll change soon. Let's hope that optimism is only bolstered this weekend.