Nick Saban has built Alabama into the best program in college football
While I was negative towards the lesser of the SEC’s two divisions, I have to give credit where credit’s due: the SEC West is the best division in college football, has been for a while, and boasts impressive depth across the board. While Alabama – and their four national titles during the Saban era – are the undisputed kings, other programs (Auburn, LSU) have recently won it all, and there’s no guaranteed win within the division – the Mississippi schools arguably have the best coaches they’ve had in decades and Arkansas and Texas A&M each won eight games last season.
Three of Alabama’s four Saban championships were won after suffering a single regular season loss to three different division foes. While fortunes may rise and fall behind Alabama, we can be sure that the SEC West will give us high quality football on average year in and year out. Sure, it’s annoying when fans of mediocre conference rivals take credit for Bama’s titles by proxy; still, you can’t ignore that those 3:30 games with Uncle Verne and Gary Danielson (who’s not my favorite, but whatever) on CBS are some of the best that this sport has to offer.
With the amount of talented players, caricaturish coaches, and huge games, the storylines become quite compelling. Alabama is always well-equipped to reload, but they’ve lost a Heisman-winning running back (the best of the Saban era, in my opinion), their quarterback, and some tremendous defensive linemen – their title defense will be a challenge. Les Miles barely survived at LSU and slipped a little bit in the last two seasons (17-8 total, 9-7 in the SEC); they’re always extremely talented, the question is if they have good enough quarterback play. Ole Miss is newly relevant under Hugh freeze and allegations of improper benefits follow him around, but he has a very talented roster in Oxford and likely has the SEC’s best quarterback in Chad Kelly.
Bret Bielema has the Arkansas program on the right trajectory after two years at the cellar of the division – back-to-back wins over Ole Miss and LSU on the road last season shuffled the West hierarchy a little. Star quarterback Dak Prescott departs Mississippi State and Dan Mullen must find a way to keep things rolling without him. Auburn appeared in the national championship game just three seasons ago and Gus Malzahn is seemingly on one of the hottest seats in the country after finishing last in the SEC West in 2015. Kevin Sumlin also saw some early success at Texas A&M, signed a huge contract, and now they’ve backslid some – with A&M’s delusions of grandeur in their new league, he could be looking for work soon.
This should be fun.
[Team previews after the JUMP]
Mo Hurst is already feeling comfortable in Don Brown's defense. [Upchurch]
I walked up to Hurst at the same time as John U. Bacon, who made sure to point out that while both Hurst and I took his class, the former was in the front row every day while I was a back-row student. Thanks, Bacs. All questions are from me or Bacon except for the pair of "talk abouts" towards the end.
JUB: How fast did it go?
"It's fast. It feels like we just started all together—it's just crazy to think that we have so many seniors on our team right now. We've kind of been through it all, the ups and downs."
JUB: The ups and downs, from 5-7 to last year and all the rest. Those are two years you're never really going to forget.
"I think it helps us a lot, knowing how bad it sucked to lose, how bad it sucked to have a poor record, learning what we have to do to win. Those things are just going to help us this year."
JUB: Do you have to educate the freshmen as to what the bottom looks like?
"I don't know. I'm sure they're coming in, like, they're just trying to play. I don't think they're focusing too much on where we were previously, I think they're just excited for where we are currently. A ten-win team, I think they're really excited about that. It's the culture that they're brought into as opposed to ours, we were brought into a losing season—they were just brought into a winning culture so that's pretty much all they're going to know while they're here. Anything other than that would be a letdown for them. For us, we know what it's like to be..."
JUB: I interviewed a bunch of guys for the afterword of the Endzone book that comes out in the fall. Jake [Butt] said "we were working hard before, but we had no idea what hard work was." The four-hour practices, all the madness, that was a quantum leap, it sounds like.
"The biggest thing is just knowing you want you win. You always try to win everything. That's kind of what Harbaugh brings."
JUB: Trying to win lunch...
"(Laughs) Yeah. Just win everything. It's competing, it's the little things, it's every day, just finding new ways for us to compete."
JUB: What's the most surprising competition so far?
"I mean, he just had us race during spring ball. We'll do speed groups, we'll compete and race like midway through practice, see who's the fastest player, who's faster than the other person. I think that's the biggest thing. He even does that with the campers, with everyone."
MGoQuestion: Who's the fastest D-lineman?
"Probably Chris [Wormley]. He can move."
MGoQuestion: When you walk into that room and you've got eight, ten guys who can start, how does that affect your mindset?
"I think it helps. It makes you want to compete even more. If you're going to have to compete to play, you're going to have to earn your spot, because if you're not working hard, there's another person who can play instead of you. It really helps. We always try to coach each other up, and we're not going to put someone else down just for the other person to rise up, that's not who we've been as a group. If you want to work, then you're going to play, that's how it's always been. That's how we've done it, and that's why we've rotated so much. Everyone's earned the right to play."
MGoQuestion: Towards the end of last year when injuries started piling up you kind of got thrown into the fire, playing a little bit of nose. What did you get out of having to do that?
"It wasn't too bad. I've played nose my first two years here. This spring was my first time not really playing nose but I still was there sometimes, so it wasn't a big surprise to go back to playing nose. I think it was a little bit different that we were in a 3-4 front as opposed to a 4-3, so that was a little bit new for me, playing a zero [technique] in a 3-4. But, I mean, I've been ready, we've been rotating so much, there's games where some players that may not have started will play more plays than the starters. That's how it's always been for our group."
MGoQuestion: What's the biggest adjustment for you going from Durkin's defense to having Don Brown in charge?
"I don't think it's really been too much of a transition. I think we're back to where we feel comfortable in a 4-3 attacking front. We're just really going to be able to get after. That's what we were all recruited to play, all of us currently rotating on the D-line, we were recruited to play in a 4-3, like Worm, Taco, all of them, we were all recruited to play in this type of defense. I think it helps out a little bit more, it's a little better fit for us, and it's something that we do really well."
JUB: So who's more intense, Harbaugh or Brown?
"I don't know, I think they complement one another. (laughs) I mean, obviously Coach Harbaugh is running more of the offensive stuff, Coach Brown's on the defense screaming. I guess it's both of them just getting after it every day."
Talk about the challenge of facing that offense and that offensive line and how it's helped you guys improve.
"Our offensive line has improved a lot. We have a lot of returning starters, a lot of guys that are used to playing with each other. They know what the other man is going to do when they're lining up. I think it's been great for us to play against some of them. We have a lot of NFL guys that could play at the next level that are really talented, strong, quick. I think it's helped a lot with us, too."
Talk about that secondary. They've got a lot of high-level players. I see you smiling...
"Yeah. (laughs) They're good, they're really good. We can do whatever with them. We can play a lot of man and not have to worry too much. We know they're going to have us, they're going to stick to their coverage, and they're not gonna get beat deep. It lets us do so much from a defensive front when you have guys who can cover. We can send blitzes, it's so much we can do with those guys because of how good they are."
MGoQuestion: It seemed like most of the pressure last year was generated from the defensive line running stunts. It it an emphasis this year to find more ways to get to the quarterback?
"I think we'll be able to get to the quarterback. Obviously Coach Brown is blitzing a lot. We're just going to be able to get after. I don't think we're going to need to run too many stunts, but stunts help—it confuses the O-line and gets them out of place. Any way to get a sack is a sack, whether it's a stunt or not doesn't really matter."
JUB: Gotta ask about Nike. How big is that for you guys?
"I think it's a huge deal. We're really enjoying the gear that we're getting. It's cool. It feels like Christmas every day we get a new pair of Nike gear or Jordan gear. I got a pair of socks today. I was so excited, I was ready to jump out of my shoes. It's just nice just to have a change. Everything just feels like it's changing, just a whole new culture, a whole new beginning, a whole new start. I just think that switch really puts an emphasis on us restarting, getting back to the top where we belong."
[Hit THE JUMP for Jourdan Lewis discussing the hypothetical Jourdan Lewis vs. Jourdan Lewis matchup.]
It's submarine time. Yea, the beat writers will rend their garments and republish articles about Clayton Richard from ten years ago. Insider rumblings of wildly varying utility will leak out in drips and drabs. Half of them will be outright falsehoods. A quarter will be somewhat true. A quarter will be very true.
As per usual, I enter this month of the season frantically assembling data for the season preview; fall camp chatter will factor in as it always does. Here are the things I'm hoping to hear, the things that I'm hoping are never said again, and ridiculous things I'll dismiss out of hand.
if Charlton had a Happy Days spinoff it would be called Taco Loves Tacos [Eric Upchurch]
STATUS: Our tentative expectation is that the starting spots are manned by Taco Charlton and Rashan Gary. If Gary isn't ready to go you may see Wormley bounce out—I mean, you will see Wormley bounce out no matter what. But Michigan could start Hurst if Gary isn't quite ready to fight a bear. Probably not though.
THING YOU WANT TO HEAR: Lawrence Marshall and Chase Winovich are going to get their fair share of time. That's right: I'm taking the starters for granted. One is Rashan Gary. The other is a near top-100 player as of last year per PFF and my own dang charting. For both this year and next it'll be real nice if the next generation is able to make their voices heard over that noise.
THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: "I'm taking my talents to Clemson." Yes I know this is a literal impossibility now. I'm still keeping the ol' eye peeled.
ACTUAL THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: Shelton Johnson's team picture absence ends up being about a thing that terminates his career.
THING I WILL DISMISS OUT OF HAND: Any assertion Charlton will play SDE, as he did this spring. Even if Chase Winovich is a revelation there's still no depth at WDE without Charlton. Also he dropped a bunch of weight. He's your WDE.
STATUS: Glasgow is back. Mone is back. Hurst is back. They're moving Wormley inside because they can. Michigan has a two deep of NFL players if Mone lives up to a quarter of the hype.
THING YOU WANT TO HEAR: Maurice Hurst has leveled up his run defense. We've already heard all the things you can hear about Bryan Mone and I both know and expect the final boss version of Ryan Glasgow this fall. Chris Wormley is pretty much Chris Wormley, too. That leaves Hurst as the remaining wildcard amongst persons with a chance to play a bunch. Last year he was great when not met with mashing doubles or over-penetrating on stretch plays. If he can fix those two items dude will live up to the first-round expectations PFF put on him.
THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: Both nose tackles are injured and they moved the OSU game to week one. A little sick of being down multiple DTs for the OSU game you guys. The injury thing is going to get a little repetitive in this post because Michigan has a lot of established guys. There's going to be little coming out of spring practices we don't already know or, in Bryan Mone's case, haven't heard before.
THING I WILL DISMISS OUT OF HAND: Mone will start over Glasgow. Going to hear it. Have been hearing it.
Listen to me now and believe me later: Ryan Glasgow is a goddamn robot Viking. Mone's probably real real good and is going to play this fall; Glasgow is proven beyond doubt. Except radio callers. And certain internet people.
STATUS: The two ILB starters graduate and this is an area of concern... for a given definition of concern. The likely starters are fourth-year players who were highly touted recruits. While that's not a guarantee they'll be good, this is not like previous episodes of Michigan roster concern like "James Rogers is a starting cornerback" or "converted fullback and walk-on Mark Moundros might start at linebacker."
THING YOU WANT TO HEAR: "Gotdang, Mike McCray can play." A continued resurgence from McCray is the most likely way the linebacker corps is pretty all right this year. Furbush is playing outside, likely in preparation for the Iowas and MSUs and Wisconsins of the world. Devin Bush Jr is a freshman. Nobody is talking about Jared Wangler. It's gotta be McCray.
THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: Any sort of injury rumor. Linebacker is another one of the spots on the team where there's a big drop from the projected starters to the backups.
THING I WILL DISMISS OUT OF HAND: Ben Gedeon hype. I am dreading this. Gedeon didn't beat out Joe Bolden, so I am worried he literally is Joe Bolden. Therefore people saying good things about Gedeon == annual overhyped Bolden offseason. (This is potentially irrational.) I'm not saying that Gedeon can't be good. I'm saying that I'll take all praise about him with a grain of salt because he's gotta play by default and he wasn't able to break through previously.
STATUS: Jourdan Lewis returns, not worth discussing, All-American. The other side is a fierce battle between seniors Jeremy Clark and Channing Stribling.
THING YOU WANT TO HEAR: Channing Stribling is in this dimension to stay. Stribling moved ahead in his position battle this spring and like quarterback the best thing to hear is that someone is grabbing the job with authority. Since I think Jeremy Clark is pretty good I won't be upset if it's a real battle; unless Michigan gets really lucky they're not going to have three elite corners.
THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: Anything about Brandon Watson playing corner or nickel or whatever. He spotted Peppers a bit last year; this year he won't be able to do that. Given the roster his best shot is at safety, where he should be moved posthaste.
THING I WILL DISMISS OUT OF HAND: I'm still tempted to scoff at Stribling's emergence as the second corner but Michigan seems very serious about that. He might start. What I don't believe is that there won't be a role for the third corner. They're close enough and good enough that both will play.
STATUS: Two seniors with a fair amount of playing time and then a very scary drop to not many underclassmen.
THING YOU WANT TO HEAR: Dymonte Thomas is Jarrod Wilson but fast. Wilson was a safety blanket for years; one of the few things that could disrupt what looks like a killer defense is a sudden vulnerability to big plays. If anyone can protect their quarterback long enough to test the safeties.
THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: The seniors are way way ahead of any pursuit. This was the case in spring despite the presence of Tyree Kinnel, a highly-regarded recruit who seems to fit the way Brown wants to play his safeties. Now Hudson and Metellus join the fray. Ideally someone comes through as a third option and penciled-in starter next year.
THING I WILL DISMISS OUT OF HAND: Khaleke Hudson didn't kill a guy.
STATUS: Kenny Allen's back. Punter is up in the air. Return units should be Peppers Peppers Peppers, but they moved him off kickoffs late last year.
THING YOU WANT TO HEAR: Allen is a Zoltan-level boomer as a punter. This is highly possible; as I've mentioned before I've seen more punts from Kenny Allen than anyone else has in the history of backup punters. They tend to go an enormously long way.
THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: Jourdan Lewis is returning kicks. He's good at it, sure, but there are other guys who should be in his league at a not-very-important job. Those guys are not also All-American corners. Give the job to David Long or Ty Isaac or whoever.
On the other hand, Peppers returning punts is totally worth it. He saved so many yards last year just by fair catching a bunch of punts most people would have had to let drop, and he's been a hair's breadth away from busting loose for touchdowns. The gap between Peppers and the next best punt return guy is huge compared to the gap between Michigan's various kick return options.
THING I WILL DISMISS OUT OF HAND: Any Andrew David chatter that doesn't involve him pooch-punting. David was behind two walk-ons a year ago and Michigan took the unusual step of recruiting kickers in consecutive years.
If you listened to The Michigan Insider yesterday morning you heard interviews with some of Michigan’s assistant coaches, including Jedd Fisch. We thought you, our beloved readers, might like to read a transcript of what coach Fisch had to say. When you finish reading you should head to The Michigan Insider’s channel on Audioboom and listen to the rest of what Sam and Ira discussed. After all, the cool people like it.
How much difference is there as opposed to last year at this time trying to install everything with the quarterbacks now that you have Wilton [Speight] and John [O’Korn] and they’ve been around, and Wilton with the game experience there?
“Yeah, it’s a huge difference. Going into having this conversation last year we’d had one spring and we didn’t even have Jake [Rudock] that spring, so really the first practice we were going to have with Jake was tomorrow last year, right? So we were having these discussions and really a lot of it was just guessing.
“Now we’ve got film on what Wilton in the games he played for us last year. We had meetings with those guys all last year, all spring. Their preparation has been excellent leading up to it and now it’s really exciting because you can build off of last year without taking on this whole approach of too much newness. It really can be how much better can we get now that you can show them film of Michigan people doing it rather than other people doing it.”
What goes into making that decision of who ends up being the starter?
“Oh, I think it’s multi—there’s a ton of things we have to look at, but the number one thing is can you lead the team to score? Can you lead the team in practice, can you move the football, can you not just have flashes but can you have consistent good days, one after another after another? Can you have a move-the-ball period that’s unscripted and can you go from the 20 to the 20 or the 50 to the goal line, wherever we start? Can you get first downs? The guy that does the most of that will really give us a great chance.
“And then how they lead the team, how they break the huddle, how they act in meeting rooms, do they have a moxie about them, and then what’s the end result.”
Do both those guys have that?
“Yeah, I think that a lot of guys—I think we have two guys that are doing real well and another two guys or three guys that are right there continuing to compete for it. I don’t think it’s a slam dunk that it’s just in between two guys. We’re not going in thinking that way. There’s an opportunity to go out there and take this job. It’s not being given to anyone, so if you’re…I guess April 1 or 2, whenever the spring game was, they’ve had from that day until tomorrow on their own—I mean, with the strength coaches but on their own—to figure out a way to become the starting quarterback at Michigan. That’s pretty cool.”
When you guys start tomorrow is Brandon [Peters] going to get as many reps as John? Is it going to be even all the way or are you going to tier that in some way?
“You know, I haven’t talked to coach Drevno or coach Harbaugh about that yet. We’ll have a plan for them, but we haven’t discussed exactly how we’re going to work the reps but I would guess it’s going to be pretty fair very early on.”
Is there a chance the competition could go into the season [where] the first few games a couple of quarterbacks play, perhaps?
“You know, I guess. There’s always a chance. I don’t know that. I don’t know what it’s going to look like. I would be surprised if it looked like that, if it would go into the season. You’d like to have a starting quarterback before that, but again, we don’t know. It’s going to be…we’ll talk about it, and as we talk about it we’ll figure out what’s the best way to name a starting quarterback, when’s the best time to name the starting quarterback, and what are we going to do with that.”
What have you seen out of O’Korn in particular that you’ve liked since he’s been here?
“Out of John? Well, he’s experienced so he’s played so he has--when he breaks the huddle, when he runs the offense, he knows what he’s doing. He’s done it before. He’s done it in games. He’s done it in environments and he does everything right off the field. He’s somebody that…he wants to lead. He wants to be the guy. He wants to find a way to really take this team and run with it, and I think you can see that every day that you’re around him.”
What about Wilton?
“Wilton’s somebody that has really matured over a year. I think that going into last year’s camp, he’s a much different person than he is going into this year’s camp. He’s taken on the maturity, he’s taken on a lot of responsibility. The obvious game against Minnesota gave him a kind of confidence, you know. He’s excited about it. He’s excited that that’s not going to be the only touchdown he ever throws for Michigan, and I think that’s his mindset, that that’s not going to be my last touchdown.”
Did you tell him that? Not to let that be his only--
“Oh yeah. Oh yeah.”
[More after THE JUMP]
BBQ Leftovers: Hudson Commits
Three-star OH DT James Hudson committed to Michigan yesterday, giving the Wolverines a head-to-head win over Michigan State. TMI's Brice Marich made his way to Toledo for Hudson's announcement and scored an interview afterwards in which Hudson detailed the reasoning behind his decision:
"Michigan is just a different type of feeling," he said. I could really connect with lot of the players there like Carlo Kemp and Rashan Gary, me and those two get along really well. Me and Rashan, we speak almost every day. We're great friends and we're going to be great teammates."
"I really spoke with Coach Mattison of course, DL oach, also spoke with Coach Brown and Coach Zordich. My relationship with Coach Matty is great. He's definitely my favorite D-Line coach I've met. Coach Matty has a plan for me and I like that."
That plan is for Hudson to play three-tech. Some sites still list him as an SDE, but he's reportedly up in the 290-pound range already. We'll (eventually) see what Brian comes up with for a YMRPFSPA; Hudson's impressive strength reminded me of Willie Henry when I watched his highlights.
The Wolverine's Brandon Brown caught up with Hudson's high school coach, who in detailing what he's working on with Hudson this spring may have explained why Hudson's first step doesn't stand out on film:
"Here’s how good his camp’s been thus far. We’ve been focusing on his first step being a little bit too big. That gets him a little overextended sometimes. That’s it," Dempsey said. "His hands are great, his feet are great, his motor has been great. It’s been very limited in terms of what we need him to work on.
"The biggest thing is that we’re going to watch him since he’s playing both ways so much. The effort he’s been putting into offensive tackle has been just as good as what he’s been doing on defense. We’re expecting a lot so I’m glad he’s expecting a lot out of himself. He’s a disruptive force at this level. He’s really started to master his position so I’m very excited for his senior season."
If that gets corrected, I really like Hudson's potential; as we saw with Henry, overwhelming strength can make up for a lot.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
It's submarine time. Yea, the beat writers will rend their garments and republish articles about Clayton Richard from ten years ago. Insider rumblings of wildly varying utility will leak out in drips and drabs. Half of them will be outright falsehoods. A quarter will be somewhat true. A quarter will be very true.
As per usual, I enter this month of the season frantically assembling data for the season preview; fall camp chatter will factor in as it always does. Here are the things I'm hoping to hear, the things that I'm hoping are never said, and ridiculous things I'll dismiss out of hand.
STATUS: Wilton Speight exited spring with a slight lead on John O'Korn, at least per spring draft and practice snap order. Even if that means more than "we want to motivate a guy" it's a 51/49 situation. It's all up for grabs.
THING YOU WANT TO HEAR: Someone is taking the job forcefully. Which guy doesn't matter so much. One of them grabbing the job by the throat, whoever that happens to be, is preferable. I'd prefer that gent is O'Korn since I think his mobility and arm strength gives him greater upside but if Speight is going to defy the Curse of Borges with authority, fine. Authority. This is the goal.
THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: "Brandon Peters really has a shot!" No offense intended, but the two leaders coming back to the pack would not be a good sign. Meanwhile true freshman anything is never great. I am open to hearing further encouraging things about Peters's future. Present not so much.
THING I WILL DISMISS OUT OF HAND: "Shane Morris really has a shot!" Morris was at best equal to Speight going into last season when Michigan agreed to redshirt him; Speight now has an extra slice of on-field experience and should improve more since he's younger. Also they put him at WR in the spring game.
STATUS: It's De'Veon Smith's job. Not his job to lose, his job. Smith's injury history—he was banged up all last year—and Harbaugh's tendency to play multiple tailbacks at once mean that the #2 and #3 guys will still be important.
THING YOU WANT TO HEAR: Ty Isaac remains on a rampage. With Smith getting he's-the-man rest, the story of spring practice was the emergence of a "rougher, tougher" Ty Isaac. His outside burst picked up piles of yards in the spring game, culminating in a run where he tacked on an extra 15 by outrunning Jabrill Peppers in the open field. That's something nobody managed all of last year, off balance or not. There's still a five star in there somewhere. The best possible news from camp would be Isaac looking like it.
THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: Smith is banged up and not practicing. It's not a coincidence that Smith's killer Citrus Bowl came after a month off. He missed the Maryland game and was limited in a few others because his pounding style racks up nagging injuries. His absence in the spring was as much precaution as triumph.
THING I WILL DISMISS OUT OF HAND: Someone insisting that Drake Johnson did not have a) a house land on him, 2) a gang of radioactive bikers abduct his dog, c) a mouth that spews nothing but sass grow on his finger, or d) all of the above.
STATUS: Darboh, Chesson, and Perry are your dudes, with a side of Peppers no one will talk about.
THING YOU WANT TO HEAR: "Gotdang, Moe Ways can play." The two outside starters are established so nothing we hear about them will mean much relative to all the stuff we've seen on an actual field. Ways is coming off a lot of spring hype we didn't get to see ourselves thanks to a foot injury late in spring practice. He's the best bet for a solid #3 this year and a smooth transition to the next generation in 2017.
THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: There are lingering Chesson PCL issues. Chances of this are low since the injury happened eight months ago, but WR is one of a couple positions where an injured starter is a big big deal.
THING I WILL DISMISS OUT OF HAND: Freshman X is going to have a big role. He ain't. Darboh, Chesson, Perry, and Butt are back. Michigan had no slot receiver a year ago and Grant Perry caught 105 passes as a high school senior and it still took him until the bowl game to be a major contributor. Freshman wide receivers suck.
I will accept "Eddie McDoom looks like a guy who can play a lot in 2017."
STATUS: lol all the dudes
THING YOU WANT TO HEAR: "Ian Bunting's Citrus Bowl was no fluke." Bunting flashed a surprising ability to whack dudes in the bowl game, and if he can continue that he'll be on the field with Jake Butt a lot. That is a tent-your-fingers situation there.
I have a runner up here, and that is "Ty Wheatley Jr has re-emerged from the sea after destroying Tokyo."
THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: "Henry Poggi is still missing blocks." To clarify, I expect to hear almost literally nothing about Poggi during fall camp because he is a fullback/H-back. I expect to hear even less about his specific ability to ID the man he should go hit in the chaos of camp. But if we were to hear that I would not be having a good time. Poggi has high upside as a blocker; the main thing that prevented him from hitting that a year ago was finding the right guy.
THING I WILL DISMISS OUT OF HAND: Further chatter about Sean McKeon playing this year. There was a consistent drumbeat that this was a possibility during spring; one glance at the depth chart should dispel all such notions.
STATUS: Harbaugh announced Grant Newsome as a sure starter at media day. Oddly, he still maintained that the rest of the line—three fifth year seniors and Mason Cole—wasn't set. But, I mean, it's basically set.
THING YOU WANT TO HEAR: Year two in the same system with the same coaches is a revelation. Michigan had a lot of problems executing their assignments in front of the ever-shifting fronts defenses will throw at them. Some of this is expected. They've had three offensive coordinators over the last three years. This is the first time in their playing careers that they have an opportunity to build on something they already know.
THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: "Rueben Jones is tearing Grant Newsome up." Newsome got worked this spring. Getting worked by Taco Charlton is one thing. Getting worked by a Chase Winovich freshly moved from offense is another. Both happened. Newsome has the frame and mental ability to get there at left tackle; there are going to be hairy moments. Newsome getting negative reviews would be alarming since it appears there are few or no alternatives.
THING I WILL DISMISS OUT OF HAND: One of the three seniors is going to get benched. I know that possibility is the direct implication of Harbaugh's media day press conference, but I'd be flabbergasted if Dawson, Kugler or Bredeson managed to slide past any of them. Dawson and Kugler have had their shots the last few camps, and true freshmen are true freshmen. You can point to Mason Cole if you like but as a reminder, Mason Cole's main job as a freshman was to survive by the skin of his teeth. He did that; his performance wasn't any better than Kyle Kalis's projects to be this fall.
There is a version of this that wouldn't be dismissed and would be another thing you want to hear: a couple guys are pushing the seniors and are at least some threat to unseat a guy. Michigan's OL depth right now is questionable and it's more questionable going into next year. Being able to pencil someone in at a couple of the vacancies would be reassuring.