ESPN asked a number of coaches to give their quick takes on Jim Harbaugh. Diplomatic terms such as interesting, amusing character, eccentric, and, uh, interesting again are put forth. I cannot get enough of everything about Kevin Wilson's answer:
The clear winner, for a given definition of the term, is Florida's Jim McElwain, who definitely does not see Jehu Chesson all alone in the end zone every time he closes eyes. Definitely not.
This post has fulfilled our #content quota for the day. Actual non-hashtag content will resume shortly.
No More Visits For Livers
Four-star Kalamazoo Central forward Isaiah Livers, who grew up in an MSU household, caught many people off-guard when he committed to Michigan over the weekend. Following his commitment, however, Livers told 247's Zach Shaw won't take visits to any other schools, and he also went into detail about how he'll be utilized by John Beilein:
“When I visited there in June, they pulled up highlights of like Zak Irvin and Caris LeVert, they want me to play a position like that,” the 6-foot-8 Livers said. “Kind of like a combo forward and when we get on a run still be able to drop down to the ‘4,’ guard the ‘4,’ hit the corner 3 and bang with the big dudes.
“They like when I’m super aggressive. They like when I’m active, cutting, trying to get the ball, taking it to the rack, drawing fouls, and just shooting it.”
Livers's commitment apparently caught even his AAU teammates off-guard, including one of particular interest to Michigan fans:
Insiders weren’t the only ones surprised at the news. 5-star prospect Brian Bowen, who played with Livers all summer and has been a long-time friend of Livers, thought he was heading to State, but was thrilled that he chose Michigan instead.
“At first he was just like ‘what?’ He didn’t think I was going to go there, he thought I was going to State too, he was shocked too,” Livers said.
MSU is the presumed favorite for Bowen. Hopefully his friendship with Livers will play a role in his recruitment. Shaw—a Daily alum and welcome addition to Wolverine247's coverage, I should note—also posted a pretty comprehensive (and free) overview of where Michigan stands with their main 2017 targets following Livers's pledge.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
If you listened to The Michigan Insider Tuesday morning you heard interviews with some of Michigan’s assistant coaches, including Tim Drevno. We thought you, our beloved readers, might like to read a transcript of what coach Drevno 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 about that left tackle/Grant Newsome situation? Can you talk about his development and how vital he is to that O-line?
“Yeah, Kevin Tolbert’s done a nice job with him and his staff in the weight room. He’s really put on a lot of weight. He’s over 300 pounds. Has done a nice job all summer with workouts. You can see the maturity level in his eyes, and has done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’ll be ready to tackle that position.”
Still think that Mason Cole’s at center?
“If we started a game today yeah, Mason Cole would be the center. I mean, the next three weeks we’ll flip-flop guys around and see what the best fit is and what’s best for the team.”
You stayed essentially with those five, they played almost every snap last year. Is that the idea or do you want with seniors in there and stuff do you want more rotation through the year?
“You know, you’re always looking for the sixth, seventh, eighth offensive lineman. You want depth and you want good players and good depth to back guys up. We’re always kind of tweaking it and kind of seeing and feeling who’s the best guys for these positions.”
You mentioned flipping guys around a little bit, experimenting to see where everybody fits best. How quickly do you want to get a final five where you know--
“I don’t want to make that decision too soon because I want to make sure we’re making the right decision. We’ll see as we progress through training camp and see how the days go. We’ll come to a conclusion, Coach and I, with it and see what’s best.”
Can you talk about Kyle Kalis and his development? A lot of attention early on in his career and people are wondering when’s that going to blossom for him.
“He’s really at a blossoming point right now. I mean, Kyle had his best spring since I’ve been here. I’ve been through only two springs with him but he did an outstanding job. He’s really understanding the game of football. His football awareness, his lens is opening. He’s really becoming a student of the game and the importance of the fine details of it, so he’s really doing a really nice job.”
With Newsome, is there sort of a list of things you have for him to work on other than getting bigger?
“I mean, his biggest thing is really just being able to get stronger, you know. That was really important that he does that just because coming in as a freshman from high school strength issues and not playing with his cleats, flexibility. But he has the measurables and the smarts to do it. I think the biggest thing is just gaining strength.”
We’ve heard you say you played freshmen before--
But is that something that…it’s kind of unusual to have a few years in a row here with a freshman playing.
“Yeah, no, I’m not—I don’t refer to them as freshmen. I just refer to them as a player and an offensive lineman and we’ve got to do what’s best for the team. I think initially doing it when I was at a former employer I started three true freshmen on the offensive line. If it works, we’re going to do it. It’s nice. It’s nice to have, especially when you have those years with them.”
Is there anyone in this class that you think could play that kind of role that Grant played?
“We’ll see. We’ll see. You’ve got three guys that are here—Michael Onwenu, Stephen Spanellis, Ben Bredeson—I mean, all of them are capable of doing it. It’ll be exciting to go to practice and see how it all works out.”
Spanellis and Onwenu are large, just big human beings. Is that just their body type or did they come in too large?
“You can’t coach big. I mean, this is a big, girthy game and I think at a lot of levels being able to move somebody off the ball, being able to get by somebody, it’s nice. The lower body girth is very important. And also just for injury prevention. I mean, they last longer. The more games you play your body will last longer.”
So you like guys to be big, your linemen. Some of them, a lot of them, gained weight from the spring.
“Yeah. We all went through it with Kevin and Fergus Connolly, where we wanted their weights and things. They did a nice job of getting where they need to be.”
[More after THE JUMP]
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.