spoiler alert: i linked this
SDE Charlton has been tough to handle [Eric Upchurch]
The most interesting thing about the configuration of the defense thus far is the weakside end. I thought they'd shift Taco Charlton over there and go with a very large and very fierce unit; instead Charlton looks set to start on the strongside and Chase Winovich is a tentative leader on the weakside. Chris Wormley spent most snaps I saw from him at three-tech.
While there's a chance that Michigan reconfigures once Ryan Glasgow gets re-added to the mix, right now it looks like Michigan will have a line that looks a lot like a traditional 4-3 under line instead of the mondo unit they could have had. One man's current guess at what a depth chart looks like in fall:
- SDE: Charlton, Gary
- NT: Glasgow, Mone, Hurst
- 3T: Wormley, Godin
- WDE: Winovich, Marshall
If they can get production out of Winovich that's an incredibly deep, veteran, and proven defensive line. If Winovich doesn't work out you can slide Charlton over and still have a great two-deep at the bigger spots, but this is Don Brown's first draft.
So… Winovich. After a rather wasted year spent at h-back he returned to defense, now bulked up to 245 pounds. That's light, but if he can get up to 250 or 255 by fall—reasonable—it's not eye-poppingly so. And WDE does fit his talents. As a recruit he was reputed to be Jake Ryan 2.0, and weakside end is a spot Ryan definitely could have played. Winovich has started gathering some hype himself:
Chase Winovich had himself a day at defensive end. We’d said all week that he was a bigger, stronger version of his former self. Grant Newsome definitely learned that Friday. Winovich won their one on one match-up, and was one of the best edge rushers on the day. On one play he literally flattened Newsome with a bull rush to get into the backfield.
Whether that's hooray Winovich or a collar pull about Newsome is in the eye of the beholder. On the downside from that report: on "more than one occasion" Winovich got edged and lost contain. (Yes, just like Jake Ryan.) He's going to have to cause a lot of havoc to make up for what projects to be a serious downgrade in run efficacy from the much larger and more experienced Charlton.
Meanwhile, apparently all that irrational Bryan Mone hype last year was shared by the coaching staff:
"He was one of our top players last year," Mone said. "We ranked the team going into training camp from one to 125 and Mone was three."
I have many questions about that assertion. They will never be answered.
Mone seems to have picked up where he left off before his injury, but to be honest I didn't see much from him in either practice I observed. I wasn't looking for him much since nose tackle is just about dead last on my list of concerns for 2016; even so last year you saw Maurice Hurst blow through an assortment of players, including Graham Glasgow, en route to spring hype and a very productive season. Mone didn't deliver that when in front of fans. He did draw a tough matchup against Mason Cole, to be fair. I'm still waiting for him to indicate that he's going to be better than Glasgow was a year ago.
That said, Mone was very impressive in Florida:
He was rarely blocked one-on-one, and managed to still be effective against the double team. Twice in the early portion of 11-on-11 action he engaged Ben Braden, tossed the 322 lb. offensive lineman to the side with relative ease, and then got in on the play in the backfield. On another play he split Braden and Mason Cole with great off-snap quickness and nailed Ty Isaac in the backfield.
I'd have liked to see that myself; it's good that someone did.
Godin's playing time might get squeezed [Upchurch]
Chris Wormley is still Chris Wormley. He'll probably be incrementally stronger and better and this will be a very good thing indeed. Matt Godin had an impressive spring game, blowing through a number of second-string OL. I thought he'd be a better fit at SDE, where he was on relatively level footing with Wormley early last season, than three-tech but Michigan looks set to play him on the interior. That might make it tough for him to get a lot of time—he is not likely to pass any of the other four DTs. The current Taco/Winovich DE setup steps on his toes more than anyone else.
Carlo Kemp and Reuben Jones played a lot as DEs on the white team and mostly got beat up. That's not a huge surprise since Kemp is a freshman and Jones is still listed at 222 pounds on the (possibly outdated) roster. I wouldn't expect either to break through this year.
McCray is a thumper [Upchurch]
Mike McCray is obviously the story of the spring here, and it was appropriate that he was one of the main reasons his team stuffed Henry Poggi on the goal line to end the Spring Game. McCray brings a load. At Ford Field he hammered a number of lead blocks like James Ross playing a Penn State OL. He is a tough customer.
What remains to be seen is whether he's a two-down backer or if he's fast enough to be an asset in coverage. Noises coming out of practice are positive. Per Lorenz Michigan is "quietly excited and optimistic"; Webb observed him have a lights out practice down in Florida:
Early in 11-on-11 action he met Ty Isaac in the hole and brought him down for no gain. A few plays later he showed nice feel in coverage and would have de-cleated Jack Wangler on a crossing pattern. His best play came later on in the practice when he timed a blitz perfectly and tagged Kareem Walker in the backfield.
While McCray ended up chasing a lot of completed mesh routes in the spring game I wouldn't read too much into that: mesh is designed to hang up man-to-man defenders trying to cover those drag routes. It did so with McCray. I'm assuming Michigan has better answers for mesh that they declined to show the public.
McCray did get juked by O'Korn on the final touchdown, but he was in a ton of space and did force the play back to his help. That help did not arrive in time. Ideally you get an open-field tackle like those Delano Hill turned in a couple times last year, but failing that McCray at least mitigated damage insofar as that was possible.
Ben Gedeon remains just as much of a default starter as he was before the spring. Harbaugh is saying all the right things about him, calling him a "stud" amongst other praise. When you've got a guy who hasn't quite established himself but will start because there are no other options save freshmen your floor can be very low—Johnny Sears is the canonical example. There was never going to be a way for Gedeon to disprove that this spring.
At least we have seen enough of Gedeon to estimate that he'll be all right—he was more or less a starter for a game in the middle of the season when Michigan was suffering through their ridiculous targeting call period, and he did fine. As long as he doesn't run upfield of blocks I'm good.
McCray's emergence allows the Devin Bush Jr project to have a more reasonable timeframe. Going into spring everyone was assuming he'd end up starting out of necessity; exiting it he's probably in the same position Gedeon was last year: a rotation player who spots both starters. That's still not ideal, but neither is it starting a freshman. Bush didn't generate a ton of buzz other than the occasional mention of a big hit and he didn't leap out at me. He was of course victimized by Ty Wheatley on that one play, but when you force a one-handed attempt to catch a pass you've done your job.
Noah Furbush did not play in the spring game, which is unfortunate since he came in for a reasonable amount of hype himself as Jabrill Peppers's main competition at SAM. Sam related that Harbaugh "loves" Furbush's attitude and general guy-ness, and he did have a number of impressive special teams plays a year ago. Obviously Furbush and Peppers are not particularly similar players—Furbush coming into his own would allow Michigan to move Peppers around.
Jared Wangler was out with a meniscus injury.
Thomas is fast [Bryan Fuller]
Another reason I wouldn't read too much into the crossing routes that were wide open all day: somehow the top six defensive backs* all ended up on the white team, and after the opening series we saw little of Lewis and Stribling. Victims on the crossing routes were often walk-ons.
Most downfield passes were attempted against guys who don't project to see the field much this year. Ken Stross was this year's version of Norfleet: a converted WR who gets bombed all day.
There were a couple of plays of note for projected contributors, this one the most impressive:
Dymonte Thomas came from the dead center of the field to get over the top of a reasonably well-thrown ball near the back corner of the endzone. He took off as soon as Morris committed to one side of the field, which is encouraging.
Jarrod Wilson, blessed be his boring name, is not making that play. I can't imagine many people do. If Thomas can reliably execute his assignments he has the potential to be something Michigan hasn't seen since Marcus Ray**: a bonafide playmaking safety.
The other play of note was discussed yesterday when we talked about Drake Harris and can be seen briefly at the 52 second mark of the above highlights: Jeremy Clark with fantastic coverage on Harris. I don't doubt that Channing Stribling's had an impressive spring, especially since he got the sure-starter yoink on Friday and this vote of confidence from Harbaugh…
“Channing Stribling. He’s a starter. It’s cold. It’s in stone.:"
…but at Ford Field and the Spring Game it's been Jeremy Clark who looks like the guy.
Per Webb, down in Florida it was the other way, with Stribling on fire:
Channing Stribling was given the game ball by Jim Harbaugh after practice #4 and with good reason. … His route recognition led to numerous plays including two interceptions. His first pick came while covering Drake Harris and seemed to run the pattern better than his offensive counterpart before jumping it and intercepting the ball. He nearly picked off another pass… a deep out to Harris… where he also seem to run that route better than Harris also before knocking it away. His second interception occurred when the Sean McKeon beat Noah Furbush down the seam and Stribling slid over the top to help, skied for the ball, and picked it off.
I expect that competition to be hot and heavy this fall. TBH I'd be perfectly happy with another year just like the one Clark turned in, minus some of the absurdly bad luck he suffered. For Stribling to surge past is a potentially excellent sign.
Kinnel is hugely important for 2017 [Upchurch]
Tyree Kinnel was the other name of note. He turned in a pick-six at Ford Field and looked very comfortable in a box safety role in the spring game. Despite that, Harbaugh made it clear that the two starters have "nobody really pushing them right now."
*[minus Peppers, if he's more of a linebacker.]
**[Ernest Shazor's candidacy here was rejected since he made as many plays for the opposition as his own team. ]
Michigan didn't run any full-go, but there was the occasional thing of note:
- At Ford Field it looked like Michigan was trying to find folks other than Peppers to take kickoffs back. They can get similar production from some of their other fast guys and lighten the load on their two-way star.
- They did practice both NFL and spread punting; in the game they went entirely spread.
- Kenny Allen had a booming conventional punt. This does not surprise since he's been blasting them in practice for years. It is unlikely he has the precision that Blake O'Neill did but if Michigan needs to send it 60 yards he's more than capable.
- Andrew David has been tasked with rugby punting. He had a pooch punt that was relatively effective.
- Can't judge return units since nothing was full contact.
- Chris Partridge appears to be the main guy on special teams, with little help from other people, at least on the practice field.
- David was shaky on field goals.
I expect Allen to take the large bulk of the kicking jobs. Surprise!
Los Lunas (NM) running back O'Maury Samuels became the third commitment of a busy Spring Game weekend when he announced his pledge Sunday night. Michigan was the first major program to offer Samuels, whose stock rose quickly after an outstanding performance at the Dallas Opening regional in March. His visit sealed the deal:
“Man, it was fantastic,” Samuels told The Michigan Insider. “I loved the atmosphere. I loved the people around there. I loved the area. Their facilities were just great. I got to communicate with some of the players. They were nice. They told me how (things are) run things there at Michigan. I really like it out there. I got to talk to Coach Harbaugh and Coach Wheatley. We talked about how I could be their All-Purpose back for the 2017 class. They said they need one. “
“So I was like, hey, they need me. Why not?”
“They’re going to have a scat back, and all-purpose back, and a power back.”
Samuels is Michigan's 11th commit in the 2017 class and the third at running back, joining four-star AJ Dillon and three-star Kurt Taylor.
|4*, #23 RB||4* RB||NR RB||
3*, 89, #25 RB,
4*, #21 RB,
While they didn't hand out the same star rating, Scout and 247 both have Samuels in the same range in the positional and overall rankings—based on position rankings, Samuels sits just outside the Scout 300. ESPN hasn't ranked him at all. Rivals threw out a cursory post-commitment four-star rating but hasn't given him a position ranking yet; only 16 RBs in the 2017 class are ranked as four-star prospects or better on Rivals.
Samuels is listed in the 5'10", 190-pound rangs by three of the four sites; 247 gives him an extra inch. He's not a big RB; he's still got plenty of size for the position.
[Hit THE JUMP for scouting, video, and more.]
Three-star Berrien Springs (MI) DT/OG Phil Paea was the second of Michigan's three weekend commitments. A cousin of Bryan Mone, Paea holds an impressive offer sheet that includes the likes of Notre Dame, Oregon, and USC; it can be expected he'll move up from his current standing at the composite #13 player in Michigan.
Paea built an excellent rapport with Greg Mattison and director of player personnel Tony Tuioti. His comfort with the players and staff led to his commitment:
“Definitely it was the relationships around (Michigan),” Paea explained.” “It really means a lot. That was a big part of recruiting for me… the relationships with the coaches and players. The coaches, man… they’re great people. I would love to play for Greg Mattison. That’s what I want to do. Every time see him up here, every time I left… I just couldn’t pass it up again.”
Michigan State, Notre Dame—located a half hour away from Berrien Springs—and Oregon all stood out at various points in Paea's recruitment. Michigan overcame that with a couple of visits in quick succession. Before his commitment he had an unofficial visit scheduled to Oregon in a couple weeks; he told 247's Steve Wiltfong he's shutting down his recruitment and won't be visiting other schools.
“Now I can focus on school,” he said. “Get ready to play ball senior year and make sure it’s the best year I ever had and then get ready to be a Wolverine. I’m thinking about doing early enrollment to get to know the playbook and get settled in.”
Paea was the tenth commit in the 2017 class—four-star RB O'Maury Samuels since became the 11th—and he's the first defensive lineman.
|3*, #26 DT||3*, #13 OG||NR DT||
3*, 89, #25 DT,
3*, #32 DT,
Paea is ranked as a three-star to every site that's scouted him and he's close to four-star status—Rivals and Scout each have him one position rank away; 247 has him within four. Given his offers and his junior tape, he's a good bet to move up.
Paea has great size. He's listed at 6'4" (6'3" on Rivals) and 270-285 pounds. While Michigan is primarily looking at him as a defensive tackle, he could easily end up on the offensive line at guard or center:
“They’re looking at me on both sides of the ball, but I’m probably going to end up playing defensive tackle over there,” he said. “I’m a motor guy. Definitely I’m not going to take off any plays. I challenge myself and my opponents on every down.”
About that OL possibility: a current ACC head coach told Wiltfong he thinks Paea is a future NFL center.
[Hit THE JUMP for scouting, video, and more.]
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Spring Practice Recap: Offense
Feelingsball to start. QB battle for real. Hello Ty Isaac. Wide receivers? Ace deploys the word "shambolic," and is not talking about the offensive line!
Spring Practice Recap: Defense
starts at 27:53
Backups mostly but we can still infer some things. Tyree Kinnel can play. Still on board with Jeremy Clark over Stribling. Mike McCray is major key emoji.
Gimmicky Top Five: Worst Adidas Atrocities
starts at 45:24
There are no surprises at the top. We do posit a darts Champions' League theme.
Inside The Crooked Blue Line w/ Steve Lorenz
starts at 55:02
Steve talks Michigan's recent commits and the massive visit weekend that just completed. We also remember Jabroni of the Week. Score. The very first ever will SHOCK you. Probably.
"Across 110th Street"
My Morning Jacket — The Day Is Coming
Blind Melon — No Rain
Planet Funk + A Pub Of Drunk Darts Enthusiasts — Chase The Sun
THE USUAL LINKS
Moments after the dramatic conclusion of the Spring Game, potential five-star 2018 jumbo athlete Leonard Taylor committed to Michigan, becoming the second touted rising junior from Springfield (OH) High School to join the class. Instead of working from behind for 2016 and 2017 prospects, Jim Harbaugh and Co. have made a concerted effort to hit the 2018 class in Ohio hard, and it's paid off with early commitments from Taylor and his four-star linebacker teammate, Antwuan Johnson.
One can never be too careful this time of year; so TomVH asked Taylor about the legitimacy of the commitment:
Also, just in case, I asked Leonard Taylor if the commitment was an April Fool's joke (I have to) and he replied with "hell no."
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) April 2, 2016
That is the correct answer.
|4* DE||NR TE||NR TE-Y||
4*, 95, #3 DT,
5*, #3 DT,
It's still early on in the process for 2018 recruits. Only 247 has complete rankings and they're being (understandably) stingy about handing out a fifth star—Taylor is ranked in what would easily be five-star range by Signing Day, to the point that he's given that extra star in the composite rankings even though they're just a replication of 247's rankings right now. Scout hasn't released full rankings yet but they still felt compelled to list Taylor as an early four-star recruit.
Taylor is a big athlete who could land at a number of positions; he's listed as a tight end, strongside DE, or defensive tackle depending on where you look. At either 6'5" or 6'6" and 240-250 pounds, he has a huge frame capable of holding a lot more weight. How he develops physically over the next couple years will go a long way towards determining his future position.
[Hit THE JUMP for scouting, video, and more.]
First, a little feelingsball
Spring games are notorious for being a little data amidst an ocean of noise, so as always take everything here with a grain of salt. And this section isn't even a concrete observation about a player, so doubly so here. But… my favorite thing that happened on Friday wasn't a play.
It was the aftermath of the two-point conversion, when the white team poured onto the field like they'd just won the Super Bowl and blue team coach Chris Partridge roared off the sideline to have a Harbaugh-level conniption fit at the ref.
A couple other coaches reacted similarly, if not as dramatically, as Partridge; the white team organized at midfield for a photo. Wyatt Shallman headbanged like there was no tomorrow. Drake Johnson collapsed in a heap.
Drake Johnson collapses on the field after his team gets stopped on a potential game-winning 2-pt. conversion. pic.twitter.com/Beyur1LaIW
— Dan Murphy (@DanMurphyESPN) April 4, 2016
I tweeted to Ace that he should title the recap "Controversial finish mars Spring Game ending,"* because that was funny. It's only funny because it's kind of true.
This is a different thing now. Last year's team was good but it was still caught between being a program that apologizes for a tent stake and a program whose DGAF levels are off the charts. Judging from the reactions of everyone involved on both sides, the all-competition-all-the-time ethos has sunk in. That more than anything else makes me anticipate the upcoming season.
This concludes your feelingsball portion of the program.
*[He did not, and I was all like ಠ_ಠ.]
[After THE JUMP: position by position breakdowns of what we learned on offense]