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I guess I need to include a SPOILER ALERT for those who weren't able to watch the live stream. If for some reason you want the ending of the Spring Game to be a mystery, and yet you still are on this blog, stop reading now. The full game is airing right now on tape delay on BTN and will be replayed several times this week.
Brandon Peters was the best quarterback on the day. [Eric Upchurch]
For the second straight year, the Spring Game came down to the final play. Kyle Seychel's 31-yard field goal gave the Brandon Peters-led Maize team a 31-29 victory over the Speight/O-Korn-piloted Blue team.
Newsy bits first: Juwann Bushell-Beatty was among the players sitting out, so the starting O-line from left to right was Cole-Bredeson-Kugler-Onwenu-Runyan. The coaches shuffled that combination quite a bit throughout the day even before Runyan exited with an apparent leg injury—he walked off under his own power. The other injury on the day was to Eddie McDoom, who went down awkwardly on the sideline after a deep catch in the fourth quarter; he needed help from the trainers to get to the sideline, eventually was carted into the tunnel, and was spotted walking around without assistance.
Here are a few initial standouts from each side of the ball; we'll have much more this week after a re-watch.
QB Brandon Peters. Peters had the best day of the quarterbacks, displaying good arm strength, touch on throws to all levels, and enough athleticism to repeatedly break the pocket and even scramble for a touchdown. While Peters had one ugly pick when he didn't see Brandon Watson waiting in the flat, Speight was worse in that regard. Caveats abound: it's one scrimmage and Peters got better protection from the line. That said, he looked like he could legitimately push Speight, especially if the incumbent starter doesn't clean up some of these sloppy mistakes.
RBs Karan Higdon and Ty Isaac. These two had the most complete days at running back, showing patience on impressive touchdown runs and breaking into the secondary multiple times. Chris Evans and Kareem Walker also looked good in less extended action; Evans looked bigger while still maintaining his ability to juke defenders in a phone booth, while Walker has an enticing combination of power and patience. There weren't always holes to hit, but when they were there, the backs made the most of them.
Tarik Black, not Donovan Peoples-Jones, had the best day of the freshman WRs. [Upchurch]
WRs Tarik Black and Nate Schoenle. Black dominated much of the second half, becoming John O'Korn's go-to guy on a touchdown drive in which he caught a fade over Benjamin St-Juste for a big gain, then beat St-Juste to the back corner to cap the drive. He managed to get over top of St-Juste on fly routes a couple times, and he provides a big target. Schoenle also had a couple long catches, including a ~50-yard throw from Peters that was perfectly executed on both ends. To stave off the inevitable questions, Donovan Peoples-Jones had a few short pickups on a relatively quiet day for him.
TEs Nick Eubanks and Zach Gentry. Gentry's inclusion here is based on one play, a long touchdown catch up the seam on a coverage bust; he's quite nimble for such a big dude. Eubanks had a more complete body of work, running a nice out route for a catch and nearly hauling in a deep throw from Peters on which he made a nice adjustment to the ball. Sean McKeon ended up with the most targets among the TE group but didn't get too much out of them.
OL Andrew Vastardis. I mostly have to punt on line play, as they shuffled around so much that it was tough to keep track of who was on the field from the press box. The right side of the starting line had a lot of trouble against the starting D-line—Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary dominated Runyan—but Vastardis stood out on the interior of the second unit, picking up a couple blitzes that were giving the other linemen trouble.
Devin Bush spent the afternoon in the backfield. [Bryan Fuller]
The starting D-line. As expected, the Winovich-Hurst-Mone-Gary line gave the offensive line a lot of trouble. Gary was flat-out dominant, Hurst batted down a couple passes, Mone held strong on the interior, and Winovich got multiple pressures off the edge.
ILB Devin Bush. Bush looked unblockable on A-gap blitzes; it was pretty much an automatic sack when he rushed up the middle. He looked equally capable at both inside linebacker spots. "It's so nice when you have a young guy like that who can play two spots," said Don Brown. "You can ask some guys to do that and they'd look at you like 'are you kidding me?' But he handled it really with ease. He's a really good player."
VIPER Khaleke Hudson. The hype here isn't going to slow one bit after today. Hudson was everywhere on defense, looking like the heavy-hitting player we expected against the run and proving equally formidable in coverage, where he broke up a couple passes and nearly came up with an interception. As is his wont, he came inches away from a blocked punt, too.
CB Keith Washington. Washington held his own one-on-one against DPJ, limiting him to minimal YAC after a couple short completions. Noticeably bigger than last year, Washington also played well against the run, making at least one stop in the backfield after extending an outside run to the sideline.
S Jordan Glasgow. Surprise! A Glasgow might see the field. Josh Metellus was limited due to injury today, so Glasgow started at safety alongside Tyree Kinnel and looked very viable. He came up strong against the run, stringing out plays to the sideline and finishing them off, and he undercut a (terrible) pass from Speight for a 100-yard pick-six in the second half.
K Quinn Nordin. There shouldn't be a kicking controversy this year if today's admittedly limited sample was any indication. Nordin booted a 48-yard field goal that would've been good from 60+, an impressive kick even with the wind at his back, and he was also strong on kickoffs.
Ann Arbor, MI
|WHEN||1 PM Eastern
April 15th, 2017
|THE LINE||Michigan -1|
|TELEVISION||BTN (tape delay at 3 PM)|
|WEATHER||partly cloudy, mid-70s, 15% chance of rain|
It's the spring game, an annual exhibition in which Michigan plays itself. Under Jim Harbaugh it's been an actual game instead of a barely-tolerated punting exhibition, which has been nice. Offensive line depth issues may make this year's outing rather incomprehensible.
In lieu of the usual preview format, here's a number of storylines to track.
Brandon Peters unveiled
Wilton Speight is the expected starter and will probably see a minimal number of snaps, leaving most of them for backup John O'Korn and redshirt freshman Brandon Peters. Fifth-year senior O'Korn kind of is what he is at this point, and after the Indiana game it's safe to say expectations are modest.
Peters, on the other hand, is the first of what promises to be a long line of Harbaugh-recruited and groomed quarterbacks who are somewhere between Andrew Luck and Andrew Luck (except fast!). While he was on campus last spring he was a wet-behind-the-ears freshman in a five-way quarterback melee; this will be a much longer look at him, and one more indicative of the kind of quarterback he'll become.
BEST CASE: Internet legions clamor for Peters after every Speight incompletion because he goes 18/22 with a couple of pretty fade routes.
WORST CASE: Internet legions clamor for Peters after every Speight incompletion despite Peters looking like a shell-shocked youth in the jaws of Rashan Gary for the duration of the spring game.
Also unveiled: next-gen skill position players
Michigan lost four of their five skill-position starters to graduation. They're also missing Grant Perry due to a court issue and lost Devin Asiasi to a transfer. Questions abound.
They're least severe at tailback, where three of the four guys in last year's rotation are back. Ty Isaac, Karan Higdon, and Chris Evans have all demonstrated who they are over the course of the season and only minor tweaks are likely. Evans is the most likely to make a leap forward since he is going from a freshman to not that; he's also got two ways to impress. One is by adding a little De'Veon Smith to his game and breaking some arm tackles. The second is by adding a bunch of slot receiver snaps. Evans played slot a ton in high school, and was not just a screen threat. He was capable downfield as well. Getting that back on the college level would give Michigan's offense a ton of flexibility.
Isaac and Higdon are probably going to look like Isaac and Higdon, so the next-most intriguing guy is redshirt freshman Kareem Walker. Walker nearly transferred after some academic issues but stuck it out and started delivering on his recruiting hype during "Christmas Camp"; scattered reports have him continuing to impress. He figures to get extended run as Michigan sits veterans.
At wide receiver, the storyline is obvious: Donovan Peoples-Jones. The five-star has arrived to find an opportunity, and when the pads went on he immediately started people a-rumblin' about his freaky athleticism and relatively advanced knowledge of the playbook. He's very much a work in progress since Cass Tech had him run about three routes, one of which was "run faster than everyone"; maybe that still works though?
I'll also be interested to see how Michigan's sophomore WRs look. Kekoa Crawford got a fair amount of run last year and is assumed to be one of the starters. In those limited snaps he was a Darboh/Chesson-level blocker, had one bad drop, and one spectacular catch:
He's been gathering whatever buzz is left over after people stop talking about DPJ and is a good bet to emerge. Meanwhile, Eddie McDoom and Nate Johnson are both flashy slot types who will have an opportunity to demonstrate their skills as the enter year two. That's often a critical breakpoint for WRs.
At tight end it's really really time for Ian Bunting to emerge what with Jake Butt and Asiasi gone, and Ty Wheatley is another guy at a critical breakpoint: his blocking was half great, half terrible last year and he needs to start moving 10-20% of his terrible blocks into the other category.
BEST CASE: DPJ is Christian Kirk and Chris Evans is Captain Kirk.
WORST CASE: There's really no "worst case" for the tailbacks, who are more or less proven plus players as a unit. DPJ looking too raw to play and the tight ends having crappy blocking days would be bummers.
Can the tackles be salvaged?
It seems like Mason Cole returning to left tackle is a foregone conclusion at this point, and that makes him more interesting than an established starter usually is. Cole was an elite run-blocker as a sophomore but struggled against top-shelf pass rushers. Has that changed at all? Can he check Chase Winovich, who was extremely productive in limited snaps last year? Can he fend off Rashan Gary? Survey says maybe and probably not.
Everyone else playing tackle will be auditioning for a job. Juwann Bushell-Beatty is your tentative starter, and that's a worry. After Newsome went out JBB got some time at left tackle. Things went poorly, against, like, Rutgers.
Bushell-Beatty gave up pressure on 17% of his opportunities?
More or less. That protection number is alarming and Bushell-Beatty's performance was most of it. Other starting OL gave up one hurry-type substance when Braden had some difficulty with a blitzer. Bushell-Beatty was beat clean twice. One time he managed to hold a bit and get away with it on a pass that Speight missed on. The second time he did get hit with the hold.
That's two ole blocks on just 15 pass protection snaps against Rutgers. I am really skeptical he can put it together and strongly prefer a move back to Cole at LT with Kugler coming in. Cole did struggle against top end rushers last year. He did not struggle against Rutgers.
Rutgers is Rutgers and Rashan Gary is Rashan Gary. I'll be pleasantly surprised if JBB doesn't get overrun. I'm surprised that Michigan hasn't tried Ben Bredeson on the outside yet, because of all the guys on the roster he's the best combination of plausibility and experience; you could interpret that as JBB optimism but I'll have to see it to believe it.
Meanwhile all pursuers look to be well behind the curve. Nolan Ulizio might be your best bet amongst folks already on campus if only because he is tackle sized and was hit with mono a year ago, so he could have a major bounce.
BEST CASE: Cole looks very good and JBB is functional.
WORST CASE: Cole is still the sophomore version of himself in pass pro—which isn't the worst—and it's extremely obvious that Michigan is plugging in a true freshman at RT this fall.
BEST CASE: MEAT
WORST CASE: meat
An explanation of the previous section
You author is slightly unhinged about the possibility of a Ruiz/Onwenu pairing on the offensive line, which promises to deliver almost 700 pounds of meeaaaaaaaaat meatmeatmeat into the face of opposition defenders.
It's time for Rashan Gary to move into the starting lineup, which is good for Michigan and bad for opponents. Gary performed well enough in limited time last year that even if he remained totally static Michigan would have an honorable mention All Big Ten kind of player; he will not remain static. I'm at the point where I assume he'll be a beast and am hoping Cole can check him a bit, because that's more of an unknown.
BEST CASE: additional MEAT
WORST CASE: NFL draft eligibility suddenly changes
Anyone else on the defensive line?
y'all got any more of those Glasgows?
A starting lineup of Gary-Hurst-Mone-Winovich is going to be amongst the best in the nation, with two guys all but guaranteed to be performing at first-round-pick levels and Winovich, who had 5.5 sacks a year ago on maybe 20% of Michigan's snaps. Mone's still a bit of a mystery because of his injury issues but his floor is "all right, nothing special" and surrounded by these guys that'll be enough.
It's the dudes beyond the starters that cause some concern. There's been a little positive chatter about Carlo Kemp and early-enrolled freshman Donovan Jeter, and not much else. There's an APB out for Lawrence Marshall and Mike Dwumfour has missed much of the spring with some minor injuries. Projected WDE Ron Johnson playing on the interior this spring should give you an indication of what the depth looks like there.
A horde of guys arrive in the fall. Right now this looks like an opportunity for a Heininger or a Glasgow to emerge. If Michigan's renewed emphasis on their walk-on program could pay off here that would be real nice.
BEST CASE: Kemp looks like a legit SDE option. That wouldn't give Gary more rest, it would allow him to take snaps on the interior instead of "I dunno." Also a walk-on steps up?
WORST CASE: I mean maybe Michigan won't have to play backup DL because the starters get an infinite series of three-and-outs.
Is Wrobocop a real thing?
Linebacker is two spots and pretty simple: Mike McCray is one starter and the other will be either Devin Bush or walk-on Mike Wroblewski. Expect no clarity on this point coming out of the game because Bush and Robo—I'm done typing that whole thing out, sir—appear to be linebackers for different offenses. Bush can get sideline to sideline and cover downfield; Robo is the hard-nosed A-gap plugger that will come in handy against Wisconsin and MSU.
BEST CASE: We've got a new Glasgow/Kovacs.
WORST CASE: Robo is athletically limited and his prominence is a worrying thing about the LB corps.
Hudson(#7) blocked two punts last year
The best news coming out of spring practice from the perspective of bloggers who have been relentlessly hyping up one 3.5* LB/S for a year and a half is the configuration of the new secondary. This features Khaleke Hudson as your VIPER(!!!) and it's time to go get that quote from his recruiting profile again:
"He is the best combination of strength, speed and burst I've seen in a long time," said Ruane. "Every tackle, run and block is violent with him. He will be playing on Sundays someday. And I'm happy he's graduating."
I don't necessarily want Hudson to demonstrate that in an intrasquad scrimmage... but if there's a walk-on who wants to take a very large one for the team we will remember you.
Hudson is the exact same size as Peppers and showed similar burst as a high school player. He's not Peppers, but...
BEST CASE: ...he's basically Peppers.
WORST CASE: oh honey no, shhh, he's basically Peppers
Michigan is sending three CBs to the NFL this year if someone gets wise about Jeremy Clark, and into their shoes step three more—maybe four. David Long, Levert Hill, Ambry Thomas, and Benjamin St-Juste are all contending for that vacated playing time, and there's considerable hype for all four. Long and Hill are sophomores and the presumed starters. How sticky are they? How reliable? Survey says pretty damn sticky and ask again later.
BEST CASE: They're basically Lewis.
WORST CASE: Hill is still liable to bite too hard on double moves and ends up giving up a couple long ones; St-Juste and Thomas aren't ready; Long still pretty good.
Did not exist in last year's spring game. God bless Jim Harbaugh.
Karan [Higdon] mentioned you had him watch a lot of NFL tape. Were there any teams you spent time with this offseason or any coaches you worked under?
“I’m close with the Baltimore Ravens’ running backs coach Thomas Hammock but no coach in particular, no team in particular. More so plays, finding NFL examples of plays that we run and just looking through different scenarios, different things that our guys could end up seeing. Just trying to get a lot of experience, mental reps, in terms of watching the pros.”
What’s been the biggest adjustment for you in terms of going with another position?
“That’s a tough question. I mean, it’s all different so I don’t know if there’s a ‘biggest’ adjustment, but new guys and everything but they’ve been great to work with. They’re all working really hard and it’s a really, really good group. Nothing stands out as being any bigger adjustment than anything else.”
How much do you lean on what you saw out of these guys last year or did you come in [with a] clean slate?
“Yeah, none. None at all. It’s a clean slate. I mean, I knew what those guys were because you see them play and everything, but it’s a new season and a relatively new offense in terms of all the things that we’ll do. So, it’s kind of a fresh start for everybody.”
You came in having never coached this position before. Did you play running back at all?
“No. I’m sure you could guess that just by looking at me. I carried the ball a few times growing up. I scored on one, just for what it’s worth.”
[After THE JUMP: development in RB protections, the evolving offense, and what to watch in the spring game]
What did you do to prepare for this? It was announced in January. What did you do to cram for this, if you will?
“I mean, I don’t know about cramming because the way coaching works is if you’re doing it right you’re kind of absorbing everything. So, I’ve worked with quarterbacks before in Baltimore and spent a great deal of time with them and in that world you’re talking about protections, constantly talking about protections, so you learn that.
“With tight ends there’s route running, there’s run-game blocking, so there’s the run game. So the only thing that’s really different kind of is just running the ball, and luckily we’ve got talented guys that are good at doing that on their own and then I can help them at least with guidance in terms of hey, read this, the ball should have gone here or there. It’s probably a little bit not as big of an adjustment as it would be made out to be.”
Is this something you wanted to do or is this something where your dad said ‘You’re going to coach running backs and you don’t have a say in this’?
“It’s something we talked about but I was excited for it. He told me—I think was in Houston at like 11 or 11:30 at night, he called me and we talked about it and I hung up excited and I just laid in bed awake thinking about running backs so I was excited about it.”
Between Oregon State and the Ravens you’ve done a lot of jobs, right? Does that prepare you to switch positions a little bit? Is there some value to that?
“Yeah, that’s kind of what I was getting at before but maybe I didn’t say well. But just, there’s a totality in coaching, whether it’s offense or defense, of seeing the big picture. I think being with tight ends, it’s kind of a hybrid position so it helps. Being in the quarterback room in the NFL for three years is really helpful because you learn the big picture.
“So, certainly being in a few different spots is really, really helpful, I think. Most other coaches that are older in their careers, everyone’s done it at some point, so I think most coaches could speak to that with similar experience.”
Would you like to find a lead guy or is it everybody mixing in? Are you using a lot of backs?
“Yeah, the guys are going to be put in the position to do the things that they’re good at so it might be a certain run for a certain guy, a certain type of scheme for another guy. Obviously any coach would like a guy to emerge that you can trust, but in reality I’d like everyone to emerge. I’d like to be thinking, Hey, I’d like this guy to be in but I’d really like to be playing these guys, too.
“So, you’d like to be able to trust your whole group. I’ve never liked thinking about running backs like that, like you’re assuming two or three guys aren’t going to be good enough. I want everyone to be good. It’s pretty simple, but for some reason that’s never talked about.”
De’Veon was kind of acknowledged as the best blocker of the bunch last year. Do you have a guy, two guys, that are standing out in that area?
“They’re all doing a much better job. Ty Isaac has improved quite a bit. He’s been excellent so far. Both fullbacks have been tremendous, Khalid and Poggi. Some of the other guys are coming along, too. I think we need some more live reps. The spring game will tell a lot in terms of just live bullets flying and seeing how people react, but those guys are standing out.”
How has Kareem Walker been doing?
“Doing really well. He’s done a great job. He’s coming along slowly but steadily and getting better and better at everything we’re asking him to do. I think he’s going to be able to contribute for us, most definitely.”
Karan said you guys post the depth chart pretty regularly and you keep updating it. Is stuff like that a motivational ploy or is it that these things change and they’re pretty fluid practice to practice?
“Yeah, it’s certainly fluid. Things chance and it’s a meritocracy around here, so it just makes sense for everyone to understand and have it be out in the open that hey, this guy’s doing the best and this guy’s doing the second best and so on and so forth.
“In terms of it being a motivational ploy, I think if you’re lower down there then yeah, you could take it that way and if you’re high up on it maybe it’s motivational in the same way. You want to get your edge and try to keep it and make sure you’re getting playing time.”
Do you update it every practice in the spring?
“Not quite. Maybe every few. I’m not certain that there’s any particular pattern to it, but if things change, things change. Certainly we reward good performance and guys who make plays and do what they’re asked to do.”
What do you hope to see Saturday, and do you get anything more out of that than a normal practice?
“Oh yeah, no doubt. Especially with the running backs, because O-line and D-line, and to a large extent receivers and DBs, even when it’s not live in practice, it is live. The speed is nearly game speed minus the tackling. Running back is the one position, and quarterback, where live tempo and tackling really reveals something because you get to see—in practice if you’re just tagging off or what we call thud tempo, you don’t necessarily know what would have happened. So, in a a spring game it’s definitely exciting to see who could create yards after contact and all that.”
It’s a different offense this year. Are there things specific to the running backs that are really being emphasized, that you have to be able to do this well?
“Nothing different in that regard in terms of what’s being asked of them, no.”
What is different about the offense and how is it evolving?
I mean, don’t give me the playbook, but is it morphing in a particular way based on the last couple of years or based on the new coaches?
“I mean, certainly with the new coaches things change because there’s terminology that’s more familiar to them and things that they like to do. There’s things I think we’ve improved on that we did in the past , different ways of teaching certain concepts to try and help the guys learn better and operate under stress better. In terms of specifics, I probably can’t go into that.”
How much has Chris evolved from the end of last year? I know he gained weight, but where’s he at right now?
“Chris Evans? Overall, he’s the same as he always has been in the sense that he’s just getting better every single day and he’s doing all the little things required. And on top of that, he’s always seeking out extra, always honestly assessing his weaknesses and working hard to improve them. So, in terms of where he’s at, he’s ahead of where he was and tomorrow he’ll be ahead of where I’m saying he is now. It’s gonna be exciting, I think, to watch him in the fall.”
You’re still working with special teams as well, right?
The return game: who’re the guys you’re looking at on kick and punt?
“As return men?”
“A lot of people. There’s no telling at this point. Way too soon. We’ve had, shoot, DPJ, we’ve had Ways, Crawford, Karan Higdon, Kareem Walker, Ty Isaac, Lavert Hill, Ben St. Juste…Tyree’s caught punts.”
Those are all punts?
“Certain type of ball attracts a certain—and guys weed themselves out. Khaleke Hudson’s done it. We’ve got a lot of guys who’ve done things like that in the past, so the only way to find out who can do it is let everybody try and the ones who aren’t very good, just slowly start weeding them out. We’re getting there.”
What is the biggest challenge you face in coaching a new position group?
“Uh…I don’t know. I’m not sure. There’s nothing—like I said before, there’s nothing particular that stands out as being like ‘Man, this is really hard.’ I already knew the guys, so there’s a certain level of trust and familiarity there. But, uh, I’m not sure. Like I said, probably seems like there should be something but nothing particular.”
You mentioned you knew them before but when you got to that room, was there some level of building those relationships up to what you had with the tight ends, maybe, just to get that level of comfort and trust both ways?
“Yeah, that’s a good question. It’s not like—you’re right, it does take that, but it’s not anything like intentional like ‘Hey, let’s do a trust fall exercise’ or that kind of thing. It’s just kind of the way you interact with people that you teach them and coach them day to day—you build that. You show that all you’re interested in is their improvement and then you just coach them hard and love them and tell them the truth and in the end that earns guys’ respect, hopefully, and that earns trust. So, yes, you’re right, but it just happens as kind of a byproduct of trying to do things the right way, I think.”
Is there anything you take away having been coaching the tight ends the last couple years from that position that helps aid what you’re doing with the running backs?
“Yeah, I kind of already answered that question, I feel like. But, uh…like I said, it’s just everything because you’re coaching how to run routes, you’re coaching how to get open; well, that translates. You’re coaching the run game and how to fit up a block fundamentally; well, that carries over to pass blocking and occasionally run blocking as a fullback, so there’s those things. But then just understanding the scheme of this is how we want to block this particular front or this particular front; well, that helps in terms of the back, saying, ‘Listen, this is a really hard block for this individual’ as you watch the tape and getting them to see things that maybe they didn’t consider before. So, uh, hope that answers it for you. I’m just messing with you.”
Sorry if you already got asked but Ty was saying you’ve kind of drawn on being around coaches for more or less your whole life in adjusting to the new position. Are there any coaches in particular that taught you something about coaching running backs?
“The Baltimore Ravens coach is a good friend of mine. I coached with him in Baltimore, Thomas Hammock; he used to be at Wisconsin. He’s a guy that I’m close with and I’ve learned a lot from just being in Baltimore.
“And I talked about before, it’s just kind of osmosis. I’m sure occasionally you guys hear someone ask a question and you’re like, damn, that was a pretty good question; I like the way they worded that. So it’s the same thing. The more you do it, the better you get at it, so if you’re around really good coaches at a high level, unless you’re just not paying attention, you’re gonna absorb some of what they’re doing. So certainly. And that’ll be the case just throughout for the next year and five years and ten years.”
What will an NFL team get from Jake Butt? And you watch the different projections; where do you think he should fall despite the ACL?
“Round-wise I couldn’t tell you. I’ve heard all kinds of things. In terms of what a team will get, they’re gonna get a guy who’s team-first, he’s a winner, and he’s really…when he gets back to his true self, he’s gonna be one of the rare guys who can kind of do anything. He can run block, he can get open, he can win versus man coverage, he can pass block, so he kind of can do it all, and that’s just a rare thing in the NFL where there’s a guy who can do everything. There’s big money out there for a guy who can do that. So, if someone sees that, I think he’ll go earlier than a lot of people would suspect.”
Doing anything in particular to try to figure out how to get the most out of your time in Rome, both from a football sense and in general?
“I haven’t thought about it yet. I probably will think about it a little bit next week. That’s a good question, but I think everyone is just collectively pretty excited. I know I am. It’ll be fun for the team to do something like that together.”
When Jim mentioned it to you for the first time—he said the idea came to him on a flight in June going to Baltimore—did you think it was nuts or what did you think when he says ‘Well, let’s go to Rome’?
“I thought it was a tremendous idea. We like to be on the cutting edge. I was just pumped up. We trust him and we’ll do whatever it is he wants to do and he has some darn good ideas, so we’ll always follow his lead.”
Are you going to have a destination wedding there?
“No. Well, the wedding will be in Puerto Rico. That’s where my fiancée is from, so I don’t know if that counts as a destination.”
- Berenson remembered. Wish time didn’t happen; now it’s time to appreciate all that Red gave us, including the best damn hockey ever, Old Yost, and all the Comries.
- Options for next guy—it doesn’t seem like the replacement has been decided, and it seems it’s not Mel anymore. Was it until recently? Yeah? Why not Babcock? Some convincing reasons, including Zach Hyman.
- Miles Bridges stays at State…um…okay…gotta stick around for that Izzo bump I guess. DJ and Moe probably want to go to the NBA Draft but if 24th overall is the ceiling they should probably return.
- Euphemisms that don’t need explaining explained.
- Spring Game: position battles we’re watching.
- OL: Big Mike O gonna be good. If Ruiz isn’t pummeled by the starting DL, pencil him in as a 4-year starter.
You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.
THE USUAL LINKS
- Helpful iTunes subscribe link
- General podcast feed link
- Direct download link
- What's with the theme music?
John Beilein has spent ten seasons in Ann Arbor. As of the most recent, he's the winningest coach in program history with 215. He snapped Michigan's post-sanction tournament drought in 2009, the first of seven NCAA appearances with the Wolverines, three of which have extended at least into the second weekend.
In recognition of the above, as well as the need for offseason #content, I've put together a series of All-Beilein teams, inspired by this twitter post and the ensuing conversation. My guidelines:
- I'm attempting to put together the best possible lineups, which isn't necessarily the same as picking the best individual players at each spot.
- I'm choosing individual player vintages (i.e. 2013 Trey Burke). A player can only be chosen once for each category, but different player years (i.e. freshman bench gunner 2014 Zak Irvin and well-rounded senior 2017 Zak Irvin) can be eligible for separate categories.
- Eligibility for certain categories, like today's best bench players, may be slightly fudged because of the limited pool of players.
I'm not putting too many constraints on myself for this exercise since the point is to let our imaginations run wild. Without further ado, here's the first All-Beilein team, which wasn't easy to put together given Beilein's tendency to roll with a tight rotation: the All-Bench squad.
POINT GUARD: 2014-15 SPIKE ALBRECHT
The YMCA Scoop. [Fuller]
We start with the fudged guidelines right away, as Albrecht ended up starting 18 games in this particular season because of Derrick Walton's foot injury. This was the best version of Spike, however, and any of the previous versions would also have earned this spot; between injuries, early draft departures, and the occasional recruiting miss, depth at the point has been hard to come by in the Beilein era.
For the better part of four years, Spike was the exception to that rule. He was an excellent passer. He covered for being undersized by displaying a knack for jumping passing lanes. He did donuts in the lane. He broke out the old-man scoop for critical layups. Most importantly to Beilein's offense, he had defense-extending range and the confidence to hit big shots, after which he just might do the Sam Cassell big balls dance:
Spike was a 41% three-point shooter at Michigan. While he probably would've earned this spot based on one particular half of basketball alone, he did a whole lot more than just light up Louisville.
Honorable Mention: 2008-09 CJ Lee. Another player whose selection is borderline cheating since Lee finished the season as the starter, but he came off the bench in twice as many games as he started as Beilein searched for the right guy between football-player-turned-scholarship-point Kelvin Grady and two walk-ons, Lee and David Merritt. Lee eventually won out by being the most reliable offensive player and best defender.
[Hit THE JUMP.]
WING: 2013-14 ZAK IRVIN
Fire away. [Fuller]
Freshmen rarely arrive as complete players, and Zak Irvin was no exception. On a stacked 2013-14 team, though, he could focus on one thing: shooting the hell out of the basketball. Just under 75% of Irvin's attempts came from beyond the arc; he sank them at an impressive 43% clip. He wasn't bashful, either: when he was on the court, he took 25.9% of Michigan's shots, easily the highest rate on the team.
Irvin was Michigan's version of Vinny "The Microwave" Johnson, and like the Pistons archetype, Irvin had a way of coming up big in key situations. He had eight points in 15 minutes in the dramatic overtime win at Purdue, then nine in only 11 minutes to help Michigan edge Tennessee in the Sweet Sixteen. He may not have created many shots, but he fits just fine as a lethal spot-up shooter in this lineup.
Honorable Mention: 2010-11 Matt Vogrich. Vogrich lost his playing time and outside shooting touch in his final two years, so we often forget that he was a useful reserve as a sophomore. On a 21-win tournament team, Vogrich played a third of the team's minutes and hit 39% of his threes in a Just A Shooter™ role.
WING: 2010-11 STU DOUGLASS
When Tim Hardaway Jr. arrived on campus, Douglass took one for the team and moved to a super-sub role for his final two years. As a junior, he only started 12 of 33 games, but he averaged over 30 minutes. While Douglass didn't measure up to (freshman) Irvin as a pure shooter, he still posed a threat from the outside and was a more well-rounded player. He pushed his two-point percentage near 50, moved the ball well, and played solid defense. While Douglass was a better player as a senior, he finished that season as the starter over the next player in this lineup, and the less-efficient junior version of Stu has the MSU dagger and dunk against Tennessee to his credit.
Honorable Mention: 2015-16 Aubrey Dawkins. If you're just looking at the stats page, Dawkins appears to merit inclusion on the first team. He hit 56% of his twos and 46% of his threes, rarely turned the ball over, and chipped in on the glass. The highlights would indicate the same; Dawkins could rise. The reason Dawkins qualifies for this list in the first place is why he's only honorable mention here: he was benched in favor of Duncan Robinson for being a noticeably inferior defender.
STRETCH FOUR: 2011-12 EVAN SMOTRYCZ
Not pictured: Lobstryczs. [Eric Upchurch]
Smotrycz began this season as the starter but finished it coming off the bench as Beilein moved Douglass back into the lineup and tasked Zack Novak with being the grittiest 6'4" power forward of all time. Smotrycz was better-suited to the bench role; his 44% three-point shooting was his strength, but he could also finish inside against smaller defenders, and he posted impressive rebounding rates on both ends of the floor. He also earns bonus points for inspiring the best player-specific Maize Rage costumes: Smotrycz's Lobstryczs.
Honorable Mention: 2016-17 Duncan Robinson. As you may have noticed, this team wouldn't be the strongest on the defensive end of the floor, but they sure can shoot. Robinson reaquainted himself with the sixth-man role this season when DJ Wilson broke out as a bona-fide NBA prospect. He was his usual sharpshooting self, making 43% of his threes, and improved as a finisher off cuts. He played better defense, too, though he'd set a low bar there.
CENTER: 2012-13 MITCH MCGARY
Big Puppy on the loose. [Fuller]
The most-prized recruit to sign with Beilein, McGary is the clear star of this group. He only started twice as a freshman in the regular season before getting unleashed in the NCAA Tournament, where he put together the best run of play we've seen from a Michigan center under Beilein.
McGary scored in bunches, tallying 20+ against VCU and Kansas. He was a hellbeast on the boards, grabbing four or more offensive rebounds in three tournament games. After never tallying more than two assists in a college game, he had six operating from the middle of Syracuse's vaunted 2-3 zone in the Final Four. In the previous game, he had five steals against Florida. He protected the rim. He led fast breaks. He threw Unseldian outlet passes. He made inexplicably beautiful hustle plays. He set bone-rattling screens. He survived an unprovoked dick punch.
Freshman McGary was a supernova. He burned out after just eight more games, leaving us with a 6'10", 250-pound hole of what-if.
Honorable Mention: 2013-14 Jon Horford. Michigan fans ended up appreciating Horford more in his absence. In his sophomore and junior years, Horford did the typical big man stuff effectively; he made 57% of his shots, rebounded well on both ends, and was the team's best shot-blocker in that span. Horford, who never quite saw eye-to-eye with Beilein, grad-transferred to Florida just as he was in line to start; instead, the 2014-15 squad had to make do with Mark Donnal, Ricky Doyle, and Max Bielfeldt.
Prepare your finest meats
Coach Hoke had a nice feast with the Mone family last night for his in-home visit. pic.twitter.com/DaKu7m8S0q
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) December 4, 2013
Oblig meat picture
Michigan is having a massive visit weekend, as people are wont to do during their spring games. They're also having a massive visit Thursday. This is a bit unusual but for whatever reason Michigan has a handful of top 2019 prospects on hand today: MO ATH Isaiah Williams, NJ ATH Ronnie Hickman, KY DT Jacob Lacey, MO WR Marcus Washington, and MO LB Shammond Cooper will all be on campus today per Lorenz. The most modestly-ranked of these gentlemen is Cooper, the #127 prospect in the 2019 composite.
But wait, there's more: brothers Dyami and Khafre Brown out of North Carolina are also scheduled to be on campus; Dyami is an '18 WR/DB and Khafre is a '19 RB. Both are four stars in their respective classes. Michigan's also hosting 3* dual-threat 2018 QB James Graham out of Georgia; Lorenz say he is a take because he is a "unique" prospect in search of an offensive fit.
It's unlikely that Michigan gets a commit out of any of those guys but it would not surprise if a few of them emerge as serious targets, with one or two even expected to join the class sometime down the road. Michigan is doing work with on-campus visits these days. Take the recruitment of GA RB Christian Turner, who arrived in Ann Arbor as a silent ND commit:
In fact, it was, as Steve Wiltfong posted here yesterday, a done deal to Notre Dame coming out of his unofficial visit. However, Michigan worked some real magic on their opportunity with him, making this one a surprise commitment in my opinion, but a good one.
They've popped up out of nowhere for a number of guys, most notably Aubrey Solomon, in the last year.
So. Wiltfong has an early Michigan CB in for Williams, the #51 player in the 2019 class, FWIW, with Oregon the challenger. ND is the favorite for Lacey on the crystal ball but the vibe coming out of the Cleveland Nike camp is that Michigan has a shot to make the proverbial "move" today. Sounded like it when he talked to Scout's Josh Newkirk:
“It would mean the world,” Lacey said. “Michigan has always been a great program. I love the way they play defense. They always win and that’s what I love about it.”
Adding an offer would put Michigan in a prime spot in his recruitment too.
“They would definitely be towards the top,” Lacey said. “Jim Harbaugh is a great coach. There is nothing terrible about Michigan at all, they win, they have great academics, I can’t wait to go.”
Lacey's a straight A student with a brother at Army so he's a M/ND sort.
Gant visit saga
After an initial reports that OH LB Dallas Gant was undecided on a spring game visit between Ohio State and Michigan, he was first supposed to go to Ann Arbor, and then up in the air again, and now expected in Columbus. So there's that. Lorenz got the vibe that Gant's top two might be Michigan and Notre Dame, which is a thing when he's got only OSU predictions on his crystal ball; the OSU visit suggests that might not be the case.
Since Gant is in Toledo he can pop up for a visit whenever he wants; if he does so before his commitment then Michigan has a very good shot. If not it's happy trails.
Hopes not particularly up section
5* CA WR Jalen Hall is one of those California kids everyone assumes is going to USC because they always go to USC, but he says he's not necessarily going to USC:
“Everybody says ‘USC,’ and that may be the case, and it may not be the case,” Hall said.
I still think he's going to USC, but Michigan has been the destination for multiple trips already:
“Michigan is for sure in there,” Hall said. “I visited twice and I plan on visiting again. Every time I go down there, everything has been cool. I just want to talk more football with them and see more about the school.”
He's still going to USC, but Donovan Warren does happen?
Elsewhere in shaking our fists at Los Angeles-area schools, it feels like most people are resigning themselves to UCLA commitments for the Bishop Gorman duo of NV TE Brevin Jordan and NV QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Lorenz admits that Michigan "has their work cut out for them" on Jordan's spring game unofficial, which also starts today. Meanwhile, Thompson-Robinson may have his mind made up already:
The "nation's top uncommitted QB" won't be uncommitted for too much longer ...
— DTR. (@DoriansTweets) April 13, 2017
Sam Webb was feeling UCLA a week or so ago and hasn't changed his tune, so it'll take one of those real good visits to overturn things here. Possible, but not probable.
If DTR's recruitment does lead him to Westwood, it probably won't take long for Michigan to find its guy: AZ QB Tyler Shough has locked in an unofficial for May 13th. Meanwhile this is an interesting development for FL QB Joe Milton, who just fielded a UGA crystal ball from a Florida 247 mod:
Just not convinced he goes to UF.
Didn't attend UF's spring game. Will be at Michigan this weekend, who might crank up the heat if Dorian Thompson-Robinson looks to be heading to UCLA. UGA has been after him hard. Overall, the recruitment is somewhat unknown, but I wanted to make a pick other than 'foggy' and UGA seemed like the best option.
That's a "not Florida" pick more than a UGA pick and with Milton on campus at the same time DTR is they could easily exit that visit with a big lead.
Michigan's got a small class on the horizon and plenty of tailbacks so I'm guessing that GA RB Christian Turner's commit closes the door for other tailbacks. Michigan might continue to recruit a few because crootin'. AL RB Asa Martin said he would take a spring visit a week or so ago; we'll see if that's still on. 3* ATH Michael Barrett is a high school quarterback who Michigan recently offered...
— MB1️⃣ (@mikebarrett_MB1) March 29, 2017
...and Wiltfong says Michigan has a "great shot" with him. He might be a DB for Michigan; if he's a running back going to be a tight fit.
Additional grudging 2019 bits
Here's a MI OL Devontae Dobbs highlight reel that's kind of good for a sophomore:
— Devontae Dobbs (@Devontae_Dobbs) April 1, 2017
Wiltfong runs down the current status for various top 2019 kids and Michigan comes in for a few mentions. He still believes Michigan leads for GA DT Chris Hinton. Good news and bad news: he is visiting Stanford this weekend and has ND and Cal on his lists so this is a very academics-focused gentleman who seems relatively easy to pry out of the south. Bad news: visiting Stanford, and those jerkos have a tendency to grab prospects who are prime material in Ann Arbor.
CA DE Kayvon Thibodeaux is another USC-USC-USC guy early, which Wiltfong confirms, but he and his 4* 2019 teammate Charles Mincy Jr apparently "love Harbaugh," and Donovan Warren does happen I guess?
Michigan does not draw mention for GA LB Owen Pappoe or CA QB JT Daniels, both five stars who have had some interest in the past.
4* VA LB/DE Brandon Smith attended a satellite camp last year and is into Michigan as a result:
“I’d love to visit Michigan and am hoping to hear from them,” Smith told Wolverine247 on Monday. “I had a chance to meet Coach Harbaugh at the Old Dominion satellite camp last summer. It was a great camp. Coach Harbaugh brings a lot of energy and I really enjoyed it.”
4* OH SDE Zach Harrison recently visited:
“I’d like to go back for another visit,” he said. “I don’t know when yet, though. I’ll probably make it back for a game, because my grandparents are up there.”
Still early in his recruitment; he says he spent his youth climbing trees instead of watching football so he'll be open to anyone.