this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Michigan had their first scrimmage over the weekend, and the internet was alive with reports. I've gotten a couple emails and the board had a few things I'm attempting to follow up on to determine if they're independent reports or just regurgitation. For now, a few items that seem to be reliable across the spectrum.
Will Campbell is not happening. The Nathan Brink hype was an early indication of that and reports from the scrimmage talk about him more than Campbell. It seems highly likely Ryan Van Bergen starts the year at three tech with Brink the starting SDE. According to one source Campbell is "barely playing with the twos." Maybe Rodriguez and company weren't wrong to move Campbell to offensive line last year.
Obviously, that's bad. The DL was paper thin even when Campbell was supposed to start. Now you've got a walk-on in the starting lineup and Campbell may not even be a plausible backup. At least Van Bergen is somewhere around 290—just fine for three-tech—and Brink is a redshirt sophomore. At 265 he's light for a strongside DE and as a walk-on he's probably not going to do much, but for now we can close our eyes real tight and imagine JJ Watt in a winged helmet.
Yeah… that's the stuff.
Brink appears to have beaten out a healthy, senior Will Heininger, so he's got that going for him. Van Bergen, meanwhile, often spent entire games on the field last year. He's going to have to play ironman again this year.
Fitzgerald Toussaint might be happening. The constant refrain from all practices until the Saturday scrimmage was "there is no running back, Shaw by default, Smith on third downs." Saturday the internet lit up with Toussaint-related exclamation marks.
Could this be a real thing? I think so. Toussaint had a pretty good recruiting rep and his struggles so far have been injury-related. It would be one thing if he was just buried on the depth chart behind meh competition. It's not. Even skeptics have to admit Tousssaint's high school highlights are pretty sweet:
Though his competition level was not good he has the track chops to prove that speed you see is not an illusion. He was the 60M Ohio state champ as senior in high school and put up a 10.59 100 meter. The guy can go.
He's more of a slashing zone runner than a horse to run power with, but I don't see any horses to run power with who aren't conspicuously omitted from all reports except dark mutterings about being in the doghouse and missing the WMU game via suspension. If Toussaint is the guy Borges might shrug and run a crapton of zone—it's not like the media will notice.
Roh skepticism ominous. I hope Craig Roh's sickness is the main reason he's come in for a round of "is that all there is?" from the internet, because Michigan needs him. There was one weird report that Roh was playing a three-tech in certain situations—passing downs, I'd hope. That might have been a bit garbled—possibly a three-man front with a very technical linebacker for deployment against the spread.
That's something I am 100% in favor of, BTW. Michigan never got a handle on spread teams under Herrmann and it might be a little worrying if Mattison wasn't reacting to the great trend in college football lo these many years.
Hype magnets. Freshman and new faces getting buzz include:
- WDE Frank Clark, who has been getting some first-team snaps in the passing down package. Seems like he'll be deployed as a situational rusher this year.
- WLBs Brandin Hawthorne and Desmond Morgan(?!). Hawthorne's been running with the ones in practice glimpses and there are scattered reports Morgan is also getting time there. If those are accurate, just moving Morgan to WLB when he seems much better suited for the middle is an indication neither Mike Jones or Brandon Herron is impressing and they are scrambling to fill the spot with someone, anyone. Aaigh Kellen Jones.
- WR Jeremy Gallon has made a move. I'm not sure how much room there is for him at WR since there are already two 5'9" guys ahead of him on the depth chart, though. And putting him back to return punts seems like asking for it after whatever that was last year.
- More Kenny Demens.
- Michigan's using Steve Watson as an H-back.
- Thomas Rawls has a shoulder injury.
- Courtney Avery seems to be maintaining his lead in the race to start opposite Woolfolk.
- I haven't been able to confirm this so no names, but a linebacker is reportedly not in camp and hasn't been all fall. That might be a prelude to a departure
Insider scuttlebutt espectacular scheduled Saturday. They'll have another one this weekend. This one is open to Motts donors and premium seat holders, which I'm sure Hoke loathes but sometimes dollah dollah bill y'all works in the fan's favor.
If last year is any indication there will be a flood of often-contradictory reports here and elsewhere; I'll pick through them and add impressions from the email.
I guess I can't be mad at the Dispatch any more. Because we're doing it to ourselves:
If it motivates the players, great. I never want to see it again.
That's one way to put it. How are things on the Michigan State offensive line? Deep. Peachy. Deeply peachy:
Spartans depth sparks offensive line competition
This is their depth:
Converted defensive tackle Dan France has emerged as the leading candidate at left tackle, but the battle at center and right tackle are far from decided.
Redshirt freshman Travis Jackson and junior Blake Treadwell, another converted defensive tackle, are running neck-and-neck at center, while redshirt freshman Skyler Burkland and junior college transfer Fou Fonoti are fighting for the top spot at right tackle.
Er. France was flipped from OT to DT last year despite being 6'6" and now returns to be the starting left tackle. That is a hell of a position switch starter. This was his status in January:
"But in the bowl practice, I was struggling," he said. "I didn’t know the (blocking) techniques and footwork. I never had done pass blocking before. I mean, I sort of did (at tight end) in high school, but I didn’t have any technique or really know what I was doing."
Kirk Cousins might be under siege this year. Let's hope so, because if someone were to bold Michigan's secondary it wouldn't be much prettier.
Hey, here's a Michigan football coach talking. I wonder if he's going to talk about "violence," "toughness," "being physical," and "being consistent":
No, he mostly talked about cheese. Cheese and Will Campbell's pad level.
Of course not. Some news organization I can't be bothered to look up—oh this article says it's the Seattle Times—posted the shocking news there was a Pac-10/Big 10 "consensus" in favor of a plus one game. This was shocking for a little while until it was debunked. Or at least sort of debunked. Check out Jim Delany's reply to that:
"To describe the ADs as supportive, I would call that erroneous," Delany said.
Masterful weaseling right there. This on further expansion, at least, is a straightforward declaration they're not interested:
"No, we're about as comfortable as we can be with where we are," Delany said. "We've said we will continue to monitor the landscape, but we have closed down active expansion. Every period you look at it, but we don't expect anything the SEC does to affect us."
I'm increasingly irritated at the media reports predicting Superconferenceageddon without bothering to figure out whether adding teams like Pitt and Missouri helps or hurts the bottom line. The burden of proof is on people predicting unwieldy, tradition-hurting behemoths but all we get is "this is totally happening because it's an arms race!"
Yes, yes, TV markets blah blah. At times like these I think about Lloyd Carr in his last couple years sighing disgustedly whenever the subject of money came up in press conferences. He believed placing it above all other goals was destructive, he's looking prophetic at the moment.
Zing. I was just hoping Jerry Hinnen would drop some more twitter bombs on the SEC so I could post them up, and then he did:
Gotten the feeling that if Scott and Delany jumped off a bridge, SEC fans would gripe that Slive should have been the one jumping first. "We can't afford to react. You have to be proactive when it comes to bridge-jumping!"
Adding Nebraska had a purpose. Adding A&M to the SEC just dilutes it.
Downing disagreement. Retweets coming from Michigan Hockey Net and Yost Built over the course of the recent Five Nations tournament were rapturous about 2013 D commit (and team captain) Michael Downing. Examples from tourney observer @twharry:
The difference between Downing and DeAngelo is vast. I had no idea Downing was this good. He plays like a vet.
Michael Downing is having another very strong two-way game. Comparing him to Merrill may be unfairly lofty, but they are strikingly similar.
Breakaway going the other way. DeAngelo was way out of position. Luckily Downing was there to cover and Demko made the stop.
FWIW, talked to an ex-teammate of Downing today from CC - said he's the real deal, nat. skill set but little rough around the edges at times
When one of my friends checked out the Friday game he compared Downing to Nick Lidstrom. Apparently the US team was so confident in his positioning they would often send the other defenseman up the ice to pressure the Swiss. A local diary praised his game as well.
So of course a couple scouting reports are mixed at best, contradict the above, and contradict each other. WCH:
Michael Downing has had a very good summer--including locking down a scholarship to Michigan--which has helped turn him into one of the top defensive prospects in the US for his age group. He appears to have loads of potential with a big frame and nice skating, but still has a pretty long ways to go when it comes to decision-making and handling the puck. The pace of play here looked a little faster than what he was used to, which took him out of his comfort zone and forced him to make some bad turnovers. Not many players have things completely figured out by age 16 though, and with a little more experience, he has a chance to develop into a very nice player.
And the United States of Hockey:
Michael Downing - Canton, Mich. — The big defenseman served as the captain for this U.S. outfit. He’s pushing 6-foot-3, but has some good mobility and offensive instincts. Despite the size, however, Downing was getting out muscled and hit hard by smaller players. The more muscle he can tack on, the better in the coming years. He’ll also need to do a better job in his own end, but he appeared to improve defensively as the tournament went on. Despite the defensive deficiencies, I really liked his offensive game. If he can develop defensively, he could be a. pretty solid blueliner down the road. Draft eligible in 2013
Another Burns tweet did mention Downing needs to fill out quite a bit, so at least there's some consistency there. Downing maintains he's 110% committed to Michigan and is not a goalie, so he'll probably show up. I'm actually drawing a blank on the last Michigan D commit to skip out for the OHL before he hit campus. Seems like it's a F/G thing.
The Blip …is what I called the 2008 Wisconsin game in last year's Plays of the Decade feature. It was a briefly intoxicating lie about how good that team could be that presaged the less brief but no less deceitful starts the next two years; as such it's both an emblem and an enormous outlier.
Holdin' the Rope takes us way back when:
I sat and wondered how we could spring a comeback from so much flailing incompetence. I had faith, but it was that kind of belief that eats at itself if exposed to the light.. It's propped up by rubber bands and paper clips and a little bit of measured delusion and naivete.
Somehow, Michigan pulled itself together and willed themselves through a halfway decent touchdown drive in the third quarter, capped by Kevin Koger's first touchdown reception. A promise of a bright future. Michigan went down the field on the arm of Steven Threet, the legs of Sam McGuffie and Kevin Grady, and the hands of Martavious Odoms and Greg Mathews. Greg's last name only had one "t," but people managed to always get it wrong, and they probably still do. This wasn't Henson, Terrell, Walker, and A-Train. It wasn't Henne, Manningham, Arrington, and Hart. It wasn't Navarre, Braylon, Avant.
Etc.: Notre Dame is taking its sweet time figuring out where its hockey team is going to hang out. MGoMix is going with songs 1-5 and 6-10. Trailer for the Willis Ward movie is good. Shakin' the Southland's DrB talks 3-4, 4-3 under, and multiple fronts. Money quote:
In the one-gap 3-4, you have a blend of the 4-3 and the older two-gap system. You can take a guy that is a ‘tweener’ and put him at DE or OLB. You can take heavy interior linemen that are skilled at pass rushing, and put them at DE positions even if they don’t run 4.6-4.7 in the 40. The fact that it is a one-gap system and easier to teach means they can rush the passer without regard for the linebackers and put what talent they do have to good use.
I do not advocate the one-gap 3-4 over the 4-3, each has its uses. I do prefer the one-gap over the 2-gap version because it disguises the bubbles in the front better, and is simpler to teach. I'm all for adding fronts that simply teach guys new places to stand without actually changing everything they're doing. In most cases, the fronts are exactly the same, but with different personnel.
Notes from Brady Hoke's small-group interviews on Friday.
Pregame traditions: The Victors Walk will return this year. Brady has never touched the banner (he was already on the field as an assistant), but isn't yet sure if he'll do it going forward.
Captains will be voted by the team in the third week of camp.
Medicals: Teric Jones, Terry Talbott, Christian Pace are all done for their careers. Scholarship numbers: "I don't know... It's maybe 81 guys on scholarship right now.
On the #1 jersey: "They're going to have to earn it. And they're going to have to earn #2 after Vince [Smith] is gone." #1 will always be a receiver, and #2 will always be a DB.
"Football now at this level - for good or bad - is 12 months a year." It's hard not having coaching contact with the players in the summer, but he trusts they did the right work. "A guy like Denard who's played a lot of football and has a voice on our team, you give him that [summer leadership] responsibility." The strength coaches can help with workouts, but it's up to team leadership to hold guys accountable.
Strongest positions: "I think the wide receivers as a group, from what I can digest coming back, have done a good job. I think the O-line have done a good job." It's not fair to evaluate the overall talent level on the team at this point, but "I like our kids, how they've reacted to a transition." They're not a finished product at this point though. "We'll always have those discussions" about who will get serious playing time, but at the end of the day, the coordinators will get a lot of leeway, with Brady helping.
"I tell our coaches, when we start [summer camp] on the 9th, assume [the players] know nothing." They'll re-teach fundamentals to make sure everything is up to par. They didn't follow this approach following the 1997 season because they thought they could get by with three returning starters on the defensive line, and it backfired at the start of the '98 year.
Defensive line and offensive line are the two most important positions on the field. Everyone wants a great quarterback, but you can't move the ball (or stop the opponent) without winning battles up front. I think Al Borges [a QB-centric coordinator] would tell you that our offensive line has gotta be the lead for our football team."
Michigan is fortunate to have so many rivals. Lloyd did a great job handling the number of rivalry games, so Brady learned from him.
Possessing the ball, running it, and taking care of the football is an important part of team's success. "Mike Martin I'm sure would love to get zone-blocked all day long."[ed: bler.] The pro-style offense brings a different physical aspect that helps build team toughness. They need to hold onto the ball to help the defense, and the pro-style offense brings that. "We like points, don't get me wrong," they aren't going to hold the offense back from scoring, though, except in end-game situations.
Freshman contributors: "As we look at our depth, the two backs will get a chance. There's maybe some depth issues we have a little bit up front on the offensive line, there's maybe some depth issues on the defensive line." They might use freshmen to fill those roles, but he can't say which ones until he sees them play in camp.
"I think it's a shame - and I said this in my initial press conference - that we splintered or fractured, or whatever you want to call it, because that's not Michigan. We've moved forward from there." On "Michigan Man": There are just some guys who have integrity, love for Michigan, etc., that deserve the distinction.
"My expertise is not offense, and never will be. That's why we've got a great offensive staff." He meets with Borges about the offense twice a week during the season, and they discuss the offensive gameplan. "For me to go to Al and say 'we need to do this' ... that'd be a mistake." [ed: yes!]
The first thing Denard said to Brady was "Coach, I'm all-in." The value of a Michigan degree was important to his dad and him. He even said he'd help the team at another position if need be - but that didn't need to happen. Denard's speed is impressive, but his instincts and vision are great as well. "We're going to still keep some elements of what the spread gives you, because of his ability. But we're going to move to be pro-style offense, which he happens to be pretty good at that, too."
"There's no better running backs coach in the country" than Coach Jack. If they're three weeks into fall camp and there's still no starting RB emerging, then the concern will start to set in. He wasn't surprised or disappointed that nobody emerged in spring. They want to have one lead back carry the load (about 20-25 carries), and have a couple other guys help out with some carries. Stephen Hopkins can play both fullback and running back. He didn't shy away from blocking in the spring, which is encouraging. "Thomas [Rawls] is a bigger back who's got really good vision and balance and has explosion to him. Justice, I think he's got a real explosiveness to him, but also is physical enough to run over a guy."
"Kevin [Koger] I think is a guy who's on the line of scrimmage in some things we ask." There should be more tight end playing time available as well, because they'll use some bigger sets. Steve Watson has a great work ethic, and his skill set is a great complement to Koger. With so many tight ends on the roster, there will be some packages where they can get in and play FB as well, as an Aaron Shea-like position.
There are some pretty tough guys at wideout, which is where evaluations start for every position. WR blocking is crucial to creating big plays. "I think Junior has got a chance to be really a good player, I like Roy's work ethic, I like his attitude, I like Odoms's attitude. There's more guys there: Jerald Robinson has done some things that I'm a little more pleased with." He has matured, as players often do in their first couple years on campus. Junior has been doing great.
The players will weigh in at the start of fall camp. From the guys that have stopped by to talk to Hoke in his office, Taylor Lewan is 304. "By the time he's done, he'll be a 317 pound left tackle, or 320." All the other guys look pretty good. Molk is a bit bigger.
"I was talking to Bo a little bit - Pelini - and he had to build a confidence in the defense. We have to do that too, but the only way you do that is by stopping people." They still need to identify some guys who are playmakers, and put those guys in positions to succeed. That will take more than just fall camp.
Mike Martin has good movement skills, which is why they've been able to use him in different ways (along with his intelligence). That doesn't mean he is a perfect player, and they gave him some technique things to work on over the summer. Martin has the potential to be mentioned among some of the great defensive linemen at Michigan. He needs to improve using his hands.
Will Campbell has dropped 17 or 18 pounds - he was out of shape this spring. "Hopefully he doesn't eat it all back in the next 8-10 days." He has enormous potential that hasn't been realized yet. "Part of that is moving back and forth on both sides of the ball, and really finding a home. I think he's learning how to play up front, the expectations of how you have to play up front." He's had the opportunity to work with his teammates this summer, and hopefully he's taken advantage of that.
Craig Roh has matured, and has a better approach to the game now.
Jake Ryan can cause a lot of havoc on defense "because of the fanaticism that he plays with." He plays at a high level of energy, and the scheme needs to adjust to the personnel on the roster right now. "When you look at some of the different packages within a defensive scheme, I think there's some things he'll do a tremendous job with."
Kenny Demens is healthy now. He got scheme work in spring, just didn't do as much of the physical aspects because you want to be careful with shoulder injuries.
JB Fitzgerald needs to play more consistently to see significant playing time. "We'll have hopefully enough guys to have a rotation in there." They want to have guys playing hard for four quarters, which means depth is important. "He's had a really good summer, I'm sure of that."
Marell Evans did some pretty good things in spring practice, but there are some things he has to do better. "When you look at him from a guy who can be a good special teams guy for you, he fits that role. That's a big deal, because we need to play our best players on those teams also."
"I think Carvin [Johnson] had a good spring. He's a guy who is passionate and hungry and loves to play." He'll compete for a safety position. He's an intelligent competitor who likes to drop big hits. Courtney Avery had a good spring as well. "There will be a great competition between Woolfolk - because Troy'll be healthy - Courtney, JT Floyd will be healthy, and a young man named Greg Brown." Fall camp is important for Marvin Robinson, because he didn't get all 15 spring practices due to a class schedule. JT Floyd and Troy Woolfolk are both moving around fine and doing everything.
"We probably have more safeties than we do corners at this time, but it'll be fun to watch those guys compete." Corners need to learn to have a short memory if they get beaten.
Kicking will be resolved in fall camp. The young guy will be coming in (Matt Wile), but even during camp, they might not know because "kicking on State Street is different than kicking on Main Street." They won't know how guys kick in front of 113,000 fans until they get the chance. Dan Ferrigno will coach the kickers, and he's studied the fundamentals of kicking. However, they trust that the kickers are getting good advice from their external kicking coaches. "We're not settled in anywhere, honestly." There will be competition and expectations in fall camp.
Will Hagerup has an extremely good leg. "It's a weapon for you, and we want to make it part of our offensive package. From fakes and things that we might have to pooch punts." He needs to keep working on the finer points.
There are some candidates in mind for return duties, but it's too early to say who it might be.
Ohio recruiting: "There's a lot of familiarity, being from there." He's been recruiting there for 20 years. Michigan has 2 Heisman winners and plenty of great players from the state. Recruiting in the midwest is going to be an important part of the effort, but "also we're very fortunate that we're a global education." You can recruit nationally at Michigan, in addition to hitting the base areas. Georgia, Texas, Florida, California are other places to get talent. Big Ten Network is a good selling point for out-of-area kids, because it's nationally available.
Recruiting others' verbal commits: "We have a Signing Date for a reason, and that's the first Wednesday in February." In Brady's experience, the contact with soft commits has been from the kids reaching out, not the other way.
"Guys recruit well because they're honest and they work at it. Period. Michigan's not for every player. It's hard academically, and we're gonna have expectations of how you go to class."
It's tough to get junior college players into Michigan, so they won't really pursue that route. He didn't recruit JCs much at Ball State or San Diego State, either.
Jim Delaney's meeting with the Big Ten coaches on Thursday wasn't addressed specifically to Hoke and Fickell (whose schools he singled out in his speech at the podium), but to everyone, a reminder of the value of the Big Ten brand, and the importance of upholding that brand. "It's probably something that we all needed to hear to some degree. But at the same time, it's something that he felt - as the guy who leads this conference - he needed to make sure that we all were on the same page." Every conference commissioner that Hoke has encountered has taken advantage of similar opportunities. With so much change happening in the Big Ten (new coaches, new team), it was a good time.
Game day is more fun and easier with tough practices during the week. Even Hoke is hoping to have fun coaching.
It'll be a tough situation to play against San Diego State this fall, because there's a great group of kids there. They'll be a good team, with a 5th-year QB and a solid running back, and all 5 OL starters back. "Tremendous linebackers, that unit will be real solid for them." Rocky Long is a tough, no-nonsense coach.
Hoke is open to Full Cost of Attendance scholarships at Michigan, but there's a question of how far it goes. It is different from paying players, though. "I honestly don't have time to figure it out. That doesn't mean I don't care about it." It could create a bigger gap between the big and small schools. "Right or wrong, there's a division. We're fortunate because we're Michigan, with 110,000."
Hoke hasn't thought about proposals to raise minimum GPA requirements. [The interviewers tell him Bo Pelini and Kirk Ferentz said they support it, but SEC coaches were not in favor]: "I can't understand why" [Sarcastically].
Notes from Brady Hoke's final press conference before the Spring Game. Photo from file.
Spring game - not enough depth to have a draft "and that would be what we'd wanna do, have the seniors draft." 1s will go against 1s, 2s against 2s. "We'll keep a score of some sort, but there's no scoreboard anyway." Winners get steaks, loser get hot dogs. The teams tied last Saturday. Scrimmage - "It will go until I think we've done enough plays."
Offense and defense will both be on the field the whole time. Al will coach the offense, Greg defense. "So that they can get the mechanics of gameday and getting the plays and personnel in and all that," Borges has been away from the field in the last couple practices.
Alumni returning - "It's great to have all these guys back. I think they've got close to 85 for the flag game they're gonna play. We've got over 300 coming in Friday night for a team meeting."
Team meeting: "We're gonna have a conversation. You know. We're just gonna talk about Michigan football." Introduce the new staff to the former players, and talk about how they're accountable. Current players will not be present.
Held out Saturday - Woolfolk, Floyd, Lewan, Demens, that's about it. Shaw and Molk are both back. Woolfolk has done very little. "He's done some individual drills and stuff like that. He maybe has taken a few snaps in 1-on-1 and a few snaps in 7-on-7." Floyd is behind in his recovery compared to where Woolfolk is.
Hoke always participates in hands-on coaching "I couldn't just walk around and watch stuff."
"We're heading down the home stretch of spring, obviously. We've got two days left to keep evaluating." Mindset, mentality, etc. will still be evaluated in the final two days. "We've made some progress in some of those areas but we're a long way from being the football team we want to be in the fall."
Koger, Herron, RVB leaders. Hard for Molk to assert himself since he's been out so much. "Your definition of a leader can vary. It doesn't have to be a vocal guy."
There's better communication, especially on defense, at this point than there was at the beginning of spring. It starts with communicating changed fronts. "I think that there's a pride that those guys are starting to feel as a defense." Defensive communication - "I think Ryan [Van Bergen] has done a really good job. I think he gets it." Cam Gordon and JB Fitzgerald, Kovacs, Carvin Johnson have been vocal out there.
Defensive coaching chemistry: "It's great. It's like they've coached together forever... As soon as recruiting was over, we started those meetings, how you wanna coach it, how you coach it."
"I think we're OK" with how much they've gotten done this spring. Really depends on how the next two practice days go. "I usually like to compete in 2 minute offense/defense] 3 or 4 times throughout the spring." They'll work that in earlier in fall camp to make sure they get it done.
Individual evaluations with every player, with Hoke and their coordinator and their position coach. "Expectations, where they're at, what they need to do. Where their weight needs to be when they report. What their role right now will be in the fall... The evaluations at the end, believe me, they'll be very specific."
Freshmen contributing this fall: "Really haven't thought about it much yet." Depth concern at OL and DL might provide some opportunities, but it's too early to say. Corner? "Maybe. We'll see. Greg Brown's really, in the last week and a half he's really stepped up." Courtney Avery has stepped up as well.
Lloyd Carr - "He's been over. Hasn't been to a practice, but he's been in and we've talked a little bit. Coach Moeller has been around a little bit, and Coach Hanlon is here every day [laughing]."
Denard and Devin: "I think Devin is a very talented guy and I think he's learned the offense well. I think he's got a good handle on it. There's some consistency we've gotta coach better with." QBs will organize 7-on-7s in the summer. What will Denard take into the summer to work on? Footwork issues, ball mechanics, play action game. He needs to settle his feet on dropbacks. "The mental aspect of getting you in the right plays" based on safety alingment, defensive fronts, etc.
Running back - "I think Hop's had a pretty good spring... Toussaint's been pretty steady." Mike Cox hasn't practiced as much because he has a class during Tuesday practice time "so that doesn't help him." Smith has played well. Incoming freshmen will have a chance to step in. "Hopkins is a guy right now who has been probably the most consistent." He can also line up at FB and do some things there.
Tight ends - they have the guys to run what they want. Koger was out early in spring "but he didn't miss much." He's been good on the line, Ricardo's more of a "move guy" right now. "I think the 4 guys you mentioned [Moore and Watson] all have done a good job in the offense, and that will be an important part of what we do offensively."
Molk - "He's been doing some individual, and then yesterday he did more of some of the team stuff." With Lewan out, Huyge has played both tackle positions, Schofield has been good, Ricky Barnum has been kicked out to tackle a few times. "You have 7 or 8 guys who will form kinda the nucleus of the group."
Rocko Khoury has gotten a lot of good snaps. Omameh has taken most RG snaps, played a little bit at RT. "A guy like David who's played a lot of football, sometimes you need to give snaps to more of those other guys."
Barnum: "I tell ya, Ricky's a good football player. He's a tough kid, he's a smart kid, he plays with good technique. That's why he's a good football player." He's been as consistent as any player up front this spring.
Defensive Linemen: Mike Martin - "He's done a good job. We're doing a couple different things with him." "I think think Will Campbell has made strides, but the consistency has to be there. You know Quinton, I think he's going to be a good football payer here at Michigan."Jibreel Black "Jibreel is a guy that, as his body composition changes a little bit, he's gonna be a good football player. I think him and Craig at the rush have had pretty good springs." Roh has progressed better than they thought this spring.
Linebackers - "Marell's done a pretty good job. We moved Brandon Herron back to a Mike." Mike Jones and Brandin Hawthorne at Will. "Cam Gordon's getting better, and I think Cam will have a very good summer." Jake Ryan also at Sam. Those six plus JB Fitzgerlad who "has started to come along a little bit."
Safety situation is fluid. "Carvin Jonhson, I would say of anybody, and Kovacs" know the defense best. Marvin Robinson has also come in and made plays, along with Thomas Gordon.
Kicking game: "I think it's a work in progress." Everything from snapping, to punting, etc. needs to continue improving. Long snappers are competing. Placekicking is a "huge competition with 4 guys in there." Seth Broekhuizen, Kris Pauloski, Jeremy Ross, and Brendan Gibbons. They kicked 14 or 15 times during last week's competition at the stadium. "They haven't been there probably as much as we'd like for them to." The field is the same indoors, the elements are the only difference. "We've got a lot of work to do in that area of it." Wile will get a chance to compete when he comes in. [Author's note: those two statements weren't said back-to-back, so don't read too much into it. Hoke said every freshman has a chance to compete for playing time].
Yesterday we hit the offense; this is the other side of the ball.
Campbell Or Someone Else, Except There Isn't Anyone Else
All eyes not locked on Denard Robinson Saturday will be interpreting any signs of life from Will Campbell as prophecy of opposing offensive lines' impending doom. The facts are these: Michigan has three lock starters on the line, a big hole at three-technique, and a very big man who was a very big former recruit on his way to being a very big bust who is getting personal attention from no fewer than three Michigan coaches.
Michigan has put all their eggs in Campbell's basket. Quinton Washington is backing up Mike Martin—and doing so unevenly—and the only other options there are redshirt freshmen like Richard Ash (also probably an NT if he's anything) and Terry Talbott (probably another year away from being physically ready).
There's almost no way he's not going to start. This makes me nervous because it makes me think about Pat Massey. Massey was 6'8" and never should have been anywhere near DT, but he had a good amount of starting experience when he was inadvisably thrust inside after Michigan ended their one-year experiment with the 3-4. He still ended most plays in a crumpled mess several yards downfield. He was the three-tech next to Gabe Watson; hopefully Campbell doesn't go down as Martin's Massey.
Looking for: my skepticism about Campbell ever performing well is established. If the guy just holds his own and doesn't get blown up on the regular that will be major progress.
Fearing: The third string center getting under his pads and depositing him in Kovacs's lap.
Will only believe three games into the season: That Michigan's previous defensive coaches were even more incompetent than we already believe them to be.
Edge Terror: Yes, Please
Craig Roh is entering his junior year, and the clock has started ticking faster. As a freshman he was incredibly undersized; as a sophomore he was incredibly miscast. Now he's in an upperclassman in an under front as the weakside defensive end—this is his time and place. On a defense wholly devoid of established playmakers other than Martin he is the player most likely to blow up. Michigan needs him to or it's going to be another year in which opposing quarterbacks can finish their crumpets in the pocket before leisurely surveying to see which receiver is open by yards.
Here Michigan actually seems to have a decent second option: Jibreel Black was a complete disaster against the run as a true freshman but flashed disruptive ability when teams didn't run right at him. Like virtually everyone else on the team he should have redshirted; if he had everyone would be talking him up as the next coming because they hadn't seen his shortcomings. As it is a big post-frosh bump in performance can be expected.
Looking for: one-on-one pass rush from Roh against Schofield/Huyge/walk-on. He has to be able to beat those guys if he's going to take on the Big Ten this fall.
Fearing: Here I don't think we'll be too disappointed. There are two good options.
Will only believe three games into the season: That they can't get production out of this spot.
Michigan's veteran linebackers have shuffled off to their futures. Since Obi Ezeh was replaced at midseason by immediately obvious upgrade Kenny Demens, middle linebacker is set. Ready or not, Cam Gordon will be the strongside LB. That leaves Jonas Mouton's old spot as the only other in the front seven up for grabs. Despite collecting all manner of safety/LB tweeners answers are few. Candidates:
- Mike Jones. Jones was the primary backup to Mouton last spring and was getting hyped up as a playmaker; one season-ending injury later there are grumbles he is too small and does not fit the position in a 4-3 under.
- Brandin Hawthorne. Yeah… so… Brandin Hawthorne hasn't seen the field in any capacity other than special teams yet and seemed destined for a Darnell Hood sort of career and now he's kind of the only option other than Jones because all the rest of the guys are participating in a pitched battle elsewhere. Speaking of…
- Safety war losers. Carvin Johnson, Marvin Robinson, and Josh Furman all spent part of last year at linebacker and part at safety; this spring they're all trying to fill Michigan's perpetually gaping hole next to Jordan Kovacs. While they won't be playing WLB saturday, if someone establishes themselves as the guy they will probably throw one of these three back in the linebacker pool.
- Oh, and Thomas Gordon. Some reports put Gordon in the WLB battle while others think he's in a distinctly separate boat of guys playing a dedicated nickelback spot. Gordon was a pleasant surprise as the starting spur earlier in the year and if there are few other options at WLB he might inherit that spot by default, flexing out into the nickel when other teams go spread. That would have some obvious downsides—dude is not linebacker-sized—but Larry Foote is not walking through that door.
- Oh, and… um… Marell Evans? Apparently he's back on the team after not playing at Hampton, and while he's getting some practice buzz that's so far-fetched I'm not even going to list it under things I don't believe because obviously.
Hypothetically, the WLB is the best-protected linebacker in an under front and can be a little fast guy who pursues guys all over the field. More realistically you can shield him a bit but offenses will find ways to make your tiny guy go facemask to facemask with much larger folks, especially if the three-tech spot supposed to shield him is iffy.
Looking for: A weakside linebacker that does not blow outside contain constantly. If I had to guess right now I would say Gordon gets virtually all of the time against spread teams and eventually ends up dragged into the lineup against the coaches' better judgment simply because he can play.
Fearing: A major downgrade—Mouton also turned in his fair share of great individual plays.
Will only believe three games into the season: That having Hawthorne in the two-deep is not an ominous sign.
Squinting In The General Direction Of Safety
Well… at least they've got some athlete type substances. They're weakside linebackers mostly but they'd be really fast WLBs. As mentioned, Johnson, Robinson, and Furman are all fighting to be Michigan's scapegoat this fall; there is no clarity as to who will come out on top. Johnson has the initial edge since he's seen the field, but most of that was at linebacker and last year when he moved to safety he ended up behind the leetle tiny Vinopal despite his tendency to look like Jerry attempting to tackle Tom.
As per usual, brace yourselves.
Looking for: Johnson to be as reputed: a bit slow but reliable and an excellent tackler. Basically a scholarship version of Kovacs.
Fearing: Fear? There is no fear, only the cold hard certainty Michigan's safeties will suck.
Will only believe three games into the season: There are no hopes out there to deflate, so we can take a pass on this one.
Oh And Bonus
Looking for: Ball through uprights; more realistically, the matriculation of Matt Wile.
Fearing: Not through uprights.
Will only believe three games into the season: that I can watch a field goal attempt without throwing up.
Notes from Brady Hoke's meeting with the press today.
- "Floyd won't play as much this spring because he's coming off surgery."
- "Woolfolk is getting better, but at the same time it wouldn't be very intelligent of us to have him doing a whole lot out there."
- "Kenny Demens will be a little bit limited because of the shoulder surgery he had."
- "Teric Jones is out for sure. Mike Shaw broke his hand the other day, falling on the turf and trying to catch himself. So he'll be limited on Saturday for sure," but will play with a cast after that. Teric Jones's injury is a "significant" one to his knee. It's too early to say whether he'll be out or limited in the fall.
Position changes: Will Campbell will play 3-tech. He's bounced back and forth, but has done a good job with conditioning this spring. "It would be too early for us to make any [other] changes, because we don't know what they can do anyway, to be honest with you."
There will be no update on Devin Gardner's redshirt status until his fourth year. (So stop asking about it).
MSU and OSU countdown clocks: "Those are pretty important games. And we want to think about those important games every day." Some outside his office, some down by the locker room "That's it for now, I think."
Scholarship numbers: "We should be at 84, I believe."
General Spring Notes
Spring game - "Wait until we get there and see. We'd like to play a true, competitive 'seniors draft the teams' Spring Game." Not sure if there's enough depth to do that.
Spring success: "It won't ever be a success," because here's always something that they can do better. Need to improve on field, in classroom, in community. Installation of offense, etc.
There will be a few practices open to the media this spring, but none have been determined yet.
Excited to get started. Only seen guys in conditioning and the weight room so far. Still won't see them with pads until after Monday - that's when they'll know what they have. 3 non-padded practices, including first 2 and the day of the coaches' clinic.
"We're gonna hit a lot. And then we'll see where we're at as a team." Have to get a look at the team, and at the players. If guys prove themselves, they might not hit as much to avoid injury.
"Spring is always important because I think it gives you an ability to have competition. The one thing you'll find out is this is competition on a daily basis." Even the guys who have already played need to continue to compete because other guys will step up.
First things to evaluate: attitude, effort, toughness, accountability. Everything starts with mentality and toughness. A lot of unknowns "Try and create an environment that's going to have toughness with it and effort with it and a mentality of how you play." Need to develop guys from a fundamental and technique standpoint.
Will go back to what he's done at last two stops when coming in. "It all starts there. And it's worked." Players need to learn how the practice runs, etc.
Strength and conditioning is not only to develop physically, but also develop an attitude: "No one's going to beat us. And it's an earned attitude."
The Team (The Team, The Team)
Hasn't watched a lot of film on past performances. Doesn't want preconceived notions of how guys play. You don't know how they've been coached, so you don't want a bad impression in case the coaching wasn't up to par.
Denard - "He's a kid who loves to play the game, he's hungry to play the game. There's some things at that position, because of the offense, he's going to have to get comfortable in." Mostly under center, not exclusively. Both QBs have done a good job learning the intricacies of the new O, but they still have a lot to learn. "Taking a snap from center, I know they've worked on that little bit out their on their own." Borges has enough experience to properly manage what the QBs do.
RBs - "I think right now, we've gotta see who can run the power play. Get downhill and do the things we want them to do as an offensive player." Haven't used TEs and fullbacks as much, need to develop them as well.
OL - Molk has played a lot of football, is a good player. He'll start on the first play of the spring, along with most of the guys who have played a lot. If they don't play with toughness and effort "they can always move down." Funk will find top 7-8 guys.
Some positions have guys who have played a lot of football, such as Mike Martin at DT. Need to continue improving his game even though he's played.
Hoke will coach a lot of special teams with Coach Ferrigno. Will also coach the Sam 'backer during some parts of practice. Wants to be hands-on, and can also offer something there.
Woolfolk position - "I can't answer that position question] for sure. Until we get to really watch him run around and what he can do." Right now, likely stays at corner. "Safeties, we're not bad. Corners, not as good" depth-wise.
FG kicking - "Part of it is a confidence level that guys have or don't have." Getting more reps with the expectation of doing it perfectly will help.
Chris Barnett's relationship with Baron Flenory - "I'm not going to get into a kid's personal life. If he wants to talk about it, he can talk about it." He was mature about how he visited and went through the recruiting process.
Future recruiting: "We're making progress. We've had quite a few kids on unofficials, and will continue through the spring."
Helmet stickers - hasn't given it any further thought.
Not worried about finalizing his contract.
Relationships with players - "I think it's always evolving." It's been positive, and he has very good communication with them.
Oversigning: "I think the Big Ten's policy is probably one that everyone should be able to live with." Can't speak for other coaches, or claim they mislead kids.
The current scoreboards will be fully taken down within the next week or so, and the Athletic Department will announce around that time which company has been awarded the contract for the new scoreboards. Once they make that announcement, artist's renderings will be available. The scoreboards will be completed in August.