and... i like them? I think I like them.
I now see why there is talk of a QB competition (notice I said competition, NOT controversy). Basically from what I see, Gardner is the same QB and Morris has improved some. So it's not that Devin has gotten worse or Shane has gotten SO much better. But if you thought Devin was a 7 of 10 last year and Morris was a 5 of 10. Devin is still a 7 and Morris is now a 6 or 6.5.
This is disheartening to me because it's not like Devin has a TON of experience or it's not like he's maxed out his potential. He's basically Taylor Martinez, the same QB for 3 years in a row...only Martinez was NEVER going to get any better with that arm. Gardner has a real shot to be something special.
Morris has improved like you'd expect any freshman to improve...so the fact that Gardner hasn't seemed to improve at least the same "amount" is a bad sign. Speight looks solid for a kid supposed to be in high school.
Both Green and Smith look better...like Morris both seem to have improved as much as you'd expect a freshman to improve. Nothing drastic, but typical from year 1 to year 2. Green got his speed and burst back, it was noticable in the spring practice videos and it was noticable today. I'd be interested to see if either can pass block.
Hayes looks better, but he's got a little too much Mike Shaw "bounce" in him. He's got a gear that neither Green nor Smith have. Could be a nice change of pace back...could be an obvious screen RB candidate. Hopefully Drake Johnson can get back in the mix because 1. he looked really good before his injury and 2. Douglas doesn't look like a B1G player at this point in his career.
Funchess looks the same, just more comfortable at WR. That said, he still drops WAY too many catchable balls. Those are drive killers. Chesson made a really nice catch. I still think Darboh is going to push him. Canteen is as good as advertised, that slot WR spot is his. Norfleet and Bo Dever seem to be your backups there. It looks like we WILL have a slot WR on the field most all the time. It'll be interesting to see if Darboh pushes Chesson to that spot or if one will start (as the #2) and the other will be first off the bench.
My biggest concern at WR is if we have someone who can stretch the field and "take the top off the defense." Hopefully Chesson is that guy (he burnt J. Clark one time on a corner route). We need separation because we don't have a QB accurate enough to use our size and leaping ability at WR to an advantage. For example, our big guys get a step on the DB and the ball needs to be high and we drill the CB in the back or completely overthrow the target. We can't use the height because we can't pinpoint our passes...it makes the extra inches in height and vertical useless. So we need some separation.
Without Butt the data is incomplete. Heitzman is a load...seeing him running pass routes was weird...and funny. Williams seems the same. Not enough reps to make a comment on the FB and H-back guys.
I now see why Mason Cole is the starter...he has solid hands and GREAT feet. He's not strong enough to start, he got bull rushed 2-3 times REALLY bad, but each time he kept his body between the defender and the QB. I suppose that's half the battle. Where David Dawson was getting blown by, Cole was always in position...he just wasn't big or strong enough to handle Clark a couple of times and got knocked back. The kid has a future though. I wouldn't want to run behind him because he's not clearing anyone out of the way...but again, he stays between his guy and the ball. At this point, that's more than just about anyone else.
Stock down on Kyle Kalis. He's just a body out there. He's got all the tools, but he never locks on to anyone...too often he's just swating at guys or grazing guys when he pulls. Whatever happened to the big physical guy that puts people on their ass? F-ing hit someone man! He just be like Lewan in that he locks onto someone and drives them down the DL and starts wiping other guys out in his wake. Lewan use to collapse his man all the way into the NG over the C. Kalis should be able to make a hole with his size and strength.
Stock also down on Dawson. Not sure where the hype about him playing LT came from. He was blown by HORRIBLY at least twice. He really had trouble with our interior OL when he played LG. Seemed confused at times. Still young, but defintiely not ready to play right now.
Bosch and Miller looked exactly the same. Braden looked okay in spots and then Clark flat out OWNED him in other spots. I'm going to miss Schofield's consistency.
It's going to be another long year on the OL. From what I saw, certain guys looked better...but all it takes is ONE guy to mess up. That's what kept happening to us. We'd get 4 guys doing what they were supposed to do and ONE guy would mess up and the whole play would go wrong. And it was almost never the same guy. Hopefully this is just a cohesiveness issue with the new guys just now starting to play together - but after what we saw last year...I'm not holding my breath.
Certain players looked better, the WRs looks very solid, but the fact that Devin has not progressed even a little bit and the OL doesn't look any better gives me no comfort in this offense. I really expected Gardner to take a step forward this year and I was just hoping the OL could at least be decent. I'll keep hope alive, but I'm skeptical after watching today and hearing comments over the spring. A shotgun quick and medium passing game with gashing runs may be our best bet.
***PLEASE AND FEEL FREE TO ADD YOUR THOUGHTS ON SPRING PRACTICE AND THE SPRING SCRIMMAGE***
Clark is a MAN! WHEW That guy is a load. He was fun to watch all afternoon. And I know disclaimers about our OL, but no...he looks even better. His step, his strength, his positioning. They all look better. Beyer doesn't look like anything special, but he looks far from a liability. Craig Roh 2.0.
The interior guys played solid as well. But this is where I do throw up the disclaimer because our interior OL is AWFUL. I mean it's downright putrid. Willie Henry dominated 4-5 players, the other guys looks pretty damn good as well.
All in all, I think this is going to be Hoke's best DL since his first one with Martin, RVB and Heininger. And it has the potential to be better if the RS Sophomores (Wormley, Godin and Strobel) get better along with the RS Freshman (Hurst and Poggi). Toss in Lawrence Marshall and I think we really have something here. Summer will help solidify the SDE spot and we also get Pipkins back inside.
They didn't stand out too much, but that's not a bad thing. They were in position. The depth is coming along as well. Like DL I'm very excited about this group. Ryan is a calming piece in the middle, I just hope he can make plays because at teams he just seems like another Des Morgan. I think he's going to lead the team in tackles but I'm not sure he'll have many of a loss like we're used to seeing.
Despite some (questionable) penalties, I'm VERY impressed. We're going to go 5-6 deep at CB once Peppers arrives. Richardson is in that Douglas boat on offense, Hollowell is "meh" but as the 6th or 7th option, I'll take it.
We're going to be just fine with Countess, Lewis, Taylor, Stribling and Peppers. One hell of a CB lineup too because these guys can PLAY. Lewis and Stribling are routinely in position and they've gotten more confident. I credit Manning with that.
I'll touch on it more, but LOVE Mattison getting back to the more aggressive style. It's not MSU's "force the refs to call pass interference," but it's not "bend, but don't break, take all the cushion you need" either. Finally our CBs are allowed to be physical.
This group is pretty much exactly where I expected them to be. A few flashes, a few "OMG NO!" I just hope they continue to improve. My only concern is Dymonte Thomas. No reason for him not to be improving to the point where he's the clear starter opposite Wilson.
Nonetheless, I think with a summer and a fall camp, they'll be fine.
This will be at worst Hoke's 2nd best defense, it could easily be his best. A big reason is the aggressive nature and energy they're playing with. They're actually fun to watch again unlike last year where they played "not to lose" and tried to just avoid the big play and hope the offense made a mistake.
The biggest difference is the youth on defense is on average about a year older than the youth on offense. The defensive guys are clearly coming into their roles and they have older guys or experience ahead of them. So they can play secondary roles. On offense, guys like Godin, Gedeon and Stribling are starting...on defense they're playing potentially key roles, but they're not being leaned on as "the guy."
I'm excited about this defense, I think we can continue to develop at SDE and the DT spot. Natural summer/fall progression should be just fine. I think we'll be fine at the other NG/DT spot with Pipkins coming back. We've got depth at LB and either Ross or Ryan should be a big time play maker. Then a CB we've finally got legit talent there. Safety should be fine by the time the B1G season rolls around.
Will our offense be able to keep these guys off the field for any period of time?
***PLEASE AND FEEL FREE TO ADD YOUR THOUGHTS ON SPRING PRACTICE AND THE SPRING SCRIMMAGE***
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald has come out against the union, and is urging his players to vote no April 25th. He had been silent since the issue began, and I assumed this meant he tacitly supported the effort. He does not.
Perhaps this board is tired of the debate, and no more may be necessary here, but from a football standpoint this seems a serious distraction. In the ESPN article there are quotes from QB Trevor Siemian and RB Venric Mark indicating they oppose the union, as well as senior center Brandon Vitabile. Division between a head coach and some of his players, versus a former QB and other of his players, on any issue, seems only likely to disrupt a common goal. Will be interesting to see how it plays out.
A 6'4" 220-lb Swede who played his last three years at La Mirada HS in CA, he will play his senior year at Denton (TX) Guyer HS. He is a one-time 5-star dual-threat QB whose stock dropped after his production didn't match his potential and after missing part of his junior year with an achilles injury. He reportedly had high interest in Michigan.
He visited Nebraska this weekend after not taking any visits for about a year and committed while on campus.
Preface: this is the view of one football fan, without the level of intricate knowledge of a Space Coyote nor someone who has broken down game film play by play. Also these are early views and player X who looks "ok" today may turn into star in 2015 - we never know. So downvote accordingly. ;)
Thought it would be interesting to take a look back at UM's 2012 recruiting class now that we are 2 years into it. To refresh this was the 7th ranked class in the country per Rivals; here is the list of players. While early to judge some of these guys as many redshirted, some are already going to be juniors in 2014 and this class will go a long way in determining on field success in the 2014-2016 seasons.
I've broken down the class in position groups and am giving one person's view on "early returns" in light of expected production, "starzzz", and what type of schools were in competition. Hence a player who Alabama, Florida, USC, OSU were after has a higher bar than Illinois, Vanderbilt, Boston College. Of course those who have played 2 years have more of a body of work than those who were redshirted. Also players on both the DL and OL were generally given more leeway due to their typically slower development.
Early view is based on production if applicable (RS players have less to work with), behind the scenes buzz (i.e. Darboh looked to be a front line starter last year), and eye test.
Part 1 for offense is here, below is defense.
DEFENSIVE LINE - Players here outside of elite high end are graded on a more forgiving curve as OL / DL players generally will take longer to bulk up to necessary size/strength for these positions.
 Ondre Pipkins
Background: 5 Star, received offers from Bama, Florida, USC, OSU, Michigan State, etc
Comment: Along with OL Kalis, the two 5 stars in the class. Pushed into playing rotation as a freshman due to need, started sophomore campaign as a key element of the line but faced significant injury in game 5, unfortunately too late to receive medical redshirt. Impact when in somewhat in question. Only tallied 7 tackles including 1/2 for loss - 0 sacks - inclusive of some not very good opponents a player of this level would seem to be able to excel versus. If one views him as a run stopper rather than a Jerel Worthy type, reviews are mixed again as UM defense was gashed often down the gut with or without Pipkins in.
Early View: With normal DL depth/ quality, Pipkins would probably have been redshirted as a freshman so already has 2 years down with only 2 to go. In light of star status and offer sheet, a bit underwhelming especially in relation to splash plays seen from classmates - specifically Henry. Looks like a decent starter but not trending to star player from early results. 2014 year could have limitations due to ACL injury.
 Willie Henry
Background: 3 star after thought (pledged week of signing date I believe) coming out of OSU pipeline school Cleveland Glenville. Offers from regional non powers such as Cincinnati, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
Comment: After redshirt year, came on in second half of 2013 season to be a significant contributor, essentially taking Pipkins spot and running with it. While still needing to build strength to hold point of attack (and still giving up gashes in the run game) was main player in interior of DL who provided splash plays. 32 tackles, 3 for loss, and half a sack.
Early View: Far exceeding potential of stars / offer sheet. Poised to be major piece of the DL in next 3 years on current track. Maybe the JMFR type of this class in terms of production vs offer sheet.
 Chris Wormley
Background: 3/4 star from Ohio who had mix of Big 10 offers - at the top end Michigan State and Ohio State; at lower end linois, Indiana,.
Comment: Suffered ACL freshman year. A rotational backup in 2014 but like Henry made obvious splash plays. Along with 19 tackles, had 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Considering potential after affects / recovery of ACL might take large leap in 2014 as a playmaker.
Early View: Slight upside to potential out of HS; with room for this to increase substantially over HS projection due to youth and anticipation that a player is not 100% recovered from an ACL until the 2nd year after surgery. If early returns are an indication poised to be major piece of DL in next year. Ironically that is his position listing on spring roster and at 292 lbs could be a hybrid btw DE and DT.
 Tom Strobel
Background: Like Wormley, 3/4 star from Ohio who had a higher end offer sheet consisting of multiple midwest upper end programs - OSU, Nebraska, Wisconsin,Iowa along with Stanford.
Comment: Thus far a bit of a mystery. Suffered an injury of some sort before Akron game but was not a significant backup before then, only played in 1 game all year. Listed as DE on spring roster at 268 lbs so someone like Charlton seemed to jump ahead of him already. Like Bars on the OL his name does not seem to come up much in discussions.
Early View: Too soon to tell but lack of participation last year raises some question marks. If not a significant part of 2-3 deep this year, seems on track for backup role - esp if younger players begin to make impact.
 Matt Godin
Background: 3 star local with offers from Michigan State, Missouri, Wisconsin and Vanderbilt.
Comment: Backup in 2013 who saw a bit more action than Stroble, with appearances in 7 games. Others can speak for eventual role - I don't see him discussed much but perhaps will take a Heitzman type role out on the end but is currently listed as a 283 lb DT so if that is the role competition from Poggi and Hurst looms one class behind. [note: Poggi currently listed as 271 lb DE and Hurst 277 lb DT on spring roster]
Early View: Too soon to tell as had limited backup role in 2013 but played more than Strobel; facing some good competition in both his class and the one behind his.
 James Ross III
Background: 4 star with Midwest focused higher end offer sheet including OSU, Notre Dame, MSU, Nebraska, and Penn State. USC also threw their hat in the ring.
Comment: Despite being undersized, an immediate contributor as a freshman, with multiple splash plays that excited fan base. Unfortunately came back in 2013 at nearly the same weight and is playing a rough position at a "large safety" size - inhibits ability to get off blocks and with weak DL play, the level of play was not as impressive as exciting freshman year. He still quietly finished with the 2nd most tackles on the team and if not for injury before OSU would have been first overall.
Early View: On track with HS expectation; a very good player who can still be great in his remaining 2 years. Perhaps body does not support it but a 230-235 lb frame would seem to help him but speed is his game. Just needs DL to help keep him clean so he can fulfill potential.
 Royce Jenkins-Stone
Background: 4 star Cass Tech star offered by Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, MSU, Missouri.
Comment: Did not redshirt and was a special teams player mostly as a freshman, who most expected to contribute something in 2013. Something turned into essentially nothing - 5 tackles in 13 games. A head scratcher.
Early View: Thus far probably the largest disappointment in this class on the defensive side of the ball in light of HS prospects. Many considered Ross and RJS 1A and 1B and cornerstones for the 2014-2015 LBs - but right now it seems 1 for 2. Already buried on the depth chart mid season, true freshman Gedeon passed him late in the year and made obvious impact. Unless something changes as he enters junior here, the best hope appears to be a quality backup role.
 Joe Bolden
Background: 4 star, top 150 type Ohio prospect with offers from Arizona, Iowa, Penn State, Stanford, West Virginia, etc.
Comment: Thrust into a backup role in 2012, due to depth issues - perhaps not really ready. Become a steady contributor in a backup role early in 2013, and started pushing Morgan late in the year, garnering 4 starts. Credited with 54 tackles, including 4 for loss and 2 sacks. Production surprised me a bit when I reviewed defensive stats because I don't "notice" him on the field that much - not sure if that is good or bad.
Early View: Already entering his junior year, seems to be on track or slightly below HS track not so much for production reasons but lack of high impact plays. Seemed to come on late in 2013 so could be one to watch in 2014 but stuck behind man child JMFR in the middle.
 Kaleb Ringer
Background: 3 star prospect with mid level Midwest offers including Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Louisville. Outside of UM offer, Iowa was second best.
Comment: He gone.
Early View: N/A
 Allen Gant
Background: 3 star safety prospect with offers from Stanford, Boston College, West Virginia
Comment: Redshirted in 2012, special teams player in 2013. No impact on defense as he was moved from safety to a linebacker role.
Early View: A bit below expectation but with caveat of position switch and a lot of LBs ahead of him including Beyer and Gordon in 2013. Thus far no production on defensive side of the ball. 2014 should tell us if he will become a backup or become primarily a special teams type player.
 Jarrod Wilson
Background: 4 star with solid national offer sheet including Stanford, Notre Dame, Penn State, UCLA, and Michigan State.
Comment: No redshirt, had limited playing time as a freshman which earned massive EMO points going into 2013 from Brian. Seemed to calm most of us with his play although he was pulled from starting lineup in back half of year for certain games. Confusing as most of us thought he was playing pretty well. 50 tackles including 2 for loss; will be a huge part of the secondary in 2014 as he is the only safety with experience. Protect in bubble wrap.
Early View: On track with HS expectation - seems to be growing into role and will be a 'cagey vet' in a very young secondary in 2014.
 Terry Richardson
Background: 4 star Cass Tech CB with high end offers across the country including Bama, LSU, USC, Oklahoma, OSU, Notre Dame, PSU, UCLA.
Comment: Welp. Based on offer sheet many said "he is our Antonie Winfield; that projection has now been moved to '15 class Shaun Crawford. While undersized the expectation was after gaining some weight this level of player would be pushing for a starting role in a depth challenged secondary if not last year, than in 2014. Instead players 1 class behind him in Stribing and Lewis took over key backup spots at the corners and Richardson was effectively redshirted as he did not see any game action. With Peppers riding in on his stallion in 2014, best case for Richardson this year seems to be 6th corner. Maybe.
Early View: Well below expectation; I put him "ahead" of Royce Jenkins-Stone as 'less disappointing relative to HS pedigree' only because of size issues that would always hinder him unless we struck gold with a Winfield type development. With only Taylor graduating after this year, faces a crowded group of competition - hope is he develops at this point into a dime type corner at some point.
 Jeremy Clark
Background: 3 star prospect with mostly MAC offers outside Illinois and NC State.
Comment: Redshirted in year 1, limited role in year 2 mostly on special teams. Large opening for major playing time in 2014 in very young group of safeties but a mystery man for now.
Early View: Not enough information for any assessment. Lack of depth at his position has him poised for a significant role; if that is by default is left to be determined.
OVERALL TAKE: With the caveat it is early this class looks like it is light in the secondary mostly due to Richardson, in line at the LBs (some hits and some misses) with potentially the best haul on the DL due to early splash play ability out of Henry and Wormley. Eventual elite potential could still fall to 5 players - James Ross III, Jarrod Wilson, Ondre Pipkins, Willie Henry, and Chris Wormley. Personal view is Henry has already impressed more than Pipkins despite stars/offer sheet - others may disagree with my view.
2014 should tell us a lot about junior / senior year prospects for Strobel, Godin, and Clark. All should be significant backup players this year. Bolden seems likely to take over starting MLB in 2015. Any development out of Royce Jenkins-Stone would be helpful for this class.
Interesting ESPN article touching on the state of Michigan football and how Nussmeier hire was the right move. Definitely highlights our O-line, leadership, and inconsistency concerns for next year. All I'm saying is bring me that Michigan Football season, we'll be great.