"I love it that Ivy League coaches are coming to our camp and Big Ten coaches are coming to our camp. South Florida is coming. We've got about 70 schools that are coming to our camp."
- Derrick Green and Brennen Beyer have returned to practice. Green is a full go while Beyer is still limited.
- The team will scrimmage at the Big House on Saturday.
- A lot of position battles will be settled next week.
"This is the 12th practice. We've really practiced pretty well most days. I think yesterday we didn't practice as well as we'd like to have. But I thought they came out -- we had good walkthroughs in the morning. We really did a nice job competing this afternoon. You know, you're trying to still put all the pieces together. Great competition at a lot of positions. That hasn't changed. We'll go about another week and then we'll start really game planning for central. We'll make some key decisions probably Sunday, Monday, Tuesday with where we want to be. A little more scrimmage situation on Saturday so that we can get a lot of guys in high pressure situations."
Michigan’s 2014 class only has about 3 or 4 spots remaining and one of them figures to go to a member of the secondary. There are still several uncommitted defensive back prospects on Michigan’s board, but only a few of them look like realistic options at this point. Perhaps the most realistic option is S Montae Nicholson. Nicholson is a consensus 4-star prospect out of Pennsylvania and he recently cut his list of schools down to 12, a list that includes the Wolverines. I talked with Nicholson and he may have been the most impressive young man I’ve spoken with to date.
What has your summer been like? Have you participated in many camps?
Not a lot. I was at the Rivals 100 and The Opening. I obviously went to the camps to get to both of those camps. I went to the Columbus NFTC and I went to the Rivals camp while they were on tour over here.
Speaking of the two main attraction camps, the Rivals 100 and The Opening, how do you feel like you performed among some of the best prospects in the country?
Honestly the Rivals 100 wasn’t my best camp. I mean I did alright but it was definitely not my best showing. At The Opening I definitely feel like I performed well for as many times as I got the ball. I had a couple of interceptions and a few touchdowns. I think what really set the tone for those camps was just how I was feeling and the amount of fun I was having. Honestly I didn’t know the guys out at the Rivals camp, but a lot of those same guys were at The Opening and when I started talking to them more and having a little more fun, I think that really elevated my play.
Cool, that actually leads me into my next question, you seem like a pretty quiet kid. Obviously you are highly ranked and coveted by a lot of schools, but you seem to stay out of the spotlight. Is that part of your personality and by design?
It is both actually. I’m not really on social media, I don’t like it much. I’m not really that kind of guy that’s just out there all the time. I have a few friends, I don’t really go everywhere, I don’t need to do all of that, I just stay to myself.
A lot less stress that way huh?
Oh yeah, definitely.
Well I know you’ve been busy with a few camps and you told me earlier that you’ve been working this summer too, what’s that all about, what do you do for work?
I teach little kids how to fence. (Laughs)
Yes. It’s a little summer camp thing. They would be there all day and I would just come for my sessions and I would teach them how to fence. They would have little tournaments. It was a program called Summer Dreamers. You know how they preach, like, kids lose a lot over the summer? I was part of a program where the kids would do some work and whatever they did work-wise, they got to choose whatever they wanted to do as a reward. There was fencing, there was a group called Club Adventure, Imagination Exploration. So I was part of the fencing group and the kids would fence each other and then at the end we chose two to fence in front of the whole camp and they went at it! (Laughs) It was fun, some of the kids really loved it.
That is really unique and interesting, I did not know that about you.
Well with your football camps and teaching fencing to kids, how has your recruitment been going this summer? Any time for it?
It’s going pretty smoothly. There’s nothing really big happening, just pretty much taking things as they come. I haven’t really been anywhere because of my busy schedule, so recruiting-wise it’s been a really easy summer.
We talked about this a little before but discuss your top group again.
Yeah I recently cut my list down to 12. There’s Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Florida State, West Virginia, Penn State, Pitt, Temple, Oregon, Stanford, Miami, Michigan, and Michigan State.
I’m not trying to get you to rank those or anything but out of those 12 who do you think you hear from the most, or do you have the most contact with?
Well I’m in contact with all of the schools constantly over Facebook, but mail-wise would be Penn State, Pitt, West Virginia, Florida State, and Michigan, and The U, they probably send me the most mail. I mean the other schools all send me mail too on a day-to-day basis, but the other schools I just named, they send me like piles and piles of mail. (Laughs)
Yeah, I’ve seen pictures on Twitter and stuff that recruits post showing off the heaps of mail from schools, it’s pretty crazy.
(Laughs) Yeah, like I said I’m not really that guy to do all of that, but if I did it would probably cover the floor of my game room and it’s a pretty large room.
Well being a Pennsylvania kid, you mentioned Pitt and Penn State in that persistent group, is there any pressure to choose one of those in-state schools?
I mean there is pressure, but not from anybody close to me. Not from my mom, my teammates, my coach. But you know, like the public there is kind of that pressure to stay home, and “be the hometown hero” and stuff like that. It doesn’t really affect me or anything, but it’s there. At the end of the day I’m going to choose the best fit for me.
Let me shift over to Michigan a little bit. You listed them in your top 12, they contact you a lot via mail. What do you like about Michigan, how much do you like them?
Oh, very much actually. You know they were one of my earlier offers and that’s one of the reasons they are in that top 12, it just shows me how much I mean to them and how much they want me to come play for them. I really do appreciate that, it just shows me that if I was to go there it wouldn’t be just because everybody else wants me, it shows me that they were interested in me early, which proves that I would mean something to them.
I know you’ve been to Michigan, but how many times and for what events?
Yeah, I’ve been there 3 times actually. I was there for the BBQ, for the game against Michigan State, and for camp.
Is another visit this fall for an official something you’ve thought about?
Hopefully. I’m not really sure right now, I have to look at my schedule and their schedule to see how things matchup.
So you’ve got your top 12, are you planning on cutting that down again anytime soon and will that next group be the schools you take official visits to?
Yeah, hopefully I can get it cut down before my officials, but that is going to be a very difficult task. I’d probably like to get my list down to 5 or 6 with those officials in mind. I don’t really know when that might happen, I have to sit down with my mom and talk about it and then go from there.
Once that part of the process happens, and you’ve got your top 5-6, you’ve got some officials lined up or possibly taken, when does a decision come for you? Obviously you can take until February if you want to, but how do you plan on handling that as you think about it right now?
I mean probably towards the end of my season if not after. It really all depends on how our season goes.
When I look at your top group, you have a pretty wide range of schools when it comes to style of play, distance from home, you have some very high-level academic schools in there. What is going to make School A better than School B once you start thinking about a commitment?
Well when I cut it down to 12 it was pretty much the schools that I kept in contact with the most. There were other schools in there that offered me early that just really didn’t talk to me too much anymore, and there was no point in keeping those schools in there just to say I have so many offers. That doesn’t really matter to me, I just wanted to cut it down and figure out what I really need. As far as how I’m going to cut it down after 12…ugh, it’s going to be really, really difficult. It’s just got to be the best fit for me. It could really come down to something very simple because all of these schools are great schools and they’ve all been in contact so much that it really could just come down to something very simple.
Montae finished our conversation by congratulating me on my engagement, as we had been trying to get this interview lined up for a few days but our schedules weren’t cooperating. He was mature beyond his years, well-spoken, very level-headed, and seemed to understand the opportunity he has earned. He talked about how difficult it was going to be to choose just one school and I felt that indecision in his answers.
He is taking his time, weighing his options, and figuring out what the best situation is for himself. I believe Michigan will make his next cut since as the Wolverines they showed early interest, which Montae seems to value a lot.
- Brennen Beyer and Derrick Green have boo boos. They sound minor and are expected back as early as Saturday.
- Allen Gant's move to SAM has been confirmed.
- MGoLeadingQuestion reveals that Devin Gardner loves the pistol formation and that they are running read options out of it still.
"Day four, shoulder pads and helmets for the second day. Full pads tomorrow. Not doing any tackling or anything like that, but a lot of good competition. Hasn't changed much. Guys are competing, learning the system a little more, especially when you've got some guys who have only been here a year, so they're going through that process. Things happen fast, so they have to adjust. When you have to adjust on both sides, tracking the line of scrimmage as an offensive lineman, we have to do a better job of. Defensively, we have to make sure we're putting ourselves in position to feed the defense and leverage the defense. It's pretty easy against barrels when you do that, but when you start doing it with live bodies, we have to do a better job of that and not give up any big plays. I think all the guys are competing very well. It's really been physical. We'll be in full pads tomorrow. The first doubles on Saturday will be good for us."
<More after the jump>
"First one of the year, huh? Here we go."
Here we go.
"Well it seems like we've been practicing for two months already and we've only had three. I don't know if that's a sign of old age or just the intensity of how we're going, but it's really good to be out here. It's good to be practicing again."
There hasn't been a whole lot of yelling. It's a lot more instructing. Do the kids seem to be on message?
"Well our style of coaching is teaching. And I think if you compare our staff -- I don't think a lot of times you have to do a lot of yelling. This team that we have right now is trying to do it right in every way. When a team's trying to do that, whether they're really young or making mistakes because they're young, as long as they're showing the effort that they are, there's really no reason to yell at them. You just have to correct them. When you have a young team, you have to be a great teacher. That's what our staff is really working hard to do."
So the effort is there?
"Yes. I've been really pleased. Now we don't have pads on yet obviously, and a lot of times what happens with programs, when pads come on, sometimes some programs slow down. I don't think that's going to happen with this team. This team seems to really really embrace and has bought into 'we must play as hard as we can on every play, and we have to get 11 bodies to the football.' When you watch practice with not pads on, we're getting 11 bodies to the football. We're getting really really good effort, so that's been positive."
<No pads. Nothing to see after the jump.>
"Is that salmon?"
"Canteloupe? We use that as an audible color. How you guys doing?"
"It's been a while. Can't tell you how much I've missed you. You guys kind of sensed a hint of sarcasm, didn't you? Heiko! I made you a hero. Unbelievable."
Thoughts on Devin's maturity?
"Yeah, he's doing a nice job. When you know that you've done it so long -- he's always been a pretty confident kid anyway, but now that he has a chance to kind of be the guy, I think he's taken the next step."
What's it like having two experienced tackles?
"Yeah, you know, when Taylor said he was coming back, that was a great, great day for Michigan and for our offense because breaking in a new left tackle is never fun. I don't care what level it is. But Mike Schofield, who doesn't get talked about as much but is really a good athlete. He can move. He was a hurdler in high school. He's got a lot of talent. Mike's played a lot. He's played guard, he's played tackle. I think he's kind of fit into a comfort zone a little bit with tackle, not to where he's complacent, but he's comfortable in the position now. He kind of had to relearn the position a little bit. He's been in the offense. He's been pretty consistent the first couple days and in the spring."
<Falsehoods galore after the jump>
- Dennis Norfleet is now a slot receiver. God bless the broken road.
- Fitz Toussaint, Chris Wormley, and Blake Countess are full go.
- Jake Ryan spends most of practice running with trainers; no contact yet.
- Freshman participation will be spotty until next Tuesday due to classes.
- Most of this week will be limited contact (helmets and shoulder pads). First practice in full pads is on Friday.
- Channing Stribling and Jourdan Lewis are among the candidates for punt/kick returner.
- Fitz says that he will be the starting tailback for the season opener.
I call this the "cameraphone" filter. Is Instagram even cool anymore? Was it ever cool?
“Ahem. Excuse me. I don’t have a real good voice, and it’s only day one. But it’s good. It’s great. It’s great to be out there, it’s great to be with the kids again. I like the competitiveness, the energy, which is something you would think they would have starting fall camp. Hopefully we can continue that consistently all throughout fall camp. I thought we moved around real well. There was great competition on both sides of the ball. I think we’ve learned how to practice with no pads on in a manner that’s physical. It was a good day, good start. We’ve got a long way to go, as we all know.
“One position change was we took Dennis Norfleet and he’s playing receiver now for us in the slot position, which opens up some things for him when he gets the ball in his hands. He’s got a lot to learn still from a formation standpoint and routes and option routes and all that. I think it’s going to be a good position switch for him and us.”
Can you talk about how Blake Countess and Fitz Toussaint looked?
“They looked great, and you’ll get a chance to talk with both of them, but they both did everything that we’re doing. They both looked good running around, speed and cutting ability and all that stuff.”
How important was it to see both of those guys today in camp?
“Well, I think it was a great start. The one thing we’ll be wary of is the grind of camp and two-a-days and all those things. We’ll be conscious about are we getting them tired, are they starting to favor one leg or another, all those kinds of things. But it was good to see them out there. Their teammates like it when they’re both out on the field.”
What were you looking for today?
“I think some of the things about the difference in some of the bodies. Willie Henry and Taylor [Lewan] we’ve talked about, but a guy like Blake Bars and [Kyle] Kalis and Quinton Washington – the big guys and how much better they look, how much stronger they are. The body fat ratio and all that. It was good to get the freshmen and watch them a little bit. They’re the ones who are still in classes for another six days, seven days, so it’s hard to get them there full time, but we got a little bit at the end with those guys, so it was good to see them.”
Did you notice the seniors coaching up the freshmen?
“Yeah, and that’s one thing we tried to do since day one. Your seniors have got to do a tremendous job. We coaches can’t see everything. We can coach a guy, and when we do that, maybe they get tired of hearing our voice, so when it comes from somebody else, and somebody else who has that experience, I think it really helps our coaching ability, and it also helps those kids.”
Was practice fast?
“Yeah I liked the tempo, I liked the structure of it. I like how we went from drill to drill and how the offense broke the huddle and approached the line of scrimmage and defensively how the kids got on the field and off the field.”
How was Shane Morris?
“You know, he took snaps obviously. Had some good throws and then had some throws maybe you’d like to have a better decision. But he’s everything we thought he can be.”
“Derrick had a couple runs in there. Some of those get here late because of class, but he had really good vision on a power play and did a nice job.”
When do you get those guys full time?
“No. A week.”
Did you have Jake Ryan do anything other than watch?
“He runs with the trainers. I mean, he runs and he does some of our walk-through stuff. He’s acted like a really good coach when we’re doing some of the other stuff, but he’s running a lot with the trainers as they go through the rehab.”
How did Chris Wormley’s recovery go, and what are your expectations?
“Well, we have high expectations for Chris. He’s a great looking kid. I think he’s about 48 or 49 weeks from surgery, so it’s almost a year. At the end of spring he was doing everything. I think we’ve got a lot of great competition, and he’s part of that competition.”
How do Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson look at receiver?
“I thought they both looked pretty good. You have [Drew] Dileo and [Jeremy] Gallon and those two, and Jeremy Jackson and Joe Reynolds, but they both had a good day. No one’s perfect by any means; we weren’t perfect coaching, and we have to make sure we’re doing that, but I like the two lengthy, rangy wide receivers. They both run very well.”
Do you sense hunger from Cam Gordon?
“I would say that he’s really, since a year and a half ago, he’s really done a great job when you look at how he’s prepared himself, how he listens, how he pays attention to everything that’s going on. His leadership has been really good. His physicalness and his strength and what he looks like is a lot different than a year ago. He’s competitive and I think he’s done a really good job. Does he feel more pressure because Jake’s out? I don’t think so because he’s just such a competitive guy.”
Do you look back at the run of injuries last year and question whether it was something you did or whether it was just a freak thing?
“I think it’s kind of a freak thing. I think we hit as much and maybe more the year before, and we went all the way to the Sugar Bowl before we got anybody dinged up. I don’t think so, and I know how much Aaron [Wellman] does with the different preventative things that you do, which I’m not an expert on, so don’t ask me what those are. He’s always done a great job with it. Some years you have it and some years you don’t.”
Will Devin Gardner be hands off for all of camp?
“Yeah. And we pretty much have done that with quarterbacks since we’ve been here. Every once in a while you’ll get a guy get a little overanxious as a defensive player or he gets his hands up and the quarterback follows through or he’ll knock an offensive lineman back and the quarterback follows through, so we’ll try and be as cautious as we can with all of them.”
Does it help that he has the experience of getting hit, so he knows the physical side of it?
“And I think a year ago, playing receiver a little bit, that helped. He had to go down and block, take on safeties and linebackers and all those things, so that helps a little bit.”
Will you give Shane and Brian Cleary more snaps?
“Well, Shane’s got to continue to prove it and so does Brian, obviously, but we’ve got to give Devin the amount of snaps that he needs, and at the same time we’ve got to see who the second guy’s going to be, make sure we’re doing a great job evaluating and make sure we’re doing a great job getting them the snaps that can be evaluated.”
Has Devin picked up where he left off?
“Yeah I think so. It’s hard after one day, though. I’m just excited that we took the field and how they came out. They went through meetings all day yesterday on administrative things, and really came in this morning and got the football part of it. [I liked] how they came out in walkthroughs this morning and how they came out in practice this afternoon.”
When do you put pads on?
“I think Wednesday we’re shoulder pads and helmets. Thursday shoulder pads and helmets. Friday will be full pads.”
Keith Heitzman played as a redshirt freshman. How much will that experience help?
“Anytime you have experience, I think that helps, even if it’s not in-game playing experience, but he does have some of that now. I think that helps. But at the same time those younger guys that redshirted, I think it will be really good competition.”
How will you determine the center battle?
“Well Darryl [Funk] will do a nice job. He’s always done a nice job with how he puts together snaps for those guys in practice. He’ll have every snap counted. He’ll have every drill where it’s a fair assessment for both guys, depending on which quarterback you’re with, what guard you’re with, all those things. It’s a great competition. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch and let them fight it out.”
MGoQuestion: At the end of spring, you had Delonte Hollowell and Courtney Avery take snaps with the first team and Raymon Taylor with the second team. Did that reflect the depth chart, and will that carry over into this fall?
“Well, I think the depth chart’s even more stacked now. Ross Douglas came in the spring, so he’s got some good work. I think [Channing] Stribling and Jourdan Lewis, those guys – you look in that room with coach Mallory and those first year guys, it’s a pretty interesting room. The competition will definitely be hot and heavy at the corner position. Having Blake back is something that’s good for us, good for our football team, but they all will do a great job of competing.”
We talked about targeting in Chicago. Will you go over which plays that will now be illegal?
“Yeah in fact we’ll see the NCAA officials, they make a DVD. It’s probably on flash or whatever it is you do on a computer. But it will be watched tonight, talked about tonight. We talked about it last night. Championship teams don’t hurt themselves with dumb penalties or dumb decisions. So we have to be cognizant of all of them.”
Do you sense that Blake and Fitz are comfortable? IS there any hesitancy?
“No I think they feel great. I haven’t seen any, and haven’t since the end of spring. I know how hard both of them worked to put themselves in position to be able to play.”
You seem to be a little thin at safety. Are any of your veteran corners practicing at safety at all?
“No. You know, there’s enough safeties in there, too. Dymonte [Thomas] plays nickel, but we’re playing him more at safety, which is more of a true position for him. I think our depth at both of those positions is pretty strong.”
Are you going to be able to try out any freshman in the return game?
“Well, we’ll work all the other fundamentals, and we’ll work the fundamentals with them. Usually we start practice with specialists. We end practice in one segment with specialists because they’re all here on Mondays, Wednesdays. They’ll all be here.”
Who are you looking at for returner?
“Well, Jourdan Lewis is a guy. Stribling’s a guy who’s had work at it. From a receiver perspective, Jehu and Darboh are guys that have done it before, and I know they’re not in that same class. We’re kind of working six guys on the team with punt returns and some of those guys are kickoff return guys.”
- "I will be the starting running back on August 31."
- Felt he was at 80-85% in spring. Now at 100%.
- Got tackled by the previously-broken leg and felt fine.
- Reputedly beat Gardner in agility drills.
- Still has sweet dance moves.
- Doesn't really anticipate a whole lot of new stuff from Greg Mattison with regard to the corner position, but "we'll see."
- Is playing at both "left" and "right" corner. So no real distinction between field and boundary at this point.
- Teammates have said that he looks "better than before the injury."
- Carries around a milk jug full of ... water. Drinks a gallon and a half a day apparently.
- Doesn't care that players from other teams say that Michigan's run-blocking was kind of crappy last year. Says it's a new offensive line, and it's unacceptable for them to be bad at any aspect of line play.