"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
- Boo boos are the worst.
- Fitz Toussaint has been named the starter at tailback. Act surprised.
- Ryan Glasgow and Willie Henry are backing up Jibreel Black at 3-tech. Wormley is strictly a 5-tech, and Tom Strobel has fallen off the depth chart it would appear.
- Heitzman, Wormley, and Godin are rotating at the 5-tech.
- Blake Countess is the nickel corner for the nickel package. That tentatively means Michigan is experimenting with a nickel package of Raymon Taylor (CB), Delonte Hollowell (CB), Blake Countess (NB), Thomas Gordon (S), and Courtney Avery (S).
- Cam Gordon has been proclaimed the No. 1 guy at SAM. I've been strongly predicting Beyer to beat out Cam Gordon, but perhaps this will not be case. We'll see what happens once game day rolls around, but for now I'll concede that I was wrong.
- In things I'm not so willing to concede, Hoke says that Ben Braden has moved to tackle (he and Magnuson are third in the tackle pecking order) yet remains a guard. While Braden certainly has the ability to play guard (and took snaps there in the scrimmage when Bryant was out), he has not been taking practice reps there for two weeks now, suggesting that Michigan wants him at tackle. Ultimately, none of this matters. It's Bryant or busted assignments.
"We had our last two-a-day practice. I thought we ended that part of it, as far as the two practices a day, in pretty good shape. Did a lot this morning. Physical this morning, physical this afternoon. I like how the kids are coming out and how they're competing with each other. We have 11 days until we kick the ball off, so we have to make sure our timing, playing with speed, playing fast, playing physical like we want to -- we get all those things accomplished. I like the leadership and where we're at."
Do you wish the weather had been this warm earlier in camp?
"Yeah. It would have been nice if it had a little more heat, and I think we'll get some more this week, which will be good for us."
Have you made any personnel decisions yet? Center? SDE?
"Jack [Miller] and Graham [Glasgow], obviously. Chris [Bryant] didn't participate the other night, but he's back out there today. We played Graham at a lot of guard, so today we played them both in there at center a little bit more. I think we're getting closer."
Over the weekend Michigan had a scrimmage that simulated what they'll do for Notre Dame week. Michigan put some ULTRAZOOM highlights on the internet, some guy attempted to UFR them, Heiko attempted to forestall panic about what was contained therein to eagle-eyed watchers. First, let's examine the pore structure of various unidentified Michigan football players:
Graham Glasgow's playing left guard. More than that, Glasgow was playing left guard because Chris Bryant—not massively-hyped Ben Braden—was held out after having his knee drained. How do we feel about this?
On the one hand, Bryant is a massive human who is a natural guard, whereas Braden is a massive human who is maybe not the best fit on the inside. Having Bryant emerge as a contender at guard gives Michigan more line depth, and when he's been healthy he's drawn praise like this from Kenny Demens:
I’ve always been a fan of Chris Bryant. That has been my favorite offensive lineman since his freshman year. I remember his freshman year he was on scout team… whenever he pulled, I don’t care if you were Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, myself, whoever… when Chris Bryant pulled, you were nervous. You were nervous! Chris Bryant brings the pain.
On the other, Braden is supposedly the most physically talented guy Taylor Lewan has ever seen and line shifts in camp remind you of last year, when the flippin' and the floppin' made the line like jello, Rudy. A steady hand is always better. Plus, Bryant spent all of last year injured to the point where he wasn't really doing much in spring. I'd heard he had some lingering pain issues from that even now, and he just got his knee drained. Also, Bryant was a decent recruit but not as hyped as you might remember. Only Rivals gave him four stars, and they were so up on his recruitment they ranked a 6'4", 340 pound guy at tackle.
Do we like it? Do we hate it? I don't know man. I think I'd rather hear that Bryant is seriously pushing Braden, who is locked in, instead of a position switch that undoes a position switch from spring. The flippin' and the floppin'. On the other hand, Bryant was not available then and is now. It could just be that he is pretty good.
Braden does get some snaps at that LG spot, BTW. He was off and on, apparently hasn't been practicing much at guard, and struggled some against interior quickness in the spring game. (He also seems to get beat by Willie Henry on a Rawls iso that goes nowhere in the above video.) So… I bet he is the #1 backup at tackle when the season starts and it's Bryant at guard. If that happens I'm going to decrement Braden expectations from "Jake Long 3.0" to "plus right tackle."
Toussaint looks like Toussaint. In a good way, not Poor Damn Toussaint of last year. No one else did much at tailback except Justice Hayes, who slips out of the backfield from a shotgun set and makes a touchdown catch after Gardner buys some time. Other running back events are Toussaint juking guys, running tough north and south, and picking up yardage. People other than Toussaint get consumed. Sample size qualifiers, obviously, but Toussaint is also getting external validation from insider types and the coaches.
It's one or two carries each for other challengers, thus indicating who has the lead in the race at RB and giving us no other information. Green gets bounced outside and swarmed, looking a little ponderous. Hayes gets to the hole and nailed on by Cam Gordon on a nice play; Ross grabs him in the hole on his next carry. Rawls picks up negative one yards and zero yards (the latter on a play from the two)—picking up where he left off. De'Veon Smith finishes that drive off.
Meanwhile, Hayes: he was reputed to be a spread-oriented back and excellent receiver. Michigan needs a third down back with the graduation of Vincent Smith. Of late I've been asserting that Toussaint should grab that job but if he's entering the season as the out-and-out feature back (which seems likely given his buzz and Green's injury) Michigan will want someone else to pick up linebackers and slip into the flat. Hayes would obviously be that guy. The other backs on the roster are young or bulky.
It does seem like he's locking down that spot. He was the back in all the shotgun snaps, with that touchdown catch and a screen that Dymonte Thomas engulfs.
The first snap is Kalis pulling to Lewan on a power play. Get used to that, kids.
Chesson and Reynolds are the receiving stars. Gallon was held out, probably because he doesn't have anything to prove at this point.
Also, guy who apparently gets injury information no one else gets says Darboh has picked up a boo boo. (Injury guy has since deleted the tweet, undoubtedly after a visit from Biff the Wolverine Enforcer.) He shows up in the first snap of the video as a blocker and then not again. Assumption: boo boo, held out, don't read too much into it. Injury Guy was right about Derrick Green, FWIW. Michigan was being a little coy with how much he was doing; the two-week estimate was not off base much, if at all. Darboh's thing is supposed to be a rolled ankle, so keep your hands off the panic button.
While you don't want to read too much into a hand-picked collection of pore videos, pencil Chesson and Reynolds in ahead of Jackson and any freshmen when it comes to the #3 and #4 outside receivers. Chesson's catch is pretty dang good, especially as it comes over Blake Countess.
Courtney Avery's playing free safety. This one is negative, I think. Avery's run support has never been a big positive, he's never played the position at Michigan, and it says some not great things about the guys backing up the presumed starters that a "five-eleven", 175 pound guy is getting a look.
One thing it probably doesn't mean: Jarrod Wilson is losing the job. Assumption here is that Michigan is experimenting in case something happens. If it is Wilson losing his job, uh, at least my prediction that we'll miss Jordan Kovacs will have been correct?
Cam Gordon is begging someone to photoshop this.
There is a lot of Cam Gordon in here. Cam Gordon pressures and chases Fitz Toussaint and hits guys and blitzes and whatnot. Beyer's supposed to be pushing Gordon quite a bit, but you can't tell that from this video, not only in terms of appearances but also in terms of Cam Gordon play. Since Beyer was not held out, that would seem to mean something.
There is also a lot of Willie Henry. The mountain wearing 69 is Henry, and he shows up on a bunch of snaps. Black was held out, but there are other guys—Strobel and Ryan Glasgow—who do not feature nearly as much. Most notably Henry helps bury the one Derrick Green carry and engulfs Rawls in the backfield. Something to note, maybe: on that play Richard Ash is also in, playing nose. Henry's at the three-tech. That makes sense with a quality nose rotation in place and a notable lack of size at three-tech. We might see him in a short yardage package instead of Black/Strobel.
It would be something if after this year we look back at ten years of recruiting and Glenville has provided Michigan with as many or even more plus players than Cass Tech.
Man I like that Dymonte Thomas play. Can't see much except Thomas flying up at lightning speed to beat a block and tackle, but me gusta.
[Also in CTK:
And Jibreel Black says things.]
The mustaches need work / Fuller
Welcome back to the weekly feature in which people on the internet say things (every blog must have at least one). The lineup, and their credentials:
LT: Sr/9th Brian Cook. Not an NFL flight risk: Stayed in school for two degrees then started a blog rather than move on.
RT: Sr/5th Seth Fisher. Pre-Season Publications All-American, named to IPPY Watch List
RG: So/Jr Ace Anbender. JUBLO transfer.
C: So/So Heiko Yang. 1st Team All-Press Conference 2012
LG: Jr/Sr Mathlete. Led Big Ten in PANcakes. (ha!)
OL: Fr/Fr Blue in South Bend. Consensus 5-star to Moderator Sticky Page
And the question:
Time to make a prediction that will make you look stupid in a few weeks when we have practice reports: Your best guess for Michigan's O-line two-deep versus CMU, and the starting OL versus OSU, with reasoning.
Seth: So long as the gods have been properly tickled, the tackles are Lewan and Schofield with lots of obviously. Seniors, longtime starters, are hardly ever responsible for sacks, best OTs in the conference, despise donkeys, yada.
The interior is kind of a bitch to predict at this moment. Right guard seems to be Kalis's to lose. Regarding the momentary "omigod he's behind Burzynski" panic in early spring, my going theory is the coaches don't like giving away starting positions (Jim Bollman: take note), and Michigan's tiny walk-on erstwhile sixth lineman was instructed to give the five-star freshman a run for his money.
The other starting spots are going to the best two of Glasgow, Miller, and Braden, and at the conclusion of spring practice I felt that was the extremely tenuous order. Given their relative upsides and who did the recruitin' it's even money for Braden to emerge as a starter somewhere by season's end, even if he's not at the start. Gun to my head: the CMU starters are Glasgow-Miller-Kalis, with Braden the first guy in if any offensive lineman goes down (if it's Miller, Glasgow will slide over to center, and I already mentioned the tackles), and by OSU Braden is playing, if not for an injury than for Miller.
From there I think it's a pecking order more than a two-deep. If a tackle goes down, the surviving one is the left tackle and Ben Braden is the RT. The nominal two-deep guys will be Magnuson (tackle) and Burzynski (interior) early in the season, with Burzynski passed by Chris Bryant--I'm not and Blake Bars as the year progresses. Redshirt all the freshmen and sort 'em out next year.
Blue in South Bend: Now, I'm no expert, but I'd agree that three of the spots are locked down, with Lewan and Schofield at the tackles and Kalis at RG. I tend to think Miller is the heavy favorite at center as well; Burzynski is too short, Glasgow is too tall, and Miller has been the heir apparent for two full seasons. The real battle will be at LG, and I'll punt on that because I think the coaches will punt as well. No disrespect to the Chips, but it seems like the kind of game where Braden and Glasgow can both get plenty of run. Last year "OMG Mealer is gonna start at center" was a cataclysmic deal because Bama. This year, anything short of a true freshman starting will be met with a "huh, that's interesting." Braden and Glasgow will be listed as co-starters, so flip a coin and Ben Braden gets the first snap.
As far as a two-deep, pretty much what Seth said; Braden slides outside if a tackle goes down, followed by Magnuson. The Glasgow/Braden loser is the first in at guard, and Burzynski backs up center (where he got a lot of snaps during the spring game). The wild card is Chris Bryant. He had a pretty solid recruiting profile coming in, and insider reports indicate that he remains a large, large man. We outsiders literally know nothing about him at this point, though, so focus all your Ouija board questions on this man. The Meat God shall have to wait, as the freshmen redshirt.
Long-term, I think Braden wins the LG spot based mostly on upside, but that's just a guess. Two things to keep an eye on. The first is whether anyone shows an ability to pull. Kyle Kalis didn't look great in the spring game when asked to pull, so unless everything is going to be a zone blocking scheme (or a counter or wham concept or something to get the outside blockers moving), anyone who shows that particular club in his bag will have a big leg up. The second is whether anyone is particularly reliable in passing situations (a concern I had with Braden after the spring game). Protect the Devin, or sit thee on the pine forthwith.
LT: Lewan, Schofield, rapture
LG: Braden, Glasgow, Bryant, (Bosch)
C: Miller, Glasgow, Burzynski
RG: Kalis, Glasgow, Burzynski
RT: Schofield, Braden, Magnuson
Few things: As far as I know, Braden has locked down the LG spot for some time, so you can go ahead and use ink. I included Bosch in parentheses because he got a lot of good practice buzz. I hear he's developmentally ahead of Bars. Not that it means he'll play this season, but you can get excited for whenever the official "ass-kicking OL" era starts. Bryant [right: Fuller] is working his way back into playing shape after his leg injury. At the conclusion of spring he was a viable backup, which is a great sign considering he's still convalescent. He and Bosch and the other young bucks should will probably compete for guard opposite Kalis next year when Braden finds a home outside. And I agree with Seth: Kalis is probably going to be Michigan's RG a long, long time.
By the time OSU comes to town, unless there's an injury (please let there be no injuries) the starters should still be the same. Bryant may slip ahead of Glasgow for LG backup? Maybe?
I don't think this line is ready to clobber people between the tackles just yet. The appearance of running lanes will probably still be few and far between. Pass protection should be okay, though, and keeping Devin's jersey clean is really all we can ask for.
BiSB: I do worry that Rapture and DOOOOM are higher on the depth chart at tackle than anywhere besides QB and maybe safety. That said, there is at least a little bit of a buffer with Braden and Magnuson, though I think the latter could really use another year before entering the fray. If you compare the line depth with, say, Michigan State (or to Michigan in the alternate universe where Lewan declared for the draft), you have to feel a little better about life. State's O-line reminds me of pufferfish sashimi: if absolutely everything goes JUST RIGHT, then, hey, tasty fish. If even one thing goes wrong, though, neurotoxin and you're gonna have a bad time.
Heiko: We're not sitting here going into fall camp with 9 guys on scholarship like some people are.
Brian: Y'all need to file that guy from last week under "haterz" and moveon,org you guys. We'll have an official knighting ceremony after some beers and I'll change all your usernames to Sir Ace, Sir Seth, etc., thus communicating to haterz that you come anointed from on high.
Anyway: starting tackles are obvious. Kalis is obvious. I'm a little surprised that Braden has "locked down" a spot according to Heiko, but Heiko knows some things these days. I was just going on what Michigan did in the spring game, where Graham Glasgow started and played all three interior spots, getting more snaps than just about anyone that day. That signaled he was the leader at LG to me; if Heiko's information is accurate that signals that Glasgow is the #6 lineman, full stop. If a tackle goes out, Braden moves outside and Glasgow comes in. If anyone else goes out, Glasgow comes in.
Speaking of, depth charts like Heiko put out above are not quite right. Michigan is clearly in the group of teams that have a starting five and then want two or three linemen who back up everywhere in reserve. Assuming Miller holds on to the starting spot, a line from left to right of Lewan, Braden, Miller, Kalis and Schofield is backed up by Glasgow, Magnuson, and... uh... Bosch? Bryant? A true freshman not yet on campus?
I'm pretty confident that Glasgow will be a decent player if forced into the lineup, but once you get past him things get a little dodgy. While Michigan has options, I'd be a lot more confident if any of them other than Bryant were, like, upperclass-ish. Like the defense, it feels like Michigan needs one more year before the depth charts are overflowing with hype and experience.
I don't see any changes between CMU and OSU that aren't injury-forced unless Kugler arrives on a bolt of thunder, Rimington in hand already.
All, non-Brian: Sheath thy blade and spare thy tallow, your majesty; a simple raise shall suffice.
- Jake Ryan had his surgery on Thursday.
- "No update" on Will Hagerup's suspension.
“We’re going to get after it pretty good tomorrow. I thought we had a good practice. I think it was practice eight. I think we’ve done a nice job of competing. I think a lot of the young guys are really doing a good job in the competition area and also how they’re grasping the things that we’re doing offensively and defensively.”
Has Jake Ryan had surgery yet?
Do you have any sense of his recovery timeline is?
“No. I think everybody’s different, so I think -- nine months, 12 months some people say. Some people say six to nine. I think it just depends on the individual.”
- TE Nate Allspach, S Drew Offerdahl, and DL Kenny Wilkins have left the team.
- Everyone who was injured last season (Blake Countess, Chris Wormley, Fitz Toussaint, Chris Bryant) will participate in spring practice in some capacity. Wormley seems pretty far along and may be able to do everything. Fitz is recovering faster than expected.
- Will Hagerup is still suspended.
- Manball is still happening, even with Devin at QB.
- Interior linebackers will be expected to practice at both positions. Earlier I tweeted that Desmond Morgan will switch to MIKE and Joe Bolden will switch to WILL. Ignore that for now -- they'll be doing both.
“It’s exciting. I like how we worked during the winter and the winter conditioning and that phase of it. Excited for Saturday to get started. Spring ball’s for a lot of different things. You find out your competitiveness. You find out the guys -- who’s made the biggest improvements since fall and winter. [We’re excited to] have a great competition positionally on offense and defense. And just excited. Really, we all like how we’ve come to work every day and what the guys have done from a genetic (?) standpoint and what they’ve done in the weight room with Aaron Wellman. So we’re excited.”
Sophomore Thomas Rawls is making a push for more carries this fall.
This Saturday marks the Spring Game, when we all watch a glorified scrimmage and make snap judgments like "Mark Moundros is going to start at middle linebacker," and "Tate Forcier has the Heisman in his future." (Okay, I admit, I said both of those things, but luckily the evidence has been wiped from the internet.) Nevertheless, it's the only semi-competitive football we'll see until the fall, providing us our lone peek into the progress of the team and the various position battles.
Here's what I'll be hoping to see from the offense on Saturday:
Mediocrity. I know, right? This is actually more of a defensive point, but I want to put this here: in the spring, the defense should be ahead of the offense in terms of installing their schemes and playing cohesively. It's no coincidence that we saw the offense absolutely wreck the defense in the 2009 and 2010 games, then look downright ugly at times in last year's edition. I don't need to tell you how those respective seasons turned out. After just two weeks of practice, the offensive line won't have gelled like they will in the fall, the timing between quarterback and receiver is often a little off, and the playbook is still very much in the installation phase. This plea may fall on deaf ears, but don't freak out if the offense isn't marching up and down the field; in fact, feel free to be a bit encouraged.
Gardner Gardner Gardner. All eyes will be on Devin Gardner, though the odds of the coaches trotting him out at receiver for a nationally-televised scrimmage are somewhere between zero and zero. He will be playing quarterback, however, and it's time to see a big step forward from him in the passing game. Practice accounts have been positive in that regard and it sounds like he's the clear-cut #2 QB ahead of Russell Bellomy, though we'll see how big of a gap there is between those two. If Bellomy looks like a passable second-stringer, you can keep hope alive for some Denard-to-Devin connections in the fall. If not, the coaches may find it too risky to split Gardner out wide.
Bowling Ball Rawls. I was pretty high on Thomas Rawls when he came out of high school, and after a freshman year spent mostly on the bench, he's impressed practice observers with his power as a running back and is making a strong push for the backup job. Vincent Smith will inevitably see snaps on third down, but there's still room for a back to spell Fitzgerald Toussaint on occasion and provide a different look in the backfield. Though Rawls won't make many people miss, he can knock them over, and if he shows that against the first team defense we can start thinking of him as a change-of-pace/short-yardage back. Redshirt freshman Justice Hayes has also drawn praise in the spring, though he'll have to prove he's either a more effective runner than Rawls or a more explosive receiving option than Smith to carve out a role; neither is out of the question given his athleticism.
Number One Target? The general assumption is that Roy Roundtree will be the top receiver this year, but I'm not sold on that. His production dropped dramatically last season as he played more on the outside and was no longer the beneficiary of numerous QB OH NOES as a RichRod slot receiver. Jeremy Gallon flashed a lot of talent last season, and I think he'll be a very capable second option, but he's 5'8". Hope may come in the form of redshirt sophomore Jerald Robinson, who's been lauded as a potential go-to guy this spring despite never recording a collegiate catch. This may be your standard Johnny Sears-type spring hype, but let's withhold judgment until we see him on the field. If nobody looks like a solid #1 option, there's going to be a lot of pressure on Amara Darboh come fall.
My Kingdom for a Tight End. This is the scariest position group on the roster, and that's taking into account the fact that the offensive line has almost no depth. Redshirt senior Brandon Moore is the starter by default; he's had issues with drops in the past, so hope he holds onto the ball if it comes his way. Converted wideout Ricardo Miller will get time as an H-back (the "U" tight end in this offense), and he must prove he can hold up as a blocker if he wants to see much time. Behind them are redshirt senior walk-on Mike Kwiatkowski and converted DE Jordan Paskorz. If this unit isn't a total liability, I'll take it, especially with A.J. Williams and Devin Funchess providing reinforcements in the fall. If they are, Al Borges is going to have to get very creative with his schemes.
O-line Depth: Do We Have Any? The first-team offensive line should be just fine, with projected left guard starter Elliott Mealer the only unknown quantity. Mealer is a redshirt senior who's currently beating out a highly-touted (and massive) redshirt freshman in Chris Bryant, so I'm not too concerned about his ability to fit in. Ricky Barnum has reportedly adjusted well to his new role as starting center; again, I'm optimistic about the first team's ability. PANIC! will set in, however, if a starting lineman goes down, especially a tackle. The second-team line this spring features three(!) walk-ons, and while redshirt sophomore guard Joey Burzynski has impressed practice observers, color me skeptical of any 6'1", 284-pound walk-on being anything but a frightening liability in a game situation. The backup tackles are all walk-ons, at least until Kyle Kalis hits campus for the fall, so expect Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield to be encased in bubble wrap until September.
Kickers. Make your field goals, please and thank you. That is all.