devin gardner wide receiver possibility
"Okay. Who’s going to break the ice?"
With Fitz out for a while, how quickly will you be able to identify your next No. 1 RB?
“Well we’re just going to the next guy. We’re not really changing anything. Thomas Rawls is going to be that next guy. Vince is going to do what he’s done, and on we go. I think the key to these situations from a game plan perspective is to try to make as little out of it, to make it as seamless as you can, and just go.”
What can you glean from the first few practices?
“Not much. I mean, what do you see? They’re just running around in shorts. Until somebody’s going to hit somebody and somebody’s going to do something, it’s really just kind of glorified aerobics in a lot of ways. I hate to put it that way, but you know, we have a few kids run pretty good. We’ll learn more today because we’re in half pads and we’ll learn even more towards the end of the week. To make any hard and fast assessments of where we are is really hard to do right now. It is. I’m not copping out, I’m just telling you this. We know more about the offense, but we kind of knew that before we even lined up. That part is better.”
Does that mean Vince is just a third down guy?
“No. Not necessarily. Vince is going to pretty much play the same role as he did a year ago, and that wasn’t always on third down. So he was in there sometimes to spell backs, and we’ll just see how it shakes out, but Thomas is going to get a good chance, and Vince is going to get a good chance. Justice Hayes is in the fold, too. So we’ll kind of see, and again these next few days -- not few days, but really this next week or so, when we start and the full contact takes hold, we’ll learn more about that situation.”
Have you talked much to Fitz?
“A little bit. As much as I ever do, ya know. ‘Hi Fitz, what’s going on, how ya feelin.’ Yeah, I mean. I talk to all offensive players at one time or another. But yeah, that’s about it.”
You’ve been around Rawls. What do you like about his style and what he brings to the table?
“He’s reckless. He runs with a demeanor that’s aggressive. Suffice to say, aggressive would be the best word -- he looks like he’s mad when he runs sometimes. But he’s a tough guy, and if you hit him you’re going to feel him, I promise you that. You are going to feel him, because there’s times when he’s just simply not interested in avoiding you.”
In your offense, how do you choose where to place your X and Z receivers? Does it make a difference?
“Yeah, it does make a difference, but optimal thing is you’d like to have a guy that plays the position. But the X receiver tends to draw a little more single coverage depending on the team. Some teams that’s not true, and he’s on the line of scrimmage most of the time, so he’s going to draw tighter press coverage, too, whereas the flanker’s not going to draw quite as much tight coverage. The X is a guy that’s got to be kind of rangy because he’s got to be able to get some jump balls. The Z does sometimes, too. The Z’s got to be a guy that moves around a lot more. He’s going to be in more formations than the X is, so he’s got to be on the ball with regard to that. But the skill set in terms of being able to catch, run, and jump, it’s very similar. But once we get them there we try and kind of fit the guys that look like they can handle those things I talked about better.”
What role do you envision Jeremy Gallon to be in?
“Pretty much more the same, with a little bit more seasoning, if that makes any sense. He’s a tough guy. He plays much bigger than his size. You just don’t see a lot of guys his height that can go up and get jump balls like he does. He’s a very good blocker. But what I’d say in answer to that question is that every phase of his game should be a little better simply because of his overall understanding of what we’re trying to do. But he’s a reliable kid, and the quarterbacks have faith in his ability to go get the ball. They know they’ll get his best effort every time he goes up. I would look for him as well as Roy, who’s really [had an outstanding spring] -- both of them have taken that next step. Now I hope we get some carryover once we start playing.”
How much do you think you can use Devin at receiver?
“Well, that’s going to be a lot by game plan, but we’re developing him at two different positions, and let me tell you that’s a challenge. For a kid to be an occasional player is one thing, but to be a guy that you’re really kind of splitting time with, that’s a challenge, but we’ll just see how that shakes out. That’s still kind of in the embryonic stages. As we go, we’ll decide how much of it we’re going to use.”
Do you expect to use him more at one position or another?
“He could -- it depends. I can’t commit to that because you don’t know. At the end of the day, maybe, but we’re trying to exploit every option at this point.”
Does the decision to play Devin at wide receiver mean you have more confidence in Russell Bellomy’s ability as a backup quarterback?
“Yeah. I have more confidence in all their abilities. Any way you cut it, Russell Bellomy’s going to have to take the next step, just like we’re asking everybody else to do. So yeah. I think that’s the key point. You have to develop three quarterbacks. At this point, anyway. Now once you get into the season and you decide how you distribute all that, you’re really working just with two quarterbacks, but we have to see how this whole thing shakes out. Right now we’re still an open book, but we do have some nice options, and right now that’s all you can ask for.”
Have you consulted any other coaches who have dealt with players splitting time between two positions?
“Uh, no not really. No, I tell you what we did do when I was at UCLA is we came here when [Michigan] had Charles Woodson. We came for a spring. Just curious because we had a kid there who we were talking about doing some of that stuff with. But that was different. It was a little different because Charles was playing in a defensive and offensive position. He had this completely different deal. You have to learn two different systems. But Devin’s … in the same system. Learning, hearing the same words all the time. But I can still remember doing that.”
Have you done this with many players in the past?
“A few. A couple over the years, yeah. One time or another you’re forced to do some of that. Sometimes you’re just short on depth, particularly when I coached lower levels when you didn’t have all the scholarships, you know. You had to have some kids that were versatile, so it was through necessity.”
“Oh god, I don’t even remember anymore. God I’d have to walk in the room -- I don’t remember.”
How hard is it for a kid to split time?
“It’s tough because there’s not that many reps. You get X amount of reps and you have to figure out how to get them those reps without killing them. It’s hard. It’s not easy to do.”
You said you’ll see “how it shakes out.” Can you determine that by the end of fall camp?
“Well we determine it before we get to a game situation because we have a game plan, right? You have to make some hard and fast decisions before you get to game time because you have to have a plan going into the game. You can’t do that experiment. And I will say this, too: once you get into the game, it better work out at least in part how you wanted it to, or you’re gonna have to make some adjustments, but at one point in time, we have to have an idea how many reps everybody’s going to play. You know what I mean? Not just him, but everybody -- where and when and what situations. That’s part of game planning.”
Does it help Devin that he’s practicing at two positions that have to work together so closely?
“I think so. Yeah I do.”
Are Devin and Bellomy 1A and 1B?
“No, Devin’s still the second quarterback. That part of it doesn’t change.”
Any impressions of the freshman receivers?
“Eh … nah. I ain’t doin’ it. Nah. I could [say], ‘This guy’s great, that guy’s great,’ then tomorrow you put pads on and go, ‘Oh my god.’ No. Ask me in a week and I’ll probably have a better assessment.”
Does Devin’s switch to receiver show off his athleticism more?
“Yeah. Yeah, and that’s why we did it. Some quarterbacks are quarterbacks and that’s all they are. We’re fortunate in that we have really a couple good quarterbacks that can probably play [receiver] … and he’s one of those guys. You know, he’s a big guy that can run and has good hands. So I mean it’d be bad coaching if he’d be standing next to me the whole game when you have a guy who can really help us. Last year we were pretty deep at that position so it wasn’t as critical, but I think this year he can play more of a part.”
Thoughts on offensive line chemistry?
“Eh, again, it’s just so hard to call, but I know that those kids worked their butts off in the offseason. They did. And they worked together as much as they could. I think that’s something that if it’s not there now, it’s going to come because I know how important it is to those kids.”
MGoQuestion: How do you evaluate the effectiveness of the deuce package, and will you consider using it again this season?
“Well I had my analyst do a -- I believe we were eight-point-something yards [per attempt]. I’m not sure exactly. I don’t have it in front of me, but it was good. And even the plays that weren’t good set up plays that were good. You know what I mean. There were guys we’d run a play that wouldn’t yield much, only to be set up by another play that did. It’s not always the play, sometimes It’s the residual effect of the initial play. So it was good. Now how much we use of it? I don’t know. That’s a game plan deal. As we get through the install and we see where we are, we’ll decide on that. But we’re not doing any of that stuff now. That’s not what we’re about right now. We’re about teaching the system and getting our valuations straight. And once we do that, then and only then will we start playing with some of the more I guess cute phases of our offense. I hate using that word. Why’d I say that.”
You mentioned starting Denard off a little too quickly with the pro-style concepts. How do you approach it this year?
“Well we have a lot better feel for what we are. You know what I mean. We knew Denard was a good spread quarterback. I mean, anybody could see that. It was a matter of how much he could do of what we’d done in the past -- because we were always going to have some of that in our offense. We decided that when we came here. We decided that when I took the job. So once we decided what percentages that was, then we could proceed accordingly. We have so much better feel for that now because we’ve been through a fall, a spring, we know basically how much we want to be of both. It’s different now. It’s different without a question.”
Can you make a determination on certain position battles -- like left guard -- by a certain date? Do you have a timetable?
“I would never put a date on it because it could change the day before the game, you know what I mean? But there is a point in time when you have to narrow the field down to how many kids you’re going to practice in scout teams. And that’ll be sometime within a couple weeks to the game -- within at least a week and a half to the game. We have not set that date yet, but at that time it’s fish or cut bait. You have to take the 18 to 20 players that you’re going to practice with every single day, then kind of go from there.”
Help Colt. Former Michigan kicker Jeff DelVerne has a four-year old kid with a brain tumor. They're having a golf scramble/lunch/silent auction on September 15th in Ottawa Lake. Click the flyer at right for a bigger version with details; RSVPs are requested by September 1st.
You can also provide direct help here.
Well what was the point of that then? As you may have spotted on the message board, Michigan has updated its roster for fall and changed a large number of the weights they just issued to the media in Chicago. For example, Willie Henry is now 314 pounds, up from 302, and seems all but certainly destined to be a nose tackle down the road. Other notable changes:
- Terry Richardson is +8 to 162, which is better but still too small to see the field.
- RJS is +7 to 213, which ditto.
- Mario Ojemudia is vaguely plausible at 231 (+8).
- Ben Braden is down 11 to 308.
- Chris Wormley is +11 to 279, i.e. one pound more than Craig Roh.
- Ricardo Miller is down to 226 from 234 last year.
Either Willie Henry's high school weights were massively outdated or he's put on a lot of weight he'll have to reshape over the next year or two. It's probably a combo. Meanwhile, the slight Chris Wormley redshirts just evaporated.
Who likes touchdowns? You do.
You: don't talk to anyone. As Heiko noted yesterday, the proverbial Fort is back and in full effect:
Michigan's athletic department has made a few changes regarding media access for the upcoming season:
- Players' family members cannot be interviewed without permission from the athletic department.
- Freshmen will be withheld from media day.
- Practice will be closed to all media.
When asked why these changes were being made, an athletic department spokesman said "are you stepping to the man?" and delivered a Degeneration X crotch chop in the general direction of the media.
This is probably good for the site since it relies less on that whole "talking to people" thing—gross—than traditional media, but as a fan I'm disappointed. Ohio State is taking the opposite tack, letting media into dang near anything. Eleven Warriors is bringing back observations like this…
Day Two of Urban Meyer's first fall camp at Ohio State may have been the best offensive practice since his arrival. Quarterback Braxton Miller delivered the goods and wide receivers Devin Smith and Evan Spencer finally looked like the skill position players Meyer offenses always covet.
Another bright spot has been the emergence of Meyer's first recruiting class. The two-deep is littered with freshmen with everything pointing to several playing Sept. 1.
…and Michigan media is going to recycle press conference quotes until there's a game. Ohio State even signed up for the ESPNU show that's essentially college Hard Knocks, a prospect that caused several Michigan athletic department staffers to expire from massive cerebral hemorrhages when they heard the news and made the mistake of thinking about having cameras at practice. I'm openly dreading this upcoming Mott practice thing since it's just going to be 90 minutes of punting drills again.
This is of course fine as long as Michigan wins football games, but it's just another way in which it feels like the program feels its fans are not part of the team.
CAMERAS AT PRACTICE /dozens die Doug Karsch and his weird hair wisp bring you the officially-sanctioned version of what went on inside said Fort:
Within, we find out that:
- Michigan is playing Alabama
- This is fall camp
- They have sleds
- The practice jerseys are even more ADIDAS
- I'm sorry, I forgot what I was saying.
Coming soon: no talking to former players either. But before that happens, TTB catches up with Troy Woolfolk:
The main difference between the coaching staffs is that Coach Hokestresses physicality. We would do drills that had nothing to do with football, but just to see the toughness in the player. We'd do this one drill where there was just this towel on a mat. And at the beginning there're two people holding it, and one person had to eventually take it from the other person. It gets really rough down there; people get bloody noses and stuff. It teaches you into becoming a man and how to hold yours. . . . [If Coach Hoke came to Michigan in 2008], we probably would have won a National Championship in 2011."
Jake Ryan is his pick for a breakout player this year.
Yes anonymous snark. Athlon Sports takes up the Sporting News baton by publishing anonyomous coaches' takes on their conferencemates. These are usually great. I mean:
“I hated to see the Zooker get let go last season, but you could see it coming."
My assumption remains that all of these come from Joe Tiller. Unfortunately, the Michigan one is really boring.
Gardner WR Gardner WR Gardner WRRRRR. Apparently I'm naming my Roomba "Gardner." Anyway, WR hype is collected by Nick Baumgardner:
"He's a great athlete, I feel like he could play anywhere and he could probably take my spot if he tried," Michigan senior safety Jordan Kovacs said. "He's a natural athlete, and if they play him at receiver, I'm sure he'll be pretty good.
"Wherever he plays, he's going to make big plays."
This is going to be a fascinating subplot. Here's hoping he's ridiculously good. That probably goes without saying.
Deathborg pairing is go. Michael Spath talks to Billy Powers about Jon Merrill's return and comes back with news about who his partner will be to start. It will be Trouba:
"We have some very nice pieces to work with this season, and if those two get together early, and it's a pair we really like, you could see them stick together for most of the year," Powers said. "It's not set in stone, but we like to have a veteran guy with a young guy and that's a pair you could really see emerging into something special."
If Merrill manages to maintain his form from his 6-10 games and avoids the slide that he suffered towards the end of the year, that will be a killer pairing. Now if Red would only ride it like it was an intergalactic space donkey. If that works out like you think it might, those guy should be 30 minutes a night players.
In other hockey news, new 2015 commit Brendan Warren makes me feel old by being born the year I graduated from high school. He's the usual: supposed NTDP lock who may or may not arrive the high end prospect he's expected to be.
He's a top seven guy. Trey Burke finishes seventh in a CBS Sports poll that asked college coaches "if you could add any one player to your team for next season, who would it be?"
- Indiana sophomore Cody Zeller: 35 percent
- UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad: 12 percent
- Ohio State junior Aaron Craft: 9 percent
- Creighton junior Doug McDermott: 9 percent
- Murray State senior Isaiah Canaan: 7 percent
- Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel: 7 percent
- Michigan sophomore Trey Burke: 5 percent
Impressive company. I'm a little surprised to see Aaron Craft in third place, but I'm telling you guys who can affect the game without using possession are super valuable. That's another reason to get excited about Zak Irvin, who sounds like a lockdown perimeter defender.
BONUS: updated rankings have started to come out. Scout relents and moves Irvin into their top 100 at 62; Walton is 43 and Donnal 80. IIRC both of the latter guys are essentially static. MaxPreps has close to identical rankings of Walton (42) and Donnal (73) but Irvin is near five-star status for them at 26. Both ESPN and Rivals have repeatedly praised Walton and Irvin this summer, so bumps are expected when those services debut new rankings.
The "W" stands for "I put no effort into this, not even figuring out what W stands for." Apparently both teams in the Wisconsin-Nebraska game this fall are going to look like they're wearing crappy UTL knockoffs. Nebraska's uniforms were pretty meh but Wisconsin's are self-parodying:
I don't think that's electrical tape but it could be. Best UW take: "They're the uniform equivalent of scheduling Wofford."
Etc.: Jerald Robinson pleads to his minor destruction of property thing. UMHoops has scouting video of Derrick Walton's 16/13/7 performance in the Adidas 64 championship game. Slovenia! Has anyone noticed that the #6 team in the country according to the coaches' poll has 70 scholarship players? Also, 2012 USC as the overhyped 2008 Georgia team.
Michigan's athletic department has made a few changes regarding media access for the upcoming season:
- Players' family members cannot be interviewed without permission from the athletic department.
- Freshmen will be withheld from media day.
- Practice will be closed to all media.
This is just a heads up. Shutting off practice is the only item that affects MGoBlog directly, but it's not a huge loss. Last year I attended a few Tuesday practices and took a couple photos, but I didn't see anything other than stretching and a hand-off. If they're going to do things like throw a Jordan Kovacs jersey on Matt Cavanaugh anyway, nothing is left to be gained. No complaints from me.
The other two items, however, will significantly affect the MSM (main stream media for those new to this blog). Enterprising features about David Molk's mother, Kovacs's journey as a walk-on, and Denard Robinson's humble beginnings will be harder to come by, as I predict that access will be granted sparingly and only to preferred media outlets. I doubt we'll see any freshmen this season, and relationships with their family members formed during the recruiting process will no longer be viable sources. Hail to the VictorsTM.
BREAKING, RELATED: Will Campbell dropped the F-bomb today (transcript tomorrow), so here's to never hearing from him again.
News bullets and other important items:
- Fitz Toussaint and Frank Clark did not practice today; judgment has not yet been passed.
- Jerald Robinson did practice.
- Antonio Poole is out with a pec injury.
- Ricardo Miller is playing both U-back TE and receiver.
- Devin Gardner is taking reps at receiver.
I feel like there's something between us.
“Ready to go? All right. Thanks for coming out. For us, it was the first day back out there with a new football team. It’s always fun. There’s a lot of questions out there that we’ll continue to have as we go through this fall camp. I thought there’s some excitement, some chippyness, which is always good because there’s some competition. And that’s an important part of every day. We’re going to manufacture that as much as we can and put stress on our players and get them out of their comfort zone so that Saturdays are easy. That’s part of what the plan has always been. I thought we had a pretty good day. We got some good work as a team. Obviously when you’re going out there without pads on, helmets on, it can be deceiving at times, but I liked how we practiced with only helmets on. I thought they did a nice job with that. Thought the seniors and the guys who have played a lot of football at Michigan -- they’ve really taken an accountability, so that part of it is exciting and it was a good first day.”
Did Fitz Toussaint and Frank Clark participate?
“They did not participate.”
“I don’t know that.”
When will you make a decision on that?
“When I make it, I guess. When? I don’t know.”
What’s your hope and expectation for Schofield at tackle?
“What I like about him is that he has some good game experience from a year ago being at guard. I think his athleticism, I think his maturity -- when you look at the group as a whole, genetically I think we look better from what we did physically during the summer. He’s one of those guys who’s stronger. He’s one of those guys who I think the maturity level -- everyone’s a little different, but I think he’s pretty serious about it.”
With Frank Clark out, who will compete with Brennen Beyer, and how will he respond to the competition?
“I think when you talk about him responding, he’s always responded. He’s a competitive kid. He loves to play. I think he’s done a tremendous job. Mario Ojemudia is a guy we can play at that position. We can put Jake Ryan back down there and play him there and move Cam Gordon up and rotate some linebackers around if we had to. So when you look at it, there’s some freshmen who are going to get some looks obviously throughout our football team, depthwise. I’m not too worried about it.”
Jake Ryan’s been a playmaker without a whole lot of technique. How do you refine that technique?
“I think through the spring he got better. Greg did a nice job coaching him every day. I think Jake probably became [a] more focused and intense football player, so his fundamentals would improve, his technique would improve. You still like some of the natural things that he does instinctively best that he does at times.”
Given that the entire staff is back, is there some continuity?
“I think there is. I think there is from the standpoint that -- and I know Kovacs said this in Chicago. They [have] the same coaches, and they [have] the same playbook and the same terminology. So I think all those things are a big part of it, which help it.”
What does a “good practice” mean on day 1?
“Well we lined up right. We didn’t have too many balls on the ground. Didn’t have a whole lot of penalties. Personally I like it when it’s a little chippy. Come out with an attitude to compete with each other.”
“Well I think it would help our team an awful lot. He’s got a great atittude. He’s really become a tremendous leader of our football team in a lot of ways. He’s worked his tail off during the summer from everything I’ve heard from players on this team. He really was a guy who led by example and then when he had to get after somebody, he’s not afraid to do that.”
Is it uplifting when that kind of thing comes from the players?
“No question. If we have to lead -- if I have to lead or the coaches have to lead the team, we aren’t going to be any good.”
Is that why you think Campbell’s going to be better?
“I’d be surprised if he didn’t because of his work ethic and his toughness and his leadership.”
Is lack of playing time a factor in his development?
“Well I think that’s part of it and when you play a couple different positions a couple different times around -- you’ve been in three different defenses when you did play defense, I think there’s a continuity level that you like to have.”
How do you know that a guy is going to be good before Sept. 1?
“I don’t know that you do. Some guys get in front of those big crowds and they just don’t quite play as well maybe as they practice. I just like his work ethic and what he’s done and not just physically but the mental part of playing the game of football.”
What about Ricky Barnum makes you think he’ll be ready?
“I think again there’s a guy who’s played some snaps. His work ethic, I mean, his leadership, you know I think Ricky’s got a really good quickness. I think that’s one of the pluses of a center that he has. Plays with pretty good leverage. I just like him.”
How is his chemistry with Denard?
“Well we’ve only had one day, but it was pretty good today. What I’ve seen of it. Now again, we’re out there in shorts. It’s a little different.”
Have you seen Denard be more of a vocal leader?
“Well I’ve seen that from him probably since the end of spring and through the end of summer. I think his maturity for the position and at the position has been really good. I thought today, again, we’re one day in. I thought he did a nice job of getting the offense where they needed to be from place to place and from practice. Talking with his receivers whether it was skelly or one-on-one and just how he runs the huddle.”
How different is that from how he was the first day of practice last year?
“Oh I don’t know. If I had to measure it, I couldn’t tell you that. I think what we observe, I think it’s there.”
What’s the goal of practices without pads?
“Well there’s a lot of installation obviously. The veterans are pretty clued into most of it. You always maybe tweak some things on either side of the ball during the course of spring and summer a little bit. You look at opponents, maybe somebody’s doing [something] that fits your scheme. There’s those kinds of things. I think it really is trying to establish the physicalness that we’re trying to play with.”
Have you decided how you’ll split Devin Gardner’s reps?
“Not yet. Again, it’s one day.”
Did Jerald Robinson practice?
Is his punishment effectively over?
How long does it take before you make decisions regarding position battles?
“We evaluate it every day. We evaluate the kids we’ll meet here in about an hour as a staff, and we’ll go through practice and talk about it. The coaches right now, they’re already into the tape, so they’re looking at it, so when we meet we’ll talk about them. From what we did in the special teams today and the different things we did there to how they [did in] the seven-on-seven, how the nine-on-seven went, the full line stuff. And trying to do a good job of talking about where everybody is as a staff. We’ve got walkthroughs in the morning, and we’ll meet before that and talk about it, then we’ll talk about it afterwards.”
Stephen Hopkins looks more like a fullback now with his weight gain. What will be his role?
“I think Steph is one of those guys who has good understanding and has accepted that role in a real positive way. I think he’s grown a lot maturity wise. I can just tell you from 18 months or however long it’s been we’ve been here, I think it’s really for the position. I think he’s become a teammate. So his role will depend on the game plan and what we want to do. I think he fits a great role for us.”
Has Al Borges used a fullback extensively before? Catching the ball, running the ball …
“Oh yeah. A whole lot.”
Did everybody show up?
“He’s the only one.”
“Well, his pec.”
You were pushing Kenny Demens pretty hard in the spring. How has he done so far?
“I think he’s done a good job. I think Kenny is, again -- these guys who are getting ready to play their last year, they finally realize that you tell them for three or four years it doesn’t last forever. I think those guys, there’s always a little difference in their approach in a positive way, and Kenny’s one of those guys.”
Overall, are you happy with the condition of the players?
“Oh yeah. I’m very happy with it. And they do a nice job. They’ve done a nice job and they had a little time off. The guys who have finished with school were able to go home for five, six days before we came back. I think they came back ready to go.”
How has Kovacs changed over the past year?
“I don’t know if he has. I think Kovacs has always been a guy who’s had a lot of passion and love for the game of football. He’s a guy that’s very instinctive. He’s smart. He’s got a love for Michigan, and if anywhere he probably feels a little more comfortable and confident talking when he needs to say something.”
Is that steadiness part of who he is, and do you think others feed off it?
“I think they do. I do think it makes him who he is.”
Ricardo Miller was a tight end last fall, a wide receiver in the spring, and yesterday he was a tight end again.
“Well he’s playing both. I think from a weight standpoint and everything he’s still going to be an edge guy, U-back guy, wide receiver guy. So he’s working them both.”
What do you most want to see from the team to know that you’re ready to go?
“Well, I really hope we’re a tough football team. And a physical football team. We have the mental toughness in how we prepare, to prepare at a high level, to play fast as a team, which means you’re confident and you’re knowing what you’re doing. There’s a physicalness to that because there’s an intensity to it. I think that’s what we would like to see.”
Is Miller back going back to tight end due a depth problem?
“Well you got some death issues -- uh death, DEPTH -- depth issues, that’s part of it. You have some depth that you want to look at at wide receiver, too. Right now he’s kind of a guy who can be a swing U-back for you and play wide receiver.”
Any freshmen who have impressed you?
“Some of those guys -- most of them, they’re finishing classes so they’re kind of running in and out. So to be honest with you, no.”
What did you think about Denard’s speech at the B1G luncheon?
“I think he did an amazing job. I thought he really told a story and did it how Denard would do it. And I think that’s what you want out of your players. Just like your captains. You want them to be who they are.”
Do you know when you’ll choose your captains?
“No that’s not for a couple more weeks. Usually we do it the Saturday or Sunday before game week.”
Rawls runs angry, mean, and fast. Is that how you would describe him? Also, re: Devin. Did he take snaps at receiver today?
“Yeah. And Rawls is angry.”
“He just runs hard. He runs hard, he’s hard to tackle, he’s physical, he’s got pretty good balance. Between Justice Hayes and Thomas and Vince, they all got carries.”
Did Jibreel Black show up with a good weight on him?
“He did. He’s not near as big as his brother who plays at Indiana. I don’t know if his body can be that, but he did a good job of working hard to put some weight on him. He and Craig both did a tremendous job. I think how he is able to keep it during camp, and I don’t know what the weather is going to be. I’m hoping it’s hot like it had been for at least 10 days, because that’s good for us. You know, I sweat a little more, maybe lose a pound. You know, that’s always good. But I just think how he manages that …”
How’s the punting battle shaping up?
“It’s a heck of a battle.”
Events! Two preseason events are booked for yours truly:
- I'll be in New York on August 15th with the Alumni Club of NYC. 7 PM, Professor Thom's.
- I'll be a part of the UM Club of Greater Detroit's kickoff dinner panel with Angelique Chengelis of the News and Greg Dooley of MVictors. Details here.
Yes, lol. Here's Todd Graham's motivational tactic at Arizona State:
This is lol. It is even more lol when you bring last year's edition into play:
Yes: I AM HERE TO THE END. I get that Graham is Todd Graham. What I can't understand is what the hell Arizona State's athletic director was thinking when he decided to grab a guy who already had a reputation as a job-hopper after one 6-6 year in the Big East. That's like hiring Brady Hoke… if Brady Hoke had no connection with your university and was widely regarded as not the best dude ever.
Oh, right, that. The Devin Gardner cat was released from the bag but never mentioned in this space. Here is the cat:
How much will backup quarterback Devin Gardner play at receiver this fall?
"I'll think we'll have a chance to get Devin on the field some at receiver," Hoke said.
But, legitimately, how much?
"We'll see," Hoke said, smirking. "I'm being coy, but we'll see as fall camp goes through what he can handle, ball security after the catch, all kinds of things like that."
Go for broke, man.
Does a quarter of the MSU football team have an alibi? Star Wisconsin tailback Montee Ball was the victim of an "unprovoked attack" last night:
Ball suffered head injuries after being attacked by five men near Wisconsin's campus around 2:15 a.m. Wednesday. Witnesses told police the men knocked Ball to the ground and began kicking him. Ball, a 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist, was taken to a hospital and released later Wednesday morning.
You'd think shouting "I RAN FOR 1,923 YARDS LAST YEAR" would be an excellent way to get people to stop kicking you in the head. Or "my best friends are 6'6", 320 pounds." But these guys are probably hopped up on PCP.
Bullet: dodged. Remember when Zeke Pike was probably going to be in Michigan's most recent recruiting class and was supposed to be really good at football? He's taken quite a dive since:
Freshman quarterback Zeke Pike is not expected to be part of the Auburn football team that opens preseason practice on Wednesday afternoon, but knowledgeable sources say the possibility remains that he could rejoin the team, perhaps after the 2012 season. …
Pike was sent home after his arrest on a public intoxication charge in June.
That's after a series of camp performances that saw his stock dip from top-100 type to generic three star.
New era: nevermind. UCF's athletic director got a show cause for working with a street agent, the NCAA concluded thusly…
The NCAA Committee on Infractions ruled that Central Florida officials, including former athletics director Keith Tribble, had knowledge of the involvement of Ken Caldwell, a Chicago man with ties to a sports agency, and his associate Brandon Bender, to recruit players. The NCAA said both men used cash inducements in an effort to steer nearly a dozen football and men's basketball prospects to Central Florida.
…and the Golden Knights got a one-year postseason ban that they have the chutzpah to appeal. (Because they sucked at cheating.) Tentative conclusion: Penn State was an aberration and PSU fans should probably be mad and stuff.
I guess the UCF punishment had been in the works long before Penn State got the instant banhammer and the two things have little to do with each other. But… seriously, what does it take short of enabling a pedophile to get seriously hammered? Head coach knows stuff, does nothing: one year postseason ban and flimsy scholarship penalties. Athletic director pays street agent to acquire recruits: one year postseason ban and flimsy scholarship penalties. The equation seems heavily stacked in favor of rolling the dice.
Lewan was even asked if he was sad that Gholston wasn't part of the Michigan State contingent at the Big Ten's media days.
"I don't know," Lewan said bluntly. "That's kind of an odd question to ask."
Lewan repeatedly deflected specific questions about Gholston and Michigan State throughout his two hour roundtable session, but did admit to one thing.
Gholston is one heck of a player, and regardless of what happened last season, Lewan certainly respects his talent on the field.
"Will's a good player," Lewan said. "He's been very successful since he's been at Michigan State, and it's going to be exciting to play against him."
What's the point? Maybe the first question, sure, but once Lewan has revealed he is going to give you the boilerplate, move on.
Side note: Gholston hype is out of all proportion to reality, man. Marcus Rush is the better MSU DE, but Gholston and his five sacks are… uh, tall. And good when not blocked.
Air Force 1,000 foot view. Via Pre-Snap Read, a fine preview of the Falcons:
It could be worse: Air Force’s offense could have to replace nine starters, as on defense, instead of just eight starters. Then again, it’s probably fair to make one point in regards to the Falcons’ overwhelming lack of experience heading into September: Air Force is not like other programs in the country. Elsewhere, you see five returning starters and point towards a downturn; Air Force, like its fellow service academies, deals with roster overturn every season – perhaps not to this degree, but without redshirt seasons and with most teams very senior-heavy, this sort of retooling is not new to Calhoun and this staff.
The Falcons also return just two starters on defense; the "dream season" section still includes a loss in Ann Arbor.
Etc.: Merrill named Devils' top prospect by NHL.com. Burlon third after spending entirety of last year in AHL. Argh. Alabama concern-type substances. Online poker to return soon? Meinke compiles Will Campbell hype. Chengelis does the same for Kovacs. Restoring the Old Man.
WR ALERT. Devin Gardner's facebook:
Stop everything you're doing for the next three months and talk about this. Certain packages are likely to include the redzone and third down stuff when Michigan has four WRs on the field. 20-30 catches maybe? Unless an enraged Al Borges refuses to field a leaker?
UPDATE: Michigan says that's not actually Devin Gardner's facebook page. Woo!
Wow. Of all the quotes to put on Joe Paterno's grave, this is the best one:
No idea if that was planned previously and now takes on a vastly sadder meaning in the aftermath or someone in the family calling a ballsy audible. But, yeah.
When Irish legs are drunkenly crane-kicking you. Tommy Rees was at a party in South Bend that was broken up because it's South Bend. City motto: Where Fun Goes to Die. He got some tickets and stuff, but then the crushing weight of life in rural Indiana finally got to him and he went "wwrrroaaaaaAAHHHH" at a cop:
Officers saw five people jumping a fence to run away and they chased them down, catching Rees and Calabrese.
In an attempt to get away, Trent says Rees kneed an officer in the stomach.
Rees got pepper-sprayed—internet, where is the Tommy Rees getting it from Pepper Spray Cop image?—and arrested on various charges including a felony that has a zero point zero percent chance of sticking.
This is par for the Tommy Rees decision-making course. Confronted by police, the options he considered included:
- calmly taking the ticket and going home
- licking Manti Te'o's face just to see what would happen
- detaching his arm, insisting that it was actually Tommy Rees and he was Steve Miller of Steve Miller band
- transferring to any school coached by a non-mauve person
ANSWER KEY: #5: 10 points. #1: 5 points. #2: one point. #4: zero points. #5: you have been eaten by a grue'o.
So he could have done worse. Irish fans are hoping this disqualifies him from starting this fall. Opponents are hoping for his safe, addled return.
BONUS: Carlo Calabrese is as connected as you would expect a guy named "Carlo Calabrese" to be:
At 1 point, (Carlo) Calabrese allegedly told officers, "my people will get you," per police reports.
DOUBLE DRAGON BONUS: Jacobi uses the Furman suspension to troll Notre Dame about their lack of character. Well done. (BR link!)
Give us back our New Year's Day, and do so by taking it away. Remember when New Year's Day was reserved for teams that had won, like, eight games? Yeah, man, back then you really had to eke out a mediocre season to play on January first. No longer:
At the 2010 Outback Bowl, Auburn became the first team in 62 years to play on New Year’s Day with a losing conference record. Five more teams have done that since then: Northwestern, Texas Tech, Michigan, Florida and Ohio State.
In the past five years, 10 of the 27 New Year’s Day bowls featured a team without a winning conference record. That occurred in just six of the 221 New Year’s Day bowls from 1968 to 2007.
Fans have been treated like suckers. The powers-that-be figured by putting something on New Year’s Day — even if it was undeserving teams — you’d keep filling seats, watching on TV and building up ratings for BCS bowls in the coming days.
You can't even blame TV since the Big Ten's desire to cram every game they're in onto New Year's Day means four games I'd watch if given the option are on at the same time. As long as we're banning 6-6 teams from the postseason, let's ban teams with more than three losses from New Year's Day.
The erosion of NYD is a fine example of the stuff that drives me nuts the increasingly short-term thinking plaguing of college athletics: you have an institution that is loved, so you milk it for dollars until you've destroyed the meaning of that institution. Get The Picture:
The thing is, it’s not like that happened in a vacuum. It wasn’t an accident. It’s what TV wanted. And the conference commissioners were more than happy to comply with the request, as long as the checks rolled in. Now the panic has set in as the numbers decline. But who’s to say that the guys who drove the bus into the ditch in the first place are qualified to pilot the tow truck to pull the bowl season out of the ditch? Does anybody really believe they’d place the sanctity of New Year’s Day above a few more dollars?
On the national level this results in Gator Bowls between 7-5 teams on NYD; on the local level it results in the reseating of Crisler with absolutely no consideration given to the guys who have had tickets for the last crappy decade.
Alienating your most loyal fans is rarely a winner unless you're winding down an industry. (See: profitable but debt-laden newspapers slashing content willy-nilly.)
How to do it. I may expand this into a larger post later, but amongst an avalanche of head-nods and "you go girl" exclamations while I read Dan Wetzel's latest article on how to construct playoffs I found myself having a serious disagreement. It's here:
There is no good way to choose the field. None. There has to be a subjective decision made, and no one likes subjective decisions.
The best of a bad situation is to have that subjectivity hashed out in a cool, calm and studied environment and then make the selection process as transparent as possible.
As such, the sport would be best served if it created a single computer formula. People could decide how important strength of schedule (preferably giving extra credence to tough nonconference scheduling) or margin of victory or home-field/road-game criteria should be. They could program the formula accordingly and then test and tweak the next two seasons.
Most importantly, they could offer it up to everyone so that teams can plan ahead, know what they are up against and track the progress as the season goes along.
I'm a math guy, but that's not going to work. There is just not enough data in a 12-game season with very little meaningful overlap between conferences. Adding MOV helps, but not enough. Even computer models that try to take every drive or play into account spit out weird results like Virginia Tech #3 overall in 2009. While any selection mechanism would fall on the descriptive side of the descriptive/predictive rankings divide*, I just don't see a computer ranking ever getting fine enough that it will be right as much as a dedicated selection committee.
You need the committee to override groupthink like "Oregon has more losses than Stanford because it played LSU, so Stanford makes it."
In other playoff ideas, I do like the idea that a conference champ ranked 5 or 6 gets in over someone who didn't win the conference. Without that limitation you get some squirrelly fields. That one seems good to me since it solves that Oregon issue.
*[IE: rankings either describe what you've done—evaluate who's had the best season—or attempt to predict the future by ignoring noisy wins and losses for a more robust underlying model.]
Stop, collaborate, and listen. Joe Stapleton talked with Zak Irvin's AAU coach and came back with some tantalizing tidbits. He's his loaded AAU team's go-to scorer and we also get some additional indication he could be BRJ 3000:
“Defensively, he’s our stopper,” Green said. “We put him on the other team’s best player. So sometimes you’ve got the best offensive guy, he’s going to work, but then he’s got to turn around and play defense against the other team’s best player. He’s capable of doing both.”
When the All-Stars were in zone, Irvin played at the top and was disruptive. His 6-foot-6 frame and long arms made it nearly impossible for smaller guards to get a lob pass over him, and his quickness allowed him to hound the ball without getting taken advantage of.
When the All-Stars were in man-to-man, Irvin guarded the opposing team’s best player and gave them plenty of trouble. Irvin’s combination of size and quickness allowed him to guard post players and wing players equally effectively.
“His best attribute right now is being a lockdown defender,” Green said. “Defensively, he’s always been a lockdown defender and that’s never going to change.”
I love players who can add value without using possessions, whether they're Aaron Craft or Ben Wallace. Irvin is going to use possessions, possibly at a Hardaway rate—in AAU the dude is an aggressive shooter. Add in a lot more value than Hardaway has at the other end of the floor, where he's an indifferent defender, and an inch or two of height and Irvin sounds like a top 50 player easy.
Etc.: Various coaches on playoffs. Considerable speculation that Alabama's projected starting tailback may not be ready for the Jerryworld game. They would plug in a five-star freshman in his stead. You are annihilating the EDSBS fundraiser. Good luck, St. Louis group trying to get a Big 10-SEC bowl game there. Seriously, good luck.
Eric Upchurch. Upchurch's spring gallery.
The Spring Game came and went and I don't think it was just me: this one seemed flat in comparison to previous editions. The last time Michigan had a spring game so devoid of intrigue it was 2007, when senior versions of Hart and Henne ruled on offense and Lloyd Carr was the coach. Carr often seemed like he'd prefer it if his team played in front of no one, and this tendency was most frequently expressed at spring games. 2007 was boring and that was the way of things: boring.
- 2008: closed to the public thanks to Michigan Stadium construction, we still get our first glimpses at the spread offense… and our doom. The sense of the willies you got reading descriptions of what went on (you dismissed it as meaningless spring game stuff because you didn't want to ruin your summer as well as your fall) was the first indicator of what we were in for. The turnover party did not stop until the season did.
- 2009: Tate Forcier's coming out party. Program savior gets a run out for the first time as an early enrollee, performs brilliantly, everyone high-fives. Ace puts together Weapon of Choice video that is then recut into Weapon of Choice w/ Christopher Walken video. Youtube now thinks this video is set to Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend," which is Skynet-level commentary on how that Forcier thing worked out.
- 2010: Denard Robinson's coming out party. Program savior gets a run out for not quite the first time but definitely the first one in which he looks like a plausible quarterback, performs brilliantly, everyone high-fives. Afterwards mgovideo published cutups of all three QBs' snaps so people could engage in Lincoln-Douglass debates about who should be the starter.
- 2011: Will Al Borges stuff Denard Robinson into a pro-style offense designed for the exact opposite sort of quarterback? Answer: argh, yes. Spring game spawns offseason-long running debate about whether it's pure folly to move away from all shotgun, all the time. Borges participates in internal conflict version of that debate and generally sides with the shotgun crew, except against Iowa, for which we all pay dearly.
The past four years the spring game has been an important data dump that has indicated quite a lot of things about Michigan's season to come. Doom in 2008. Better quarterbacking the next couple years but with a fatal flaw: Forcier and Robinson's blowout performances came against Michigan's defense, which merely blew. Last year displayed to all how bad an idea it was to go under center a majority of the time.
This year Michigan spent about the same number of snaps as last year in the spread, ran Denard out there for one series, gave the established top tailback a few carries, and the whole thing was… just there, flopping around being dull and stuff.
Maybe this opinion is influenced by the fact that I wasn't there, but I don't think so. The things we think we found out are generally less exciting than "introducing DENARD ROBINSON!" and less important than the possibility we might totally screw him up. This is a sign of health in a program. It just makes this post a little less throbbingly important than it has been recently.
Anyway, there were some things we did learn…
DonkeyPuncher231 (please change that username someday, dear DP) has spliced together just about the whole thing:
The official site put out a highlight video about half that length:
An unofficial box score from AnnArbor.com. Notables:
- Gardner two of seven with an INT and 36 yards passing.
- Bellomy six of nine but the same yardage as Gardner.
- Gardner 9 rushes for 41 yards.
- Toussaint five for 39.
- Rawls 9 for 39.
- Hayes and Smith had one yard between them on 11 carries.
- "Unknown" caught two balls for 20 yards. Tacopants?
That data in hand, let's talk turkey.
Backup Quarterback Derby? I've Never Heard Of Such A Thing
Michigan's coaches took the Colonel Tressel approach to the obvious #1 storyline of the day, Russell Bellomy looking a lot better than Devin Gardner. Bellomy praise was ladled out but when a reporter asked point-blank who the #2 guy was, Hoke's response:
If you were to name a No. 2 quarterback today, who would it be?
“Well, it’s Devin.”
I see nossing. I do not comment on Devin Gardner throwing multiple five-yard dumpoffs in a manner that John Shurna thinks is unusual and Northwestern's perpetual 6'9" euro center who takes threes despite never making any of them thinks is inaccurate. Neither do I comment on Gardner throwing an interception that, while a pretty good play by one Blake Countess, was also very late.
Borges's Bellomy praise was specifically parceled out after a section of Gardner hype:
You gave most of the snaps to Devin Gardner and Russell Bellomy today …
“Yeah, that’s what we were trying to develop. We decided before we came in that we were only going to play Denard just a little tiny bit. We wanted to see these other kids.”
Thoughts on their springs overall?
“Yeah I think Devin in particular has had an outstanding spring. He’s really done some very nice things and has developed in the position more and more. Needs more time in situations like this where there’s a lot of people watching and the pressure’s on and all that, but he has really done a nice job. And Russ -- I said it last week and the week before -- Russ has been steady and solid and [when] guys get open he hits them. He makes very few mistakes. He’s just one of those kinds of guys. He too is very athletic and can get himself out of some messes. He’s a solid guy.
If Gardner's been really good and Bellomy uninspiring but solid and mistake-light throughout the spring, only one of these traits came through on Saturday.
Twitter took the evidence on hand, considered it carefully, and wrote out a PhD thesis about how Gardner was terrible forever and Bellomy should be the backup quarterback as Gardner became LarryJustin FitzeraldBlackmon. And, yea, because twitter always has the most considered opinions these were not immediately regretted in the morning and… actually, hold that twitter sarcasm for one twitter moment.
Do we of the twitter hivemind regret that? Let's consider the evidence. Last year Gardner got into various games and threw 23 passes. He was 11 of 23 for 176 yards (7.6 YPA), one touchdown, and one INT. There was also this:
The defense would like to add this:
That's not much to go on. Let's make our data big, at least insofar as it can be made so.
In three consecutive spring games he's looked bad. You may remember Jake Ryan bursting onto the scene last year with a pick six thrown directly at his dome by Gardner. Yeah. Stuff on Gardner from the last spring game post:
As per usual, many events from the spring game are in the eye of the beholder. Is Devin Gardner's inability to find anyone open an indictment of him, an indictment of the second-team wide receivers, or… uh… like… people being covered? I know that latter seems improbable but I have seen football games in which this has happened. …
Unfortunately, there was a lot that was unambiguously bad, most of it from the quarterbacks: interceptions whistled yards over the intended receiver's head or thrown directly at linebackers, a Mallett-like plague of dropped snaps, offsides calls, etc. The general impression was more 2008 than 2010. … The QBs sucked on their own. …
Devin Gardner was also inaccurate in drills. They have this dig route where a slot receiver works to the seam then cuts his route off 15 yards downfield and Gardner was consistently missing it.
Robinson went out and did okay for himself after that business, minimizing its importance in our attempts to judge him. For Gardner it remains a big chunk of the time we've gotten to see him.
Here's the video of the year previous:
A summary of that from the immediate aftermath:
Devin Gardner looked raw as hell, fumbling snaps, scrambling into trouble, and reverting to that ugly shotput motion whenever he was forced to throw on the run. He looked like a freshman, which is okay because he is a freshman. However, the torrent of spring hype that suggested Gardner would probably not redshirt because he would be Michigan's best quarterback by UConn… eh, not so much. Maybe it was just a bad day. Even if it was an off day, Robinson showed enough to relegate Gardner to the bench for the first couple games and hopefully his whole freshman year.
Gardner did show the his deep touch on a third and long seam to Odoms that was laid in perfectly. Odoms dropped it.
Gardner got safetied and intercepted on the same play and still probably had a better overall outing than he did yesterday.
So. This is our oeuvre. Now consider Michigan's situation:
- They didn't even attempt a long pass yesterday, presumably because they were all covered. After tight end, wide receiver is the position on offense that could most use an instant talent infusion.
- Most of the unambiguously good things Gardner did yesterday involved his legs. That scamper down the sideline… good lord y'all. It's not a big stretch to declare him the best athlete on the team outside of Denard, and given that size and wingspan he could be pushing close to #16.
- Bellomy looks like a competent game manager should the need arise.
- Given Robinson's previous two seasons at QB, the need almost certainly will arise.
- Moving Gardner away from quarterback gives Michigan exactly two QBs this year and next and means either a true freshman or low-profile redshirt sophomore starts for M in 2013.
What do you do with that? Hell if I know. If you still had Forcier around and recruited a 2012 quarterback I would be at the post office right now watching Hoke mail a bow-clad Gardner* to Jeff Hecklinski. If there were enough of us and a fiddle we'd probably be singing Hava Nagila and dancing.
*[He's also wearing a full uniform, pervs.]
In Michigan's current situation, moving Gardner is asking for this interlude in game nine:
MCDONAUGH: Michigan's quarterback is now Jack Kennedy. Ask not what your team can do for you, Jack, amirite?
MILLEN: He looks really, really sweaty.
MCDONAUGH: Astute observation, Matt. Jack Kennedy is soaked in a bodily fluid we dearly hope is sweat.
MILLEN: Someone should get him an IV. I… what is that? That can't be healthy.
MCDONAUGH: Jack Kennedy is leaving a trail of viscous material behind him that must be a slurry of sweat and pure, distilled fear. Here's the snap. Kennedy hands off from the I-form… Vincent Smith with a one-yard loss.
MILLEN: Can all that fluid really be coming out of his body?
MCDONAUGH: Take it from my uncle Morty: all that and more. Vincent Smith with a one-yard loss.
MILLEN: How can he even hold on to the ball?
MCDONAUGH: I have no idea. This series of one-yard losses may be the most heroic in football history. Vincent Smith tackled for a loss of one.
MILLEN: Just look at him not fumble that snap despite having lost half his body weight in the past six minutes.
MCDONAUGH: It's kind of beautiful.
MILLEN: For spacious skies. For aglumb waves of grain. For purple mounted mohair above the fruit-tossed Spain. AMERICAAAAAAA—
MCDONAUGH: Hagerup in to punt.
MILLEN: –AMERICAAAAAAAA, GOD SPED HIS FACE ON THEEEEEE. AND CROWN THY HOOD WITH BROTHERGOOD FROM PEA TO SHINGLING PEA.
MCDONAUGH: Inspiring stuff from Ann Arbor. Michigan has six yards of offense at the half. We'll be back after this commercial break.
SCENE. This may have been drug-induced.
Anyway. They'd probably just put Gardner in and hope they hadn't stunted his development to the point where he'd be totally useless. Things would go poorly.
Could you blame them that much, though? If Hoke reaches for the brass ring next fall and it blows up in his face because Denard goes down and the guy who was supposed to be his backup is at wideout, I probably wouldn't even be mad. It would suck, but I want a guy who will swing for the fences.
While the coaches are going out of their way to make it sound like that is not in the cards, sometimes the relationship between reality and what coaches have to say to not have horrible things happen is great. If Devin wants to be the #2 QB going into fall Michigan would be foolish not to downplay the WR stuff until he's on campus in the fall. Once he's there, then talk to him about moonlighting while still being the #2.
Gun to the head, I think he does see a lot of time at WR in fall camp. He'll still practice most of the #2 QB snaps but also taking a share of snaps at WR when Denard is out there. They'll teach him one of the four spots—probably Hemingway's—and use him in certain three and four wide receiver packages for 15-20 snaps a game. If he proves to be a top-flight guy quickly Michigan might not have much choice about using him more in tight games, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
If Denard goes down for any length of time, it'll be Devin.
Meanwhile there are 20 or 21 other positions Michigan has to fill…
All Eyes(z) On Campbell
"It just means I can't slip at all, because I got 120 eyes on me now," Campbell said of leading the team on the field.
Well… there's no denying he looked a lot better.
Like, a lot. Last spring game guy was a lump who managed to not get blown off the ball most of the time and just about never did anything. During the year he was largely that with some nice plays mixed in, but too infrequently to be encouraging. In the spring game he had clearly progressed enough to actually beat his man to the gap more than once.
You know all those runs Rawls had where he had to abort mission and find another hole? Most of those were headed at Campbell. Since we got a baseline for Ricky Barnum in the time he got before his ankle injury last year—decent Big Ten player even then—that's a hopeful sign.
Mattison and Hoke hated it, though, hated everything. I am factoring in further improvement as this line Heningers themselves into ship shape by fall. Enough to survive a 'Bama onslaught? Probably not, but they'll be okay afterwards.
Other DL Items
Roh and Black each showed some pass-rush ability from their spots and neither got ostentatiously rammed into the endzone on a big run play. The going was tough for the offense. With four-ish starters back from an OL that paved the way for Michigan running backs—IE, no Denard—to average 5.7 YPA last year, I'll place that in the good column. The extremely tenuous good column.
One nice thing the moves do is it allows Mattison to play a ton of games with his line. Black and Roh can both function as outside DEs just fine, so Mattison can call plays where the line slants and stunts such that one of those guys ends up playing a WDE-ish slot whenever he wants. What Michigan lacks in bulk they'll have to make up for with quickness and the element of surprise; Mattison will have some chess pieces to do that with next year. Note that the touch sack on the Gardner waggle came from the containing… Black. Usually your three-technique is not the guy asked to do that.
The depth here was also encouraging. Richard Ash made a couple nice plays, which I was not expecting. One was an excellent string-out on a stretch play that forced the tailback to awkwardly cut behind him. I was beyond not expecting that. I don't think John Gasaway will get on me if I say I was shocked. Yeah. Later he showed up two yards in the backfield directly in the path of an iso; he got blocked from the side but the bounce he forced saw Marvin Robinson chop poor Vincent Smith down for a one-yard loss.
Redshirt freshman Keith Heitzman also was a standout on the second units, though his inability to flow down the line at the proper angle was the main issue on Rawls's fourth-and-short touchdown. He got into the backfield plenty. Once you've got a guy who can get there it's not that hard to get him to take the right angle against air.
Toussaint clubberates Morgan, via the Wolverine
None serious. Desmond Morgan took a cut block from Fitzgerald Toussaint and limped his way to the sidelines for the day; a source indicates that is not serious and shouldn't affect him at all. Jerald Robinson also had a minor boo boo that should not affect him.
The only player to miss the game was backup SDE Nate Brink, and that injury was no surprise since it happened before the Sugar Bowl. Barring a non-contact injury, Michigan should hit fall camp with everyone on the roster ready to go. Everyone save Brink, the suspended Josh Furman, and the mysteriously absent-but-returned now Tamani Carter got a full spring session in.
So they've got that going for them. That's a lot better than last year when five or six important players, including Toussaint and Lewan, were sidelined.
The Burzynski Start
World, meet Joey Burzynski, the redshirt sophomore walk-on who started at left guard in the spring game. That's not a huge surprise since a lot of shadowy spring practice reports praised him as a potential contributor and he had seen some time with the ones in the King of Tight Frames' highlight videos throughout the spring. His start may not mean anything more than Michigan wanted a decent right tackle (Elliott Mealer) on the second unit to give Bellomy a little time, but the guy started the spring game and must be considered an obvious member of the two-deep.
This is a development that strikes me as concerning. Redshirt freshman Chris Bryant has been getting a lot of shadow praise for a year now and he doesn't seem to be anywhere close to finding a starting job. Not only is he behind Mealer on most days when Mealer is a guard, he's behind Burzynski. Decrement your Bryant excitement meters.
No offense to Burzynski, but until proven otherwise the assumption here is that the spot featuring a walk-on is going to be a problem. Even if it's not that's a spot that will be subject to fierce competition in fall.
Q: does Michigan have enough faith in one of its incoming freshman tackles to move Kalis from primary tackle backup—this site's assumed role for him as a freshman—to left guard competitor? A: Dunno. I do know they like Ben Braden a lot, like far more than the recruiting sites did. Whether he's got the polish to be that third tackle or not I don't know. I would look at insta-move of Kalis inside as a good sign as far as Magnuson and Braden go. That'll be something to watch for in the spring.
Thomas Rawls: Ramming Speed
We got a few carries from Toussaint to remind us that yes, Virginia, Michigan has a true feature back again. The headliner amongst the backups was sophomore Thomas Rawls, who showed a knack in short-yardage ramming and the sort of spread-oriented north-south RAGE runs that Brandon Minor used to specialize in.
It was the short yardage that was most impressive. Michigan's OL was rarely getting Rawls the holes they intended to get him. I'll leave the debate about whether that was Mattison's DL being better than expected or the OL worse for people who enjoy debating impossibilities; what was certainly impressive is that when that happened to Rawls he downshifted behind wherever the intended hole was supposed to be and burst into the next one over—closer to the middle of the field. He lowered his head, knocked guys back, and showed enough presence of mind to reach the ball across the goal line when he was suspended near it. Your short-yardage back: check.
Rawls also displayed that north-south bowling ball mentality on a couple of belly plays from the gun on which flailing arm tackles failed to bring him down and he fell forward after contact. He's got enough of a package to also provide breathers for Toussaint when he wants out. He'll get 5-10 carries a game this year and fill a role. Not sure if he'll ever reach feature back status with two more years of Toussaint and the Isaac(?)/Smith cavalry coming in next season, but he doesn't have to to be a good idea.
Vincent Smith: Did I Do Something Wrong?
Dear Tiny Jesus,
It's me, Vincent. All praise to your save percentage. Could you make sure the spring game is the last time I ever run an iso play from under center? I never go anywhere and it hurts a lot when six 300 pound defensive tackles fling me into the natatorium.
Congratulations on your call-up with the Blue Jackets.
Tiny Bros Before Other Bros,
(Smith will be the third down back again and will level some dudes way bigger than he is to open up third down conversions. The power of Rawls hopefully compels Michigan not to run Smith out of the I any more.)
Spring game disclaimers apply, but where were Jerald Robinson and Roy Roundtree? They were out there. They were not targeted frequently. IIRC Roundtree got a hitch from Robinson on the first drive and then was not gone to again. Robinson featured from time to time but never as a downfield receiver, always as a checkdown option and usually a checkdown option being given a crappy pass.
The only receiver to make an impact was Gallon. I'd prefer Michigan's main target to be a big dude with a bigger catching radius, no offense Denard.
Secondary Status Quo
After a series of video clips heavily featuring comer Terrence Talbott with the ones instead of JT Floyd it was Floyd who got the start Saturday. He played well, making quick tackles on the short stuff. Later he broke up a slant on a goal-line situation only to get a horsecrap PI call (BOOO PRETEND REF, BOOO). While Talbott got some run, I don't think Floyd's job is under serious threat. Especially after Mattison gushed about him at that Glazier clinic some months ago.
As a unit the secondary was excellent. Countess got a pick and there were very few downfield completions. A skinny post from Gardner to Gallon stands out as the only one of note. Default note about how that makes the WRs look bad goes here; comparison to Michigan defenses pre-Mattison also does. To virtually skunk an offense in 60 plays is quality. With Talbott emerging Michigan seems to go four-deep at corner, maybe five or six depending on how ready Hollowell and Taylor are. The comparison to the Never Forget days is wondrous.
If the depth isn't quite as good at safety at least Jarrod Wilson and Marvin Robinson seemed on top of things… most of the time. Wilson was the guy Rawls made most of his highlights against. If either starter goes down there will be some hairy moments. One of the two should be able to replace 80% of Kovacs next year.
Robinson is out of the doghouse and to see him play well was good because I'd gotten some practice buzz that indicated he was out of shape. He's obviously not; he seems tuned in. Michigan will need him. Even if Furman's stuff was as minor as his lawyer suggests he'll be behind this fall. If it's not as minor he might not be available for a while.
Do Not Be Alarmed, Rich Rodriguez Is Still In Arizona
Formations and such: Michigan still can't run out of the I worth a lick, which is fine by me. I suppose we have to downshift into that stuff eventually, but I'd rather it be clear as day that the way to go is shotgun just to prevent any further Iowa-like misunderstandings of where Michigan's capabilities lie.
Aside from that the most interesting aspect of the day's formations was the most common set: two backs, three WRs, shotgun. That was the meat and bones of the spread and shred in its Slaton/White/Schmitt heyday and Michigan has a pretty good replica of that in Toussaint/Robinson/Hopkins, albeit without the spread-oriented OC and the lethality of the spread in the early aughts as allies.
This says what everyone expects about the TEs—yuck—and suggests that if Michigan can't block 'em they're going to spread 'em. If it's going to work they are going to have to make that gray area defender pay for cheating. We'll see.
Brandin Hawthorne: Mauler of Walk-ons
The most interesting thing that happened after Jack Kennedy entered, signaling the end of serious attention from most folk, was Brandin Hawthorne going ham. He shot a gap for a backfield TFL reminiscent of his slice into the Irish backfield late in that game, then intercepted a TE-bound ball on the next play.
He made a few other tackles here and there and looked… really good.
Now, we've seen him on the field and there's only one way Hawthorne making contact with a Big Ten blocker ends. That would be "poorly," and that would be why Desmond Morgan took his job last year and won't give it back this year.
I'm just saying, though. Just sayin' that when Michigan goes to a nickel package on a passing down I think having Hawthorne in there as a blitzer and cover guy instead of Morgan would behoove Michigan. Morgan's a little ponderous on his pass drops, and if it's a passing down Hawthorne's limitations against rushes aren't relevant. Just sayin'. Throwin' it out there.
You, athletic department intern who has to read these things: don't say you got it from me. Ask Mattison to repeat that thing he was saying a couple months ago about using Hawthorne as a nickel WLB and how smart that seemed even before he was killing walk-ons in the spring game. Yeah.
- Bellomy ran a QB power from the gun, so it's still there and it might stick around for a while. Bellomy did decently with it.
- There were also a few inverted veers, none of which went for a ton of yards. Gardner did impressively juke himself into a crease outside on one; he was blown dead before he could test it.
- Kaleb Ringer had an impressive track-and-tackle on Hayes in the open field off a dumpoff. Next play he whiffed a tackle on Toussaint (I think it was him).
- Jeremy Jackson's lack of separation from Blake Countess was… not surprising.
- Demens blanketed a Brandon Moore TE out that Gardner shouldn't have thrown but did; he made a nice play on the ball. His coverage is an underrated aspect of his game.
- Antonio Poole only popped up on my radar when he lost leverage on a Gardner scramble late.
Weather could have been worse. This is what Indiana was facing down for their now-cancelled spring game:
Tre Roberson put the One Ring into the fires of Mount Press Box and things returned to normal.
Random picture on the twitter:
Tuley-Tillman, Bosch… OH GOD WHAT DID THEY DO TO DENARD BREATHE BREATHEEEE
LaQuon Treadwell with Morris and Bosch:
Alumni game recap at AA.com.
Bullets and whatnot from:
Also AA.com has an article on Burzynski.