Drake Harris is ready to put on the pads and play. [Fuller]
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Drake Harris hasn't seen game action for the better part of two years because of hamstring injuries, but the talented Grand Rapids native says he's healthy and ready to contribute this fall. This was part of a scrum, so only a few of these were MGoQuestions, and there's a little bit of overlap with injury questions.
[walked in partway through question] …do you know you’re ready?
Oh yeah. We ran 40s, that’s sprinting. We had one-on-ones, seven-on-sevens basically every day during the spring and summer, so I was basically sprinting and running every day, working.
So you’re ready to go, you think?
Oh yeah. I’m good. … I feel great. This is the best I’ve felt in I don’t know how many years. Running 40s and everything, I feel good.
So you’re planning on being a starter?
(Laughs.) I mean, that’s the goal for me, to start. I just have to take it day by day and take it from there.
Are you playing anything outside of wide receiver? Punt returns? Kick returns?
They had me playing a little bit of corner in the spring, but my primary position is wide receiver.
What’s it been like working with Jedd Fisch coming in with all the experience he has at the professional level?
It’s been great. Like you said, he’s worked at the professional level, so he’s worked with great wide receivers like Brandon Marshall. I’m learning different drills from him, different techniques, it’s helped me out a lot being a wide receiver and growing.
What’s been the biggest difference in terms of what you guys are doing in practice versus previous years?
We have four-hour practices, basically, so they’re long practices. It’s not really that much different. It’s more up-tempo, very up-tempo, all the practices. They split teams so you get a lot more reps, like for younger players, so it’s good for all of us.
It’s pretty wide open with the receivers this year. Do you think that’s helped with the competition, getting more reps in?
Yeah, for sure. Being able to get more reps and learning the plays and throwing with all the different quarterbacks, it’s good. It’s good for all of us.
I know you’re sick of getting asked about it, but how’s the hamstring feeling?
It’s good. This is the best I’ve felt in I don’t know how long. I haven’t had any problems with it for the last six months, I’d say. I’ve put on some weight and I think that’s helped a lot with it.
What are you up to?
You mentioned playing corner a little bit in the spring. It seems to be a pretty common thing with this team. What was that experience like?
It was a learning experience. I’ve never really played corner. I played it a little bit in high school but I never thought I was going to play it in college, but my primary position is still receiver. I think they were just trying me out at corner a little bit because I have length and me playing basketball, those skills translate to playing corner. It was a learning experience for sure.
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The Harbaugh era seems considerably less paranoid than the previous regime. Practice reports are coming in from a lot more sources than they used to; no doubt this is partially because excitement sees a lot more people on the sideline. I do hear that they're less concerned about "X looks good, tempo is fast" reports getting out.
Tempo is fast, by the way. Harbaugh has brought a high-rep style to practices in an effort to get everything he can out of every countable hour. It is not exactly Oregon hyper-speed where all coaching is done after, in film. It's a lot closer to that than the Hoke-era practices were. A recruit's parent took in a practice and posted about it to a Facebook group, and his impressions match some others I've been sent:
1. Tempo of practice and the philosophy. Very different from last year. 2 sets of scrimmages per field. A play is being ran an avg of 25 to 35 secs. If they went two groups, they would alternate but each group ran a play every 25secs. So ... Coaches saw 2 plays every 30 secs. Ton of reps. Very different from last year. Coaches are coaching very quick between plays. Emphasis on getting the reps in during practice and correcting mistakes in film. Practice was very similar to how Saban runs his practices.
2. There really is competition at EVERYTHING. I saw several of these "competitions." A couple examples ... QBs did a "fastest release/ball speed" comp. On command, they had to throw a bullet pass 20yds. Malzone looked good. Several races took place today as well but most know about those.
Those were vintage 1990s; these are a lot closer to modern speeds. Michigan is running multiple reps at a time on opposite ends of the field with first and second teams.
(Aside: I can't help but draw a line between Hoke's deliberate practice pace and his program's inability to operate at any other speed.)
Practices have also been extremely long. How one practice can be longer than another when NCAA maximums are mandated for everyone is unclear; possible that Hoke was spending some of his countable hours in other ways? That seems highly improbable, but so do Michigan's results the past couple years.
Harbaugh bein' Harbaugh
When practice was over Harbaugh brought the team around him and awarded the day to the defense. As a reward he told them they had to run while the offense watched because “here, the winners are the ones that earn the opportunity to get better.”
Quarterback Battle Royale
Whether it's the WWE kind or the Quentin-Tarantino-porn that is way better than the Hunger Games, what Michigan has on its hands qualifies as such. Jedd Fisch was carefully neutral during his press conference yesterday, as coaches are. He asserted that everyone was even and getting even reps, as coaches do.
But allow your author to read into things some. Fisch on Malzone:
"He's got a lot going on. But he's handled it unbelievably well. He's unbelievable in terms of his ability to not let things bother him. To be consistent and play the game. If a play doesn't go right, he's right back in there for the next one. A short-term memory is phenomenal for a quarterback."
Wilton is a very large man, he's a big guy (at 6-foot-6). He can see everything. He's a pretty good athlete and he throws the ball well. He doesn't seem to have had a ton of experience.
"Shane has a very strong arm, as everybody knows, he spins it well and he just has to understand that, really, that's not the most important thing. If you have a really strong arm, then you have a really strong arm. That's what you have. Now, it's a matter of 'what can you do with it?' How do you utilize it? His skill set and his arm strength are tremendous and he's very comfortable. It's fun to watch him in the huddle, he has a really good command of what we're asking him to do."
The tweets that captured small sections of the fuller quotes came off more negative towards Morris, highlighting "unbelievable" for Malzone and "throw it at the person" for Morris. It was more neutral than that. Via Maize and Blue News:
Even so, the overall vibe from that presser seemed to confirm reports floating around at Scout, Rivals, and in my inbox: there's considerable debate about who looks better between Malzone and Speight… and there ends the debate. Scout's observers tend to like Malzone. Rivals's like Speight. Malzone is reportedly adjusting to the size of the players in front of him; Speight doesn't have that issue and is a year ahead of Malzone in terms of college prep.
Early days obviously, but it feels like the QB race is two horses with Morris lagging behind. Gentry and maybe Rudock are yet to enter.
Tailback Battle Royale
See above in re: term. Tyrone Wheatley has a lot of options here and is doing a lot of correcting in drills. Will be interesting to see if there's a performance differential there. The latest practice video from the department features Wheatley heavily if you'd like to hear him talk some.
Most of these guys look like they've looked. Johnson's out; Smith may be a hair faster; it's tough to tell if Green's vision problems are any better in this context. (Most people observing practice do so from the sideline, where holes are not always visible.)
There is the new guy, of course. Ty Isaac is "huge" and "could be a linebacker." He injured a finger somewhat badly in one practice but shrugged it off to continue with drills. This undoubtedly earned him some Harbaugh toughness brownie points. (He did sit out some on subsequent days.)
Chase Winovich is at least practicing there…
Rt when you see it pic.twitter.com/1FfBEqacoI
— Chase Winovich (@CCWino58) March 11, 2015
…and while Harbaugh seemed pretty dismissive about supposed position moves earlier this spring, they are looking at him there. When I fretted that this didn't make a lot of sense given the seeming surplus at H-back, Ace reminded me that Harbaugh switched guys around like mad at Stanford. Doug Baldwin played both ways; Owen Marecic played both ways. Harbaugh loves to experiment, and when he finds a Football Player that guy tends to Play A Lot Of Football. Possibly the same dynamic here.
Because man does Michigan need something above and beyond Butt/Bunting/Hill/Shallman/Houma? And Pallante? And apparently Henry Poggi?
Is it possible Winovich is getting a legit look at tailback? I doubt it but it's not like Michigan's not looking for options there.
It seems clear that Michigan has a relatively set front seven with a lot of depth at three-tech and some at linebacker. So they're taking the opportunity to test out anyone who may be an effective manballer.
FWIW, Ian Bunting looks promising but could still use some more weight on his frame if he's going to be a true dual-threat at the TE spot. When asked to catch the ball he looks "terrific," with the kind of wingspan that will remind you of Funchess "plus a couple inches." Hands are reputed to be excellent. Sam cited him as a potential breakout player.
Sione Houma has been held out with an injury, FWIW.
Receiver Battle… somewhat Royale
Drake Harris exists! He is full go in practice after like two straight years of hamstring doom. Reports alternate between impressive play and extreme skinniness. I believe both; this year will likely be a learning/glaring at hamstring owlishly/getting bigger campaign for him. 247:
There's no doubt about one thing: Harris is going to have to gain some weight in the next six months if he wants to see the field this season. However, the early impressions of him are twofold. One, he's finally 100% healthy and is a full-go at wide receiver. Two, he's been very impressive off the edge and has been a favorite target for a couple of the quarterbacks in early drills.
Harris was kind of a big deal before his leg acted up on him, remember. He was a top-50 prospect who Michigan had to fend off Alabama for after a 2,000 yard junior season.
Other reports are so scattered it's tough to draw conclusions from them. There are a lot of receivers, there are a lot of reps, an observer can easily sink into confirmation bias. At various time's I've heard good things about Ways, Chesson, Norfleet, and Bunting. Darboh's been absent so far and Canteen may still be too small to get off jams; I wouldn't read a whole lot into the former since Darboh is a known quantity.
OL Somewhat Settled(?) Royale
There's significant rotation along the offensive line, as you might expect. Other than the returning starters the biggest threats for playing time are Patrick Kugler, David Dawson, and Logan Tuley-Tillman. Miller and Braden are the returning starters under the most threat.
It is impossible to tell anything about these guys yet, as this is the point in the year when they're at the greatest disadvantage. Having eight real options is excellent, at least.
Chris Fox is still injured. You may remember that he came in after suffering a severe knee injury in his senior year of high school, ballooned up into the 350 range, and hasn't been talked about much subsequently. At least early this spring he was still on crutches. We are rapidly approaching the point where a medical scholarship is the most likely outcome.
Not fair comparing Peppers to humans. [Upchurch]
Ace: Since there's always at least one: Who do you think becomes this year's Spring Breakout Guy?
Alex Cook (hoops beat): Can I answer with Jabrill Peppers? Last year was a complete and unmitigated disaster -- even our best recruit (of the past decade and perhaps longer) went down with an injury and missed pretty much the whole season. It's going to be easy for the national media to forget about him: Peppers didn't make any noise last year -- because of injury -- and Michigan isn't expected to do a whole lot (though we do have Harbaugh, which will be a well-tracked national storyline).
|I like big butts and we cannot lie, when we’re building an offensive line. When a kid walks in with fleet-foot spin, and lower-body weight you get sprung! [Upchurch]|
I'm a True Believer when it comes to Jabrill Peppers, especially after the move to safety, where he can be in the box and play a coverage guy in equal turn. The guy has "future top ten pick" written all over him and I'm guessing we'll hear all about that as spring progresses.
Seth: Yeah it'll be Peppers though we've been stoking that flame so long it can't be that much of a surprise when it goes up. So in the spirit of the annual "hey look what we found" of Spring let's go for a surprise candidate.
Logan Tuley-Tillman is what NFL left tackles are supposed to look like at 20 years old. Here's a guy who dropped 20 lbs from high school, then built back 10. He also had a hand injury last year to explain why he couldn't compete with a true freshman.
Brian on Monday mentioned a practice observer said the light went on. When that happens to a guy whose build matches the Michael Oher description from Blind Side, that means a Jake Long is born.
For LTT to crack the starting lineup now would mean he beat out (probably) Magnuson and Braden, two guys with 23 starts between them. Word from practice so far seems to be emphasizing that Cole and Miller are the only two OL from last year's unit who've locked down a job, then peg Cole as maybe moving to guard or RT. Reading between the lines it seems somebody’s job’s under fire from one of underclassmen. It could as well be Dawson—perhaps he can pull?—pushing from behind, since I’ve also read nice things about him coming out of practice, but the Cole thing suggests it’s a tackle who’s upsetting the standard order, and if that tackle was Magnuson we’d be hearing they plan to find a spot for Mags. Fox is still hurt, so that leaves JBB or LTT, and people are talking about the latter.
[Jump for more things Harbaugh makes better]
[I bet you’ve never appreciated Upchurch and Fuller more than you do today]
Drevno will be responsible for play calling
Offensive gameplans will be a joint effort between all of the offensive coaches and Harbaugh
Four of the five starters on last year’s OL losing weight is a coincidence; Drevno’s still looking into it and said he’ll get the weights where they need to be
The quarterback competition is “wide open,” and their progress is primarily being tracked by Harbaugh and Fisch
Drevno said Harbaugh’s the smartest man he’s ever been around and unique in a great way
Winning has cured more ills than penicillin
“It feels good, this cold, doesn’t it?”
- We’re used to it.
“I like it.”
What are some of the characteristics that are going to help kids see the field early for you? Toughness, mobility- is there one thing above any others?
“I think, number one, it’s just how they take the information from the classroom [and] take it out on the field. Understand their assignments and have a want-to and a physicality and being a teammate, a great teammate.
“Is that it? Okay, great!”
On the roster four of the five starting offensive linemen from last year lost weight. Was that something that was kind of a plan as far as you guys were concerned or is it just a coincidence?
“No, I think it’s just a coincidence. I’m still looking at their weights and evaluating them now and we’ll get those weights where they need to be and be able to move in a very good fashion up front.”
You’re starting with a clean slate. How much does experience count for the guys who’ve played?
“You know, it’s- it really is a clean slate. I just turn on the film and see who’s doing it at a high level and doing it at the top of their craft. At USC last year I started three true freshmen, so I’m just trying to find the best players out there and that’s the best thing about it; guys get out there and compete to be the best.”
Can you kind of tell the guys who’ve played already?
“Yeah, at times I can. You can just because they’re a little bit more grooved in their technique and things, but kind of day to day at times. Yeah, you can.”
[After THE JUMP: the quickest way to an offensive lineman’s heart is through a barbeque]
We get excited about certain things around these parts. Like fun-to-size ratios. And new official rosters with updated weights. We've had 24 hours to parse the Spring data, and with Brian on the road today it's up to me to see how they've grown:
Things of [a Certain Definition of] Interest:
- Brady Pallante is a fullback
- Ross Douglas is listed as Ross Taylor-Douglas, and is back at corner
- Ian Bunting is up to 6'7/243
- A.J. Williams is up to offensive tackle size (6'6/285)
Weight Gain/Loss 2000
A reminder of internet policy on weight changes: all weight gain is muscle fiber, all weight lost was fat, and all static weight means fat was replaced with muscle fiber. I've highlighted things discussed after.
|Player||'11||'12||'13||S'14||F'14||Sp'15||'11- '12||'12-'13||'13-'14||'14- 15|
Fullback & Tight End
|Maurice Hurst Jr.||270||277||282||281||12||-1|
[Hit the jump for discussion on this and other bits I could glean.]
News bullets and other items:
Jabrill Peppers will redshirt. He was initially supposed to be out 6-8 weeks but isn’t where he needs to be to play again this season. He’s 4-5 weeks away from being healthy and will be fine for spring practice
Derrick Green is 2-3 weeks away from “doing things” despite initially being ruled out for the season
Noah Furbush had surgery to fix an injury that occurred in an All-Star game and has only participated in meetings this season
Drake Harris is slowly getting better and able to do more things, but we won’t see him this season
Hoke met briefly with Hackett this week, and they talked about day-to-day aspects of the program and how the team has stayed together
Hoke said the one change they’ll make as far as road games go is not turning the ball over, which I personally am a proponent of
“I think we had a really strong, energetic practice yesterday outside. Trying to get as many of the elements as we could because weather could be a factor. Wind will be a factor at Northwestern. Excited about the opportunity to go back to Chicago. There's quite a bit of Michigan alums that will have an opportunity to come to the game. It's important that we, in the football game itself we've got to start fast. Got to start and then continue that throughout the entire game.
“With Jabrill I had told you guys I would probably have an answer a little bit and we are going to redshirt him for this year. Him and I have had a lot of different conversations. Talked to his mother, talked to the doctors, trainers, and everybody who should be included in the conversation but a couple things that he's done very well is take care of himself. He's done great with the treatments, great with the rehab and all those things. He's done a tremendous job in school right now academically and he's excited about when he can get back on the field. He's improved but he's just not going to be where you want a guy to be who has that kind of ability. So as far as that goes– obviously we’re excited about this weekend.”
What's Jabrill’s injury?
“He's got a leg injury. That's probably as specific as all get.”
Well, he had the ankle earlier. Is it the same thing? Is it a different injury?
“It's a leg injury.”
Will that require surgery or can you not elaborate on that?
“Well, he doesn't need surgery. It's one of those things that just if I could tell you exactly the medical diagnosis I would but he's improving as we go forward.”
He's expected to make a full recovery?
“Oh yeah. No question.”
About Northwestern's offense. They've struggled. We talked about this a little bit Monday, but what did they do that's similar to Indiana and what did they do better?
“Well, I think they struggled with Iowa but Pat [Fitzgerald], I heard some of his comments and it was one of those games where nothing kind of got put together. They beat Wisconsin and they beat Penn State at Penn State. Played Nebraska very well. They were ahead in the football game and then Nebraska came back and did a nice job. From an offensive standpoint, I think Jackson, the back, is a guy who is awfully good. He has very good burst, very good speed. The offensive line, basically all but one is the same line we faced a year ago. I don't think we slowed them down a whole lot a year ago like we’d like to, so from that standpoint– then Siemian. He was off a little bit on Saturday and give Iowa credit for that but you look at other games, you watch the Minnesota game, you watch other games and he can really, really be effective.”
With Jabrill, would you expect that he be ready for spring practice?
“Yeah. Yeah, I think he'll be, you know – initially it was 6 to 8 weeks we thought was kind of the timeline on it and so I think he'll be in good shape probably in the next 4 to 5 weeks.”
When do you expect to have a timeframe for when Derrick [Green] can start doing things again?
You know, I think it's going to be another 2 to 3 weeks as far as I can tell with what we've talked about. He's getting better. He's doing a lot of alternate conditioning and things that you want him to do. Both of them and all of the guys when they’re banged up a little bit is they’re in meetings. One of the things Jabrill has done a nice job in the meetings, and making sure he understands the checks that are made, stuff like that out on the field. So I think Derrick, he's getting better. I can't give you an exact time[frame].
[After THE JUMP: Injury-infopalooza rages on]