News bullets and other items:
Reon Dawson and Jaron Dukes are medically retiring.
Freddy Canteen and Moe Ways recently had shoulder and foot surgery, respectively. Canteen’s status with the program is in the air; Ways should be back in 3-4 months.
Speight, O’Korn, and Morris are getting more snaps than the other QBs, but they’re all still making at least one “big mistake” every practice.
Devin Bush Jr. had his best practice of the spring on Saturday.
Harbaugh responded to Gene Smith’s comments because he felt a shot was fired across Michigan’s bow and, after waiting many hours, thought he needed to do the same. Just never, ever tell him that he likes to get in twitter wars because it’s a form of competition.
Harbaugh said it doesn’t matter to him what time of day games are played; a night game or lack thereof doesn’t faze him.
What did you see out there from your group today, and what were you looking for specifically here today?
“Uh, you know, good, competitive football fight. Getting better: in a lot of areas we are and in a lot of other areas not bad and other and all areas we need to keep improving, so…the guys are grindin’.”
Did your quarterback rotation go about how you wanted, and what did you see out of those guys?
“Uh…you know, there’s—like I told them, there’s, you know…we’re looking for a quarterback to move the team and not make the big mistake. They’re all in the mode of a big mistake a day, so we’re not—we’re just gonna keep plugging away and keep getting better, keep giving them things they can improve on, things they can take and use. Looking forward to the game setting. Maybe that’ll be another good test, but they’re getting a lot of tests right now. Strides are being made, but we’ve still got a long row to hoe.”
What does it do for your fans and for your team to come out here in this setting at Ford Field and open it up?
“I think it’s great in the way of sometimes spring practice can get monotonous. Some would even say boring. There’s no game that comes at the end of the week. It’s something different. Something to make it livelier, special—that’s what we get out of it. To have people in the stands, always felt that makes it better. Even the cameras, even the TV cameras—even if they didn’t have film in them, you know?”
They don’t anymore.
“Touché. So even if you had a camera that wasn’t actually recording anything guys would work hard. Guys would enjoy it more. People are watching, so that’s a good thing for us.”
With the quarterbacks, are you still repping them evenly or are you changing that up some?
“I’d say there’s Wilton [Speight], John [O’Korn], Shane [Morris] getting more. It’s not dead even anymore, no.”
Would it be Wilton, John, Shane in that order?
“I can’t even make an order right now. It’s to be determined still. It means a lot to all of them. You can tell in the way they play and just continuing to be able to play loose and play smart and continue to get repetitions. Continue to get looks and learn—that’s what they need to see right now. Looking forward to some game-like action. We’re going to make it game-like in the spring game. Everything’s going to be real tackle football live; the quarterbacks, everybody. There’ll be live bullets for them, so that’ll be a nice, good-size task for us. Looking forward to seeing how that plays out.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more]
Dukes caught the only TD of last year's spring game against Dennis Norfleet
Jaron Dukes and Reon Dawson are 'medically retiring,' per Harbaugh. Mo Ways suffered a broken bone in his foot recently. Out a few months.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) March 26, 2016
Per harbaugh Freddy canteen had surgery on his shoulder. Waiting for results to see if he can continue with his career
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) March 26, 2016
The departures of Dukes and Dawson bring Michigan to or under 85 depending on the status of the as-yet-unsigned Dytarious Johnson; if Canteen does not make it back they'd be at 84 and able to issue a scholarship to Ryan Glasgow.
Mission accomplished. They spent fifteen frickin' minutes talking about practice (practice!) on Sportscenter.
Michigan's first spring practice is receiving live coverage on SportsCenter. pic.twitter.com/b7LU9uIRHg
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) February 29, 2016
I mean, there are many missions. But this is one mission.
Also, Dick Vitale is there, I guess? He's putting it on periscope? This makes as much sense as anything else Harbaugh-related, which is complete sense and no sense all at once?
Also in brilliant moves that someone will try to ban. Player hours are limited. Coach hours are not. So why not maximize your ability to instruct by taking advantage of the latter:
Practice has two sessions... a maize & blue. Maize began at 8am and is done. One player said they're going to the beach a 1pm
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) February 29, 2016
That is twice the individual attention for each player. That might not be practical for every practice but when they're not in pads it's an obvious win, except I haven't heard of anyone else doing this so it's apparently not that obvious.
Roster items. Blake Bars and Damario Jones are off the roster and have left the program. Per Rivals, Bars is off to law school. Not sure what Jones's next stop is, but he announced he would grad transfer on Twitter. Pretty sure that the only player to leave the program without a degree this offseason is Brian Cole.
With those departures Michigan stands at 86 scholarships accounted for, plus walk-ons-you-really-expect-to-get-scholarships Kenny Allen and Ryan Glasgow. If Dytarious Johnson does end up enrolling they'd be at 87. I think that's pretty unlikely, as I can't remember a player who couldn't sign a letter of intent who managed to get to Michigan without a pit stop at a prep school. So Michigan needs to lose one more guy before fall.
There were a number of position switches and number changes:
- John O'Korn is wearing #8, so he doesn't conflict with Peppers.
- Chase Winovich is now listed as a defensive end(?!) because his career is designed to be that of an itinerant laborer. That may be a misprint or misunderstanding; Sam Webb tweeted that he was playing SAM. More on that in a bit.
- Freddy Canteen spent all his time at WR. This kind of bouncing back and forth without seeing the field is usually not a good sign for a player's future playing time. See: Ross Taylor-Douglas.
- Mason Cole took the first snaps as a center, with Newsome at LT.
- As Harbaugh mentioned earlier, Khalid Hill is playing FB and Zach Gentry is playing TE.
- Ty Wheatley Jr. is still a tight end. He is less enormous.
- Ahmir Mitchell is starting as a WR.
A coach roster item. Harbaugh confirmed the Brian Smith hire and said he'd coach safeties with Zordich remaining with cornerbacks. I was kind of hoping for that Viney dude but you have to let Don Brown make that call.
Cease ringing the Drake Harris injury klaxons. He missed practice today… with norovirus. He should be good to go for the next one. Webb says he's up to 185; was listed at 174 last year. (The roster as a whole has not been updated with new weights, thus the absence of a "phonebooks are here!" post.)
What is a linebacker, anyway? I'll be really interested to see how the defense configures itself during the spring game. Reports that Winovich is playing SAM don't mesh with the expectation that Taco Charlton will play WDE and Peppers will still be a nickel. Or, you know, something else:
Peppers worked a great deal w/ LBs today. If 1 practice is an indicator he'll play in the box even more this year. Time will tell of course
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) February 29, 2016
Those in possession of MGoCookies for remembering stuff will remember that a recent recruiting roundup pointed out that MI LB Antjuan Simmons was told he was being recruited as a SAM and then compared to, yes, Jabrill Peppers.
To me this implies that Michigan will be altering its defense to look more like the OSUs and MSUs and PSUs of the world. Those teams mostly run "quarters", which means they have two deep safeties. Varieties of this defense that roll the safeties close to the line of scrimmage often have a coverage-oriented linebacker called "star" who walks out over the slot. That's usually the strong side, thus he is a SAM linebacker… but not the kind of SAM linebacker Jake Ryan was. Same hybrid space player, different system around him?
O'Korn hype unabated. But first let's just marvel at this:
Ken Mastrole, a quarterback coach who has worked with Rudock and O’Korn, has described O’Korn as having “off-the-chart physical intangibles"
There is a reason the "intangibles" section of every preview is a picture of a cat.
Anyway, that's from an Angelique Chengelis article featuring O'Korn's parents:
“He’s been chomping at the bit, there’s no doubt,” his father, Gary O’Korn, said this week. “He had the right attitude coming in — ‘This isn’t taking a year off, this is a year to prepare.’ He’s done well and Michigan demands that. That’s not something you really have a choice, but mentally this was where you decide, ‘Am I going to go through the motions or put myself in position to get serious?’”
By all accounts it is the latter.
Important hair update. Reuben Jones is coming for De'Veon Smith's crown:
Hydration = pic.twitter.com/AG20TMKqjC
— Michigan Football (@umichfootball) February 29, 2016
Etc.: Dan Murphy article comes with Nick Baumgardner picture that captures his soul.
Tell me about this O'Korn future. [Eric Upchurch]
The Question: Five things you want to hear coming out of spring practices?
1. De'Veon Smith is not missing holes that do exist. After struggling most of the year with hitting holes with consistency, Smith appeared to get 'Lasik Surgery' before the Citrus Bowl. He definitely had his best game of the season in terms of vision. Hopefully, it was not just against a defense that was checked out and it will be obvious as Spring Practice picks up. Also, hopefully, the offensive line, who has mostly been together for a few years, will give him something to see.
2. John O'Korn's decision-making is ahead of schedule. With Gentry apparently moving to TE and Peters taking his first reps as a collegian, it should be O'Korn's job to lose. He's always had the arm and measurables. The only question has been his head. Making the right reads and understanding the offense early in Spring will be a great sign.
3. Devin Bush Jr's reactions are impressive. With Ben Gedeon being the only LB left on the roster to see significant playing time, snaps at LB are wide open. DBJ fits Don Brown's LB profile very well. He also enrolled early for a reason. There's a good chance Michigan will need him to play right away. Usually the main issue with young players is the speed of the game. If he's reading and reacting well from the get-go, that will be a very encouraging sign.
4. No new serious injuries. Injuries in football are usually unavoidable. Two of the past 3 seasons Michigan has had a devastating Spring injury (Ryan in '13 and Butt in '14). It was very nice to not have one of those in 2015 -although, Mone was lost in Fall Camp. I would be happy with a major injury-free Spring.
5. The attitude around the program is not winning but dominating. Time for my #hottake. In Spring Training of '86, Davey Johnson told the Mets that he didn't expect them beat teams but to dominate them. The Mets put some pieces together in '84 and '85, but they didn't put together final piece or have the experience of knowing what to expect down the stretch. After keeping things close initially, the Mets blew the doors off the league in the 2nd half and had one of the most dominating teams in last half century.
This is the attitude that I expect from Team 137. They played well last season but were just not good enough in a few crucial moments. If you think that multiple guys turned down the NFL just for a B10 title, you're crazy. This team is talented enough, they're deep enough, they have the experience, now. There is no reason to think that anyone they play is legit better. I don't want to just see them beat the opposition. I'd like to see them dominate the game play.
[Hit THE JUMP for what else we're ready to hear]
Over the past two games the passing numbers for the opposing quarterbacks were obviously a lot higher. Is there something that you can pinpoint on that to change?
“Well, the Michigan State game you’re facing a really good quarterback. They made a lot of plays and we made a lot of plays ourselves in that game, but you’ve got to give credit to the quarterback over there.
“Last week, I’m not taking anything away from Minnesota [but] we just laid an egg defensively, especially in the secondary. We just played poorly. That contributes to a lot of the passing yards this past week.”
Do you attribute that to rust from a bye week or…?
“You know, we’ve all tried to figure it out. Nobody knows but we’re fighting through it and certainly we’ve talked about it, we’ve addressed it, and we are working on getting better starting yesterday in practice.”
Anything you saw specifically on some of the breakdowns that led to long pass plays?
“I just, again, think our guys in the backend didn’t play as aggressively as they have in the past; weren’t going after footballs, had bad eye control, and just losing their guys. Did not play well.”
Connor Cook is ancient history at this point, but was he one of the better quarterbacks you’ve seen this year?
“Oh yeah. He’s a real good quarterback. I mean, he puts the ball places where it’s hard for other guys to catch. He’s good. A lot of credit to him. He’s gonna be- you’ll be watching him on Sundays for sure.”
[After THE JUMP: The wings on the helmet will tell on you if you lose eye control]
What did you think of the secondary against Utah?
“We expected more higher energy out of our players and more competitive spirit. I don’t think- I think they went into the game playing more cautiously than just relying on what they learned in camp. And I know with our older guys, you know, Jarrod Wilson and Jourdan Lewis, they’re going to make a difference for this week. I know they’re going to make sure that we up the tempo this week in playing the defense in the secondary.”
Were you pleased with your corners in coverage?
“I was. I mean, I was. Can it be better? Yes, it can be much better. Same with the safeties. One thing, I don’t try to divide it. I think corners and safeties should all be together, so if the corners look good the safeties look good, if the safeties looks good the corners look good. The coverage overall, I thought it was fair. It could have been much better than what it was. The one thing we strive on is not letting up a big play and we pretty much gave up one big play in the game. Sometimes you can’t give up those plays, so I think we have to be a more aggressive defense in the secondary, which our defense allows us to do that. We just have to get it done.”
Did you feel like Jabrill kind of trusted his instincts a little more in the second half?
“I did. I did. Jabrill came out [and] I think it was more nerves rather than just playing, because this was actually his third game. You know, so he’s still really a true freshman. One of the things Jabrill I think has to do is just trust his instincts, because he’s really very instinctive. One of the things I think he has to do a lot more is just play within himself. He’s trying to get out there and use his speed rather than thinking about the game, and I think that’s what got him in trouble early in the first half. I think he’ll bounce back, just like all our guys will.”
At the start of fall camp Jeremy Clark was a safety and Wayne Lyons was at corner. What’s the reason for that swap?
“Well, we just felt that Jeremy Clark could bring a lot more to the table at corner because he’s long, he’s tall, he’s quick. You know, he could use his hands a lot more and he can run with the big guys, the big receivers in the Big Ten and we felt Wayne was more instinctive as a safety, and he plays in space a lot better back there in the middle of the field so that was one of the reasons we made that change.”
[After THE JUMP: Aggressively pursuing aggressiveness and Freddy Canteen the WR?]