things go poorly
News bullets and other important items:
- Delonte Hollowell has a cast on his hand and Ondre Pipkins was held out of two-a-days as a precaution.
- Shane Morris is the backup QB. They like the progress he’s made, but he’s the backup.
- Wilton Speight is competing with Russell Bellomy for the third-string QB job. Decision on whether Speight should redshirt will be made in a couple of weeks.
- The first team offensive line should be determined over the next week.
- May use by-committee approach to running backs, but they would like to have a featured back.
- Drake Johnson and De’Veon Smith are 1 and 1a on the RB depth chart, with Derrick Green at 2.
- Team is still searching for an identity, though Hoke wants it to be one that can run the ball and have toughness on both sides of the ball. Toughness was mentioned a lot today.
- Brian is probably going to have to eat a lemon.
“Good morning. I’m glad you’re here. Overall, we’re really happy with the progress we’ve made from spring. I think in the practices that we’ve had, we went two yesterday-- really good effort and good competition, which is what we’re striving for at every position but also offense versus defense, the kicking game versus the kicking game, all those things, we’ve come out and competed hard. Now we are not, as far as being a good football team yet. But the way they’ve come to work every day and what they’ve done, I think the identity of this team is still one that we’re developing and trying to develop. I think the team has invested themselves in a lot of ways in each other and in what we’re trying to get done. This next week is a grind and should be because you’ve got some double-day practices in there. We’ll scrimmage sometime during that time, during that week, trying to get reps and see what matchups we like as an offense and defense. Really looking into the situational football standpoint of it, how we match up and how we will match up during the course of the year. Excited about where we’re at knowing that we’ve got a lot of hard work that we’ve got to put into it. Staff-wise, player-wise, trainer-wise, manager-wise, everybody that’s involved. So from that standpoint there’s a lot of positives. From the standpoint of where we want to be, we’re not near that yet.
Can you say anything particular about any injuries that have occurred?
“You know,there are some guys who are banged up. Delonte Hollowell, he’s got a cast on his hand. As far as anything real major besides a couple guys we held out, Ondre Pipkins in two-a-day days, trying not to overwork him. We’re doing a lot with some of the GPS tracking that we’re into. I think the first time around doing all that stuff you’re trying to get some baselines and some data and all that and I think that’s helping us when we go out to practice.”
What can you tell me about your thought process through the kicking game this year? Special teams particularly, because you’re going to be seeing a lot of new faces. So what can you tell me, from long snapper to holder to PK…
“Yeah. Matt Wile has done a nice job in his career so far in the kicking part of it. Will Hagerup, it’s great to have Will back. He’s had a good camp so far. Kenny Allen is a young man who’s walked on here who’s worked really hard and is developing a little bit on kickoffs. He’s a very good punter. Snapper, Scott Sypniewski and Danny Liesman are two guys that are really competing there. Scott we brought in a year ago and were able to redshirt him, but losing Jareth Glanda, that’s a big loss but Scott’s done a nice job in that part of it. When you look at the return game there’s a lot of different guys. Norfleet’s really taken most of them but a guy like Freddy Canteen, a guy like Jabrill Peppers, some of those guys have a skillset that we think is pretty good. And the other part of that is having Drake Johnson back is a real plus.”
I’m curious to know how is the development of your wide receiver group going and the transition to a new offensive system?
“The wide receivers, I think, are learning every day. I think the pressure and the stress that we put on them and how we practice as a whole team but for those guys when you’re talking about formationally getting lined up and the different personnel groups and depending on what the quarterback sees and what he’s pointing and all that, I think they’re learning a lot there. I think with Devin [Funchess] and Jehu [Chesson], Amara [Darboh] coming back is a real plus for us. He’s had a real good camp so far. Again, it’s not like we’re in three weeks of it but he’s done a nice job. Freddy Canteen, I think all those guys, Bo Dever, Da’Mario Jones, all of them have improved. They fit what we’re doing. We’ve recruited them to fit what we’re doing offensively.”
[After THE JUMP: Jake Ryan, leadership, Gardner, and more.]
News bullets and other important items:
- Blake Countess (groin) and Mario Ojemudia (ankle) were held out of practice but should return by Monday
- Drake Harris injured his other hamstring and has been limited to doing rehab reps
- The offensive line could change from morning practice to afternoon practice until they find a combination they like. Don’t shoot the messenger.
- The open scrimmage on the 16th was Hoke’s idea and will feature…football. They’re going to play football.
“Thanks for coming. Number one, it’s always good to get in the pads for the first day. You know, even though you've been in short pads and helmets it was good to get out in full pads. It was good that the energy that we've had all week has been really positive, how the guys have reacted to some adversity that we put them under. Today we did a little crowd noise and certain situational football setting and you could see we've got a lot of work to do. So we'll continue to put a bunch of pressure on our team. You know, Blake [Countess], he's got a little bit of a groin so we held him out today. Mario's [Ojemudia] got a little bit of an ankle, he's in a boot, but talking to him he said that he feels better every day and I think he'll be okay. Blake and Mario, they should be by Monday ready to go so we're excited about that. We've had good practices but we've got a long way to go when you look at where we need to be.”
What would you say, in just the five days of practice, you've seen the most improvement of and where would you say 'we've got to get this better pretty quick?'
“Well, I guess the biggest thing is how they came into camp. From conditioning and all, the kind of shape we're in, to football IQ and where that's at, and that's why we’ve got to continue to put a lot of stress on them. You know, that way things become a little more reactive and automatic when you're looking at it. That's probably in how they're competing with each other, you know, we get a couple scuffles now and then, and most of that is guys just going. And they're going hard.”
Could you talk about the enthusiasm? They were jacked up at the beginning today.
“Well, they were jacked up at the beginning. It was great they were jacked up at the beginning and it was great they were jacked up at the end. I mean, you need both. You can always start fast but you've got to finish. I thought they've come out every day that way, so they've been excited about football. Obviously tomorrow we'll go two practices and that will be a little bit more challenging in some ways. I think we've got a really good plan when you look at the health and wellness and getting them off their feet and trying to get them as much sleep as we can. That's a little different than years past and I think that's a testament a little bit to how they've gone about their team business.”
About the freshman; are all of them participating?
“All of them are participating. Some of them have to leave a little early depending on what they have on the academic schedule.”
They're all qualified?
“Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yes. I didn't know you were talking about that. They're all qualified, they're all here.”
With being unsure whether Ty [Issac] is going to be given the opportunity to play or not, how do you decide how many reps to get him in case he can play or in case he doesn’t and you don’ want to take away from somebody else
“Right, right. And I think the one thing we’ve done is we are getting a ton of reps. How we practice—so there’s enough reps there. I think as we get closer, a week from now, when you start really game planning—because he really needs to take some reps to learn what the offense is.I think luckily he’s played at a Division I university and there’s a lot of similarities always but I think this has been beneficial for him and I think everyone’s kind of gotten what we need.
Would you be surprised if Devin [Gardner] wasn’t the guy in week 1?
“I would think he’s had a really good fall camp so far. You know, it’s five days. He’s right now the guy taking most of the reps with the ones but we’re splitting them up a little bit at times and if he’s not playing well, you know, Shane [Morris]—Doug’s not hesitant in practice to make that change and so they both are taking reps with the ones. Devin’s getting the majority of them.
You talked a little bit about multiple running backs. Could you see early in the season, let’s say Devin’s the starter, trying to get Shane in there earlier than later and getting him some playing time?
“You know, we haven’t really talked about what kind of contingency plan or plan to try and get him, if he isn’t the starter, reps yet in that first game, second game, third game, fourth game, whatever it might be.”
You talked before about staying away from ‘I like this team,’ but do you have a sense of this team’s identity yet?
“No, not yet but we talk about it every day, their identity and what they want to make it. It’s things that you do repeatedly and they can be good or bad.”
And what’s the response you get?
“Well, I think from a physical standpoint it’s been real positive. I think from a competitive standpoint it’s been real positive.”
In terms of freshmen getting in the mix, Freddy [Canteen] especially…
“I think Freddy. I think Mason Cole. Mason Cole’s a good football player. I think I said that in the spring. He’s a little different than most freshmen offensive linemen in some ways. I think [Bryan] Mone, Mone’s a little different. Him being here was a big plus. Wilton Speight’s taken some good reps. Drake Harris is the other guy. He’s got a little bit of a ham, hammy, hamstring and so he’s a guy that hasn’t—he’s taken some limited reps but not like we’d like to get with him.
Was that something that he re-hurt this week?
“Yeah. He re-hurt it early in the week. Different hamstring.”
Did you guys think about shutting him down for a while?
“He has been shut down.”
You said he’s been doing limited reps…
“Limited, yeah. And most of those are rehab reps.”
You were in pads for the first time today. Do you know when you’ll have your first scrimmage?
“Yeah I do but I don’t know if I remember right now. Sometime next week, but I couldn’t tell you when it is. I kind of go by it daily.”
Blake’s injury is, you said, a groin. Is that related to the core [injury that caused him to have offseason surgery]?
“No. No, no, no. He’ll be fine.”
Is this just a brief thing with Drake here?
“You know, I’m not a doctor so it’s hard for me to really analyze that. I think it’s something that we’re very weary about. I think Coach Wellman, Strength and Conditioning—I think the rehab that we’ve done, I think Paul Schmidt and the trainers have all handled it very well. You know, is it a nagging thing? Maybe. Some people have those things so we have to think what can we do to help besides this rest and they know much better than I know.”
Who do you see mixing in besides Funchess among the wide receivers at the top spot?
“Jehu [Chesson]. Amara’s [Darboh] done well. Dennis [Norfleet] and Freddy [Canteen] right now have done a nice job. Bo Dever. Jack Wangler’s made some good plays but if I would look at that group I think Funch, Amarah, Jehu, Fleet and Canteen.”
Norfleet and Canteen are at slot?
“They’re at slot, yes.”
What kind of progress has Amara made after sitting out last year with injury?
“He really has come along real well. I think in the spring, probably the last two weeks, we could have put him in live stuff but we just decided not to. He’s done well.”
Where have you seen this week the impact of Coach Nussmeier’s new system on the offensive line?
“Well, I think there’s some things that we like more vertical. I think that the combination schemes that we want to be a little more heavy on the line of scrimmage. When you look at hands, you know, four hands on one man to initiate some movement on the line of scrimmage. I think the backs themselves, Drake Johnson, Derrick [Green] and De’Veon [Smith], they’re downhill guys so it’s punctured the line of scrimmage a little bit.
When it comes to the line right now, how do you balance moving guys around trying different things versus wanting to have one unit building cohesion playing alongside each other?
“How do you balance it? I think it can be tricky but I think it can be massaged very well. I think Darrell [Funk] has done a nice job with it and Nuss and who we’ve put in that first group and maybe that changes daily. I’m sure it will change from a morning practice to the afternoon at times until we really feel this is it with these guys. I think the competition there has been really good for us and I think they’ve come out every day very physical.”
So who was the first group today?
“Today it was Mason Cole at the left tackle position, Jack [Miller] was at the center position, Magnuson was at the left guard position for a little bit, Ben Braden was at right tackle, and the right guard was Graham [Glasgow] and David Dawson.”
Can I ask a question about the open scrimmage [on August 16th]?
“I’d love for you to.”
You talked about in the spring how you didn’t show your cards. Is this going to be the same kind of thing?
“That’s why you have to come.”
You could have opposing coaches come in, right?
“If they’re coming in during two-a-day…”
“Well, they could. Do you think they will?
Yeah, they could have a graduate assistant or somebody…
“Are you going to trust a graduate assistant right now?”
I think you were one once, right?
I don’t know your bio by heart.
“That’s okay. Yeah but what are you showing? We’re going to play football though.”
So you will keep your cards close to the vest.
“No, you said that. I didn’t say that. We’re going to play football.”
Whose idea was it?
You’ve got to put this thing together pretty quickly.
“I think it’s good. You know, the more you look at pro football and for a team that’s got some youth but experience I think it’s good for them to be in front of people. Just like crowd noise today, I want as many distractions as we can get. I also think it’s great for Michigan fans because we love them.”
Do you want to invite us more to distract the players?
“No, probably not. You don’t distract them. You may distract me.”
Playing at home hasn’t been a problem. Have you considered doing a scrimmage at an away stadium?
“You know, we’ve done that. We did that when we were going to Alabama, to Texas. I thought that was really good for us. I thought it would’ve been maybe better if we could’ve opened it up and had people in Ford Field. I think that would’ve been pretty cool but that’s pretty hard to negotiate when they have their security, their event staff, all those things.”
Previously: Last year's profiles, CB Brandon Watson, CB Jabrill Peppers, LB Jared Wangler, LB Chase Winovich, LB Noah Furbush, LB Michael Ferns, DL Brady Pallante, DL Bryan Mone, DL Lawrence Marshall.
|Tarpon Springs, FL – 6'5", 275|
|Scout||4*, #253 overall
|Rivals||4*, #92 overall
#6 OT, #12 FL
|ESPN||4*, #165 overall
#10 OG, #28 FL
|24/7||4*, #86 overall
#4 OG, #12 FL
|Other Suitors||ND, USC, OSU, Alabama, Stanford, UF, FSU|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Army game selection. Twitter.|
He also has a hudl page.
It's weird, but Mason Cole was kind of a forgotten recruit despite being a consensus four star with every offer under the sun. As I was collecting this post I ended up thinking "oh, right, this guy is seriously touted." Early commit, OL, Artavis Scott drama: whatever it was, I kind of forgot that Cole was one of those rare offensive linemen who everyone thinks just has it.
And I do mean everyone:
Analysis: Mason Cole is a great win for Michigan on the recruiting trail because the Wolverines beat out several elite teams closer to home and around the country like Ohio State, Florida, Florida State, USC, Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame, and Stanford.
That is more of an offer dump truck than an offer list, and the names don't stop there. They just get gradually less impressive. Everyone offered him, and they did so early.
In Cole's case it's because he's put together and very agile for his improbable size:
"The key word that everyone uses with him is how athletic he is for a big guy," said Hudson. "He has extremely good feet, good bend, and very really do you see him on the ground so the athleticism that he has is real strong for someone his size."
SBNation's Bud Elliott echoes that bend bit:
Cole has an elite offer list for a reason. Many reasons, actually.
He is very athletic and plays with a lot of energy. Cole is able to bend and play low, giving him the leverage advantage over most opponents, though he needs to do so more consistently.
Cole is quick out of his stance and climbs to the second level using good angles. His feet allow him to play with good balance, which helps him not overextend for defenders. … His upside is that of a high-level BCS starter, and I do think he can stay at tackle in the right system.
And Clint Brewster:
Cole is a flexible, athletic guard that can really move well. … Cole moves great laterally, as rush defensive ends struggle to get around him and he has the size/strength to take on a bull rush. The 6-4, 285-pound Cole really fires off the ball and plays with a mean streak when run blocking, allowing him to really move people. He shows outstanding technique and hand placement as well.
Cole impressed at the Army game. Rivals to moved him up about 40 spots afterwards, and 247 was also impressed. Their evaluation touches on the main Cole dilemma:
…it was clear that the Michigan commit was one of the most polished and skilled offensive line prospects on the East squad. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound Cole projects as an offensive guard long-term, but we aren’t so sure he could not be an excellent tackle in Ann Arbor during his college career. That’s really the only question (other than the normal fill out your frame type stuff that’s imperative for offensive line prospects) surrounding his game at this time- which position on the line will he play?
Downsides are the usual ones you'd expect from a guy listed at 275*. He is not exactly blowing donkeys off the ball, at least not when they're college-level guys. Elliott says drive blocking and bull rush defense are "obvious area[s] for improvement" due to a lack of bulk; Brewster says he "isn't the biggest/strongest ever"; Jamie Newberg says he's a "solid" run blocker who is "more finesse than sheer power."
ESPN does offer some technique critiques that the other sites don't. Again, this is always tough to judge since these things are all undoubtedly true and all undoubtedly true for all but the super-elite, grown-in-a-tank prospects:
good hip and ankle flexion to work out of stance and play in space. … would like to see more consistent knee bend, but has nimble feet and can stay square and mirror well. Does need to do a better job of consistently setting quicker…
Will show flashes, but needs to show better and more consistent initial quicks. …. Needs to watch his pad level, but he drives his knees and plays with good balance and can stay on his feet, sustain a block and create some push. Does a nice job of climbing to second level and utilizing good angles to get a hat on moving targets.
FWIW. The impression the rest of the evaluations provided was that he is ahead of the game as a high school player. Also some of them say he is blowing donkeys off the ball. Sometimes I wonder if people are just making stuff up when it comes to the arcane wonder that is the OL.
*[Note: I took Cole's weight from spring for this post since that seems more in line with the other recruits. Their weights are approximately what they weighed on signing day, so should Cole's; the evaluations are about the recruit a year ago, not now. FWIW, he is now listed at 292 on the fall roster.]
The main question: guard or tackle? Rivals and Scout rank him as a tackle; 247 and ESPN rank him as a guard. At the Army game he bounced between both spots, effectively. Barton Simmons:
4. Mason Cole, OG, Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake
Cole was just solid and consistent all day long. He had his moments at offensive guard and right tackle but among a beat up offensive line, he is clearly the top athlete of the group. In the run game, Cole was also very good opening up holes, using leverage and power.
He in fact bounced between left guard and right tackle, virtually mandating the Michael Schofield comparison coming later in this piece. In a later article Simmons would claim that Cole is probably a guard in college but has "the athleticism to play in space at tackle in this setting."
Rivals' Josh Helmholdt was in the same boat but it seems like after watching him over the course of the week he came around to his ability outside, and not just "in this setting." At first glance:
He does not look quite his listed 6-foot-5, and does appear to be a future interior offensive lineman. At tackle he showed the ability to kick out and handle the speed rush, and at guard he was one of only a couple that got the best of standout defensive tackle Travonte Valentine each of the first two days. Cole combines excellent technique with above average athleticism.
After the game, though, Helmholdt named him one of the top players on his team and had gotten over the height issue:
…kept defenders in front of him all day and pancaked several to the ground. He has shown all week that he has the foot speed and agility to handle speed rushers off the edge, while being stout enough to battle with interior defensive linemen. It will be interesting to see where Michigan plays him next fall.
One thing that helps him is that his arms are tackle-issue. Rivals FL guy Kynon Codrington:
"One thing we noticed was his long arms. Once he gets his hands on opposing defenders, he makes it hard for them to get around him. He has great initial punch. And excellent footwork for a guy his size."
Everyone wants to push Cole inside because he doesn't look like a tackle, and then they get their hands on him and they eventually shrug and put him at tackle. "Eventually" in this case means "after a few days."
Versatile is the watchword. ESPN concludes their evaluation by asserting that he is a guy who could potentially play anywhere:
…very good natural ability and potentially very good versatility. A high school tackle who could very well transition to the next level at that position, but we wouldn't be surprised to see him slide inside and with some development could offer five-position ability.
Guard or tackle? Yes.
Cole's performance this spring was good for him and worrying for Michigan. Erik Magnuson was sidelined with an injury, leaving the left tackle spot up in the air. It was Cole who fought through the other contenders to be the Please Stay Healthy Erik Magnuson And Nicki J Harris Family Spring Game-Type Substance Left Tackle. (To be fair to Logan Tuley-Tillman, he was also dealing with an injury.)
The prospect of a true freshman left tackle who's short for the position is terrifying, of course, but in a post narrowly focused on how Mason Cole's career is going to go that's a good thing. There were plenty of other options to test drive at that spot; Cole eased past David Dawson, Ben Braden, the suddenly mobile Graham Glasgow, and passed Chris Fox and Logan Tuley-Tillman.
His teammates noticed. Frank Clark:
"Mason Cole, he's developed faster than I've seen a kid develop at 18. He had a great spring. He did what he had to do on and off the field."
"That kid's working hard."
His coaches noticed. Darrell Funk:
"The guy that's come in, and he's a guy who should be getting ready for prom here in a few weeks, is Mason Cole -- who has done a tremendous job at left tackle. We knew he was an excellent player, he's very athletic and he'll get bigger and stronger.
"But he's been as pleasant a surprise as anyone. ... He's come in, and I don't want to say effortlessly, but between academics, the football, the weights, he's done everything we've asked. He's right in the mix."
Cole's crested the first hurdle, one that has hewed down highly-touted prospects before. To be where he is on the depth chart after one spring practice erases many of the doubts that come with all OL, and make Cole a relatively sure thing.
In a perfect world, Cole is a guard. In this one he could fit at any of the five positions reasonably well. Sullivan put it well when Cole committed:
Cole has the long arms and athleticism to play tackle, but a more natural guard build.
The run-out at left tackle is a real thing. If Magnuson locks that position down like everyone hopes, he'll start hunting elsewhere. Here's a metric for the fall: wherever Cole is lining up is the position the coaches are shakiest on. Again, that's great for the future. At the moment you're hoping Cole doesn't quite poke through.
Etc.: Aaand pattern:
"I was talking to other coaches and it was very rare when you get a kid like Mason that I'm having to tell him not to work so much. Between our workouts and the personal trainers, speed trainer, I don't want him to overdo it. He's just that guy that you always want."
Why Mike Schofield? Schofield was a high school hurdler who happened to be enormous. He needed to add weight; he wasn't much of a drive blocker; he was more than capable of mirroring defensive ends any which way. Schofield added the weight and eventually the pile pushing (he really came around as a senior, not that you could tell with the rest of the line doing what it does) en route to becoming a third round pick.
Cole is a couple inches shorter and thus shades more towards guard but is evidently tackle material, whether it's right or left. He has the same agility and need to add weight (though the just-released fall roster has him at 292, which means he doesn't need to add too much more).
Recruiting services ranked both similarly, and Schofield even picked Michigan over ND. This one's tight. I also like Touch The Banner's Steve Schilling comparison.
Guru Reliability: High-minus. Heavily scouted player from a high school that had (and has) a pile of talent. Healthy, not a whole lot of projection except for the fact that he's an OL and therefore there is always projection.
Variance: Low? I almost never issue "low" here for OL. Cole is an exception because of the above reliability and his early, impactful enrollment.
Ceiling: High-minus. Does not have the frame to be a shut down, top-ten-pick left tackle. Has plenty of upside in all other ways and could be a high pick anywhere else on the line.
General Excitement Level: High-minus. If he had those three inches I'd be going full Lewan here; even without 'em he's an exciting prospect.
Projection: Despite Cole's prominence in spring, he should redshirt unless injury hits the OL. He is a true freshman. Yes even if he enrolled early. Michigan's had two offensive lines that had to resort to true freshmen in the past ten years: last year's and Lloyd Carr's final season. Yeah. So let's not do that.
Playing time as a redshirt freshman is complicated by the thing about the OL that's real bad for this year but quite good for the next couple: there are no seniors. While you can't rule Cole pushing an existing player out of the starting lineup, the guys in question are a year and a half ahead of him. If he does knock someone out of the lineup it'll probably be Kalis or Braden, FWIW.
As a sophomore he'll be fighting over whichever spot Glasgow vacates. His flexibility will aid him there, and given his prominence this spring he has to be considered the frontrunner. Best bet now is a three year starter, wherever that happens to be, and potential time before that as the OL's sixth or seventh man.
wait spring football is what again
It's this practice thing that we used to think was super super important because the basketball team was a wet cat and the spring game was in late April. Now we haven't even thought about it because the basketball team is IMPORTANT and also still playing and they've moved the spring game up despite having horrible weather for seemingly the last decade solid.
So… yeah. It is a glimpse into what the football team might be like next year.
So last year's was a constant parade of quotes about how everyone was getting tackled for loss?
Well… no. It is a Pravda-like glimpse weighted by both the program's desire to look good in the absence of actual games and your hope that the next football season will be a fulfilling exercise in fandom.
Consider that hope to be disposed of in a dumpster behind a Five Guys.
All right, then. Let's enter the realm of football with a properly jaundiced eye.
Things To Watch
Will they be a single thing? "Aggression" is the guaranteed defensive watchword every time a coordinator change is made, and "simple" is the equivalent on the offensive side of the ball.
Kyle Kalis says Doug Nussmeier is gradually installing the offense. Much simpler. 'Last year, you never knew what was going to be called.'
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) March 25, 2014
How much of this is standard boilerplate and how much of it is a real problem that Nussmeier is going to solve is pretty much the question for the season. (No, it is not "who is going to start at quarterback?" You are a silly person, person who thinks that.) Lord knows that this site spent most of last year—most of the last three years—blasting Al Borges for not having anything resembling a base offense in his time. Last year's wander from stretch to power to tackle over to inside zone and all things in between was particularly egregious.
It was hardly unprecedented. Michigan never figured out how to run play action off their best play, the inverted veer, never figured out that having mobile quarterbacks run the waggle is just asking them to eat defensive end as soon as they turn around, never figured out what, in fact, they were. Having an identifiable identity is step one towards having one of those offense things.
Let's try to keep me alive this play, gents [Bryan Fuller]
Is the offensive line… tolerable? Extant? Sieve sieve sieve sieve sieve? I can't say the good feelings are pouring out of spring. This is not a world in which claims that true freshman Mason Cole has a great chance to play the most important position on the line…
Another early enrollee opening eyes at Michigan is OL Mason Cole. Competing for starting LT job. Funk says Cole has great chance to play.
— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) March 31, 2014
…can be dismissed as so much spring hogwash. I mean, yeah, it's almost certainly spring hogwash. But given the situation that buzz comes off as a negative thing about people not named Mason Cole as much as it is a positive one about Cole.
Meanwhile Graham Glasgow, the one returning guy who had a job for the entirety of last season, got held out for a while due to an issue that will also see him suspended for The Horror II, and oh good now I'm thinking about what might happen in The Horror II without Michigan's best interior lineman.
Thinking: try not to do it.
Anyway, injuries have held near-sure-LT Erik Magnuson out and forced Michigan to try a parade of guys probably better suited to play guard at that spot. Reading the tea leaves, the most likely starting line for the spring game reads:
- LT David Dawson
- LG Kyle Bosch
- C [Glasgow placeholder]
- RG Kyle Kalis
- RT Ben Braden
And in a perfect world that would remain the line through fall camp except for the insertion of Magnuson. When pinged for offensive line data, Hoke was his usual recalcitrant self but did not seem super enthused all the same:
"The physicalness isn't where we want it yet. I couldn't point out one guy who has been a great finisher.
"Probably Graham (Glasgow), as much as anybody, in some ways. Ben (Braden) is getting better. But we're not near where we need to be."
Not that they could be near where they need to be a few months after whatever that was.
Here's to this being the "before" picture. [Fuller]
Are Are De'Veon Smith and Derrick Green any diff—. Previous sentence was tackled for loss. Green's been tweeting out pictures of his weight as he strives to get back down to the bowling ball that was the #1 overall tailback in the country to a couple of different services instead of the bowling ball he was last year. Here is a swathe of boilerplate.
"De'Veon's had a very good spring, Derrick's had a better spring than he did in the fall," Hoke said last week. "Justice Hayes has done some really good things, and I'm really proud of him. Both carrying the ball and in the protection game. It'd be nice to get Drake (Johnson) back and put him in the mix."
Chances are it will be hard to tell much what with the offensive line coming together and folks looking confused, but give me one cut from Green that he probably couldn't have managed last year and I'll be happy.
Is Ross Douglas viable at tailback? I kind of think no if only because the Hoke era has expressed a preference for large men running the ball even if they bring little else to the table other than size. Meanwhile, Douglas's bounce to offense comes in the context of Taylor/Countess/Peppers/Lewis/Stribling, a veritable bounty at corner that Douglas didn't figure to crack any time soon. He's also down the depth chart on offense:
"Justice, De'Veon and Derrick are a little bit ahead still, but I think Ross is giving us a little bit more depth and that's really good for us.
"We'll do this through spring and see how he does, and then make a determination if he'll go back to DB."
This kind of positional uncertainty is never a good sign for a prospect's future. If Douglas was in the mix at corner he'd be at corner. Instead he's fourth at best at tailback and probably fifth when Drake Johnson gets back.
But there is a new offensive coordinator who may do things like see what happens if you give Dennis Norfleet the ball, so you never know.
But that probably means the secondary is loaded, right? At first blush Michigan has more corner depth than I can remember. They return both starters from last year plus a couple of promising freshman who did the really hard part—sticking with your man—last year before wilting at the last minute. And then there's that Jabrill Peppers dude. Douglas's positional vagabondery would not be taking place if Michigan didn't go five deep in solid options at corner.
Wide receiver war. With Devin Funchess entrenched at wide receiver, playing time there is now at a premium. The departure of Jeremy Gallon opens up scads of catches, some of which will go to Funchess and Jehu Chesson. The rest will get spread out. While a number of those will go to Amara Darboh, who was building up steam with his play in practice last year before a season-ending foot injury, Michigan is still being cautious with him. You won't see him on Saturday:
“Right now I feel like I’m 100 percent, but they’re keeping me out,” Darboh said Thursday. “By the time fall camp comes around I should be 100 percent.”
One gentleman you will see, and possibly see a lot of, is Freddy Canteen. The freshman early enrollee has been this spring's easy winner of the Grady Brooks Memorial Spring Hype Award. Almost literally everyone who has gotten practice buzz or been there themselves has come away talking about his quickness and advanced technique. One example of many:
WR Freddy Canteen creating a buzz this spring at Michigan. Players, coaches very impressed with early enrollee. Getting run with the ones.
— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) March 31, 2014
"Running with the ones" is a slightly overrated concept since in the course of a spring or fall practice just about everyone will get their shot on the top team to keep folks motivated and just to see what happens. Even so the Canteen drumbeat has been so consistent that he will be the guy everyone is watching for.
One guy you shouldn't expect anything from: Drake Harris. Harris has been shut down for the rest of spring with a hamstring issue. He had a similar problem for his senior year of high school and at this point it seems like he might be headed for a redshirt with Funchess/Darboh/Chesson/Canteen and last year's three-man class potentially ahead of him on the depth chart.
I'm looking at the man in the mirror. Middle. Whatever. [Fuller]
And then the weird thing. Jake Ryan, middle linebacker. I'm skeptical Ryan will be able to transition to a very different spot that asks him to read and react and then shed responsibly. If he does manage it, it seems like a part of his barbarian nature will be lost. Ryan is a shocking vertical attacker; middle linebackers are not generally tasked with that. When Ryan has been drafted into read and react situations by defensive alignment, it has gone poorly.
But they're going to try it, and spring will be an opportunity to see what's going on with that.
Safeties: we have them? Michigan was clearly dissatisfied with Thomas Gordon midway through last year, which just goes to show that Brady Hoke was in Muncie or San Diego for the decade of Michigan safety play between Marcus Ray and Jordan Kovacs. Great he may not have been; he was pretty much good enough, and when other guys got in the game the step down from pretty much good enough to not was obvious.
Now Gordon is gone and the list of potential replacements is short (inexplicably so given Michigan's apparent need): sophomores Jeremy Clark, Delano Hill, and Dymonte Thomas. Michigan barely has enough dudes to put together a two deep, and there are few candidates to move from corner. Stribling's 176-pound frame would get him run over; ditto Lewis; they're not moving Countess; Taylor's run support is not a strength. That leaves Peppers (moving him away from boundary corner would be a travesty of justice) and redshirt freshman Reon Dawson, who's super super fast but raw and skinny.
So finding someone to play opposite Jarrod Wilson is an important target to hit with few bullets. Here's hoping Clark wins the job with ease; he's got the most experience.
Can a tight end hit something? One of the underrated problems with Michigan's offense a year ago was the tight end spot's total lack of progress. Devin Funchess proved that as a tight end, he was a good wide receiver; more worryingly, AJ Williams was hardly better despite not being, you know, a game changing receiver. Jake Butt was probably the best blocker Michigan had available, and he promptly tore his ACL. Jordan Paskorz left the program.
So. Michigan will hope Williams makes a step forward and turn to two guys coming off redshirt: Khalid Hill and Wyatt Shallman. They've also converted former SDE Keith Heitzman to that side of the ball. The freshmen are more H-back types than inline ones; Michigan may end up playing them both places just because they have to. Shallman's flirtation with tailback seems over:
Shallman has taken a few reps at running back this spring, but Hoke said he envisions him as a tight end-fullback hybrid.
Given the depth chart that makes sense. I'll be looking for anything resembling a block out of this crew.
Weather. Let's hope it's nice.
As recently as yesterday, it appeared all but assured that Michigan would take a running back in the 2014 class, whether it be Jeff Jones or newly offered Marlon Mack or perhaps a reinterested Kalen Ballage.
Not so fast, my friends. This morning, Sam Webb said on his WTKA recruiting segment* that he doesn't expect Jones or Mack to end up in the class—a change from his earlier stance—and he reiterated that in a board post on GBW (link $). 247's Steve Lorenz confirmed that report this afternoon and added that he believes it also applies to Ballage ($).
As of now, the reasoning behind this shift from the coaching staff is unclear. There's an optimistic take out there, though; Doug Nussmeier visited 2015 RB commit Damien Harris last week in the midst of rampant speculation—including from his fellow commits—that a decommitment was on the horizon. Harris has been quiet of late; it's possible that Nussmeier felt more comfortable with Harris' status—and Michigan's depth chart at RB—after the visit and felt a scholarship could be better used at another position (or in the 2015 class). It may also help Harris' commitment status if he's reassured that there won't be extra competition from a running back in the class ahead of him.
It appears it's Malik McDowell or bust to round out the 2014 class; given the needs already filled and the small projected class size for 2015, banking a scholarship or two isn't a bad idea, even if it means a less exciting Signing Day (again) this year. For what it's worth, while Sam Webb continues to be optimistic that McDowell will stay close to home, at least one reliable Florida State insider likes their chances after McDowell took his official to Tallahassee last weekend.
[Hit THE JUMP for info on Michigan's two most recent 2015 offers, the final Rivals 100, the DetNews Blue Chip list, and more.]
Malik McDowell (#67) is still taking his recruitment at a leisurely pace.
Not All Slow Recruitments Are Bad Recruitments
The list of players once considered long-time Michigan locks only to commit elsewhere is long, distinguished, and oft-cited in just about any discussion about MI DL Malik McDowell. This is understandable: after recruitments of players like Ronald Johnson, Dee Hart, Josh Garnett, Jordan Diamond, and Laquon Treadwell went awry, any recruit that seems to have every reason to pull the trigger yet draws out the process is now met with a healthy amount of skepticism.
In McDowell's case, however, his inertia appears to be a good sign for Michigan. After previously stating that he'd take all five of his official visits to out-of-state schools, that may no longer be the case, per Tim Sullivan ($):
"I want to wait until after the season [to take the visits]," McDowell explained. "I'm still going to try to make it down to Florida over Thanksgiving weekend. I don't know right now just because things are real busy.
"[In addition to Florida, LSU, and Alabama], I don't really have a last two visits planned; I might save the last two for some in-state schools, but I might go out-of-state, I don't really know."
While Michigan State is nominally in the picture, it would be shocking if McDowell chose the Spartans over the Wolverines, so this is quite a good sign for Michigan. Official visits to a trio of top SEC schools can alter any recruitment significantly, of course, but first McDowell has to actually follow through on those visits, which have yet to be set up; even if he makes it to all three schools, it's going to take a lot to unseat the in-state favorite given how many times McDowell has been on Michigan's campus. Given the direction McDowell's recruitment is (slowly) moving, I'd be surprised if he ends up anywhere else.
[Hit THE JUMP for the roundup of best commit performances from last weekend's games.]