this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
I say we call him "Quick Burst, Mo Hurts." Nobody is on board with me on this. [Fuller]
- The Question:
- Seth: After the spring game which player are you bullish on, and which are you hedging?
Ace: Brian and I did a segment on this during the podcast, so I'll keep this relatively brief. (That's called a teaser, folks.)
MAURICE HURST had arguably the best performance of anyone during the spring game, lining up at multiple spots and blowing up plays at all of them. His first step, which was his greatest strength coming out of high school, is still very quick after adding weight, and he looks very ready to see a significant role this fall.
Given that some practice reports had him as a potential starter, it's hard not to be a little disappointed in Logan Tuley-Tillman's showing, which featured three flags and a couple olés. He was a major project coming of high school, to the point that this year was the earliest he could feasibly see the field, so it's not a devastating blow that he doesn't look ready yet. He has so much upside, though, that it would've been really encouraging to see him push into that starting five.
Adam Schnepp: I was looking for a weakness. There had to be one; the practice reports had practically reached tall-tale status, but now I see why. It almost feels like I need to pick someone else because this is too easy, but I'm bullish on JABRILL PEPPERS. I know that we've been bullish on him since last August, but now it's like Raging Bull(ishness). Except not about boxing. Or self-destruction. I was really just going for the bull imagery here.
As a hybrid space player, Peppers is going to have to read run/pass and react immediately. On the Blue offense's first play Peppers peers into the backfield, reads the handoff from Morris, and comes off the edge to take out Shallman, limiting him to a one-yard gain.
While his run stopping was adequate for an HSP, I was more impressed with Peppers' coverage skills. He played almost exclusively with a seven-yard cushion and not only was able to jam guys who had already built up a head of steam but consistently re-routed them to the side he had a help defender. I can't find a good example of this on the video thanks to BTN's zoom-o-matic cameras, but Ace can confirm that if I tweeted the above as many times as I said it to him you'd all either unfollow me or think I accidentally set up a scheduled tweet.
I'm hedging on BRIAN COLE. It's important, however, to delineate "hedging" as separate from "disappointed with." It's hard to judge a receiver when they aren't targeted often, and doubly so as the offense's predilection for two- and three-wide sets often left Cole on the sideline. I expected him to compete for time with the known commodities; I did not expect him to have the same number of receptions and receiving yards as 5-9 walk-on fullback Joe Beneducci. I wouldn't rule him out as a contributor in the fall*, but I expected the ball to be thrown his way more often last Saturday.
*(I don't think any of the receivers have locked down a spot with the exception of maybe Darboh, who was lined up against a dude who'd been a corner for maybe four practices.)
[Jump for the defensive backs are gonna be good, even if the passing game makes them look so.]
What do you know about your defense now that you didn't know six weeks ago?
"I think we have a pretty good handle on our personnel right now in terms of strengths and weaknesses of guys individually and I think as a unit, too. It's been a really good spring. We've had quite a bit of reps out there in practice, in four hour practices. I think the main thing that I figured out about our defense is that they are willing to work. The guys, they competed every day we've been out there and they've really put the time in."
You said you kind of have a feel for their strengths and weaknesses. Would you say what their strengths are right now?
"Yeah, no, not necessarily more than that. Like I said, I think our group is really willing to work. They’ve been great in terms of learning our scheme throughout the spring. They come to meetings prepared, they come to practice prepared. I think that anytime you've got a hungry group that way I think there's good things ahead."
You came out here about a month ago said you wanted to throw as much at them as you could and then sort of whittle it down from there. Have you started to figure out what you think is going to work?
"Yeah, we have a pretty good idea. Starting on Saturday and then today's practice we started to move that way and narrow it down and sort of hone in on some of the things we’ll be doing more of and they've really responded well to that, too. We probably got to a point there later in the spring where it was becoming overload for them, which was good. We pushed them to that limit and they saw we scaled back how they performed; a credit to them, They've grasped what we've thrown at them."
You said everyone would start with a clean slate. Who are the impact players?
"I think to name just a few guys – there are a lot of guys who really made strides throughout the spring. There are some guys we just pointed out the other day on film from day one of spring until now they've made huge strides. Lawrence Marshall is a guy who– he's a young guy, he's a freshman – the first two practices it didn't barely look like he could lineup. Now he's out there and he's playing really well for us. We expect him to help us. But there's a lot of guys. There's a whole group of guys that are veterans who’ve played a lot of football around here that have made those improvements as well. I just think that they're pushing each other really well and they’re in the mindset every day whether it's meetings or practice to come to get better."
You guys lost both ends. Who's at the head of the defensive ends this spring?
"We’ve got several guys playing there. Wormley's playing some end, I mentioned Lawrence, Royce Jenkins-Stone is playing some end, we've even moved Mo Hurst out there a little bit to play some end, so we've done a combination of a lot of things. I think one of the bonuses to what we do schematically is the concepts carry over in fit so we're moving guys in different spots so when you do get injuries, you get nicked up, that's part of football– we have some guys we can put in there."
[After THE JUMP: linebacker talk and your regularly scheduled batch of Jabrill Peppers questions]
News bullets and important items:
Ondre Pipkins should be back this week. Sounds like he was injured last week.
The coaches want the running game to be filtered through the running backs because they don’t want the quarterback to get hurt
Maurice Ways and Chase Winovich are two younger guys who have garnered attention from the coaches
Mo Hurst was a running back in high school and has good vision; hence his use in goal line situations
Jabrill Peppers is not out for the season
“Thanks for coming out today. Yesterday, again, the consistency of having good practices continued. They went out and it was spirited. It was tough. Obviously they want to win. They want to play better. They want to compete better, and I think they’ve done that throughout so that’s been focusing on improving at each position and what we can do to play better, coach better, the whole deal. You know Penn State has a very good defense. Very salty, very good defensive front. I think Hackenberg is as talented as a quarterback as you’re going to find. I remember talking to Bill O’Brien about him and I know what Bill thinks of him as a quarterback and I can tell you we share those sentiments. We’re excited to get back out on Saturday. I think that’s the great part about football; you get another opportunity. We’ve got to take advantage of it. It’ll be a historic night, obviously, with the first Big Ten night game in Michigan Stadium. The atmosphere the night games have created the last two years have been something that has been very exciting for our players, so we’re excited about that.”
Coach, Ondre Pipkins didn’t travel with you. Where is he in the mix on the defensive side?
“He’ll be back with us this week.”
So you’re not talking about injuries, but-
With the running backs, do you move [Ross] Douglas back there or do you do anything else to get more depth, because you were kind of thin there anyway?
“You know, Ross is playing a little bit of the slot. He’s helping us there a little bit. Haven’t moved him full-time back. The good thing is he’s had some snaps there but right now we feel pretty confident with DeVeon and Justice and Drake Johnson. In some personnel and situation things Joe Kerridge being back there is a possibility.”
Is Wyatt Shallman playing there?
“Well, he- a little bit, yeah. He does some things for us.”
We’ve talked about this all the years with Denard and now Devin but the balance between letting them run, which was obviously successful the other day, and then now the injury factor; how do you balance that?
“Well, I think with two good athletes like that who from an instinctive point of view maybe run the ball a little bit more than you want depending on what they see down the field in those passing situations, but I think there is a balance. I think we would like to keep creating the runs from the tailback position as much as possible so that we don’t have to put him in harm’s way.”
How much of it is Devin initiating it and how much of it is directed from Doug [Nussmeier]?
“Well, I think he initiates some of it. He has a feel for it, and instinct for it but obviously there were some designed runs that were in there.”
[After THE JUMP: Get out your Ouija board, because we’re (barely) talking injuries]
A note before we start: this preview relies heavily on the defensive UFRs of last year because there’s a convenient numerical system that does a decent job of summing up a defensive player’s contributions. One caveat: the system is generous to defensive linemen and harsh to defensive backs, especially cornerbacks. A +4 for a defensive end is just okay; for a cornerback it’s outstanding.
|STRONG DE||Yr.||NOSE TACKLE||Yr.||3-TECH||Yr.||WEAK DE||Yr.|
|Brennen Beyer||Sr.||Ryan Glasgow||So.*#||Willie Henry||So.*||Frank Clark||Sr.|
|Taco Charlton||So.||Ondre Pipkins||Jr.||Chris Wormley||So.*||Mario Ojemudia||Jr.|
|Henry Poggi||Fr.*||Maurice Hurst||Fr.*||Matt Godin||So.*||Lawrence Marshall||Fr.|
Depth chart shows everybody just because.
What looked like a sure strength at the beginning of the season degraded gradually and then suddenly; by the end a 285-pound Jibreel Black was trying to hold up against the best rushing attack in the country in the Ohio State game. That could have gone better.
With both projected interior starters gone, that might be time to panic, but actually… Michigan has options here, and talent. Injury and and inexplicable absence contributed heavily to the issues last year. Ondre Pipkins suffered a midseason ACL tear; Quinton Washington was left on the bench for most of the after a breakout turn his junior year, and then didn't play well when he was in the game. Thus the amount of talent they actually have on the field is just about what they had last year plus a year of experience for everyone and the additions of Pipkins and early-enrolling freshman Bryan Mone.
NOSE TACKLE: HOUSE OF GLASGOWS
Glasgow (left) and Mone, one of the many men chasing him.
I'm not exactly sure what we expected at this position. I can guarantee it was not RYAN GLASGOW, he of the rootinest, tootinest clan of walk-ons to ever wander onto Michigan's roster and lock down starting spots down the spine of the team as sophomores. Yes, Glasgow is related to Glasgow and has essentially the same origin story: they were enormous dudes who didn't play football until their last year of high school, and now they're starters.
In Ryan's case this may be nominal and temporary. Nose tackle sees a ton of rotation even in adverse circumstances, and as we're about to detail there are a pile of guys pushing from behind here. And then there is the Pipkins thing: Glasgow may be in front of Pipkins only because it takes a long time for big guys to recover from major injuries.
But he's here. And… uh… he is here. There is obviously no recruiting profile for him. And Glasgow only got sparing snaps a year ago as a redshirt freshman. He didn't do much in those snaps; the only clips I got for him were a couple of times when he got blown up a bit, once dropping to a knee against Akron, once taking the brunt of a Notre Dame double team.
Now, this is not actually out of nowhere. Two years ago this preview specifically noted Glasgow's existence:
And here's a weird one: I've heard that Michigan thinks they have something in walk-on Ryan Glasgow. … It would be a longshot for him to see the field this year, obviously, but he's listed at 294 already and is a guy to keep an eye out for in case that pans out.
As his brother's proven, these guys come with the requisite size and strength for the major level of competition. Meanwhile Glasgow is ahead of a ravenous pack behind. (One that could also include Willie Henry if the coaches were uncertain about nose tackle—Chris Wormley would cope just fine as a starter.) This is a situation in which having the walk-on on top of the depth chart is probably fine. Onfield issues last year don't mean much more than he was a freshman DT. Even the most highly touted guys often struggle their first couple years as their conditioning and technique catch up.
Also positive Sam Webb talked with Mark Smith, his position coach, and Smith went out of his way to bring Glasgow up:
During one interview he interjected with a mention of Glasgow’s name. At the end he said, "(Glasgow) had an outstanding spring and will compete for a lot of time."
Well Glasgow has continued that strong play from what I hear. He is without question one of the strongest players in the program (I believe only Pipkins tested out stronger during the spring), he’s huge, Smith described him as a technician, and he has a non-stop motor. Don’t confuse this with the Nate Brink talk of a few years ago.
Webb's not going to prompt a guy to talk about a walk-on; that's something a coach has to know and think about and make an effort to bring up. Mattison did something similar last year:
Who's pushing Jibreel Black and Quinton Washington?
"Watching the tape, and you look, and all of a sudden Ryan Glasgow, from the three-technique position, makes two tackles on the line of scrimmage all the way down the line the other way. When we stopped it and showed our guys and said, 'Look, this is Glasgow making this play. This is a heck of a job.'"
Webb did mention that part of the reason Glasgow is in front is because Michigan is making every effort to be careful with Pipkins as he returns from ACL surgery, so it may not last. Playing time will; nose has two starters essentially.
So it's fine. If he doesn't perform, he will get yanked. Michigan has…
[After THE JUMP: everybody into the pile! Pipkins deployment, MEAAAAT, OGRE, and more pile.]
why u no push [Bryan Fuller]
Might as well get it out of the way. The offensive line was pretty depressing. For big chunks of the scrimmage it was ones versus twos, which helps resolve the classic intrasquad "is this event good or bad" dilemma: when your second-team defense is stoning your first team offense, it is bad. And they did stone the offense:
The rotation Saturday was more stable in comparison with last season, but the three running backs gained just 33 yards on 20 carries with the first team, and the blocking issues haven’t gone away.
In this case it is maybe less bad than otherwise because there's little separation between Michigan's first- and second-team front sevens. But it is still bad.
One disturbing echo of last year: when Glasgow got dinged up and went out, it was Joey Burzynski who drew into the lineup at right guard on the first team. No offense to Burzynski, but the guy is a 6'1" gentleman coming off of ACL surgery. Surely one of the touted 6'5" guys should be ahead of him on the depth chart by now.
Kalis was out and I imagine he has managed to pass Burzynski, but his presence indicates that Samuelson and Dawson and Bars and so forth and so on are not yet viable options. And where's Bosch? On the second team, yes, but why isn't he pushing for a spot?
I can't tell you too much about any particular lineman without tape, unfortunately… Cole held his own in pass protection, so there's that.
in yo face [Fuller]
Aggression. If you needed further confirmation it is real, well, it's real. Michigan ran piles and piles of man-to-man—all the better to unleash Peppers on opponents with—and took a number of PI flags ranging from obvious to silly to questionable. They must clean those up, but with Michigan going hell-for-leather in your face this year the QB has to get it on target for it to count.
Encouragingly there weren't many biffs that led to wide open guys in the flat. Wyatt Shallman had one flare-and-run that broke for a bunch of yards when his man got picked off by the route. That will be a danger: if Michigan doesn't have a reasonable amount of zone those plays will be there.
Hello Mr. Hurts. I just misspelled "Hurst" but I'm leavin' it. Mo Hurst burst into the backfield three or four times, once getting a thunderous safety TFL. As a recruit he was reputed to be a first step that happened to be attached to a human body, and that looks on point. No doubt he will have issues holding up to double-teams as a 282-pound redshirt freshman; from here it looks like a promising debut season and considerable excitement going into next year are waiting in the wings.
Who is where at DT? And will they stay there? Your nominal starters were, unexpectedly, Matt Godin and Ryan Glasgow at three-tech and nose, respectively. There was a ton of rotation at those spots, so much so that determining a Real Starter seems not only futile but pointless, but if those two guys are actually viable that's interesting. Because it's not like Willie Henry is going away:
Willie Henry is looking really good out there. Pancaked Chris Fox on that play.
— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) August 17, 2014
He will start; Godin's existence is a nice bonus. I'm a little less enthused about the prospect of Glasgow as a candidate to start at nose because there isn't a groundswell of buzz behind a couple of established players like there is at three-tech. Pipkins has gotten some approving mentions but nothing like that accompanying Henry, and while Mone is set to be a contributor he is a true freshman.
Undeserved lemon? Bolden was first choice at WLB but Morgan rotated in so frequently at both positions it seems like they just have three starters for two spots. Like DT it is at times pointless to think one guy is a starter while the other is not. This bodes well.
Bolden did just annihilate one screen, laying the hardest hit he has on anyone since his arrival. Hesitancy has been the main issue with his game since his arrival. If it has truly clicked for him, that's exciting. He is not beating out a scrub here.
Youth movement at corner. Also in "not beating out a scrub here": Lewis and Peppers are definitely your leaders there; rotation will be frequent. Countess did have an excellent INT on a Gardner throw destined for Funchess, but even so it seems like two returning starters on a decent pass defense have been booted from the starting lineup.
Darboh and Gardner have chemistry. [Fuller]
Wideout depth is quality. Michigan has their big 5 (Funchess, Darboh, Canteen, Chesson, Norfleet) and then some: Moe Ways brought in four or five catches that were reminiscent of Junior Hemingway, and while he was working on a walk-on wearing 49 for some of those the way he found the ball in the air and brought it in was impressive.
Walk-on Bo Dever showed some promise as a Dileo-type in the slot; he was Speight's favorite target; fellow walk-on Jack Wangler was also reliable. No idea if either has the athletcism or route chops to get real playing time. They've got a chance. FWIW, Stribling had a nice interception on a Dever wheel route that he had blanketed. That is not his jam.
On the negative side, Da'Mario Jones had a bad night, dropping several balls that should have been catches. Jaron Dukes didn't do much.
Oh, and the top end is rather top end.
— Richard Blasey (@sockrrich) August 17, 2014
The first downfield pass was Funchess making a spectacular stab while well covered. Yes, please. In general, the WR/CB matchup looked top-notch all around. Michigan receivers found very few open opportunities and still made some great catches. Freddy Canteen once again reminded Jourdan Lewis that the gypsy he offended needs an apology. And Amara Darboh looked very, very Avant-like on a series of slants and digs that promise to be reliable chain-movers this fall.
If Michigan can pass protect there is the potential for a passing-oriented offense to work here. If.
All the zone reps. Every OL drill in the warmup portion was zone-oriented, and about 90% was inside zone. They worked in pairs against one opponent, reacting to his movements to execute combination blocks, and then worked on IDing and reacting appropriately to stunts. As the scrimmage showed, it is a work in progress. It's going to be a work in progress all year, and all next year, and the year after that. Inside zone is hard and competence is built up over years.
Another safety solution. Hill was held out; in his stead the first team safety combination was Clark and Wilson. The twist: it was Wilson frequently creeping to the line as the strong safety with Clark playing center field.
Gardner looked good. He's fast!. He's still a little wobbly with the decisions. He looked very accurate when given time, and stepped up through pressure more than once. His only flip-around-and-chuck was a ball he was throwing away; he did have one aimless bomb downfield that should have been out of bounds but was instead up for grabs that Nussmeier did not like.
Morris looked a lot more plausible than he did in the spring, more comfortable in the pocket and less prone to throwing directly at defenders.
Injuries. Butt and Hill were in no-contact jerseys; Reon Dawson had an arm in a sling; Delonte Hollowell had a hard cast on one hand for what looked like a thumb issue. Hollowell participated as normal. Drake Harris dressed normally but didn't even take the full warmup reps with his bros. Ty Isaac was held out with something minor, and Kalis had his back issue. He should be back today.
Meanwhile, any and all optimism about Butt's return seems reasonable. He went through warmup drills with everyone else and looked just fine. If he's at the stage where he can plant and cut at full speed with a month before ND he should be ready to go by then.
Return reversal. In a bit of an oddity, it looks like Peppers is more likely to get time as a punt returner than at kick returner, where Raymon Taylor was Norfleet's backup. Usually kickoffs are where you blood new guys because a muff just means you got a touchback or some bad field position instead of disaster.
Hagerup! Booted a 70 yarder, drawing the first applause of the night. #B1G.
The thing that is hilarious. Dennis Norfleet stacked behind Devin Funchess. We do not have a photo of this yet, but when we do… oh, when we do.
Phil Collins count: 0.
I think we killed it. I didn't mention this all last year because I didn't want to jinx it but after not only the nonstop music from the spring game but also this scrimmage, I think I can finally poke my head out and say: "In The Big House" is dead. Deaaaaaaaaad.
I swear to God, Special K, if you bring it back after I mention this I will find you. That's the best thing about making up a fictional bete noire DJ: you can threaten it all you want.
Formations. Michigan at least showed a lot of stuff, mixing under center snaps with the pistol and shotgun. The formations featured a lot of 2TE looks, and what seemed like a decreased emphasis on the FB. Nussmeier really likes motioning FB/RB/TE types out wide to trips formations, which gives the defense a dilemma: do I run a linebacker out there and tell 'em it's man coverage (and spread the box) or do I live with the potential mismatch that comes when one of my corners is dealing with AJ Williams?
This will get more interesting when Butt is on the field. Right now a 2TE lineup of Williams and Heitzman or Hill is emphatically 2TEs; with Butt you can really put a defense in a bind.
Corner blitz hot reads. Two or three times Gardner IDed a corner blitz and just threw a hot stop route to the vacated corner for nice gains.
FLEET house KO. High five!
The spring game-type-substance maintained its downward importance trajectory, but as it's the last glimpse of one of the big three sports we'll have until fall we'll talk about it all the same. This year's edition further expanded the punting-drills-and-standing-around section of the practice, so observations are necessarily light on the ground.
It's bad when Doug Karsch can't keep the sarcasm out of his voice.
This video is in Michigan's traditional zoom-o-vision, so you can't actually tell what Lewis did to get in the position he's in for the first interception.
The tone. Last year's "I like this team" has been replaced.
“We’re doing a lot of good things, but we’re not near good enough as a team to win games in the fourth quarter, which we didn’t do (last season), and play on the road,” said Hoke, entering his fourth season. “We’re a long way from being any good."
That reflects the reality of the program.
Depth chart grain of salt reminder. Spring is a season for motivational devices and experiments and therefore places on the depth chart should be regarded as vague indicators more than anything else. Case in point: Graham Glasgow was your second-team right tackle.
Lewis is in your grill yo [Bryan Fuller]
Very aggressive /teddyKGB. Every offseason for a team without an elite defense features coaches promising increased aggression, whereupon most of them quietly drop that promise when the season rolls around and it turns out that for Defense X being super aggressive is a good way to give up quick touchdowns. The cycle repeats the next offseason.
Michigan is promising aggression, and Mattison is putting his cornerbacks where his mouth is. Lewis:
“It’s huge, just getting hands on guys and trying to intimidate them," Lewis said. "That’s our key point right there -- being physical. That’s what (defensive coordinator Greg) Mattison is always talking about, being a physical defense.”
They spent most of the scrimmage session in the grills of Michigan wide receivers, playing MSU-style bump and clutch and grab and run. Word from the coaching clinic is that Michigan is adjusting to the way the game has been called of late. Lewis again:
“He said ‘be physical’,” Lewis said. “But he doesn’t care if it’s great defense and we get a penalty.”
This was highly effective when not drawing two flags on Lewis—the second a dubious one—or that one time the offense got Freddy Canteen lost on a deep corner route. Everything else was contested, and when the ball got to the receiver the corners were making a play on it.
Lewis looked terrific after a spring in which inside practice buzz has heralded him as a major comer; hell, he looked terrific most of last year except for the bit where the opposing quarterback regularly put the ball in the six-inch window perfect coverage provides. In this game he had two interceptions and two flags along with other instances where his presence forced drops or tough catches. The first interception came on the first play of the scrimmage (0:45 above).
The video doesn't do it justice since it kind of looks like Lewis is coming over from a zone. That was pure press man coverage on which he did the one thing the gypsy promised him he'd never do: make a play on the ball after achieving his position.
Is he supplanting? I don't know, man. Usually two returning starters who had the number of excellent interceptions Taylor and Countess did have impregnable positions on the depth chart. This situation is not usual, though, as those guys didn't have impregnable positions even as they were doing that—Taylor was yanked from the starting lineup briefly, even. And the last impression Michigan's coaches have is both guys getting smoked by Tyler Lockett, an impression that Countess might have reinforced when Canteen beat him over the top Manningham-style. (Gardner left the throw short and Countess recovered.)
At the very least the competition here is a real one, unlike, say, quarterback. And corner is a position at which a lot of players will see the field. Lewis has at least claimed a spot in Michigan's nickel package, which is half your snaps these days. Even when not in nickel, Michigan rotated last year and they'll rotate this year. It's likely that Lewis gets as many snaps as the starters whether he is one on paper or not, and then you've got Stribling and Peppers. Delonte Hollowell is hanging around, delivering the occasional hard shot on the unsuspecting.
If the spring game indicates one thing, it's that cornerback is better-stocked than it's been in a long-time. Michigan doesn't have a Woodson (at least until fall, anyway), but I can say without hesitation that I'm more comfortable with Michigan's fifth corner than I usually am with their third. Remember Football Armageddon, when Michigan decided covering a first-round NFL draft pick with Chris Graham was their best option? Yeah. Not so much this year.
Wilson got over the top on a late throw [Bryan Fuller]
Aaaand safety. Much less clarity there, and very little to go on from the game-type section. Michigan spent much of the day rolling whoever wasn't Jarrod Wilson to the line of scrimmage to further their aggression goals, whereupon he would cover a fullback or something or watch as a run play did not get to him.
Wilson did have one nice PBU on a looping ball over the top. The ball was late thanks to some pressure that forced Gardner to roll around in the pocket, but that's the kind of ball a safety can make a play on and the play was made.
As far as depth chart stuff goes there was zero clarity. If you put a gun to my head I'd say Delano Hill was slightly preferred. And then I would say "but…" and you would shoot me. Let's not do this gun to the head thing when talking about Michigan's safeties.
The Jake Ryan experiment. First off, the admittedly not-particularly-meaningful spring depth chart gives me the willies. Ryan at MLB, Morgan second-string behind him, Bolden starting, Ross running on the second team at new tinySAM. I am full of the willies.
It's hard to tell much about linebackers in spring, harder yet when the offensive line they're up against is barely releasing to the second level*. On plays where I watched Jake Ryan he looked okay. He's kind of a long, upright guy, so when blockers get into him he tends to let them under him. On the edge he would just juke a guy and explode past him; in the middle you have to take the block on because picking the wrong side of the guy means you just blew your run fit.
I'm not sure where he fits in an over defense, though, so if you're going to make a shift he has to go somewhere.
Meanwhile, Joe Bolden's ample playing time has been mysterious to me. Linebacker remains the hardest position for me to have a Serious Opinion about because there's just so much that goes into it, but the things that Bolden seemed to be screwing up were really obvious things like not being anywhere near your pass drop. Meanwhile when it comes to hitting people in the face and making them stop going forward there is no comparison between Bolden, who has been a drag-you-down tackler to date, and Desmond Morgan, who thumps you and then you stop moving. Michigan's head coach says "toughness" every other word, and Morgan is much closer to that on the field than Bolden.
As a result I've promised to eat a lemon on the internet if Bolden starts the opener over Morgan. The rules: Morgan has to be healthy, Bolden has to start, and Morgan cannot start.
*[Michigan had a great deal of uninspiring runs of 1-3 yards but few TFLs except that one time they put Henry in against the third team OL. This was in large part because the offensive line was doing its damndest to not repeat the mistakes of last year. Instead of popping off opposing DL immediately, they were maintaining doubles longer than you really should. This made life at LB relatively easy and thus many plays where a tailback crosses the line of scrimmage and encounters a pile of men.]
Poggi SDE, Hurst 3-tech, Henry nose on a second or third unit
Line ups and downs. Here the limitations of spring practice overwhelm. Michigan's first-team offensive line read Cole-Bosch-Miller-Kalis-Braden; the second team featured a left tackle with an enormous cast on his hand. Grain of salt, grain of salt, grain of salt.
Anyway, Michigan had a few guys that looked impressive: Bryan Mone entered the backfield with regularity and Maurice Hurst Jr flashed the first step that was the bulk of his recruiting profile. That they've pushed Henry down the depth chart is an excellent sign even if that particular arrangement is clearly motivational after Henry established himself a legit Big Ten player a year ago. Brennen Beyer displayed an excellent ability to discard… uh… true freshman Mason Cole on a number of snaps. Beyer has always been an active hands guy; the question with him is his ability to hold up against 330 pound trucks. A matchup with Cole is not going to answer that.
Michigan got push up the middle of the pocket for large chunks of the scrimmages and while they weren't penetrating on run plays with regularity, see the aside above. When Michigan's options were limited in the half-line drills, they ended up in the backfield more often than not. It seemed like 80% of those runs cut back behind the center, which is a win for the DL in that drill.
As for guys who had bad snaps we will extrapolate much more from than is reasonable: at 2:55 in the video above Derrick Green gets one of Michigan's better runs on the day by bouncing outside; that is there because Glasgow locked up with and drove Henry Poggi well off the ball. Tom Strobel got easily handled on a successful Hayes power play at 2:25; a linebacker wearing a number in the 40s also picked the wrong hole. Also… does anyone know where Chris Wormley was? I don't recall seeing him; I googled to see if anyone had mentioned anything was up with him and came up empty, so I assume he was there but rather anonymous.
I have to punt on other defensive end observations, as I was focusing on the linebackers and secondary for much of the day.
- They're trying to make good on the promise to be aggressive.
- The cornerback depth is terrific and the top end should be quite good.
- Michigan has a solid young core at DT; DE is more uncertain.
- Linebackers… ask again later.