spoiler alert: i linked this
First things first, the Michigan Spring Game will now serve as a fundraiser for Mott Children's Hospital. Though the event will still be free to the public, they will have the opportunity to donate money to Mott as they enter - with incentives!
- $5 Donation - "All in for Michigan Towel"
- $20 Donation - "All in for Michigan, All in for Mott" T-Shirt
- $250 Donation - 4 Passes to a pre-season scrimmage(!)
- $500 Donation - 2 pre-game sideline passes to a 2010 football game (BGSU, UMass, Iowa, or Illinois).
The Beam Family of Brighton, MI will also match every donation that is made during the Spring Game. This fundraiser continues Michigan football's long-standing relationship with Mott.
The Spring Game festivities kick off an April 17th at 11AM, with the Alumni Flag Football Game (gates open at 10AM). The team takes the field for warmups around noon, and the game itself starts at 1. Unfortunately, the team doesn't have enough healthy players to be able to do a full scrimmage with teams divided up, but they'll do more offense v. defense things. In future years, a game-like scrimmage will be possible.
- Injuries: Vladimir Emilien and Jared Van Slyke both sprained knees, and are out a few weeks. They're hopeful that Emilien will be back for the final week of spring practice. Je'Ron Stokes sprained his ankle and Anthony LaLota injured his elbow, both should be out about a week. David Molk is able to run a bit and snap the ball, but he won't participate in any contact this spring. Everyone who had surgery in the off-season is progressing on schedule or even faster.
- The team will have three scrimmages this spring. This upcoming Saturday will be the first one. There will also be one the week before the spring game, and the Spring Game itself.
- Offense: Last year's offense was decent, but there were times (especially with turnovers) that they missed opportunities due to poor execution. This spring, they're focusing on improving that, as well as becoming more physical.
- Quarterbacks: Denard Robinson hasn't played anything other than QB so far this spring, but if it becomes clear he's not going to get tons of snaps there, he'll play other positions in addition. Devin Gardner is behind the other two QBs, as he still needs to learn the offense. His throwing mechanics are looking good though.
- Running Backs: Even the guys who have some experience are pretty young. Mike Cox has a very good opportunity this spring, and he should contribute this fall.
- Offensive Line: Perry Dorrestein and Mark Huyge are the veterans at the tackle positions. Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield will push them. The freshmen have gotten bigger, and will try to prove themselves this spring. If multiple guys at a position are able to help the team win, they'll play at tackle.
- Defense: They'll tweak defensive packages for the various offensive schemes they'll see this fall. The challenge is to have a wide enough variety of packages to be able to play every offense, while keeping the overall defense simple enough for the players to be able to learn it well.
- Defensive line: There isn't a lot of experienced depth on the offensive line, but that just means guys who need lots of reps this spring will be able to get them. Will Campbell is improving, he added a lot of strength to go with his weight this offseason. The coaches are excited to see what Anthony LaLota can do when he returns from injury, as he had a good offseason as well.
- Linebackers - Jonas Mouton and Obi Ezeh have impressed this spring, as has Mark Moundros, who is moonlighting at linebacker since the fullback doesn't play that many downs in this offense. Rodriguez thinks Mouton played well last year, but Obi seemed to falter down the stretch. One of the big factors in lackluster LB play last year was a lack of depth - the D would play well for a couple downs or even a few drives, then opposing offenses would have their way with them.
- Safeties - With Emilien and Van Slyke out, a number of younger guys are getting a chance to play this spring. Cameron Gordon is playing well at safety. Brandin Hawthorne will play both safety and hybrid.
- Corners: JT Floyd has been playing well this spring. The coaches are putting some real pressure on him, and he's responding well. Justin Turner is also getting a lot of reps.
- The offensive line intensity has been good in the first few days. There is a lot of depth, and the young guys are ready to prove themselves. The guys are ready to hit.
- Schilling is excited to be a leader on the offensive line. He has lots of experience, and the rest of the guys who have been around a while are helping the young offensive linemen come along for the future. Stephen is up to about 305 pounds, after playing last year around the 295 range.
- Taylor Lewan, Quinton Washington, and Michael Schofield are three of the hardest workers on the offensive line. Lewan and Washington in particular seem ready to prove they can contribute on the field. They're hoping to push for some playing time. Lewan has a nasty streak in the way he plays.
- The defense has been playing primarily a 3-3-5 this spring. Typically, Michigan's offensive front only sees odd front in passing situations, but Schilling thinks they'll be able to do a lot of good things out of this formation.
- Patrick Omameh is very comfortable at guard (from the way Schilling was talking, it sounds like this move is probably permanent). When Molk comes back from his injury, the interior of the offensive line will be very good. Molk played very well before getting injured, and Patrick finished the year very strong.
- The running backs got some reps last year, but Schilling is excited to see what they can do, especially with all the depth in the backfield. Michael Shaw is a good speed back, Cox and Toussaint can pound the ball well, and when he comes back, Vincent Smith can do it all - including catch out of the backfield.
- Schilling is bummed he won't be around for the first night game in Michigan Stadium. It's especially exciting for a game against a rival like Notre Dame. He'll try to make it back for the game if he can.
- This is Troy's first time in a 3-3-5 type of defense. It's the best formation for the personnel that this team has right now. Troy has built up a comfort level with Greg Robinson's coaching after being a bit skeptical at first last year. He likes the way GERG coaches, and believes in what he says. The coaches are working to make sure the players - especially the younger ones - are learning well.
- Switching positions all the time last year hurt him a bit, but for the long-term, it's actually been a help. At corner, he now understands what the safeties will be doing, and can trust in the scheme a bit more. He still has to work on his technique at corner a bit.
- Cameron Gordon has lots of natural ability, and is very good at reading his keys. JT Floyd has been looking really good lately, and understands the game a bit better. He had a nice interception the other day. Justin Turner is still young, but is coming along well. Mike Williams and Jordan Kovacs both like the positions they've moved to. For both of them, there's an emphasis at the new positions on coming up and making tackles, rather than playing in deep coverage. That plays to both of their strengths.
- With all the 3-3-5 talk, I've been assuming Craig Roh would mostly play with his hand down for more of a 4-2-5 look, but that wasn't the case. He was practicing with the other LBs, on the first unit with Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton.
- Tate Forcier is still clearly the best passer of the QBs. Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson were about even, with Devin maybe a liiitle more accurate (except on the longball, which he overthrew quite a bit). Denard probably has a much deeper understanding of the passing game, and would be more able to contribute.
- Looked like they might be preparing the throw it to the RBs a bit more this season. They went away from it a bit when Carlos Brown went out, but Vincent Smith did have a few catches last season.
- Mike Martin isn't practicing in the spring (shoulder surgery), but he was running laps around the indoor field. I guarantee you he's faster than me, despite being 300ish pounds and looking like the Hulk.
- MI DE Brennen Beyer was visiting practice today.
Notes from Rich Rodriguez's press conference and the first day of spring practice. Follow me on Twitter (@varsityblue) for live updates.
- Injuries: David Molk and Vincent Smith are out for spring with knee injuries. Junior Hemingway and Brandon Herron had recent knee surgeries, hopefully Hemingway will be able to make it back for the end of spring practice. Zac Johnson and Mike Martin are limited (non-contact) for the spring with shoulder injuries.
- Nick Sheridan and Bryan Wright are no longer on the football team. Sheridan wants to go into coaching, but he can't work with the football team now, since he hasn't graduated. Wright's persistent back issues have led him to give up the game, and he's going to graduate and move on.
- Position changes: Cameron Gordon has been moved to safety, as has Teric Jones. This means Troy Woolfolk and Justin Turner will both play corner this spring. There's the potential that one or both of them can move to safety down the road.
- Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson are options 1 and 2 at quarterback. When Denard isn't taking snaps, he's too valuable to take off the field, and they'll give him some run at wide receiver (there's enough running back depth that they won't need him there). Devin Gardner has a great work ethic, and he'll be willing to earn any playing time he might get. Rodriguez is glad he could get in for spring, because there's a lot to learn.
- At the running back position, a number of guys are competing with Vincent Smith out for spring practice. Michael Shaw, Mike Cox, and Fitzgerald Toussaint will fill in, along with the two freshmen (Austin White and Stephen Hopkins), and there's a chance that some slot receivers get reps at that position as well.
- The team knows that they always have something to prove. Even if Michigan had performed better on the field in the past two years, there's always something to prove.
- Brendan Gibbons and Will Hagerup were the only two kicking specialists mentioned. Gibbons seems to be the favorite at kicker, and Hagerup won't arrive until fall, but will probably punt.
- Many offensive linemen worked hard to improve their bodies in the off-season, especially the freshmen Quinton Washington, Taylor Lewan, and Michael Schofield. They'll be in the mix for some playing time.
- Elsewhere on the offensive line, Rocko Khoury, Elliott Mealer, and Christian Pace will play center with Molk out for spring. Rodriguez likes to have four guys who can snap the ball. When Molk is healthy in the fall, there's a good chance that he'll be one of the best centers in the Big Ten.
- Brandon Graham will be missed from both a production and leadership standpoint. On the field, Ryan Van Bergen, Greg Banks, Adam Patterson, and even Craig Roh will play his old spot. RVB and Banks will play both inside and outside on the DL. As for leadership, the veterans will have to step up, even though there's a very small group of seniors this year.
- The defense should be able to take a step forward in the second year under the same defensive coordinator. A few schemes will be tweaked, but they'll try to keep them simpler, because there's a good chance some true freshmen will have to fill in this fall. The coaches are going to try for a bigger rotation defensively, so more guys will see the field.
- "Buying in" is not an issue for this team (anymore?), things now come down to a matter of executing properly to improve performance in games.
As for practice, most of the useful information will probably come from the pictures, but a couple quick observations:
- Vincent Smith was wearing a red jersey, but in his football gear. Dave Molk was practicing snaps.
- Nick Sheridan was hanging around watching in street clothes.
- Stephen Hopkins is frickin' huge. That kid will be a tank with the ball in his hands.
- Gardner's throwing motion looks improved from the end of his high school season. Once he is able to get actual coaching, it should continue getting better.
- I thought Christian Pace looked much bigger than he did on Signing Day, though it may have just been the difference in wardrobe (warmups on Signing Day). He didn't even look like an offensive lineman in February.
Apologies if the quality is a little worse than usual; I don't have the mad editing skillz that Paul does.
Light day at the press conference today, aside from the pseudo-bombshell that Brandon Minor is still injured, and is now considered questionable for Saturday. It remains to be seen how much of this is legit, and how much is gamesmanship/giving the press something new to talk about. Either way, not good. Carlos Brown would get the start if Minor can't go, with Shaw, Grady, and Vincent Smith also garnering playing time.
Rich says the coaches are starting to have a good idea of who will start at QB on Saturday. They'll let the quarterbacks know tomorrow night who is getting the starting nod.
Big focuses in camp this year: holding onto the ball and avoiding negative yardage offensive plays. He felt like they held onto the ball pretty well in last year's camp (and we know how that turned out), but it's even better this year.
During punt return practice, the returners seemed to be having some sort of competition to not be the first to drop one. When someone finally did, a grad assistant who had been turned the other way immediately turned around and asked "Was it Terrence [Robinson]?" It was.
First: Tim attended the open section of the practice and posted some initial thoughts. He'll be at the 12:45 press conference as well. Meanwhile, the Big Ten Network gets unfettered access to the whole thing. Assorted highlights below. BONUS: I think this whole "everything in the world is scattered in 140-char chunks across twitter" thing is going to be rampant in the future so I inaugurated a new tag: "twitter for humans."
OH MY GOD SHOULDER PADS
Robinson "has better touch and a tighter spiral than I predicted on the long ball."
That shot of Michigan's tiny, tiny quarterbacking contingent is from the Big Ten Network, which is taking in today's practice in its entirety. They are tweeting and twitpicing and so forth and whatnot. It's all very sound-and-fury-signifying-eh-not-much, but here's a fun fact:
Why's the ceiling so high? Michigan went around and measured all the nation's indoor facilities to make sure its was the highest.
I bet one dollar that there's a closet somewhere in Schembechler Hall full of Enzyte. A locked closet.
Also, this child…
…would be very cute if he wasn't on the two deep at safety. Sad commentary on the secondary depth: some of you are checking the link to see if that's true.
You mean the tweedle-dos can be useful? Dave Revsine is also twittering up a storm. The BTN's ability to take in practices from everyone leads to interesting comparisons:
Amazing how much smaller Michigan's skill guys are than OSU and PSU. Not a positive or a negative -- just a different philosophy.… Again -- interesting to see difference in philosophy. I've seen more WR's working on blocking in 1st 20 mins than last 2 days combined
Revsine's also jumping to conclusions on one Tate Forcier:
Initial impression -- Forcier has a nice arm. Looks good. Throws well on run. Robinson a tad more inconsistent, but still fine for scheme. … It's amazing how poised and confident Forcier looks. As Howard said to me, "he has 'it'". Just has an impressive air about him.
[UPDATE: Revsine's final thought:
Tate Forcier is the PERFECT QB for the Michigan system. Good arm,very comfortable throwing on the run and good speed and scrambling ability
I have been looking forward to It ever since we lost It sometime around the Horror. More QBs:
Denard Robinson has looked accurate on short passes during team work. Clearly the #3 at this point, but obviously it's very early.
Also, Vincent Smith looks "really good" because he is "tough to catch," it's "pretty obvious" Patrick Omameh "will be able to help." Aaand if there was a twitter wishing well I'd throw 140 characters down it to make this come true:
Lot of emphasis on one on one tackling -- which was a liability for this team last year. Hard to tell from practice, but looks better.
O'Neil Swanson is a true frosh walk-on from the cradle of football, West Bloomfield, Michigan. He went to Country Day and checks in at an impressive 5-10 156 (which is exactly my height/weight).
Looks like we've got our own Paki O'Meara, though ours is less terrifyingly close to the top of the depth chart. Rothstein also mentions that Justin Turner's a little behind:
While everyone else watched M drill, turner was off on the side not in pads working on backpedaling
Minor and Mathews were in non-contact green. Minor's thing is a lingering headache (concussion?) from a car accident a few weeks ago; we'll no doubt find out what's up with Mathews at this afternoon's press conference.
- Rothstein ran down the first team offense and it was exactly as you might expect: Forcier, Minor, Koger, etc. Huyge still appears to be the leader at right tackle. Okay no big deal except at one spot…
- With Mathews out the nominal first team wide receivers were Hemingway and Savoy. We've started to hear some nice things about Savoy, but given his extremely limited production to date that says more about Stonum. The things are not nice. Hopefully this is a get-on-the-same-page sort of thing?
- Rothstein noted a couple guys in red riding bikes and then made some notable omissions from his second-team offense: Carlos Brown and Rocko Khoury. And maybe Ricky Barnum, but it's hard to tell.
- Rothstein can identify "Jock Jams" in less than three notes.
- aaarghghghgahghagargh from Birkett:
Michigan's punt returners are having problems catching (or judging) the ball. During the morning punt period, with no oncoming cover team, return men Carlos Brown, Terrence Robinson and Martavious Odoms dropped three consecutive catchable balls.
- Birkett focused on Brandon Herron quite a bit, noting he (and RVB) got the best of Ortmann and Dorrestein in a couple drills—eek left tackle—and claiming he is "primed for a big season." I might switch my twitter wishing well request to this one.
Also: maybe we will get some use out of a Grady after all. Kelvin Grady was widely expected to spend this year fastened to the bench as he reacclimated to football, but after some impressive performances (including one sweet practice catch I mentally filed as IN, 1, protection N/A—WOO FOOTBALL COMIN') in practice Rodriguez thinks he'll see the field:
"We’re not in full pads yet, but what I’ve seen in three days, Kelvin Grady’s going to play for us this year. He’s a very quick learner, he’s very coachable, he’s got ball skills. And I think we have a position that fits him perfectly in that slot."
At the very least it's another shot at a punt returner who won't fumble the ball. Here's some high school video to whet your appetite and not remind you of McGuffie in any way:
There's also a dead ringer for Javon Ringer's long one when he escaped from Shawn Crable.
Note: MGoBlog did not manage to get on the right lists in time to be notified what was going down with the first practice and presser and whatnot and thus missed it. We should be set now and better able to act as a primary source on these things. For now we round up what other people saw.
I can haz secondary? Three items of personnel interest:
- Jason Forcier has a locker but didn't practice. Michigan kind of thinks he might be eligible, then. He's not on the roster, though.
- Marell Evans did practice. There were rumors he was briefly off the roster and may be flirting with a departure
- Justin Turner and Adrian Witty did not practice, but remain on the roster and have lockers. Rodriguez thinks both will get cleared:
Still, Rodriguez remains hopeful both will be cleared to practice soon. He kept spots open for both on Michigan’s 105-man reporting roster, and both have stalls waiting in Michigan’s new locker room.
“I’m pretty optimistic and hopefully (Turner’s) will be quicker,” Rodriguez said. “But wait and see.”
Speaking of said lockers, the Daily has a photoset from the day featuring Michigan's swanky new digs. But, uh, what doesn't belong in this picture?
Flat screen TV… beautiful wood paneling… futuristic labels… chairs you wouldn't seat your grandmother on even if you didn't like her, you cad. Someone get some Aeron in there.
Throwin'. AnnArbor.com got some footage of the QBs throwing, though it was apparently taken by Michael J Fox:
Forcier's throws, unsurprisingly, look the sharpest. Despite that, uh, this was written by the Daily's Ryan Kartje:
-Nick Sheridan probably looked the most comfortable and well-refined on the field, compared to Denard and Tate. But no one is matching Tate's enthusiasm which had him jumping up and down for a good portion of the drills.
Dude, man, even if that's true I want you to lie to me. This is what I want to hear:
I won’t make any bold predictions one practice into fall camp, but after watching Michigan work out for about an hour Monday without pads, I’d give Tate Forcier the easy edge in the battle to become the Wolverines starting quarterback.
The media was allowed to watch five periods of individual work Monday, and Forcier was much crisper in passing drills than fellow freshman Denard Robinson.
Kartje also reports that Robinson is fast but rusty and tends to throw screens way too high; Birkett says the quarterbacks are small, which uh yeah they are.
Eeeeeeee. Will Campbell at the Army game…
…Will Campbell in spring…
…and Will Campbell minus an average-sized fifth grader at practice:
Campbell has taken step one away from Gabe Watson-style disappointment*.
*(Not that Watson was exactly a disappointment: two-time All Conference and a solid NFL player. But he could have been All-American.)
Er? Is there a name in the wrong spot on this list?
The rough Day 1 depth chart at receiver: Greg Matthews went ahead of Junior Hemmingway in drills at one outside spot, and LaTerryal Savoy drilled ahead of James Rogers and Darryl Stonum at the other. At the slot, Martavious Odoms was first up in drills followed by Roy Roundtree and Terrence Robinson.
"Laterryal Savoy drilled ahead of Darryl Stonum" is only explicable if they did the order by numbers of Rs, Ys, and Ls in your first name. Other reports had Stonum dropping a lot of balls, which is not good if Michigan is going to have a deep threat this year.
They're going down in a blaze of glory. Michael Rothstein's come over to AnnArbor.com from his beat covering Notre Dame football at the Fort Wayne Gazette, so his viewpoint of the two programs will be an interesting one. Like for instance here:
At Notre Dame, the only music I ever remember hearing was on Thursdays, and that was a Charlie Weis-inspired playlist of Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen with a little bit of Crank Me Up worked in last year. At Michigan, music was going throughout a bunch of the practice that the media observed, everything from Soulja Boy to some old school rock. Definitely a variety for both the players and coaches.
No wonder ND can't run the ball.