to be the man you gotta recruit the man
It's a new era in all possible ways at quarterback. Michigan has exhausted their supply of raw passers with thrilling athleticism; they have also cast aside the previous coaching staff in favor of one in which the head coach is also the QB coach. He is one of the best in the country. Possibly the best.
In Harbaugh's tenure as a coach he…
- helped Rich Gannon(!) win the 2002 NFL MVP award,
- developed non-scholarship San Diego's Josh Johnson into a third-place finisher for the Walter Payton, the I-AA Heisman, and the first draft pick in school history,
- recruited and developed Andrew Luck,
- made Alex Smith look like a legit NFL QB just long enough for him to sign what some regard as the worst contract in the NFL, and
- advocated for, drafted, and developed Colin Kaepernick into a legit starting NFL QB when few thought he could make the transition from the Nevada pistol.
That is strike after strike after strike in not only player development but also talent identification. The contrast between Harbaugh and Al Borges*, who has still never seen a quarterback he recruited start as an upperclassman, could not be greater.
So when Harbaugh saw the state of the most important position in football at Michigan, it's no surprise that he reacted like Kirby. Harbaugh imported a grad transfer (Jake Rudock), a regular transfer (John O'Korn), a second quarterback recruit in 2015, and two recruits in 2016.
Only one of those guys is relevant to this preview: the graduate.
*[Doug Nussmeier has a good track record but only had a year in which it was difficult to make an impact. The only QB on the roster he is responsible for bringing in is freshman Alex Malzone.]
HE CAME FROM DEEPEST IOWA IN SEARCH OF RECEIVERS AND LOVE
Rudock was kind of a big deal at media day [Bryan Fuller]
JAKE RUDOCK will find at least one as long as he keeps his interception rate where it was last year.
Michigan's previous quarterback, Devin Gardner, turned into a turnover piñata sometime after his soul left his body for the third time. While it's hard to blame him much when his career seems like the kind of experiment that ends in a war crimes trial, the sheer quantity of errors he dished out over the course of last season will make a boring quarterback seem like a godsend.
Rudock is just what the doctor ordered in that department. Of the 100 quarterbacks with the most attempts last year, Rudock was 11th in interception rate. 1.4% of his passes got picked off last year. Gardner was dead last, with a rate almost quadruple Rudock's.
There is a cost associated with that, as any Iowa fan still capable of speech will tell you. This is it:
That is Jake Rudock's reputation: a boring boring boring game manager who idolized Brian Griese and dry toast growing up.
[After THE JUMP: Are Iowa fans wrong? Does Rudock have upside? Whither Morris?]
Your impressions of Jake Rudock?
“Yeah! All those quarterbacks are doing a great job. This is day 21 of practice. I guess it’s 10 days until our first game, and all of them are competing and doing a great job.”
With him taking the majority of the reps Saturday is that an indication that he is the No. 1 guy?
“No, there’s no decision that’s been made.”
How close are you to having five linemen that you’re settled on?
“We’re not. You know, every group is competing and we want that because it brings the best out of everybody. So we’ll just keep tinkering around and putting guys in there in and out, and when the time comes we’ll make that decision.”
When do you want to have it by?
“I don’t know yet. I don’t know that yet. Like I said, we’re 10 days out from game time, so when the time comes we’ll make that decision.”
Can you sense that build up? You’re going to be on a plane a week from tomorrow. Can you start sensing the excitement?
“Yeah, you do. You do. It’s always fun to go play somebody else because you’ve been playing against each other. It’s one day at a time right now but you do sense it, yeah.”
Looking at your receivers you have an interesting mix. You have a bunch of young guys who’ve not played at all and some veterans as well. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about your receiving corps?
“I think they’ve got very good speed, they’ve got good hands, they catch really well, they’re disciplined in their routes. A lot of positive things. A lot of guys making a lot of catches. Blocking really well.”
[After THE JUMP: A (very) rough timeline for announcing the starting QB]
when in doubt, picture of Peppers [Upchurch]
Maybe 500 students gathered for an open-ish practice on Saturday. Approximately all of them were dragooned by local media. We got an inside report from MGoUser Crisler Spidey; the thread on the board has maybe a dozen different takes as well. Blockquotes without links in the rest of this post are snippets from Spidey*. He would like you to follow him on twitter.
If Jim Harbaugh's goal is to spawn the next generation of Michigan sports journalists, he's off to a good start.
*[Sometimes the combination of the internet, paranoid coaches, and football is just terrific.]
Ding dings and boo boos
Amara Darboh had his left pinky in a splint. Freddy Canteen had his right arm in a sling. Patrick Kugler was on crutches.
— Jake Lourim (@jakelourim) August 23, 2015
In order of concern: minor, middling, a bit worried. A finger issue should clear up by the Utah game and wouldn't prevent Darboh from playing in any case; a shoulder/arm thing could be something that heals quickly or not; crutches are generally not good.
- Jourdan Lewis was dressed but did not participate. With various dudes in injury-indicating red shirts I would assume that means Lewis is obviously a starter they'd rather try to find their second corner with live-fire reps.
- Tyrone Wheatley Jr was on crutches, but we knew that he had hurt himself already.
- Spidey* caught this subtle thing: "Brian Cole, Karan Higdon, and DaMario Jones were all in uniform, but wearing running shoes instead of cleats. They participated in some drills, but not the scrimmage."
- He also said Jarrod Wilson and Mike McCray were both in red no-contact jerseys but dressed.
- Drake Johnson didn't play.
I wouldn't freak about the rather long list of names here; this is the point in camp where they've just come off weeks of punishing two-a-days and are trying to get everyone in reasonable shape before Utah.
Rudock looked far and away the better player, hitting his receivers with consistency and even getting a good scramble from time to time. Morris looked like Morris, consistently bombing it over his receivers' heads.
Let me reiterate how much better Rudock was than Morris. This does not appear to be a very close race at all. Rudock was connecting with all of his receivers, especially Harris and Butt.
Rudock got the great majority of the snaps with the first unit. Described as more athletic than what might have been thought coming in.. "A guy who may not win the game but certainly won't lose it." Performed much better than Morris, especially when evaluated with regard to poise, delivery of ball to the right spots and working through progressions.
The difference must have leapt off the field to those in attendance, because many of these takes are emphatic. Most of the passing was quick rhythm WCO stuff, which plays into Rudock's strengths—he's very accurate.
Morris still has a rocket for an arm, and he overthrew senior wide receiver Jehu Chesson past the end zone and into the crowd.
"Same old stuff" was another take. Reports from camp have been more positive than those originating from Saturday's scrimmage, so it's possible the students just caught him on an off day.
Wilton Speight got time with the third team late.
Also, Zach Gentry is enormous. That is all.
De'Veon Smith was your tentative #1 with Ty Isaac rotating in behind him and Derrick Green getting time with the second unit. Ross Taylor-Douglas made a few appearances with the second team as well, so 1) that's what position he's playing today and 2) Drake Johnson does not seem full go yet.
Kerridge was the fullback; Chase Winovich was the second option there. Winovich lined up as an H-back in the spring game and would likely reprise that role; he's not going to be as effective as Kerridge is as a linebacker deterrent.
Wide receiver & tight end
With Darboh out Jehu Chesson and Drake Harris were the first team guys, which is an indicator that Harris is for real unless his hamstring betrays him again. It does not give us much insight into exactly how much hype we should buy into—if Darboh was playing and Harris was out there in front of Chesson that would be time to (gingerly, oh so gingerly) ring the cathedral bells.
The scrimmage also gave further confirmation that Grant Perry is the starting slot receiver and that Jake Butt is going to be relied upon heavily in the passing game. Moe Ways seems like the #4 guy at the moment.
Jake Butt and Ian Bunting were first team tight ends, and Khalid Hill and Henry Poggi were actually the second team tight ends.
No AJ Williams is notable since there weren't any reports he was injured. Also notable is that Bunting got a number of snaps in 2TE sets with the starters. If his ability as a receiver is enough to offset what I imagine is still some pretty iffy blocking at 245-ish, that is encouraging.
Asking anyone to interpret OL performance without the benefit of replay from field level is folly. Nobody tried. The one note of interest is that the OL was as expected (Cole-Braden-Glasgow-Kalis-Magnuson) the whole time until late, when Dawson replaced Braden for a bit. With Kugler out Dawson is likely your sixth OL no matter what… and Braden's the guy most under threat.
Spidey caught the second team OL, one with some switches from earlier:
2nd team O-Line was LTT-Dawson-Bars-Pliska-JBB.
Kugler was out, remember. Previously Bars had been repping at RT and Bushell-Beatty at RG.
1st team tackles were Ryan Glasgow and Matt Godin, with Mo Hurst coming in as well. Hurst played second team with Tom Strobel it appeared.
Interesting thing: seems to be that Willie Henry has moved to defensive end. He was playing opposite Mario Ojemudia. Chris Wormley also took snaps with the first team defensive ends. Second team was RJS and Taco Charlton.
That would be bonkers if that's long term. Godin received a reasonable amount of time and did pretty well with it in spots (he was disruptive against Northwestern), but moving guys away from defensive tackle after the Mone injury would be odd. Especially since that would boot Wormley to the second team. As experiments go this one doesn't seem likely to skip.
FWIW, it doesn't seem like the Henry move is indicative of an actual 3-4:
All even fronts on defense
— Zach Shaw (@_ZachShaw) August 23, 2015
We'll see how it shakes out. I do think Godin is a legit player. Strobel's presence on the two deep as a DT is a bit alarming since he's listed at 6'6", 270 and was recently bounced to tight end, which didn't take. For whatever reason he's played mostly DT at Michigan despite a build that strongly suggests SDE in an under, which is a spot at which Michigan could use some depth. Instead he's playing inside and they're goofing with Henry outside. I dunno man.
As expected: Ross, Morgan, Bolden. There were occasional dime packages on which Morgan was the only LB. Gedeon rotated in with the first team frequently.
With Lewis held out the starting corners were Channing Stribling and Jeremy Clark—possibly a reason that the passing game was much more effective than the run game. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'. Max Bultman paid attention to Clark and thought he was all right:
Clark covered Chesson most of the night and looked solid. He was never beat deep, but with Darboh out, he wasn't covering a true No. 1 outside.
Disposition of Peppers was the same as it was in spring:
Jarrod Wilson and Jabrill Peppers were the safeties, and on nickel packages, they pushed Peppers to nickelback, with Delano Hill coming in as another safety.
Second team secondary saw Keith Washington and Brandon Watson at corner, Wayne Lyons playing safety with Dymonte Thomas, and Terry Richardson at nickel.
Losing Blake Countess is going to rankle if Lyons isn't even playing cornerback. No idea what that says about anything. If things aren't going well they do have the option of moving Peppers to boundary and using Hill as a full-time starter. They clearly do not want to do that.
Reports on the kicking game varied. (As per the spring game, there were no punts.) Freshman scholarship kicker Andrew David did not make an appearance; walk-ons Kyle Seychel and Kenny Allen were either wobbly or fine. Bultman:
Senior Kenny Allen and sophomore Kyle Seychel both took field goals, but neither was very consistent. Seychel appeared to have the bigger leg, but his misses were also by a wider distance than Allen's.
Sounds like the Harbaughffense:
Formations were mostly under center with singleback or I-form, shifting the fullbacks and tight ends all over the place. Slot receivers were usually just tight ends who motioned out the slot.
That might be a reason Bunting got significant time. He is a threat split out.
Hello. This is an excerpt from "ENDZONE: The Rise, Fall, And Return of Michigan Football" that John Bacon allowed us to run if I would once more refer to the book by its actual name instead of "Brandon's Lasting Lessons." I have now discharged that obligation.
We pick up the story the day after the Minnesota game. Shane Morris has been hit on the head, Devin Gardner lost his helmet and Morris re-entered, and the world waits for an explanation of what's going on…
At 11 a.m. Sunday, after every football game, the medical staff completes its routine postgame interactions with the coaching staff, including Brady Hoke, to apprise them of the status of all the players—something I’ve witnessed dozens of times. In addition, head trainer Paul Schmidt talked with Hoke once on Saturday, three times on Sunday, and once on Monday, giving him the complete information Dr. Kutcher and the staff had gathered on Shane Morris’s condition at each stage.
In short, there was no lack of communication between the medical staff and the coaching staff—nor within the medical staff itself, a group I’ve seen exhibit mutual respect, personally and professionally.
The Big Ten also called Michigan Sunday morning to let the coaching staff know the referee who had told Hoke, after Devin Gardner’s helmet had popped off, that calling a time-out would not allow him to put Gardner back on the field was, in fact, incorrect, and Hoke was right. It’s not that often the Big Ten office admits it was wrong, but they told the staff, not the media, so no one outside Schembechler Hall knew about it.
Finally sensing that a national story was rising around them, the department sent out a press release from Brady Hoke Sunday evening. It said, in part, “. . . Shane Morris was removed from yesterday’s game against Minnesota after further aggravating an injury to his leg that he sustained earlier in the contest . . . The University of Michigan has a distinguished group of Certified Athletic Trainers and team physicians who are responsible for determining whether or not a player is physically able to play. Our coaches have no influence or authority to make determinations if or when an injured player returns to competition . . .”
The release addressed some important points—that Morris had been pulled for his ankle, not the hit to his helmet, and that the coaches have no authority over the medical staff—but failed to answer the most pressing question: Did Morris have a concussion or not? If he did, why did he go back in the game?
Needless to say, instead of bringing closure to the story, this half-baked attempt would only raise more questions.
To withstand these slings and arrows, Brandon needed the Michigan family to band together like never before: the students, the alumni, the fans, faculty and lettermen, not to mention his own staff. But when he looked up, he found the family had already scattered. They had resigned, they’d been fired, they’d been angered, they’d been estranged. Some had simply become fed up with the whole thing, and walked away from something they thought they would love their whole lives.
Brandon would be on his own.
When the athletic director, his leadership team, his coaches, and the players woke up Monday morning, they found a pile of bad news on their doorstep. The football team was off to a disastrous 2–3 start. The department was still getting lambasted for the Cokes-for-tickets “retail activation,” and the stadium was showing large bands of empty seats—and that was all topped by the op-ed headline in the Michigan Daily: “Brady Hoke Must Be Fired.”
[After THE JUMP: nothing good happens in a 17 hour meeting]
this does not seem functional for several reasons I will now elucidate
For a while there it looked like Harbaugh had taken the Big Ten Network guys' phones and given them the Tom Brady treatment, but Dave Revsine must have a backup, because he's providing a rare glimpse inside Blue October.
In past years this has been something more than a post-length manual retweet of one guy; Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith also gave their thoughts. So far this is the only thing we've gotten from them:
— Derek Shaw (@Derek_Shaw) August 19, 2015
[Graham] Glasgow also told me he is living with his grandmother for the semester. A good way to focus.
That is one way to make sure you don't trip up on your probation.
Following blockquotes are from Revsine's twitter feed unless otherwise noted. BTN will broadcast their react from Michigan practice at 6 PM.
Tom Dienhart had some general thoughts on twitter:
A very business-like practice at Michigan today. No music blared. A classroom environment with lots of teaching. Nobody walked or lingered.
Dressed in his uniform of a blue “M” cap, long-sleeve shirt and—what else?—khakis, Harbaugh spent most of time with QBs. Always instructing.
Staffers describe the Michigan camp as a “submarine.” It is all business with no distractions.
Glad to hear they got rid of the lingering. Hate lingering. Almost as bad as loitering. By the way, if you want to find lingerers and loiterers just check the replies to any Dienhart tweet.
Some non-position-specific stuff from Revsine:
Harbaugh is incredibly involved in the passing game at practice - gives a lot of feedback - very hands-on with that group
It's obvious they're really, really well coached. Practice was all business, drills were efficient, feedback was great
Much like in the past few years team has more talent than most B1G teams they play except for the 2 best.
As always starts w O/D lines no lack of talent in either area They've recruited well in both areas & r good enough
I would not be surprised if both QB played in opener against Utah. Game play sometimes is best way to decide
Defense very solid good depth & has good young players that will have time 2 develop. Off needs more dynamic skill
QB - Morris consistently took 1st snap in drills - but no idea if that means anything - it does at some places, it doesn't at others
QB - if I had to guess, I'd say both Morris and Rudock would play against Utah - not sure there's clear separation
It's tough to say - both had their moments. Morris has a great arm. Rudock doesn't make many mistakes. Tough call
Asked about Morris:
His arm - he can really spin it. Issue will obviously be TO's - have to be dramatically better there as a team
Dienhart was more decisive about the QB battle:
1. Jake Rudock figures to win the quarterback spot. The Iowa senior transfer is the one signal-caller who gives Michigan the best chance to win out of the gate. … Rudock threw the ball well today and worked with the top units along with junior lefty Shane Morris. Rudock is a savvy vet with lots of starting experience.
FWIW. I'm betting that the quarterback battle will legitimately go until the day before the Utah game and that Rudock wins it decisively.
Zach Gentry looked "tall"; a fan asking about him was advised that this was a two-man race.
Other obvious trouble spot LY was OL. I think that group will be vastly improved.They have always had talent there - evident again 2day
No real surprises on OL - looked like Cole, Braden, Glasgow, Kalis, Magnuson. Drevno singled Blake Bars out as having had good camp
Even if we're nervous about Braden at guard, I'd be more nervous about guys flipping everywhere like we've seen the last few years.
They are really well coached on the OL - constant constructive feedback. Would be shocked if they're not better
Easy call to make with 5-ish returning starters and Tim Drevno running the show.
Dienhart noted the second team line:
The second unit had junior Logan Tuley-Tillman at left tackle; junior David Dawson at left guard; junior Patrick Kugler at center; sophomore Juwann Bushell-Beatty at right guard; senior Blake Bars at right tackle.
That's as expected until you get to JBB at guard and Bars at tackle.
On the starter:
Hard to tell - I did notice Smith a few times. Guess would be by committee at 1st & see if someone emerges
RB - lots of good well-known options here - again, I think difference in OL will help immensely.
Big - man he has great size for a RB. Because of the structure of practice, I didn't come away w great feel for RBs
Dienhart gave Smith the slight edge; Ross Taylor-Douglass is apparently a tailback this week.
WIDE RECEIVER & TIGHT END
Revsine literally shouted out everyone on the roster who was practicing at TE.
TE could be a real area of strength - obviously we know about Jake Butt, but Poggi, Winovich, Williams (nice TD grab) all look solid
Did I mention Hill and Bunting? They're good too. Lot of interesting options there.
Wheatley is probably on the shelf for a bit, so that's everybody. Apparently Hill is back at it?
I still think big-play explosiveness will be an issue for this team - no one totally jumps out on that front
Yeah. That contradicts this…
WR looks to be about what it was a year ago - issue will be whether a deep threat can emerge. Better OL play could obviously help there
…because last year they had one Devin Funchess, for all the good that did them. Remember when they just punted it to Funchess like six times a game because their offense was real bad and that was a good idea? I don't either.
The Grant Perry hype train continues unabated:
I'd be surprised if Grant Perry doesn't contribute some at WR. Tough to tell on Brian Cole - kind of up and down
Some nice options at wideout, with senior Jehu Chesson and senior Amara Darboh. Freshman Brian Cole was running with the second unit. I like the kid. Sophomore Maurice Ways also saw lots of action. Grant Perry was another freshman who was active.
Drake Harris was a "young guy who could help"; Peppers did not get snaps on offense, but as Revsine points out that's a thing they would likely keep under wraps when BTN visits.
DEFENSE & SPECIAL TEAMS
Relatively little here. On the DL:
Good group - rotated a lot of guys through. I think they'll once again have a very solid defense
On the secondary:
A lot of known commodities, obviously, on defense. Looks like Lyons will definitely help in secondary.
DE Taco Charlton was leading post-practice sprint drills among linemen. He is an impressive specimen.
Dienhart also provided looks at the two deep at linebacker…
The linebackers look good. One unit had senior James Ross; senior Desmond Morgan; senior Joe Bolden. Another had junior Ben Gedeon; sophomore Jared Wangler; senior Allen Gant.
One front lined up thusly today: Wormley at end; senior Ryan Glasgow at tackle; senior Willie Henry at tackle; Ojemudia at end. The other unit combo was Charlton at end; senior Tom Strobel; junior Maurice Hurst; senior Royce Jenkins-Stone, listed as a LB on the roster.
So Charlton is an SDE, which makes sense since all the other candidates to back up Wormley got moved to TE. Strobel lining up at nose(?!) would be a very, very strange thing. Would expect Godin to be the #4 DT without Mone. No mention of Marshall is odd.
Meanwhile, the secondary:
Stanford grad transfer Wayne Lyons could be a proverbial “cut-above.” The top unit today was Lewis and Clark on the edges with Peppers and Wilson at safety. The other unit had junior Channing Stribling and freshman Tyree Kinnel on the corners with junior Dymonte Thomas and Lyons at safety.
No Delano Hill or Watson mentioned; Clark pushing for the boundary spot will give me the heebie-jeebies until it doesn't.
Potential punt returners and some Peppers hype:
PR looks like it'll be Peppers and Chesson. Peppers looked great overall today and DJ Durkin said he's had an outstanding camp
PK remains up in the air - still doesn't look like an area of strength. Aussie P Blake O'Neill got off some boomers – impressive
This from Dienhart on the three PK options:
Three kickers took turns at the uprights: freshman Andrew David; sophomore Kyle Seychel; senior Kenneth Allen.
They don't know what kind of marsupial it is.
The internet helpfully pointed out that keeping wildlife, uh, a gravid marsupial, for uh, you know, domestic…
…ain't legal. Also, Mariaklots is correct. That thing is a wallaby. Shane Morris had zoobooks and knows.
— Shane Morris (@ShaneMorris_7) June 26, 2015
No word on the ferret, or which of the many splendiferous names I offered up was eventually chosen. (I have money on Ferret Bo Jackson.)