"Heiko, what's up? How's it going?"
MGo: Not bad. How are you?
"Good ... I'm supposed to give a shout out to Devin Gardner. Don't ask me what that's about. So I did it, okay?"
"Well this is pretty easy."
How comfortable has Devin Gardner looked in practice?
"Pretty comfortable, yeah. Like I said last time, he's pretty confident in nature. He's been in the system now for a while. Understands what we want. For the quarterback, if he thinks like the coaches, which I think he's doing more and more of, it really gives him a chance."
Have you seen specific elements that he improved on over the summer?
"Oh yeah. Yes. Just understanding route structure, decision-making. All that comes when you play more, obviously, but there's a big difference in terms of just knowing where to go with the ball, timing of the cuts, how we work ... we work a lot on improv stuff because he's athletic, but we would do this with any quarterback. We work a lot on when we break contain or push the pocket, when something doesn't happen by structure and he has to make something happen. So we work more and more on that kind of stuff. We work on the receivers and where they're supposed to be and all that stuff. He's getting a really good understanding of that, too."
- Derrick Green and Brennen Beyer have returned to practice. Green is a full go while Beyer is still limited.
- The team will scrimmage at the Big House on Saturday.
- A lot of position battles will be settled next week.
"This is the 12th practice. We've really practiced pretty well most days. I think yesterday we didn't practice as well as we'd like to have. But I thought they came out -- we had good walkthroughs in the morning. We really did a nice job competing this afternoon. You know, you're trying to still put all the pieces together. Great competition at a lot of positions. That hasn't changed. We'll go about another week and then we'll start really game planning for central. We'll make some key decisions probably Sunday, Monday, Tuesday with where we want to be. A little more scrimmage situation on Saturday so that we can get a lot of guys in high pressure situations."
On Saturday the Michigan football team had it's annual media day. Bryan Fuller and I (Eric Upchurch) had the privilege of attending. Here are some photos and galleries from the event.
Yes indeed Taylor..
Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson
Big Jon Falk
Here is a combined gallery of selected photos from Saturday.
Here are links to our individual galleries if you would like to see all of the photos that we shot.
- Brennen Beyer and Derrick Green have boo boos. They sound minor and are expected back as early as Saturday.
- Allen Gant's move to SAM has been confirmed.
- MGoLeadingQuestion reveals that Devin Gardner loves the pistol formation and that they are running read options out of it still.
"Day four, shoulder pads and helmets for the second day. Full pads tomorrow. Not doing any tackling or anything like that, but a lot of good competition. Hasn't changed much. Guys are competing, learning the system a little more, especially when you've got some guys who have only been here a year, so they're going through that process. Things happen fast, so they have to adjust. When you have to adjust on both sides, tracking the line of scrimmage as an offensive lineman, we have to do a better job of. Defensively, we have to make sure we're putting ourselves in position to feed the defense and leverage the defense. It's pretty easy against barrels when you do that, but when you start doing it with live bodies, we have to do a better job of that and not give up any big plays. I think all the guys are competing very well. It's really been physical. We'll be in full pads tomorrow. The first doubles on Saturday will be good for us."
<More after the jump>
"Is that salmon?"
"Canteloupe? We use that as an audible color. How you guys doing?"
"It's been a while. Can't tell you how much I've missed you. You guys kind of sensed a hint of sarcasm, didn't you? Heiko! I made you a hero. Unbelievable."
Thoughts on Devin's maturity?
"Yeah, he's doing a nice job. When you know that you've done it so long -- he's always been a pretty confident kid anyway, but now that he has a chance to kind of be the guy, I think he's taken the next step."
What's it like having two experienced tackles?
"Yeah, you know, when Taylor said he was coming back, that was a great, great day for Michigan and for our offense because breaking in a new left tackle is never fun. I don't care what level it is. But Mike Schofield, who doesn't get talked about as much but is really a good athlete. He can move. He was a hurdler in high school. He's got a lot of talent. Mike's played a lot. He's played guard, he's played tackle. I think he's kind of fit into a comfort zone a little bit with tackle, not to where he's complacent, but he's comfortable in the position now. He kind of had to relearn the position a little bit. He's been in the offense. He's been pretty consistent the first couple days and in the spring."
<Falsehoods galore after the jump>
Previously: CB Reon Dawson, CB Channing Stribling, S Delano Hill, S Dymonte Thomas, CB Ross Douglas, CB Jourdan Lewis, LB Ben Gedeon, LB Mike McCray, DE Taco Charlton,DT Maurice Hurst Jr., DT Henry Poggi, OL Patrick Kugler, OL David Dawson, OL Logan Tuley-Tillman, OL Kyle Bosch, OL Chris Fox, OL Dan Samuelson, TE Jake Butt, TE Khalid Hill, HB Wyatt Shallman, WR Da'Mario Jones, WR Csont'e York, WR Jaron Dukes, RB Derrick Green.
My editor ate DeVeon Smith, so this is out of order. No need for panic.
|Warren, MI – 6'3, 200|
|Scout||5*, #40 overall
#3 QB, #1 MI
|Rivals||4*, #81 overall
#4 pro-style QB, #2 MI
|ESPN||4*, #127 overall
#8 pocket passer, #3 MI
|24/7||4*, #81 overall
#4 pro-style QB, #2 MI
|Other Suitors||Alabama, MSU, Syracuse|
|YMRMFSPA||Shorter, nicer Ryan Mallett or A Better Son/Daughter: Quarterback Edition|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post is like over two years ago. Ace scouts De La Salle against Pioneer. Presented without comment. Ace interviews him.|
|Notes||Under Armour AA.|
Single game highlights from Stephen Nesbitt in Morris's senior opener:
Morris is kind of the reason these posts exist. When he committed over two years ago he hadn't been rated by any recruiting service, and while Ace has diligently tracked his progress in post after post (MGoBlog has 14 pages of posts tagged "shane morris"), nowhere do we have a unified dossier of what kind of player he might be. This endeavors to be it.
When not acting as Michigan's de facto recruiting coordinator or posing for ridiculous student ID photos, Morris moonlights as a tall left-handed QB with a monster arm and accuracy issues. These issues were compounded by a senior-year bout of mono that caused him to miss a large portion of his senior year. His junior year was unimpressive statistically on a poor De La Salle team, reputedly because he got no protection and no one on his team could catch.
So his lofty rankings were a result of camp after camp, as Morris seemingly took in every 7-on-7 on offer with the travelling MaxEx team you may be familiar with as the summer home of Dennis Norfleet, Csont'e York, and Khalid Hill. A scouting sampler from those outings:
247 at the Ohio E11 regional camp: "Morris is at seemingly every event he can get to, eager to prove himself. On Friday he did just. He can put loads of velocity on the ball without digging deep, he showed great accuracy throughout the day and he has a smooth and natural composure in the pocket."
Scout at IMG/Madden: "He is the prototypical gunslinger. He has a quick delivery and a strong arm. He doesn't need to set his feet to generate velocity on his throws and can whip the ball from several arm angles. Like most gunslingers, Morris isn't afraid to take chances with the ball. Most of the time that works to his advantage, but at times he takes unnecessary chances throwing into traffic."
Rivals at an NLA event in Pittsburgh when it was really coming down: "Morris continued to throw darts despite the slick conditions. He was not throwing 100 miles per hour on every pass as he will do in camp settings, but he would let one rip if he needed to fit it into a tight window. For most of the day he varied his speed and trajectory appropriately and threw a number of great passes."
247 at SMSB: "Morris dropped jaws with his impeccable footwork and ultra-quick release. Morris is so smooth and sound in his mechanics and can effortlessly fire the ball down field with just a quick flick of his wrist. Morris has also bulked up to over 200 pounds of solid muscle."
Rivals at SMSB: "clearly stood out as the top player at his position. The Rivals100 prospect is really in control of his game right now, and his passes are coming out of his hand beautifully with velocity and accuracy. He was told by Michigan quarterbacks coach Al Borges, who was working the event, to throttle it back some on day one, but overall Morris varied his speeds well during the event."
Ace: "The first thing that stands out about Morris is his arm strength—the ball explodes out of his hand with seemingly little effort. When he's on, it's a sight to behold. The problem—and ultimately why he dropped in the rankings—is that he's yet to show consistency; he still needs work reading defenses and relies too heavily on his arm strength to fit the ball into windows that sometimes aren't there."
In literally every superlatives article I have come across, Morris is the guy designated "Strongest Arm" or "Howitzer" or "Hosiest Hose For Hosing" or "Most Likely To Bomb Berlin With Only His Arm," usually with an accompanying note stating "this was an easy choice." Sometimes they tell you that he can throw harder than everybody ever, like this eval from the Elite 11:
There shouldn't be much question of who has the strongest arm any more. Including the college players acting as counselors, the strongest arm at the Elite 11 Finals belongs to Morris. When push comes to shove, Morris has a laser-like focus on the left side of the field. That's a habit he'll need to outgrow.
This is the upside. Morris has a huge arm and a ton of great tools for a quarterback. ESPN's evaluation loves every part of him save one, which we'll get to later. I'll skip the stuff about the arm strength and just note the QB stuff:
He possesses terrific feet, pocket movement, awareness and can buy time with good overall athleticism for the position. … He works through progressions nicely, can check down and work from the first option to the next. … He rarely takes his eyes down within the pocket and scans the field under pressure and will plant and throw in face of the rush. He side-steps and resets with balance and is ready to get the ball out even under duress…. He shows a consistent and quick stroke over-the-top, which is tough to find with lefties, and can beat the rush with his release consistently. He shows good ability changing ball speeds and displays touch and timing on fade and corner routes. That may be best trait Morris possesses.
Well, the downside is that most evaluations come with a caution about consistency. ESPN flat-out states that Morris's completion percentage is "nowhere near where it should be given his tools and this is an area in need of significant improvement." Scout's eval is another example:
Scout.com Player Evaluation:
Arm Strength / Pocket Awareness / Poise and Leadership
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Accuracy / Consistency / Decision-making
A better than advertised athlete who does a good job of escaping the rush and can make plays with his feet and throw on the run. … Downfield passes do not hang up and he has great placement on his deep balls. Great leader with a lot of intangibles. Sometimes trusts his arm and throws into traffic. - Allen Trieu
Morris had an up-and-down day, but when he hit his stride he made some incredible throws. He regularly displayed his ability to go vertical and make the big throw down the field. He also made some excellent throws underneath and into tight windows. He has a cannon for an arm and showed the ability to thread the needle at times. He battled some inconsistency and his accuracy was on and off, but still had numerous flashes of why he was so sought after.
Morris is a bit of a slow starter. A lot of evaluations say "started rough, but then warmed up," whether it's on day two of an event or just later in a competition day.
He had a stronger, more consistent day on Sunday than he did on Saturday. He has great arm strength and throws a tight spiral to all levels. He showed the ability to utilize touch and lay balls over the defense in the middle of the field. It was evident that Morris was missing some upper-tier wide receivers at the event as he was let down at times by the inability of his receivers to win well-placed balls.
…That tendency can be seen in that Pioneer game above: Morris tosses an ugly interception on his first throw of the season, misses a few guys, has another couple passes broken up, and then heats up even though his receivers generally do their best impression of Michigan State 2012.
Morris's evident upside was enough for the sites to rank him highly out of the gate, and after he was excellent at the Opening—which came right on the heels of the 7 on 7 just mentioned in which he had a he had a poor first day before leading his team to the Championship Game—he was proclaimed a five star by most sites. Then he went to the Elite 11.
On the Elite Eleven. The once-prestigious quarterback camp has descended into reality-TV farce. Now crammed full with 25 prospects—most local camps will have half of that and give a large number of reps to the few true D-I prospects—the competition consists of around eight throws per day, frustrating scouts in attendance:
With trips to the beach for a Navy-Seal style bootcamp workout at 4 A.M. and chalk talk sessions behind closed doors, the final television product for ESPN should look spectacular when it airs in early August, but the on-field action was limited. … Ranking players off of 30 throws at a shorts and t-shirt event after having seen these players for over a year is for entertainment purposes only. Don't expect players to jump up in down in the actual Scout rankings after 30 throws.
You can see the inconsistency in the rankings: Scout named Morris the #1 guy there ("capable of making throws that only a few in his class can hope to match"), Rivals said he was #4 ("at the top because of his high ceiling"), as did 247 ("could at times approach the college counselors in terms of driving the ball down the field"), but the camp coaches left him off the "Elite 11" list that is the only semblance of the old camp.
I don't care. Both Scout and Rivals ranked all 25 QBs, placing the #1 and #2 "Elite 11" guys in their bottom five. One of those guys ended up at Fresno State and had one other offer from Mississippi State; the other is headed to Nebraska to be Taylor Martinez 2.0. People call him "Johnny Tebow" because he is a horse who can't throw. Those rankings are so intentionally bad that they may as well not exist. End Dilferrant.
Wait, more Dilferrant! AND we're talking about eight throws a day for a guy who clearly takes a little time to get in a rhythm anyway.
Anyway. Camp season wound down, Morris had a pretty damn good opening game against Pioneer. Ace:
The rough start for Morris stemmed from a combination of rushing his throws and trying to force the action too much…. throws either led receivers right into big hits or were overly ambitious tosses into small windows. …
Then Morris started to roll, reminding everyone why he was so highly touted in the first place. He showed improved touch on short and intermediate routes, as well as the ability to make an accurate throw across his body (see 3:10 mark above). He also toned down the happy feet; at 4:06, he steps up and makes an impressive throw while facing heavy pressure.
A big criticism of Morris last year focused on his often laser-like focus on the left side of the field; he'd stare down his top read and often force it there even if covered. While the pass fell incomplete, you can see the strides he's made in that regard at the 4:33 mark, as he looks off the coverage to the right, then moves on to his second read down the left sideline. That's a big advancement from last year and proof that Morris is picking up a lot from his myriad camp appearances.
And then he slowly unraveled with mono. When he came back it was not under ideal conditions. Tim Sullivan:
There was only one bad throw by Morris on which he was not being buried under pressure - the second interception. He unleashed the arm strength on that one, hoping velocity would make up for throwing it into coverage. On other throws, he was either crushed by a defensive lineman, a pass was straight-up dropped, or it was close enough that there's nothing to worry about.
He warmed up a little after those events, but by the an already-shaky De La Salle team had lost all hope of the playoffs and the season just kind of sputtered out.
Recruiting sites generally held Morris steady through his mono, but when he showed at the UA game his extremely erratic throwing (he was two of ten in the game) forced large moves down on most sites. Rivals mentioned he "did not look like himself" early. In 247's final update, Morris dropped from #19 to #81:
[Morris] continues to struggle with the accuracy aspect of being a passer, and this was especially evident the week of the Under Armour All-America game. With that being said, Morris still has plenty of potential and will likely start making gains in the accuracy department as he works to get more compact in his motion.
Morris took a similar plunge on Rivals for similar reasons:
It was a tough week for the five-star quarterback who never found his rhythm. Morris is coming off an upper respiratory illness that caused him to miss most of his senior season. His rust showed during practice and during the game. … No one can discount his arm strength, but he needs to become more consistent on his progressions and taking what the defense gives him.
ESPN had already started the process of moving Morris down when he got sick and went farther than any other site by the end of the year, likely influenced by the Elite 11 guys.
Given Morris's tendency to start slow, this is not a surprise, nor will it be when you hear practice reports saying he's struggling early. Morris needs time to get revved up, and time to fix the mechanical regression he experienced due to his mono layoff. If Michigan has to turn to him this year, only bad things will happen; given a year or two—please be two—he has the potential to be anything he wants to be other than Denard Robinson.
Why Shorter, Nicer Ryan Mallett? Mallett was the hosingest hoser of them all as a five star out of Texas, but immediately alienated the entire team and Lloyd Carr in his single year at Michigan. After his transfer to Arkansas he displayed his talent for fitting balls into windows so tight they barely existed, throwing NFL lasers off his back foot, wearing backwards baseball caps, throwing arrogant interceptions, and occasionally lasering a five-yard pass into an incompletion. The end result was very Mallett: his completion percentage rose from 43% to 56% to 65% over three years in college and his YPA hit nearly 10 as a senior.
Morris is basically the same guy without the attitude and three inches of height. His challenges will be the same: throwing accurately, taking heat off the ball when he has to, and not thinking "I can make it!" when he patently cannot, at least not too often.
Why A Better Son/Daughter, Quarterback Edition? Sometimes when you're on, man.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. All the camps, but limited high school data and the great mono question about whether everyone is overreacting to a bad UA game that may be easily explainable.
Variance: High. Limited high school success and time, consistent questions about consistency, and that drop mean Morris has a high bust factor. On the other hand…
Ceiling: High. Guy could obviously be a top-level NFL prospect.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. I believe Morris will round into a good player, but it's easy to see him being a pretty frustrating starter who whips in too many amazing interceptions. Variance is large. Borges's QB coaching skills will be under the spotlight here.
Projection: Redshirt all but impossible given the depth chart and the nonzero (even if slim) chance Gardner is out the door after one year as the starter. Will be the #2 this year, hopefully given over to backup duty only.
If Gardner goes, he's pretty much the starter by default with only Bellomy and a true freshman Wilton Speight for competition. If Gardner stays, Speight will be on a much more level playing field and that competition will have some doubt in it, plus there is a strong likelihood Michigan brings in a hotshot 2015 guy who would like to play Henne in a three-way artillery piece battle.