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The Harbaugh era seems considerably less paranoid than the previous regime. Practice reports are coming in from a lot more sources than they used to; no doubt this is partially because excitement sees a lot more people on the sideline. I do hear that they're less concerned about "X looks good, tempo is fast" reports getting out.
Tempo is fast, by the way. Harbaugh has brought a high-rep style to practices in an effort to get everything he can out of every countable hour. It is not exactly Oregon hyper-speed where all coaching is done after, in film. It's a lot closer to that than the Hoke-era practices were. A recruit's parent took in a practice and posted about it to a Facebook group, and his impressions match some others I've been sent:
1. Tempo of practice and the philosophy. Very different from last year. 2 sets of scrimmages per field. A play is being ran an avg of 25 to 35 secs. If they went two groups, they would alternate but each group ran a play every 25secs. So ... Coaches saw 2 plays every 30 secs. Ton of reps. Very different from last year. Coaches are coaching very quick between plays. Emphasis on getting the reps in during practice and correcting mistakes in film. Practice was very similar to how Saban runs his practices.
2. There really is competition at EVERYTHING. I saw several of these "competitions." A couple examples ... QBs did a "fastest release/ball speed" comp. On command, they had to throw a bullet pass 20yds. Malzone looked good. Several races took place today as well but most know about those.
Those were vintage 1990s; these are a lot closer to modern speeds. Michigan is running multiple reps at a time on opposite ends of the field with first and second teams.
(Aside: I can't help but draw a line between Hoke's deliberate practice pace and his program's inability to operate at any other speed.)
Practices have also been extremely long. How one practice can be longer than another when NCAA maximums are mandated for everyone is unclear; possible that Hoke was spending some of his countable hours in other ways? That seems highly improbable, but so do Michigan's results the past couple years.
Harbaugh bein' Harbaugh
When practice was over Harbaugh brought the team around him and awarded the day to the defense. As a reward he told them they had to run while the offense watched because “here, the winners are the ones that earn the opportunity to get better.”
Quarterback Battle Royale
Whether it's the WWE kind or the Quentin-Tarantino-porn that is way better than the Hunger Games, what Michigan has on its hands qualifies as such. Jedd Fisch was carefully neutral during his press conference yesterday, as coaches are. He asserted that everyone was even and getting even reps, as coaches do.
But allow your author to read into things some. Fisch on Malzone:
"He's got a lot going on. But he's handled it unbelievably well. He's unbelievable in terms of his ability to not let things bother him. To be consistent and play the game. If a play doesn't go right, he's right back in there for the next one. A short-term memory is phenomenal for a quarterback."
Wilton is a very large man, he's a big guy (at 6-foot-6). He can see everything. He's a pretty good athlete and he throws the ball well. He doesn't seem to have had a ton of experience.
"Shane has a very strong arm, as everybody knows, he spins it well and he just has to understand that, really, that's not the most important thing. If you have a really strong arm, then you have a really strong arm. That's what you have. Now, it's a matter of 'what can you do with it?' How do you utilize it? His skill set and his arm strength are tremendous and he's very comfortable. It's fun to watch him in the huddle, he has a really good command of what we're asking him to do."
The tweets that captured small sections of the fuller quotes came off more negative towards Morris, highlighting "unbelievable" for Malzone and "throw it at the person" for Morris. It was more neutral than that. Via Maize and Blue News:
Even so, the overall vibe from that presser seemed to confirm reports floating around at Scout, Rivals, and in my inbox: there's considerable debate about who looks better between Malzone and Speight… and there ends the debate. Scout's observers tend to like Malzone. Rivals's like Speight. Malzone is reportedly adjusting to the size of the players in front of him; Speight doesn't have that issue and is a year ahead of Malzone in terms of college prep.
Early days obviously, but it feels like the QB race is two horses with Morris lagging behind. Gentry and maybe Rudock are yet to enter.
Tailback Battle Royale
See above in re: term. Tyrone Wheatley has a lot of options here and is doing a lot of correcting in drills. Will be interesting to see if there's a performance differential there. The latest practice video from the department features Wheatley heavily if you'd like to hear him talk some.
Most of these guys look like they've looked. Johnson's out; Smith may be a hair faster; it's tough to tell if Green's vision problems are any better in this context. (Most people observing practice do so from the sideline, where holes are not always visible.)
There is the new guy, of course. Ty Isaac is "huge" and "could be a linebacker." He injured a finger somewhat badly in one practice but shrugged it off to continue with drills. This undoubtedly earned him some Harbaugh toughness brownie points. (He did sit out some on subsequent days.)
Chase Winovich is at least practicing there…
Rt when you see it pic.twitter.com/1FfBEqacoI
— Chase Winovich (@CCWino58) March 11, 2015
…and while Harbaugh seemed pretty dismissive about supposed position moves earlier this spring, they are looking at him there. When I fretted that this didn't make a lot of sense given the seeming surplus at H-back, Ace reminded me that Harbaugh switched guys around like mad at Stanford. Doug Baldwin played both ways; Owen Marecic played both ways. Harbaugh loves to experiment, and when he finds a Football Player that guy tends to Play A Lot Of Football. Possibly the same dynamic here.
Because man does Michigan need something above and beyond Butt/Bunting/Hill/Shallman/Houma? And Pallante? And apparently Henry Poggi?
Is it possible Winovich is getting a legit look at tailback? I doubt it but it's not like Michigan's not looking for options there.
It seems clear that Michigan has a relatively set front seven with a lot of depth at three-tech and some at linebacker. So they're taking the opportunity to test out anyone who may be an effective manballer.
FWIW, Ian Bunting looks promising but could still use some more weight on his frame if he's going to be a true dual-threat at the TE spot. When asked to catch the ball he looks "terrific," with the kind of wingspan that will remind you of Funchess "plus a couple inches." Hands are reputed to be excellent. Sam cited him as a potential breakout player.
Sione Houma has been held out with an injury, FWIW.
Receiver Battle… somewhat Royale
Drake Harris exists! He is full go in practice after like two straight years of hamstring doom. Reports alternate between impressive play and extreme skinniness. I believe both; this year will likely be a learning/glaring at hamstring owlishly/getting bigger campaign for him. 247:
There's no doubt about one thing: Harris is going to have to gain some weight in the next six months if he wants to see the field this season. However, the early impressions of him are twofold. One, he's finally 100% healthy and is a full-go at wide receiver. Two, he's been very impressive off the edge and has been a favorite target for a couple of the quarterbacks in early drills.
Harris was kind of a big deal before his leg acted up on him, remember. He was a top-50 prospect who Michigan had to fend off Alabama for after a 2,000 yard junior season.
Other reports are so scattered it's tough to draw conclusions from them. There are a lot of receivers, there are a lot of reps, an observer can easily sink into confirmation bias. At various time's I've heard good things about Ways, Chesson, Norfleet, and Bunting. Darboh's been absent so far and Canteen may still be too small to get off jams; I wouldn't read a whole lot into the former since Darboh is a known quantity.
OL Somewhat Settled(?) Royale
There's significant rotation along the offensive line, as you might expect. Other than the returning starters the biggest threats for playing time are Patrick Kugler, David Dawson, and Logan Tuley-Tillman. Miller and Braden are the returning starters under the most threat.
It is impossible to tell anything about these guys yet, as this is the point in the year when they're at the greatest disadvantage. Having eight real options is excellent, at least.
Chris Fox is still injured. You may remember that he came in after suffering a severe knee injury in his senior year of high school, ballooned up into the 350 range, and hasn't been talked about much subsequently. At least early this spring he was still on crutches. We are rapidly approaching the point where a medical scholarship is the most likely outcome.
“Everything’s great. Enjoying myself.”
What's caught your eye the most about your running backs?
“Talented group. Real talented. They haven't even scratched the surface. That's really what has caught my eye, so right now I'm kind of like an artist with a blank canvas. I can just have at it. That's really what it feels like.”
What's it been like for you to be back here as a coach?
“Haven't really thought about it to be honest, because my focus is Big Ten championship, national championship, 2000-yard rusher, so my days here haven't really – and I've been the type of person once I left here, I left here. I was onto better things, things that this place had catapulted me on to do. That's where my mindset was. But now I'm back for a totally different reason, so… you know, I'm a coach.”
We haven't talked with you since your son signed with the University of Michigan. Talk about that aspect of having him join you here.
“Well, it's a great thing. As a father you're always happy for your child and his success and the things that he's done, but once again, I'm just focused on the guys that are here right now and when he gets here he'll have his fair time. He'll have his time to get it, but right now my focus is on the guys that are here.”
Were you getting a little bit of a better feel for them today with them having the pads on?
“Not really. You can understand who they are even without the pads. The pads is just kind of one of the things a) that shows the physicality and b) if they are in hitting shape and that type of deal. As far as the feel, watching film of those guys and studying them I kind of already had a feel for who they were.”
We haven't had a chance to see Ty Isaac with him sitting out last year. What does he bring different than the other guys in terms of style and things like that?
“I don't think it's just Ty Isaac being different. Each guy brings a different aspect to the game. I’d just say that probably – I wouldn't say probably, he is the largest one out of the bunch. But in terms of difference, that would probably be it just about him being different – [he’s] bigger. He has great feet, good vision, he's a smooth runner but I wouldn't say he's any different than any other guy.”
[After THE JUMP: the characteristics of an ideal Tyrone Wheatley-coached back]
[I bet you’ve never appreciated Upchurch and Fuller more than you do today]
Drevno will be responsible for play calling
Offensive gameplans will be a joint effort between all of the offensive coaches and Harbaugh
Four of the five starters on last year’s OL losing weight is a coincidence; Drevno’s still looking into it and said he’ll get the weights where they need to be
The quarterback competition is “wide open,” and their progress is primarily being tracked by Harbaugh and Fisch
Drevno said Harbaugh’s the smartest man he’s ever been around and unique in a great way
Winning has cured more ills than penicillin
“It feels good, this cold, doesn’t it?”
- We’re used to it.
“I like it.”
What are some of the characteristics that are going to help kids see the field early for you? Toughness, mobility- is there one thing above any others?
“I think, number one, it’s just how they take the information from the classroom [and] take it out on the field. Understand their assignments and have a want-to and a physicality and being a teammate, a great teammate.
“Is that it? Okay, great!”
On the roster four of the five starting offensive linemen from last year lost weight. Was that something that was kind of a plan as far as you guys were concerned or is it just a coincidence?
“No, I think it’s just a coincidence. I’m still looking at their weights and evaluating them now and we’ll get those weights where they need to be and be able to move in a very good fashion up front.”
You’re starting with a clean slate. How much does experience count for the guys who’ve played?
“You know, it’s- it really is a clean slate. I just turn on the film and see who’s doing it at a high level and doing it at the top of their craft. At USC last year I started three true freshmen, so I’m just trying to find the best players out there and that’s the best thing about it; guys get out there and compete to be the best.”
Can you kind of tell the guys who’ve played already?
“Yeah, at times I can. You can just because they’re a little bit more grooved in their technique and things, but kind of day to day at times. Yeah, you can.”
[After THE JUMP: the quickest way to an offensive lineman’s heart is through a barbeque]
We get excited about certain things around these parts. Like fun-to-size ratios. And new official rosters with updated weights. We've had 24 hours to parse the Spring data, and with Brian on the road today it's up to me to see how they've grown:
Things of [a Certain Definition of] Interest:
- Brady Pallante is a fullback
- Ross Douglas is listed as Ross Taylor-Douglas, and is back at corner
- Ian Bunting is up to 6'7/243
- A.J. Williams is up to offensive tackle size (6'6/285)
Weight Gain/Loss 2000
A reminder of internet policy on weight changes: all weight gain is muscle fiber, all weight lost was fat, and all static weight means fat was replaced with muscle fiber. I've highlighted things discussed after.
|Player||'11||'12||'13||S'14||F'14||Sp'15||'11- '12||'12-'13||'13-'14||'14- 15|
Fullback & Tight End
|Maurice Hurst Jr.||270||277||282||281||12||-1|
[Hit the jump for discussion on this and other bits I could glean.]
News bullets and other items:
Ty Isaac’s appeal was unsuccessful, which means he has three years of eligibility beginning next fall
He currently is able to participate on the scout team
“Thanks for coming. It was good to get back on the field on Tuesday. Those practices, it was very physical. Had a great effort. It was another day for us to go out and compete and challenge with each other and prepare for a very good Utah team. It’s going to be great playing at home. You know, that always gets your players and coaches and everybody else, it gets them excited in the support that we’ve had, and we’re looking for that on Saturday.
“We’re not going to talk about injuries and I might as well bring that out now. And some of that is because you can say something about something and then you’re wrong. Everybody heals a little differently, and the other thing is for our kids. I want to make sure we’re doing a good job protecting them.”
Coach, what would you consider some of the biggest keys to beating Utah?
“Well, I think number one I think they’re third in the county in points scored. I mean, they’re explosive offensively. Good skill players. The two backs are kind of interchangeable in there. For the style of offense I think they really do a nice job of seeing holes. Travis Wilson has done a tremendous job when look nationally where he’s at. He’s second in pass efficiency. Gets the ball out of his hands pretty quickly.
“From the defensive side, I think they’re, depending on how they calculate it NCAA-wise, first in sacks and first in tackles for loss. Knowing Kyle [Whittingham] and Dave Christensen from [my] Mountain West time they both like to be aggressive defensively and then also on the offensive side of the ball.
“So for us, number one, we’ve got to improve. We’ve got to keep getting better every day we go on the field. I think from a defensive perspective keeping the ball inside and in front of the defense, making sure on those money downs, those third downs, [that] we can get off the field. Offensively, got to keep the sticks, got to be able to run the football, and also when you take shots you’ve got to execute.”
As someone who’s a guru in defensive line performance, is their defensive line- is it scheme? Is it the individual players that they’re so productive?
“Yeah, you know, Nate Orchard is one guy they’re using in a lot of different ways. As an outside linebacker, sometimes as a defensive end. I think from his athleticism that he has, he can cause you problems and then obviously he’s a playmaker for them so they’re putting him in some positions to make plays. I think up front they’ve got a quickness to them, and that’s something that can give you some problems. They spike a three-technique into an A gap, which is a coach’s nightmare but if you’re quick enough can be effective.”
[After THE JUMP: lots of tempo talk]
File. Today was a blue polo day.
News bullets and other items:
Kyle Kalis’ back is fine, but Hoke cautioned that it could always flare up again
Jake Butt and Delano Hill will not play Saturday. Hill will likely be back next week.
Drake Harris and Ian Bunting could be redshirted
Ty Isaac’s hardship waiver was denied; Michigan appealed the decision last week
"Okay, everybody ready? You ready? Thanks for coming. We have 72 hours until we kick it off. We’re excited about that and I think that’s something that every team in this country -- you've been practicing against each other, you've been doing things against each other. Our preparation has been good. I think there's a couple of things we are trying to teach every day are the good habits that you want from a fundamental and technique standpoint and so that's a goal for us. A goal for us [is] to play fast and play physical every Saturday with consistency.
“Yesterday we had to come inside which we didn't really want to, but that storm kind of came through and put us back inside but we had a good practice. We have continually, and Nuss[meier] has done this, done wet ball drills every week even when we've been outside so if we can get in those conditions, which we have a good chance to all the time in the fall. But mental errors, we had a little bit too many of those. We want to make sure we clean those up today but it was a good physical practice. We've got to clean up some areas though when you look at some of the mental errors on both sides of the ball."
Are all openers special no matter who the opponent is?
"Yeah, I think anytime [because] you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Also, as you go out there you want to see what kind of team and where you're at. I think it's important that every week you get improvement from your team and so this will be a starting point obviously that we'll have this weekend."
Are Delano [Hill] and Jake [Butt] the only ones that you're still worried about from an injury standpoint?
"Jake definitely will not play. Delano won't play. I think he'll be ready next week."
What's Drake Harris' status?
"He won't play. He's back in practice now and he's missed a lot of football so there's a good chance he'll be a redshirt this year."
What's your timetable for naming captains for this game and how will you inform them?
"Well, I'm going to meet with the seniors again and [the] leadership group and we’ll name them sometime before the game."
Maurice wasn't on the depth chart…
"He's on there. He's got a good chance of playing for us. It's just, how many guys do you want to list?"
Talk about what you plan to do with the rotation there. Is it going to be quite a bit?
"Well, we're going to start with the guys who are out there, the guys who are first up on the list unless they absolutely don't practice like they need to. I'm assuming that won't happen. Then we'll really just take it how the game goes. There's a good chance that if you're looking at certain positions, especially the interior of our front, I think all those guys are going to play some football for us."
[After THE JUMP: Kyle Kalis’ injury, tight ends, and a Ty Isaac waiver update]