From Portage Northern.
As many of you know, Coach Hoke spent the day at ESPN fielding mostly silly questions. And, being Coach Hoke, he gave mostly boring answers. But here are two quotes that caught my interest:
“One of the surprise dark-horse guys will be a young man we redshirted a year ago, a wide receiver, Jehu Chesson. A young man out of St. Louis. Six-four, wide receiver, track guy, can catch it, works hard.”
There's been so much talk about Darboh, I was sure that's where coach Hoke would go. Or even to RB, with all the Drake Johnson and Justice Hayes fluff we've heard (which there was some more of today). Hearing Chesson's name is a pleasant surprise and, if he were to emerge, would be a huge boost to our offense.
“We’re young in a couple places. We’re young in the guard position, offensively, the center position, but we have a lot of young depth and competition. On the defensive side of it, the interior of our defensive linemen and our strong end, our five-technique, are going to be young players, but we really like how, genetically, how they’ve worked at it.”
What I found interesting about this is that Black, Washington, and Ash are all juniors and seniors. Pipkins--the only other player on our roster to get significant snaps on the line last year--is a sophomore. Henry is a RS Frosh. The only other true DT's (Poggi, Hurst) are true freshmen. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I think this comment signals that we'll see a lot of Pipkins (starting?) and a good amount of Henry (more of a surprise) this year.
After watching the UMass game I went through a series of strange feelings:
- Relief. Game never in question, easy opponent dispatched, spread covered.
- Anxiety. The D-Line didn't look that good. Come to think of it, neither did the run-blocking.
- Relief. 2013 isn't far away, and we'll be transitioning from Borges-Denard Fusion to Manball.
- Anxiety. 2013 isn't far away, and we'll be transitioning from Borges-Denard Fusion to Manball.
Yes, the last two are the same. No, it's not a mistake. Here's what happened in my brain:
- I sure will miss Denard next year, but we'll be back to Michigan Manball without him. And our offensive line will be much better at run-blocking.
- Wait, why will it be better at run-blocking? Who will even be playing O-Line for us next year?
- SHUT-UP! SHUT-UP! SHUT-UP! Enjoy the win. Just pretend that Hoke will sprinkle magical Manball dust (wait, that doesn't sound right) and everything will turn out fine.
- No, you shut-up. I have to research this so I can sleep. Or so I can't sleep. AAARRRGGGGH!
Suddenly, I'm lying awake in bed, and going through the depth chart in my head. The one guy that seems to be playing good football on the O-Line is Taylor Lewan, and it's no secret that he's projected to get a 1st round NFL draft grade. We have to assume he's gone. Also gone from the line is...EVERYONE. Except Schofield. He'll stick around for his fifth year. Right? RIGHT?!!! And it's good that he stays...right? RIGHT?!!!
Let's just assume the whole line, except Schofield, is gone. Our new O-Line looks like this:
LT Erik Magnuson; LG Chris Bryant; C Jack Miller; RG Kyle Kalis; RT Michael Schofield
Maybe Joey Burzynski sneaks in there, but we're likely going with four (FOUR!) players with
little or no playing experience. And Schofield.
And I think, if we're geing honest with ourselves, that line doesn't look much better than this year's version. Sure, Bryant and Kalis should be better people-movers than Barnum and Omameh, but they'll be learning the position as they go. And a redshirt freshman left tackle? Ummmm...
Oh, and did I mention that Jack Miller is currently 6-4 and 288 lbs? Not exactly the size we're looking for at center.
My point is that our O-Line will be far from "Manball-Ready" and that we have much to fear about their abilities. Maybe we'll get some better natural push, but we're trading that for what will likely be a drop-off in pass-blocking. Erik Gunderson is currently listed ahead of Ben Braden, so I'm not holding my breath there. Blake Bars isn't currently listed on the depth chart.
On the other side of the ball, things don't look much better. BWC and Roh are gone. Pipkins should be seasoned, and hopefully in shape. Brink, Washington, Black, and Ash are all back, but like, seriously.
Our hopes will be tied to Pee Wee (NT) and Frank Clark (WDE), with Heitzman/Brink/Wormley/Strobel at SDE and Black/Washington/Ash/Brink at DT needing to just not screw it up.
The only logical conclusion is that next year will require the same patience with our lines as this year. This issue will be exacerbated by the lack of Denard...whether it's Bellomy or Gardner running the offense, it will be an offense that is trying to be pro style, and won't have a premier QB to run it. Gardner's growth will be stunted by his time at WR, and Bellomy looks like a solid-but-not-spectacular player. Navarre Light, if you will, with more mobility and a not-as-good arm.
I guess what I'm saying is that we'll really have to wait until 2014 before we have our Manball lines in place, and maybe then we can go back to complaining about the secondary.