Football: Spring practice news roundup.
You're probably a busy, on-the-go type without much time to scour the various dusty corners of the interweb in search of the tiniest motes of information regarding Michigan's 2005 football team. Luckily for you, I'm not.
Gutz Not Dead Yet
With Clayton Richard playing baseball and erstwhile starter Matt Gutierrez recovering from a torn labrum, an injury to Chad Henne seemed certain to derail what could be a promising season. Never fear, as Gutierrez appears ahead of schedule and ready to handle any work that comes his way. He still has a way to go in terms of arm strength, but any panic about a prospective Henne injury can be minor panic.
Hello 4-3, My Old Friend
Michigan has abandoned its one-year experiment with the 3-4 and returned to a more conventional alignment, one that better takes advantage of the personnel along the line (and was predicted by mgoblog immediately after the season). New defensive line coach Steve Stripling--liberated from East Lansing--is an actual defensive line coach instead of a converted LB coach. He is also bald, fat, and moustached, three critical attributes when making broad generalizations about coach quality.
Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Aye, they said Grady would be a monster. They said Max Martin was an excellent back in his own right. And Mike Hart is Mike Hart. All three had excellent springs. The two prospective backups bring something that Hart does not--Grady (now apparently 5'2", 320) cannot be stopped on third and short, while Max Martin has the precious "breakaway speed" that Hart lacks. If Dudley can be adequately replaced and the offensive line worked out, Michigan will have a backfield reminscent of the early 90s.
Michigan will feature a heavily revamped linebacker corps in the fall. Pierre Woods is playing defensive end. Roy Manning has graduated. Lawrence Reid had a career-ending neck injury. The only holdover appears to be MLB Scott McClintock. Flanking him will be sophomore Chris Graham, who has been getting raves from the day he stepped on campus. Graham is short, fast, and mean and looks to have a kung-fu death grip on the starting weakside LB spot. Hopes are high that he and junior Prescott Burgess will turn last year's horrifying weakness into a strength.
All right, that's going a little far, but a healthy Steve Breaston is looking more like his freshman I-can-walk-on-water self. Jason Avant is Jason Avant. Redshirt freshman Doug Dutch has impressed in his pursuit of the third WR position. Expect little drop off in performance from this position group.
Offensive Line Chaos
The offensive line has had several players banged up and held out of practice. Other players have been shifted around, taking snaps at positions that they may or may not start at in the fall. Despite the fact that Michigan only graduated a single offensive lineman last year--center David Baas--there will probably be some unpleasant moments in the fall as the line works itself out.
DBs As Deep As Paris Hilton
Leon Hall is a good Big Ten corner and Grant Mason will probably be all right. Past that there is a great wilderness of nothing in particular. Darnell Hood, Charles Stewart, and Morgan Trent do not look ready to play. Incoming freshman Brandon Harrison has the opportunity to be the nickel back by the time he steps on campus. If Hall gets injured, panic.
Watson Is Fat
Reports vary on how Watson is playing, probably because he's looking unstoppable half the time and just damn fat the other half of the time. Carr has publicly badgered Watson about the shape he's in. Is that just a ploy to get him in better shape or is there reason for serious concern? It's hard to believe that Watson can stare a potential top-ten draft pick in the face and not get motivated to, you know, do some running and stuff. Michigan will have to have a dominant line to keep heat off the shaky secondary and Watson is the center of that effort, literally, metaphorically, and gravitationally.
Pierre Woods is now a defensive end opposite Woodley. Jacob Stewart, who you may remember streaking towards the endzone during the epic comeback against Minnesota two years ago, is now a weakside linebacker. Crable has been competing with Burgess at strongside linebacker and has been tried at defensive end. Redshirt freshman WR Morgan Trent, who is totally way faster than Ted Ginn, is now a cornerback. Redshirt freshman S Keston Cheathem is now a WR. Bodes unwell if anyone was banking on him getting signficant playing time ever.