After Rich Rodriguez spoke to the assembled media on Sunday, I got a chance to talk to some of Michigan's assistants. I didn't talk to Calvin Magee or Greg Robinson because we've already heard from them in the past couple weeks, and I didn't get a chance to talk to Greg Frey or Adam Braithwaite.
Each of the three quarterbacks brings something different to the table. Tate's experience of starting 12 games is a significant factor, but the coaches need to make sure he stays disciplined. Denard is the most explosive of the three quarterbacks. As for passing, "he's worked on it, I don't want to say refined." He deserves a lot of credit for putting in the effort, and "he's picked up the offense a lot more than what he had last year." Gardner is a superb athlete who is getting better every day.
The competition is helping the team, because each quarterback has to work hard every rep or risk being replaced.
Though Tate acknowledged slacking a bit this summer, "He didn't come in bad shape. He passed all his conditioning tests." He's been willing to put in the work in practice so far: "I've been pleased with him this camp."
Denard has a much better idea of the offensive scheme and what the coaches are trying to accomplish. "You don't cloud your mind and slow up your feet, and that's what he was doing last year." Over-thinking contributed to part of his problems last year.
Denard does a lot of work in technique drills, but he's not consistent yet. The coaches work on tightening his mechanics from weight transfer to follow-through, which is the sort of stuff a lot of high school kids don't learn. He came in as an athlete trying to play quarterback, and the coaches are trying to turn him into a quarterback who's athletic. He's been willing to put in the work.
Denard's ability to pass will open up defenses, allowing him to rush for more than the 5.1 yards/carry he got last year. "Not just the passing, but I've opened up the playbook a little more to him. We knew what we were gonna do with him. I think defenses knew what was coming." He has the potential to score 4 out of every 10 times he touches the ball due to how explosive he is.
Both quarterbacks at reading the defensive end on the option play. They're prepared to make the read against all sorts of different defenses, so they'll be familiar with everything they face.
"I don't know yet" if Denard will be the starter. The coaches are repping all three quarterbacks while the media focuses on Denard.
Tate came in a little more polished out of high school. Denard and Devin have needed more work on their throwing mechanics out of high school. Both must have worked hard individually this summer to be where they are today.
The different skill sets among the quarterbacks all fit in with what the offensive staff wants to do. They don't want a guy to just stand there. All three quarterbacks have the necessary mobility.
(Short but sweet)
On Stephen Hopkins: "Before he's done here, he'll be another Chris Perry. Feet, shallow cuts, power. I mean, I don't know if Chris ever weighed 230 or not."
4-5 backs will get serious playing time this year.
"They're working extremely hard and doing well." Dews is a little more anxious to see how his guys can do compared to the past, because now there are people with three years in the system. They know the expectations of them.
Junior Hemingway and Darryl Stonum have been in the system since they were freshmen, and now they're able to help be leaders for the younger guys, because they've been there before.
As far as moving guys to the other side of the ball goes, Dews says "I don't worry about losing anybody if it's going to make our team better." It happens every year in college football, and if it's good for the team, "whatever's going to help us win and compete for BCS bowl games, I'm all for it."
Kelvin Grady has matured quite a bit. He's catching the ball well this camp. He looks a little bigger than last year, and is playing with more confidence. He is not one of the slot receivers who have gotten time on the outside.
Darryl Stonum "did come back in great shape. He's been kind of a piston. He's been out there rolling." Getting contacts has helped him catch better. He really started coming on in the spring, when he realized the opportunity he would have to be a starter. Wearing a cast on one arm helped train him to always catch with his hands. He understands the offense, but needs to refine his technique, and he's willing to do that. He's gorwn up and learned from his past mistakes.
Junior Hemingway has had a pretty good camp. "Junior has shown flashes for a couple years now. Obviously his biggest issue has been being on the field. Obviously when he's healthy and he's playing, he certainly can help us."
On Ryan Van Bergen - Works hard, always around the ball, "he's a great student of the game." He's bigger and stronger than last season.
Pass Rush with the three-man front is tough to evaluate right now. The Michigan offense doesn't have much drop-back passing, so they're hard to evaluate against. "It won't always just be three men rushing."
Craig Roh might be one of the guys adding pressure (from linebackers). GERG will put together some different packages to mix up pressure.
The freshmen have just finished school, and will be able to focus on football now. They're all doing well so far. Tall noted that there are five freshmen in his position group - Jibreel Black, Terry Talbott (Tall used to confuse the Talbotts' first names on recruiting visits), Richard Ash, Kenny Wilkins, and preferred walkon Chris Eddins.
Kenny Wilkins is working at defensive end. "He's pretty good-sized. He's probably up somewhere around 6-4, 270... He's got good size for a young player."
Tall wishes he could have picked a different number for Jibreel Black, so he wouldn't be compared to Brandon Graham so much. "55 was a very special player, and you don't want to put that on anybody."
Troy Woolfolk "was in great shape, he was having a great camp, you hate it for him." If there's any good to come out of his injury, it's that he gets to come back next year. It makes you sick to see a kid that's worked so hard go down.
"You know we can't sit around feeling sorry for ourselves because nobody else is going to feel sorry for us."
All the freshmen are playing hard. At free safety, Carvin Johnson is "doing a great job and has great ball skills." Terrence Talbott has been a pleasant surprise, and Cullen Christian has been practicing at both corner positions. All of them need to keep growing, and work on their tackling.
James Rogers has been playing well, but the second starting corner position is still up for grabs. There are still two weeks to prepare the guys to play.