Weird line combinations and depth stuff have been coming out of practice. What should we believe, what's motivational, what's a boo boo, what's anything in this crazy world? We go under cover and bring you the NEWS that HITS the HARDEST (at least until Jake Ryan returns, because he hits harder than our news). The staff:
- Brian Woodward
- Seth Bernstein
- Ace Bradlee
- Heiko Felt, Sr.
- Blue in South Katherine Graham
- Deep Throw
And the question:
Heiko and I have been arguing about this on gchat and I thought I'd bring it to the team. We want to know where you think there are real positional battles going on right now, and how you're handicapping them. For example:
Center: 55% Glasgow, 40% Miller, 5% Kugler
SAM: 85% Gordon, 15% Beyer
Norfleet: 100% Norfleet, 400% Norfleet, Norfleet% Norfleet.
Mathlete: Shouldn't it be Norfleet: 75% Slot, 20% RB, 5% DB, 100% Awesome?
Ace: The lineup seems refreshingly settled at most spots (hooray depth!); the only positions I see having real competition are tailback, outside receiver, center, and strongside linebacker, though it'll be interesting to see if there are any surprises in the defensive backfield with the return of Blake Countess and Dymonte Thomas's potential early impact at nickel. I'm operating under the assumption that Keith Heitzman earns the nod at SDE and Jibreel Black starts at three-tech with Chris Wormley playing a key role as a backup.
Starting from the top, we've discussed the running back battle ad nauseam; Fitz Toussaint should start against CMU and Derrick Green will push for more and more carries as the season wears on. I'll go 99% Toussaint (barring injury) and a 1% chance that Dennis Norfleet gets the season's first carry as Al Borges epically trolls Brian.
[Surprising (and probably meaningless) revelations and scandal, minus the scandal, after the jump]
|Chesson projects to be the more
productive eventually but Darboh
is still ahead of him. | Fuller
The outside receiver spot across from Jeremy Gallon should feature either Amara Darboh or Jehu Chesson, who've both received plenty of practice hype. Darboh trotted out with the ones when the BTN crew took in a practice, but given the sheer wonkiness of that lineup (see: Joe Bolden, starting MIKE), I'm not sure that tells us anything. Darboh is the bigger target and came in with more recruiting hype; Chesson may still need to add weight, but he's got more speed than Darboh and may possess better hands, too. Both should see plenty of time, and I'm going to do the proverbial punt and call this a 50-50 race.
The center battle, quite frankly, scares me a bit. In an ideal world, I think the coaches would go with Jack Miller — the guy they've groomed to take over the spot for the last two years — and let Graham Glasgow be a guy they could pull off the bench and insert into any of the three interior line spots. The fact that Glasgow is still getting first-team center reps makes me think that Miller isn't performing as hoped — certainly a negative take, but remember that Miller couldn't crack the lineup last year despite the poor interior line play — and Glasgow may in fact have the edge. My guess: 60% Glasgow, 39% Miller, 1% Kugler.
I'm not sold on Cam Gordon as the starting SAM — while it's not entirely his fault (looking at you, GERG), he's bounced around for years without finding a positional home, and he was mostly a nickel DE last year. Brennen Beyer, albeit a position-switch guy himself, is a more proven commodity and also brings more size to the defense, something this coaching staff prioritizes. I think Gordon will see plenty of snaps, especially on passing downs, but my guess is Beyer earns the starting nod. Attaching numbers to my guesswork: Beyer 65%, Gordon 35%.
Dennis Norfleet: 95% slot, ∞% electric.
|This: not happening. Signed, your
memories of 2008. | Upchurch
BiSB: Ace's list seems pretty comprehensive. And like Ace, I have no idea what to predict for center anymore. I think Miller is the starter by the end of the year, but do the coaches think he can stand up to Louis Nix? Oh, hell. 51% Miller, 50% Glasgow, -1% Kugler. I'm somewhat more confident that Darboh wins the WR2 spot; they have a couple of field stretchers in Gallon and Funchess, so it would make sense to throw a big tough handsy guy out there, and Darboh fits the bill. Combine that with the constant practice hype, and I'll say 70% Darboh, 25% Chesson, 5% Jeremy Jackson. At SAM, I don't know if we're even going to have a clear winner. Beyer and Gordon will split snaps situationally, and will soundly but unspectacularly tend the spot in tandem until the glorious return of His Flowness. And as for tailback, I think [paste the 16,000 words from last week here].
The only additions I'd have are left guard and backup QB, and I only say left guard because my super-secret insider source (who I can't reveal, but is probably Heiko) says that Chris Bryant is still pushing Braden. I'll say Braden is still a 90/10 favorite until my source indicates otherwise. At backup QB, it's probably more about Cleary than Morris; if Cleary is capable of serving as a functional backup, they'll redshirt Morris. So I kinda doubt they redshirt Morris. 80/20 Shane takes the 2nd team snaps on the 31st.
Brian: Y'all are forgetting some very real battles at cornerback and tight end and fullback.
At CB, Countess is pretty much a sure thing but the second spot seems like a genuine tossup between Courtney Avery--far more healthy this year after a chronic back issue--Raymon Taylor, and even Delonte Holowell, he of the monster spring and continually incredible smallness. Depending on who you talk to, Avery has the edge on returning-ish starter Taylor. I'm a little skeptical since Avery lost that battle straight-up a year ago and Taylor brings the closest thing to run support Michigan's going to get from their collection of mighty mites this year.
|Somebody other than Kerridge can
handle this part of fullbacking |
Tight end and fullback are kind of the same group of snaps, with available playing time expanding based on how much Borges likes having two large blocky types on the field instead of Drew Dileo and THE NORFLEET. Each guy has a role he's best for (Kerridge: BOOM, Hill: catchyboom, Williams: inline boom, Shallman: comboboom, Funchess: seamseamseam). Funchess has the inside track, but Michigan's weapons are potentially diverse... if they can't stop being freshman.
Meanwhile, Ace mentions in passing that the SDE and three-tech battles are up in the air; those need more attention. Black is still struggling to crack 280 as a DT and SDE is basically a maelstrom with Keith Heitzman a favorite mostly by default. He's got guys pressing him from behind who are not true freshman and is not that much older; he's also much less touted than his competitors. With Wormley apparently at SDE--I guess--Black is probably safe, but nonzero chance he just can't hold up.
Y'all crazy if you think
1) Darboh isn't starting opposite Gallon.
2) Morris won't supplant Cleary by the opener.
3) Borges isn't trolling us on a daily basis.
Seth: An unnamed source has been bothering me on gchat a bunch lately with these same Chris Bryant and Courtney Avery rumors. I've been collecting a few of my own though. First some things that aren't battles anymore:
Fullback/Tight end: Notable lack of Houma in mentions, including Brian's. Reiterate what he said about different weapons but you should know most formations have had at least Funchess or Williams . Both have supposedly come a long way, A.J. further, and the freshmen are a goodly amount behind.
Wide receiver: 100% Gallon, 100% Darboh, and then in descending order it's been Dileo, Chesson, Reynolds, Jackson, other bodies. By the powers of NORFLEET the freshmen all ought to redshirt.
Right guard: Kalis.
DT: Washington and Black, though they're drilling Pipkins up. There's been some weirdness confirmed by two sources that Strobel and Ash were rotating in with other presumed twos around them, but I think you can discount that because Henry and Pipkins have been snapping with everybody. Percenting relevant snaps: 75% Washington, 25% Pipkins by design at NT. Three-tech: 45% Black, 25% Henry, 20% Pipkins, 5% Strobel, 5% Wormley.
Safety: set. Wilson's being tempered in hellfires to get him ready and has been standing up okay not great. Lack of depth is a problem so if you've got an extra bull you should probably ready him for sacrifice to AMSHG.
Middle Linebackers: Ross is set but Bolden isn't so far back from Morgan—at this point I'd imagine is more "will rotate in more often" but keeping an eye there. Freshmen are challenging RJS.
SDE has been covered. Wormley is too slow to go around people but that doesn't matter so much because he's just moving them out of his way. The nickel package had Strobel there. I'm hearing less about Godin than we were in spring. 45% Heitzman, 35% Wormley, 24% Strobel, 1% Godin.
Upgrade your center panic one notch. Glasgow still has a slight edge despite Miller being groomed for this position for years. Co-sign BiSB's weird math.
|Chris Bryant has reportedly leapt
into the left guard race for srsly.
| Fuller photo.
At left guard there seems to be a problem with Braden's pulling, and that's why he's not with the ones. That actually eases my panic a bit, since Michigan's short on ready-to-use interior depth and if Chris Bryant is plausible that gives Michigan somebody other than Glasgow. And if Bryant does start (still not predicting that), it means the top backup at tackle (Braden) isn't already on the field. 60% Braden climbing to 80% by season's end, the rest Bryant.
On the cornerback battle, I mentioned to unnamed source that in 2011 right about now we heard "Mike Jones: starting WILL" and Brandon Herron was starting there for WMU. Heiko got a bit of an answer when Mattison talked about how they'd been practicing with "left" and "right" spots instead of field and boundary. The specialization will return but for now Mattison has been using equalization as a teaching instrument, and the generalization benefits Averyization. There are plenty of snaps for both, but Avery makes far more sense as the swingman who can back up either guy and play nickel or dime back. 75% Taylor, 25% Avery. Also Jourdan Lewis needs to eat and process about 1,000 more meals first, but he's going to be good.
Unnamed source has also been on about the SAM battle and I've been blowing him off because there was a wide gap in spring. That is progressively becoming less certain, but why not? Beyer moved there in late march and thus has a steeper learning curve, while Gordon's been at some version of SAM since the week before Penn State in 2010, and this version of SAM since Mattison arrived. Normal progression should see that gap thinning rapidly. I'll upgrade the Beyer hype the moment someone says he can cover as well or better than Cam. Both will play, and both will be C or C+ options until Ryan returns. 51% Gordon.
BiSB: Someone needs to start keeping a database of the rumors that come out of fall camp every year. Some sort of record of the Two-Deep Less Traveled, whereby we can ponder a world in which Mike Jones and Mark Moundros are your starting linebackers, Nathan Brink is your starting SDE, Max Martin is the real deal, and Denard Robinson has a chance to pass Tate Forcier on the depth chart.
Mathlete: At this point I don't know that I have more to add to the esteemed insight from the staff other than baseless speculation. I don't deal in guesses and phantom gchat sources, I deal in data. Unfortunately when I queried ye olde database for 2013 Michigan starting lineup, the first entry was for quarterback and it said 1st: Devin Gardner, 2nd: <NULL>. I didn't have the courage to continue after that. I wouldn't dare do the same query for 2008.
Heiko: Can we give unnamed source a name? I like "Deep Throw."
[mutters some excuse about fly testicles and departs]
Heiko: Actually I have nothing to add either, other than Deep Throw is currently telling me about how Chris Bryant and Graham Glasgow are consistently running with the ones right now.
Our unnamed source comes with the official Rex Grossman Seal of Approval.
BiSB: "Follow the money," you say?
/purchases bus ticket to Oxford, Mississippi.
Wow. That was easier than I thought.