landing spot. will be interesting to see how he does.
What is this? Folks who cover the USMNT drop lists like this projecting the 23 guys who end up on the next World Cup team. I have appropriated it. Regarding the number of tickets: 22 starters on offense and defense + 2 kickers + nickelback + FLEX TE + H-back.
PACK YOUR BAGS
1. LB/CB/S/KR/PR/WR/RB/NICKEL Jabrill Peppers, So.* [Last time: 1]
Now 70% linebacker, 70% CB, 70% RB, 70% WR. Don Brown will have to kill you if he tells you all the things Michigan will do with him this fall. Don Brown knows where the bodies are buried, because he buried them. Peppers will ford the river Styx, ye. Knoweth thy doom approacheth when #5 appears in your peripheral vision.
2. CB Jourdan Lewis, Sr. [Last time: 2]
Barely played in the spring game because it's not like anyone needs to know if Jourdan Lewis can play after single-season PBU-record year. Goals for this year: be exactly like you were last year with better interception luck. Should repeat as All-American, but vagaries of CB stats may intervene there. Doesn't matter: will play like one.
3. C Mason Cole, Jr. [Last time: 3]
Move to center appears to be sticking, which is a natural fit for a guy smart enough to start as a true freshman and maybe not longhuge enough to be an elite edge protector. Only reason he wouldn't start at C is if Newsome can't hack LT yet and Kugler pushes through. Chances Cole isn't starting somewhere holding steady at 0.0%.
4. FLEX Jake Butt, Sr. [Last time: 4]
Inexplicably not a Mackey finalist despite athleticism, catching radius, and absolutely fantastic hands. Blocking just okay but far from a liability. Seriously how did this guy not win the Mackey? What are you even doing, Mackey? Are you playing Fallout 4 and randomly selecting guys your slacker brother suggests? Drugs are bad, mmmkay?
5. 3TECH Chris Wormley, Sr* [Last time: 6]
Spent most of spring playing three tech after junior season spent wrecking every tight end opponents foolishly tasked to block him. Not an elite pass rusher but highly effective in Michigan's stunt-heavy rush game a year ago. Should be all-conference easy and a mid-round NFL draft pick.
6. WR Amara Darboh, Sr* [Last time: 8]
Absence of Chesson this spring allowed Darboh to ease past Chesson in the pecking order per Harbaugh, not that it matters since both will get a ton of time, and they're very different players anyway. Still, Darboh adding some deep stuff to his extant game would make him a very hard player to check.
7. WR Jehu Chesson, Sr.* [Last time: 7]
Open deep all year and finally got on the same page with Rudock late for season-ending surge. Fast. Murderous blocker. Jet sweep maestro. Fast. Polite. Fast. Went from Stonum-ish to Breaston-ish to Manningham-ish over course of season. Huge year beckons if QB situation right.
8. K Kenny Allen, Sr.* [Last time: 9]
Early-season kicker worries dissipated as Allen went 14/18 on the year with one miss due to a bad snap and a second that got blown across the face of the uprights by a sudden gust of wind. Didn't hit anything particularly long, but had a bunch of touchbacks when he wanted to have touchbacks. Another year of reliability beckons.
9. FS Dymonte Thomas, Sr. [Last time: 10]
Spectacular spring game interception on which he flew from midfield to the very corner of the endzone demonstrates his promise. He is capable of crazy ball-hawk things Jarrod Wilson never was. Played very well down the stretch last year. Consistency might be a bugaboo, but so far all the signs are good ones.
10. SS Delano Hill, Sr. [Last time: 11]
Though Tyree Kinnel played pretty well in various open practices, Harbaugh flat-out stated that nobody was anywhere near the two starting safeties so here's Hill. Severe case of Greg Oden disease means he will look exactly the same age—42—for the next 50 years.
UNLESS SOMETHING STRANGE HAPPENS
11. RB De'Veon Smith, Jr.* [Last time: 25]
Assumption in this space that Smith would get seriously challenged looks to be wrong, as Smith was shelved just like Lewis and Peppers types. He's the man, man. Consistent high-level praise for Ty Isaac, and Isaac's standout spring game, barely prevent Smith from moving to lock territory. But looks like we can ditch those fullback assertions for good.
12. ILB Ben Gedeon, Sr. [Last time: 12]
Harbaugh said all the right things about Gedeon this spring, invoking the word "stud"; Don Brown made him a Dude. Michigan's going to need that to be true since depth at linebacker is still alarming even after Mike McCray got off the cart. He's starting and probably not coming off the field, so here's to that being, like, good.
13. G Ben Braden, Sr.* [Last time: 14]
"Something strange" in the case of the 3 OL in a row here would be Kugler or Dawson or Ben Bredeson pushing through and Newsome being real good, thus moving Cole to one of these spots. That would be strange indeed, but it's not impossible. Braden's improvement track and general hugeness makes him the least likely to get yoinked.
14. T Erik Magnuson, Sr*. [Last time: 15]
Middling season as a tackle. Okay at run blocking but occasionally frustrating, especially on the second level. Pass protection generally good but, like Cole, struggled to cope with top-shelf rushers. Not going to be All Big Ten next year; difficult to see anyone supplanting him.
15. G Kyle Kalis, Sr* [Last time: 16]
Kalis has taken a ton of crap from insiders for inconsistency, to the point where Rivals repeatedly asserted Michigan would straight-up cut him(!!!) despite no football program in the history of the sport doing so with a returning starter at OL. He is highly variable, sure, but cumong man. Boom or bust, because if it clicks, it clicks.
16. SLOT Grant Perry, So. [Last time: 23]
Minus Darboh and Chesson in the spring game, Perry was clearly the most reliable and relied-upon wide receiver available to either team. Challenge could come from any number of freshmen, but they'll lose out for the same reason Perry was a nonentity until the bowl game. Receiver is not a freshman friendly spot.
Rashan Gary looms but Taco is going to start somewhere, whether that's SDE like he did this spring or WDE once Gary arrives and Glasgow returns and Don Brown just laughs and laughs and laughs. Charlton was too much for Grant Newsome to handle, and 5.5 sacks in under half of Michigan's snaps last year presages a big senior year. He's always had all the physical talent in the world and is thus one of the proverbial X-factors on this year's team.
FAIRLY SAFE BET
18. NT Ryan Glasgow, Sr.* [Last time: 5]
Massive drop due to resurgence of the Bryan Mone hypening. Glasgow hasn't taken snap one under Brown, whereas Mone impressed everyone, again. He'll have something to prove this fall. Still sticking with Glasgow because he was mini-Mike Martin last year, and if Mone beats that guy out I project Michigan's defense will end football as we know it. Because seriously this dude is a dude, dude. /donbrown'd
19. OT Grant Newsome, So. [Last time: 19]
Behold the rare OL redshirt burning that makes sense. Michigan is not wavering with its plan to insert Newsome at LT despite some struggles with Charlton and Winovich this spring. Michigan really needs him to come through because there's not much behind him, especially next year. Looks the part, at least.
With Michigan passing on a random Aussie (so far) it's Allen, not Peppers, who gets the first-ever dual nod on 27 Tickets. Allen was originally recruited as a punter and has displayed a booming leg on scattered opportunities so far. Won't be as precise as Blake O'Neill but should be able to flip the field on the regular like he did.
Burst out of injury purgatory in a major way in spring, emerging into clear top choice to start next to Gedeon. Big thumping dude with sufficient athleticism to replicate Desmond Morgan's decent coverage skills. Also the son of a former OSU captain, which says somethin' about somethin'.
Revelation of the spring and major reason Hill moved to fullback. Wheatley is enormous, shows great promise as a blocker, and had a one-handed stab that led to a 70-yard touchdown at the Ford Field practice. All talk of moving him to OT is dead and buried, because once you see Wheatley move that way at that size it's clear dude has got to run free.
IN A BATTLE
23. QB John O'Korn, Jr* [Last time: 18]
Sticking with O'Korn, but barely. Wilton Speight exits spring neck-and-neck with the Houston transfer, with his steadiness battling O'Korn's mobility and ability to flick 40-yard balls on the run. Speight might even be ahead by a nose right now, but O'Korn's upside and Harbaugh's ability to unlock QB upside suggests O'Korn will be in the passing lane by fall.
An "in stone" starter per Harbaugh after a breakout spring, but I just dunno man. Clark's junior year was highly promising and, like Glasgow, I have to see Stribling blow by in person before I believe it. If Stribling is significantly better than Clark was a year ago, Michigan's secondary is going to be absurd.
25. FB/H-back Khalid Hill, Jr.* [Last time: 24]
Hill gets the nod here over incumbent Henry Poggi but along with Bobby Henderson expect the three FB/HB types to split snaps extensively. Hill has the most upside as a receiver and has shown promise as a blocker; Poggi has more experience; Henderson is probably the best runner. Sometimes there's a man.
26. SAM Noah Furbush, So* [Last time: 27]
Furbush sticks since Peppers is the nickel even if he's a linebacker and Michigan will need a beefier guy for short yardage and the various manball teams on the schedule. Impressive work on STs caught Harbaugh's eye a year ago; Wangler and others will push. Expect a James Ross level of work here/
Winovich moved back to D from TE and started delivering on his Jake Ryan 2.0 hype. Now at 245, another 10 pounds by fall and he's a plausible option. Not as plausible an option as getting bumped down a notch on the two-deep by a DL depth chart that will veritably demand Charlton moves to WDE in fall, but until such time as that move happens Winovich holds on to the last spot.
TECHNICALLY NOT STARTERS BUT CLOSE
RB Drake Johnson—still Michigan's most explosive back.
RB Ty Isaac—spring revelation and Harbaugh praise after rough sophomore year; he'll factor in.
FB Henry Poggi—had some trouble IDing who he should block after move from DL. Should improve.
WR Moe Ways—Darboh analogue had a few catches, should be eased into more PT with an eye towards 2017.
TE Ian Bunting—Ol' Skillet Hands saw PT drop as season progressed, now breakout pick by many.
DE/DT Rashan Gary—heh
NT Bryan Mone—massive Tongan apparently third best player on last year's roster headed into the season? What?
3TECH Maurice Hurst—another reason to push Taco to WDE once the entire line is there in fall camp.
DE Matt Godin—if allowed to push out to SDE will be an effective backup for Wormley. If forced to play 3TECH, look out.
ILB Devin Bush Jr—early enrollee all but assured PT by depth chart.
CB Jeremy Clark—Richard Sherman size and solid junior year; will play a lot.
S Tyree Kinnel—showed promise in spring; M would like him to round into heir apparent.
PUSHING FROM BEHIND
QB Wilton Speight—[update: no, not transferring, in fact strong competition for the job]
RB Kareem Walker—okay he's not Fournette but let's not dismiss him out of hand because of a couple of recruiting ranking downgrades.
RB Karan Higdon—quick little guy had one nice carry and got swarmed a lot at LOS.
RB Kingston Davis—absolutely not a fullback
WR Drake Harris—still skinny as a rail.
WR Nate Johnson—mean-ass slot receiver, if that's a thing. Golden Tate is ceiling.
WR Kekoa Crawford—Hawaiian for smooth.
WR Eddie McDoom—MCDOOOOOOOOM
WR Ahmir Mitchell—early enrollee could move to S, needs work.
TE Devin Asiasi—plug-and-play inline TE has some depth chart hurdles to clear.
C Patrick Kugler—will be a redshirt junior; given performance this year could displace starter. Magnuson, Cole flexibility means that if he's best five he plays.
G David Dawson—stuck behind middling Gs a year ago, will get a shot.
ILB Elysee Mbem-Bosse—most field-ready of ILB freshmen outside of Bush.
CB David Long—program ambassador role starts now, CB starter in 2017?
CB LaVert Hill—Jourdan Lewis analogue in HS; will play with expectation of starting next year.
CB Brandon Watson—saw some nickel snaps when M was trying to save Peppers a bit.
WAITING THEIR TURN
QB Alex Malzone—not going to compete physically w/ O'Korn or Gentry but could develop into a Rudock type down the road.
QB Brandon Peters—true freshman impressed in spring.
QB Shane Morris—WR moonlighting in spring game not an outstanding sign.
FB Wyatt Shallman—now is the time to try his blocking out. Constantly hurt.
WR Brad Hawkins—another S candidate
TE Nick Eubanks—Funchess 2.0
TE Sean McKeon—Butt 2.0?
TE Zach Gentry—showed great promise after spring move to TE, but still too skinny to play now.
G Michael Onwenu—can play at incredible weight, but probably not 370.
T Ben Bredeson—Must pan out.
G Stephen Spanellis—road grader needs seasoning.
T Nolan Ulizio—late pickup last year hopes to build for 2017.
T Juwann Bushell-Beatty—late early for him
WDE Lawrence Marshall—ghost after enormous pile of spring hype.
WDE Ron Johnson—explosive edge rusher needs year of meat sauce
WDE Reuben Jones—needs weight.
SDE Shelton Johnson—probably has to cool his heels and put on more weight.
SDE Carlo Kemp—WEIGHT
NT Michael Dwumfour—Hurst-esque NT/3TECH needs polish, not so much weight.
CB Keith Washington—Breaston-esque HS QB competing at CB, coming off redshirt.
The departures are not over for the basketball team. Michigan assistant Lavall Jordan has taken the head coaching job at UW-Milwaukee:
Milwaukee has hired Michigan LaVall Jordan, sources told ESPN.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) April 7, 2016
Meanwhile, Bacari Alexander is being heavily rumored as the next coach at Detroit. A coaching shakeup seemed inevitable after the last couple years, and it's probably for the best. Michigan can reset, and now they've got one, maybe two, guys who would be obvious candidates for the head job when Beilein retires.
We'll see what direction Beilein goes in with the new assistant slots. If I was king of the universe I'd suggest he hires someone who's been around the Wisconsin or Virginia programs to be a de-facto "defensive coordinator" for one of the spots. The other one is like whatever man, but just get some dude who's helped some real good defensive teams and get out of his way.
Kam Chatman and DJ Wilson could play major roles in 2016-17. [Fuller]
With the news that Aubrey Dawkins will transfer to UCF, Michigan suddenly has an open scholarship spot and a few different options for what to do with it. Before I get into the different scenarios, here's my attempt at a depth chart for next season if the roster remains unchanged:
|Derrick Walton||M-A Abdur-Rahkman||Duncan Robinson||Zak Irvin||Moe Wagner|
|Xavier Simpson||(Walton)||(Chatman)||Kam Chatman||Mark Donnal|
|(MAAR)||Ibi Watson||(Wilson)||DJ Wilson|
There's not much depth on the wings at the moment, especially if three-star SG Ibi Watson isn't ready to jump into the rotation right away. While much of the offseason consternation has focused on point guard and center, Michigan's most pressing need is another contributor at SG/SF, and there are a few ways they can make that happen.
John Beilein mentioned in his press availability today that the team will look to use DJ Wilson more on the wing—for Wilson, that would mean backing up Zak Irvin at the four—which would allow Kam Chatman to be Duncan Robinson's primary backup at the three. While that would go a long way towards alleviating M's depth concerns, both Wilson and Chatman would have to show considerable improvement for that to be an ideal solution. Unless one of Austin Davis or Jon Teske is ready to play spot minutes at center, which seems unlikely, Wilson will be needed at the five, too.
Of course, Michigan has that open scholarship, and it'd be a huge surprise (and failure) if they don't use it. I see four scenarios potentially playing out for Michigan, which I'll list in order of likelihood as I see it.
1. Add A Grad Transfer Swingman
|Derrick Walton||M-A Abdur-Rahkman||Duncan Robinson||Zak Irvin||Moe Wagner|
|Xavier Simpson||(Transfer Swingman)||(Chatman)||Kam Chatman||Mark Donnal|
|(MAAR)||(Walton)||(Transfer Swingman)||(Wilson)||DJ Wilson|
|Ibi Watson||Austin Davis|
This seems to be John Beilein's first choice. Michigan has already reached out to Columbia grad transfer Grant Mullins, a 6'3" combo guard who functioned as a point guard this season but would likely be an off-the-bench shooter; he took just over half his shots from beyond the arc and made them at a 44% clip. Mullins would bolster Michigan's depth at three spots: he'd primarily play shooting guard, alleviate the need for Derrick Walton to slide over when MAAR needs a break—and he could play the point himself if something happens with Walton/Simpson—and give Beilein the flexibility to play some smaller lineups featuring MAAR at the three.
If Mullins doesn't end up here, Michigan would still benefit from going after a guy who could play the two and the three; I'd love to see Beilein go after a strong defender to fill that role.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the scenarios.]
no reason [Eric Upchurch]
Sam Webb reports that Michigan is going to take another very large class this year, with numbers I'm not sure are in fact possible: 28 on the low end and 32(!) on the high end. Michigan took 28 last year*, backdating seven. That should mean that they can only backdate four from this year's class, giving a hard LOI cap of 29. Schools are figuring out ways around that LOI cap—that's what "blueshirting" is—but those are inconvenient.
Meanwhile I'm not sure about getting to the larger number without cutting certain spots on the roster to the bone. Michigan has 18 slots open right now and it's not too hard to get to 23 via a combination of early NFL draft entry, unrenewed fifth years, and the injury situation with Freddy Canteen. Five more departures to hit 28 is not unreasonable, but the roster will skew very young next season so there are going to be fewer players who are ready to move on in search of playing time.
It'll be interesting. The takeaway is yes, expect another large class.
*[I'm not counting Dytarious Johnson for purposes of this conversation. If he does enroll that obviously occupies another scholarship slot.]
Michigan is probably done with #1 QB Dylan McCaffrey in the fold but they could take a second, especially if that second had upside at another position. GA QB Jelani Woods, a 6'7" dual threat guy, is the only name on the board that fits this description at this instant. 90% they are done.
With Kurt Taylor, AJ Dillon, and O'Maury Samuels committed Michigan is done unless a nationally elite name wants to join up. In that case they'd have to make a hard decision. Taylor does fit the profile of the guys that they more or less forcibly decommitted in the previous class, but dude is so enthusiastic about Michigan and the PR would be so bad that even if they wanted to—and I'm not saying they do—they would probably have to keep him.
FWIW, a strapping athlete like Dillon could easily be a Don Brown linebacker. The other two guys are locked in at tailback.
[After THE JUMP: positions that are not full.]
The band, it is no longer together:
Breaking: Red Berenson has told me Tyler Motte will forgo his senior season and sign with the Chicago Blackhawks
— Jason Rubinstein (@jrubinstein4) April 6, 2016
That's particularly bad since Motte was widely regarded as the least likely CCM line member to leave. Berenson did tell The Michigan Insider that he was "betting" on a Compher return, but Compher and Motte have been joined at the hip for years now—this news could impact his status.
Motte's lightning release and mind-meld with Compher led to a point explosion as a junior. Last year he recorded a 32-24-56 line in 38 games. He banged home the OT winner against Notre Dame in the tournament. He'll be acutely missed on next year's team.
Like it says on the tin:
— Michigan Basketball (@umichbball) April 6, 2016
Dawkins had a really promising freshman year that he did not follow up on. He's is an efficient low-volume shooter but he lost his starting job to Duncan Robinson once it became clear that Robinson had more offense and they were both equally bad on defense. Robinson edged towards okay at the tail end of the season; Dawkins not so much.
Michigan now has an open scholarship and can pursue a transfer or late-blooming recruit if they so choose. They've been asking after a couple guys. Our favorite dude on the market is Alec Peters of Valpo, a 6'9" dude who shot 85/55/44 last year with high usage and rebounded well, albeit in the Horizon. Michigan also inquired after Columbia combo guard Grant Mullins, who'd probably be just a shooter.
With the news that Spike Albrecht will be transferring for his fifth-year senior season, the last member of the “Fresh Five” departs Ann Arbor. The 2012 recruiting class – Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson, Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert, Spike – were all rotation players as freshmen in March and made it to the national title game: for a brief stretch, they were all on the floor together in the Georgia Dome as Michigan raced out to a first half lead over Louisville. Mitch, who was so impactful in that tournament run, was lost to injury as a sophomore; with Nik, Caris, and GRIII leading the charge, Michigan won the Big Ten and made it to the Elite Eight.
In those two seasons, the Wolverines won 59 games, posting a 27-9 record in Big Ten play and going 8-2 in the NCAA Tournament. The three-year span from 2012 (when the Fresh Five were seniors in high school) to 2014 (their sophomore year) will probably be considered the apex of the Beilein era – the ‘13 and ‘14 teams were the best offensively in all of college basketball and true national title contenders. As far as recruiting classes – and five-man lineups – go, Albrecht / LeVert / Stauskas / Robinson / McGary is about as good as you’ll get in college basketball.
Mitch thrived after he lost weight and, with the help of Trey Burke, became one of the best players in the country in March as a freshman – physical, energetic, and lethal in the pick-and-roll. Nik blew up as a sophomore, won Big Ten POY, and was drafted in the lottery after excelling as the team’s sharpshooting alpha dog. GRIII started and played big minutes in a complementary role for two excellent teams before leaving for the NBA (and sticking with a team). Caris was a phenomenal second banana as a sophomore and developed into an very intriguing NBA prospect in his own right. Spike was always a good backup point guard, an offensive sparkplug and a stable rotation cog – and developed into a capable starter as a junior.
Depending on LeVert’s health, there could be four of the Fresh Five in the NBA next season. Hopefully we’ll get to see Spike play well at his next stop and light up somebody in the NCAA Tournament a year from now. Because talent is so fleeting in college basketball, the window for these guys at Michigan was pretty small – just two seasons. Beilein made the most of those two seasons though and the Fresh Five helped elevate Michigan to a level of success it hadn’t seen since the Fab Five while playing a brilliant kind of offensive basketball – elite shooting, pick-and-roll mastery, and GRIII thunder-dunks.
Unfortunately, fate was cruel to Mitch, Caris, and Spike.
[sadness, but also happiness after THE JUMP]
SDE Charlton has been tough to handle [Eric Upchurch]
The most interesting thing about the configuration of the defense thus far is the weakside end. I thought they'd shift Taco Charlton over there and go with a very large and very fierce unit; instead Charlton looks set to start on the strongside and Chase Winovich is a tentative leader on the weakside. Chris Wormley spent most snaps I saw from him at three-tech.
While there's a chance that Michigan reconfigures once Ryan Glasgow gets re-added to the mix, right now it looks like Michigan will have a line that looks a lot like a traditional 4-3 under line instead of the mondo unit they could have had. One man's current guess at what a depth chart looks like in fall:
- SDE: Charlton, Gary
- NT: Glasgow, Mone, Hurst
- 3T: Wormley, Godin
- WDE: Winovich, Marshall
If they can get production out of Winovich that's an incredibly deep, veteran, and proven defensive line. If Winovich doesn't work out you can slide Charlton over and still have a great two-deep at the bigger spots, but this is Don Brown's first draft.
So… Winovich. After a rather wasted year spent at h-back he returned to defense, now bulked up to 245 pounds. That's light, but if he can get up to 250 or 255 by fall—reasonable—it's not eye-poppingly so. And WDE does fit his talents. As a recruit he was reputed to be Jake Ryan 2.0, and weakside end is a spot Ryan definitely could have played. Winovich has started gathering some hype himself:
Chase Winovich had himself a day at defensive end. We’d said all week that he was a bigger, stronger version of his former self. Grant Newsome definitely learned that Friday. Winovich won their one on one match-up, and was one of the best edge rushers on the day. On one play he literally flattened Newsome with a bull rush to get into the backfield.
Whether that's hooray Winovich or a collar pull about Newsome is in the eye of the beholder. On the downside from that report: on "more than one occasion" Winovich got edged and lost contain. (Yes, just like Jake Ryan.) He's going to have to cause a lot of havoc to make up for what projects to be a serious downgrade in run efficacy from the much larger and more experienced Charlton.
Meanwhile, apparently all that irrational Bryan Mone hype last year was shared by the coaching staff:
"He was one of our top players last year," Mone said. "We ranked the team going into training camp from one to 125 and Mone was three."
I have many questions about that assertion. They will never be answered.
Mone seems to have picked up where he left off before his injury, but to be honest I didn't see much from him in either practice I observed. I wasn't looking for him much since nose tackle is just about dead last on my list of concerns for 2016; even so last year you saw Maurice Hurst blow through an assortment of players, including Graham Glasgow, en route to spring hype and a very productive season. Mone didn't deliver that when in front of fans. He did draw a tough matchup against Mason Cole, to be fair. I'm still waiting for him to indicate that he's going to be better than Glasgow was a year ago.
That said, Mone was very impressive in Florida:
He was rarely blocked one-on-one, and managed to still be effective against the double team. Twice in the early portion of 11-on-11 action he engaged Ben Braden, tossed the 322 lb. offensive lineman to the side with relative ease, and then got in on the play in the backfield. On another play he split Braden and Mason Cole with great off-snap quickness and nailed Ty Isaac in the backfield.
I'd have liked to see that myself; it's good that someone did.
Godin's playing time might get squeezed [Upchurch]
Chris Wormley is still Chris Wormley. He'll probably be incrementally stronger and better and this will be a very good thing indeed. Matt Godin had an impressive spring game, blowing through a number of second-string OL. I thought he'd be a better fit at SDE, where he was on relatively level footing with Wormley early last season, than three-tech but Michigan looks set to play him on the interior. That might make it tough for him to get a lot of time—he is not likely to pass any of the other four DTs. The current Taco/Winovich DE setup steps on his toes more than anyone else.
Carlo Kemp and Reuben Jones played a lot as DEs on the white team and mostly got beat up. That's not a huge surprise since Kemp is a freshman and Jones is still listed at 222 pounds on the (possibly outdated) roster. I wouldn't expect either to break through this year.
McCray is a thumper [Upchurch]
Mike McCray is obviously the story of the spring here, and it was appropriate that he was one of the main reasons his team stuffed Henry Poggi on the goal line to end the Spring Game. McCray brings a load. At Ford Field he hammered a number of lead blocks like James Ross playing a Penn State OL. He is a tough customer.
What remains to be seen is whether he's a two-down backer or if he's fast enough to be an asset in coverage. Noises coming out of practice are positive. Per Lorenz Michigan is "quietly excited and optimistic"; Webb observed him have a lights out practice down in Florida:
Early in 11-on-11 action he met Ty Isaac in the hole and brought him down for no gain. A few plays later he showed nice feel in coverage and would have de-cleated Jack Wangler on a crossing pattern. His best play came later on in the practice when he timed a blitz perfectly and tagged Kareem Walker in the backfield.
While McCray ended up chasing a lot of completed mesh routes in the spring game I wouldn't read too much into that: mesh is designed to hang up man-to-man defenders trying to cover those drag routes. It did so with McCray. I'm assuming Michigan has better answers for mesh that they declined to show the public.
McCray did get juked by O'Korn on the final touchdown, but he was in a ton of space and did force the play back to his help. That help did not arrive in time. Ideally you get an open-field tackle like those Delano Hill turned in a couple times last year, but failing that McCray at least mitigated damage insofar as that was possible.
Ben Gedeon remains just as much of a default starter as he was before the spring. Harbaugh is saying all the right things about him, calling him a "stud" amongst other praise. When you've got a guy who hasn't quite established himself but will start because there are no other options save freshmen your floor can be very low—Johnny Sears is the canonical example. There was never going to be a way for Gedeon to disprove that this spring.
At least we have seen enough of Gedeon to estimate that he'll be all right—he was more or less a starter for a game in the middle of the season when Michigan was suffering through their ridiculous targeting call period, and he did fine. As long as he doesn't run upfield of blocks I'm good.
McCray's emergence allows the Devin Bush Jr project to have a more reasonable timeframe. Going into spring everyone was assuming he'd end up starting out of necessity; exiting it he's probably in the same position Gedeon was last year: a rotation player who spots both starters. That's still not ideal, but neither is it starting a freshman. Bush didn't generate a ton of buzz other than the occasional mention of a big hit and he didn't leap out at me. He was of course victimized by Ty Wheatley on that one play, but when you force a one-handed attempt to catch a pass you've done your job.
Noah Furbush did not play in the spring game, which is unfortunate since he came in for a reasonable amount of hype himself as Jabrill Peppers's main competition at SAM. Sam related that Harbaugh "loves" Furbush's attitude and general guy-ness, and he did have a number of impressive special teams plays a year ago. Obviously Furbush and Peppers are not particularly similar players—Furbush coming into his own would allow Michigan to move Peppers around.
Jared Wangler was out with a meniscus injury.
Thomas is fast [Bryan Fuller]
Another reason I wouldn't read too much into the crossing routes that were wide open all day: somehow the top six defensive backs* all ended up on the white team, and after the opening series we saw little of Lewis and Stribling. Victims on the crossing routes were often walk-ons.
Most downfield passes were attempted against guys who don't project to see the field much this year. Ken Stross was this year's version of Norfleet: a converted WR who gets bombed all day.
There were a couple of plays of note for projected contributors, this one the most impressive:
Dymonte Thomas came from the dead center of the field to get over the top of a reasonably well-thrown ball near the back corner of the endzone. He took off as soon as Morris committed to one side of the field, which is encouraging.
Jarrod Wilson, blessed be his boring name, is not making that play. I can't imagine many people do. If Thomas can reliably execute his assignments he has the potential to be something Michigan hasn't seen since Marcus Ray**: a bonafide playmaking safety.
The other play of note was discussed yesterday when we talked about Drake Harris and can be seen briefly at the 52 second mark of the above highlights: Jeremy Clark with fantastic coverage on Harris. I don't doubt that Channing Stribling's had an impressive spring, especially since he got the sure-starter yoink on Friday and this vote of confidence from Harbaugh…
“Channing Stribling. He’s a starter. It’s cold. It’s in stone.:"
…but at Ford Field and the Spring Game it's been Jeremy Clark who looks like the guy.
Per Webb, down in Florida it was the other way, with Stribling on fire:
Channing Stribling was given the game ball by Jim Harbaugh after practice #4 and with good reason. … His route recognition led to numerous plays including two interceptions. His first pick came while covering Drake Harris and seemed to run the pattern better than his offensive counterpart before jumping it and intercepting the ball. He nearly picked off another pass… a deep out to Harris… where he also seem to run that route better than Harris also before knocking it away. His second interception occurred when the Sean McKeon beat Noah Furbush down the seam and Stribling slid over the top to help, skied for the ball, and picked it off.
I expect that competition to be hot and heavy this fall. TBH I'd be perfectly happy with another year just like the one Clark turned in, minus some of the absurdly bad luck he suffered. For Stribling to surge past is a potentially excellent sign.
Kinnel is hugely important for 2017 [Upchurch]
Tyree Kinnel was the other name of note. He turned in a pick-six at Ford Field and looked very comfortable in a box safety role in the spring game. Despite that, Harbaugh made it clear that the two starters have "nobody really pushing them right now."
*[minus Peppers, if he's more of a linebacker.]
**[Ernest Shazor's candidacy here was rejected since he made as many plays for the opposition as his own team. ]
Michigan didn't run any full-go, but there was the occasional thing of note:
- At Ford Field it looked like Michigan was trying to find folks other than Peppers to take kickoffs back. They can get similar production from some of their other fast guys and lighten the load on their two-way star.
- They did practice both NFL and spread punting; in the game they went entirely spread.
- Kenny Allen had a booming conventional punt. This does not surprise since he's been blasting them in practice for years. It is unlikely he has the precision that Blake O'Neill did but if Michigan needs to send it 60 yards he's more than capable.
- Andrew David has been tasked with rugby punting. He had a pooch punt that was relatively effective.
- Can't judge return units since nothing was full contact.
- Chris Partridge appears to be the main guy on special teams, with little help from other people, at least on the practice field.
- David was shaky on field goals.
I expect Allen to take the large bulk of the kicking jobs. Surprise!
Los Lunas (NM) running back O'Maury Samuels became the third commitment of a busy Spring Game weekend when he announced his pledge Sunday night. Michigan was the first major program to offer Samuels, whose stock rose quickly after an outstanding performance at the Dallas Opening regional in March. His visit sealed the deal:
“Man, it was fantastic,” Samuels told The Michigan Insider. “I loved the atmosphere. I loved the people around there. I loved the area. Their facilities were just great. I got to communicate with some of the players. They were nice. They told me how (things are) run things there at Michigan. I really like it out there. I got to talk to Coach Harbaugh and Coach Wheatley. We talked about how I could be their All-Purpose back for the 2017 class. They said they need one. “
“So I was like, hey, they need me. Why not?”
“They’re going to have a scat back, and all-purpose back, and a power back.”
Samuels is Michigan's 11th commit in the 2017 class and the third at running back, joining four-star AJ Dillon and three-star Kurt Taylor.
|4*, #23 RB||4* RB||NR RB||
3*, 89, #25 RB,
4*, #21 RB,
While they didn't hand out the same star rating, Scout and 247 both have Samuels in the same range in the positional and overall rankings—based on position rankings, Samuels sits just outside the Scout 300. ESPN hasn't ranked him at all. Rivals threw out a cursory post-commitment four-star rating but hasn't given him a position ranking yet; only 16 RBs in the 2017 class are ranked as four-star prospects or better on Rivals.
Samuels is listed in the 5'10", 190-pound rangs by three of the four sites; 247 gives him an extra inch. He's not a big RB; he's still got plenty of size for the position.
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Three-star Berrien Springs (MI) DT/OG Phil Paea was the second of Michigan's three weekend commitments. A cousin of Bryan Mone, Paea holds an impressive offer sheet that includes the likes of Notre Dame, Oregon, and USC; it can be expected he'll move up from his current standing at the composite #13 player in Michigan.
Paea built an excellent rapport with Greg Mattison and director of player personnel Tony Tuioti. His comfort with the players and staff led to his commitment:
“Definitely it was the relationships around (Michigan),” Paea explained.” “It really means a lot. That was a big part of recruiting for me… the relationships with the coaches and players. The coaches, man… they’re great people. I would love to play for Greg Mattison. That’s what I want to do. Every time see him up here, every time I left… I just couldn’t pass it up again.”
Michigan State, Notre Dame—located a half hour away from Berrien Springs—and Oregon all stood out at various points in Paea's recruitment. Michigan overcame that with a couple of visits in quick succession. Before his commitment he had an unofficial visit scheduled to Oregon in a couple weeks; he told 247's Steve Wiltfong he's shutting down his recruitment and won't be visiting other schools.
“Now I can focus on school,” he said. “Get ready to play ball senior year and make sure it’s the best year I ever had and then get ready to be a Wolverine. I’m thinking about doing early enrollment to get to know the playbook and get settled in.”
Paea was the tenth commit in the 2017 class—four-star RB O'Maury Samuels since became the 11th—and he's the first defensive lineman.
|3*, #26 DT||3*, #13 OG||NR DT||
3*, 89, #25 DT,
3*, #32 DT,
Paea is ranked as a three-star to every site that's scouted him and he's close to four-star status—Rivals and Scout each have him one position rank away; 247 has him within four. Given his offers and his junior tape, he's a good bet to move up.
Paea has great size. He's listed at 6'4" (6'3" on Rivals) and 270-285 pounds. While Michigan is primarily looking at him as a defensive tackle, he could easily end up on the offensive line at guard or center:
“They’re looking at me on both sides of the ball, but I’m probably going to end up playing defensive tackle over there,” he said. “I’m a motor guy. Definitely I’m not going to take off any plays. I challenge myself and my opponents on every down.”
About that OL possibility: a current ACC head coach told Wiltfong he thinks Paea is a future NFL center.
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