"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
rumormongering is what the internets are for
Word has reached the mgobatcave that freshman running back Mike Cox is currently scouting destinations back east in anticipation of a transfer. If he gets registered and such for the fall semester, he can spend this year as his mandatory redshirt and be eligible next fall; if he goes through with it we’ll know soon.
Cox probably saw the writing on the wall with Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw already seeing time and three running back recruits—all of whom are decidedly small shifty types, not thumpers like Cox—in the 2009 class.
The moral, as always: don’t recruiting running backs with funny names.
BONUS SECRET INSIDER INFOS! The band is going to play “Hangin’ Tough” this weekend. NKOTB 4EVA.
Carlos Brown pitching the ball; via the Daily.
There was another open-ish practice yesterday. It was significant for two events. Event #1 was Mike Shaw smoking guys. Jim Carty:
The freshman from Ohio sprinted past the first defensive player, then cut back around the second. If that had been all he did, it would have still been an impressive display of speed and shiftiness, but highly touted freshman corner Boubacar Cissoko was still between Shaw and the end of the cone.
Shaw hinted at a move and then simply squared up and pancaked Cissoko. Rolled right over him. With authority.
"Ohhhhhhh!" went the team.
"Wow," whispered a reporter.
Shaw and McGuffie were specifically called out as freshmen who will be contributors this fall:
"(They) are two guys who will not be redshirted," Rodriguez said Tuesday. "The biggest (issue) as freshmen coming in is, can they mentally handle the schemes and the pace? Those two have shown they can so far. They've done enough to convince us they can contribute as freshmen, and I think as much mentally as physically.
"They're both fast, explosive players that I think are good with the spread system, so we're excited about it. As much as anything, I like the way they practice. Coming here in the summer helped. They're practicing like they've been here longer than a couple weeks."
Elsewhere in the youth movement on offense: Odoms and Robinson are obviously taking hold of the slot position. Toney Clemons, the nominal spring starter at the position, is now moving between the slot and outside receiver. Kevin Koger got special mention when tight ends were discussed; sounds like that DE move is off the table; Barnum and Khoury mentioned in a question about which true freshmen OL have a shot to play. No O'Neill, about which more later
Event #2 was a seismic shift in the quarterbacks competition. You can read this on any of the premium sites or in the Carty article, and I believe it to be true: Nick Sheridan, not Steven Threet, is your probable starter. The media got to see Sheridan significantly outperform Threet yesterday in the 30 minutes they were allotted. I have some inside baseball on this one suggesting that this is no smokescreen or motivational ploy and that Sheridan is currently the legitimate favorite to start against Utah. Hide the children.
This may not be hugely important. No matter who starts chances are he struggles at some point and the other guy gets a chance to prove himself. But the assumption that it was Threet with Nick Sheridan an emergency option is right out. According to Rodriguez, Feagin...
Justin has been okay. He was a little hampered the last couple days with a sore shoulder. This morning he looked a little bit better, but he has got a long way to go, more mentally than anything else, because there is so much for him to learn.
...does not seem a viable option yet.
Inside bits! A previously-reliable emailer provides practice insights from someone with an opportunity to take in an entire practice session:
- Practice is extremely intense and the tempo is high. This would normally be blah blah blah but this individual has seen a lot of different colleges practice; this is a notable difference between Michigan and the typical program. Coaches were a little too intense, maybe, choosing to yell at guys instead of showing them how they screwed up. Notable exception: DC Scott Shafer, who was a technique hound instructing everyone on the defense.
- The offensive line, as expected, looks rough. O'Neill has a great frame and upside but is not ready to play this year.
- Confirmation that the young tailbacks looked excellent; Shaw "one of the fastest players I've ever seen in college."
- Thumbs up to Cissoko.
- Regarding EEEE Barwis: it's not so much that Barwis is a god who raises wolves and all that, but that Michigan's previous regime was hopelessly out of date. Of all the football factory schools, Michigan had a reputation around the NFL for having the least prepared, least conditioned athletes. [I find this a little hard to believe given all the guys who leap directly into NFL starting roles, but this guy's assessment comes from a place of great credibility. It does seem clear that some guys had ample motivation and training (Edwards, Hart), but others (Watson) were just this side of "blogger." -ed]
- Trent is "way ahead" of where he was last year at this time and is the best NFL prospect on the defense. (Of players eligible for the next draft, so it's basically just him and the DL. I don't know if that's good. Next bullet.)
- The defensive line plays too "stiff" -- not exactly sure what the upshot of this is -- and was not as impressive as Michigan fans might hope.
- Not shocking: things are "ridiculously open" compared to the Carr regime.
Let's see Weis try this. Entertaining tidbit from Mark Snyder:
[Rodriguez was] standing over kicker K.C. Lopata as well, trying to rattle him on each successive kick, wagering something out of our earshot. Yet it became abundantly clear when the kicking drill was done and Rodriguez himself hit the deck and cranked out a bunch of pushups in the middle of the field. Rodriguez's energy with the players was clear and they all seemed to be engaged by his interaction.
And finally we can say what we've been waiting to say. The uniforms are official, the pads are on, and there's no quarter left for Michigan football fans:
The away jerseys suck.
The latest and greatest. Mysterious Michigan insider-guy Maizeman has been offering inside bits on Michigan practices since the internet's paleolithic era, mostly over email to a select group of Chosen Ones. Now he's doing it on Go Blue Michigan Wolverine, a blog open to the public. He must not fear silent ninja reprisals from Rodriguez like he did from Carr.
I have no way to check the veracity of these things and no idea who this guy is or how he survived the regime change with super-powerful insider mojo intact, but at the very least his posts are interesting. They may even be accurate. Some snippets follow; there's a lot of [sic] in here, just deal. Post the first:
Dorrestein vs. O'Neill:
Who would be first Offensive Tackle in game in case of injury? As of now Dorrenstein. O'Neill will put increased pressure on him as camp continues. O'Neill is simply a better athlete and could possibly play both Offensive Tackle spots although both Dorrestein and O'Neill seem better suited for Right Tackle. In Coach Rod's system, the only Offensive Line position that seems to have its special needs is Left Tackle and that makes Ortmann a very important player to stay healthy.
Sagesse and Kates:
Have been getting snaps at Defensive Tackle sometimes with second group and sometimes Sagesse is with third group. Both seem to be in good shape and are going multiple snaps when they are in the scrimmage. Martin has been with third group and has had some good battles with Khoury and Barnum.
And on the QBs:
Another problem that I saw in spring and continues in fall is Michigan's new version of the "check down" pass. What they do is take one of the slots and he will run a flare toward the sideline (which means does not take steps down the field, but "drifts" to the sidelines. When Quarterbacks feel pressure they are told to get rid of the ball which more times than not is just throwing a short pass to the slot who has run the flare toward the sideline.
This is why Coach Rod is recruiting those elusive slot type players because they will be asked to get about five-six yards out of virtually nothing. So far, our Quarterbacks are throwing this pass excessively often and think it is due to lack of confidence.
At least the checkdown route is no longer a drag that takes six seconds to open up. There's considerably more on GBMW; click through if you're tantalized.
Tacopants explained. Dr. Z gets to the bottom of Chad Henne's occasional passes to Jason Avant's eleven-foot-tall imaginary friend:
The third observation, who might be No. 1 by the end of the season, is second-round draft pick Chad Henne, a big arm from Michigan. Sometimes the ball flies on him, and I asked Dolphins' offensive coordinator Dan Henning to please give me a technical critique of the flight of his passes. I can ask the 66-year old Henning questions like that because ... listen to how far back we go. About a century ago I selected him as my All-Met High School quarterback for St. Francis Prep in Brooklyn.
"When he's wild, he's either wild high left or wild low right," Henning said. Noticing my idiot look, he elaborated. "You're serving in tennis. Serving to the ad court, you'll probably be wide low right, and in the deuce court, wild high left, so what we're trying to get him to do is open his body, pretending he's in the deuce court, to get the ball on target." I got so excited with this analogy I tried it myself and served an ashtray through a pane of glass, but the point is young Henne has one of the great quarterback technicians in the game to work with him.
I think my problem in Chicago was that I never selected anyone for a high school all star team in 1945.
Just because he's skinny does not mean he can't play DE. I can't remember where the first couple instances of the idea that Michigan played a 3-4 last year came from, but the disease has now struck a third person and can be officially denoted a trend:
Ezeh is the Wolverines' top returning tackler and the team's only starting linebacker retained from last season. He had 68 tackles from his spot at inside linebacker in UM's 3-4 defense and contributed four tackles for loss, two sacks, and an interception.
This is followed by a note that Michigan is "now" running a 4-3.
Wherever this idea originated, it's wrong. The only time last year Michigan had a fourth linebacker on the field it was in certain short-yardage situations and walk-on Max Pollock was the extra strongside linebacker. This was very rare. The confusion probably stems from the frequent deployment of nominal linebacker Shawn Crable as a defensive end, but this only happened against spread teams and on passing downs in Michigan's nickel package. And even if you want to claim that as some weird variety of the 3-4, Crable was usually playing with his hand down as a member of a four-man line. Michigan would line up in a 3-3-5 from time to time, but this was an exotic and not a base defense.
Wheeeee! High amongst the quotes that make Michigan fans want to punch a wall is "Michigan is straightforward" or "has no surprises" or "just lines up and runs directly at you again and again and it makes me, a USC Trojan, so bored after we crush them into dust." This era has apparently ended:
"Especially with the speed of the game and special formations," said Minor, a front-runner along with Carlos Brown to replace Mike Hart at tailback. "Last year, it was basically almost the same one formation, the I-set form. Now, there's no telling where we'll line up. We can do so much, and it's real good. I love it, because the defense doesn't know what to expect."
Just watching 30 minutes of practice Monday made it easy to see exactly what he was talking about. The Michigan offense never seemed to show the same formation on back-to-back plays.There were two tailbacks in the backfield, an empty backfield, wide receivers motioning into an empty backfield to become tailbacks, slotbacks turning into quarterbacks, quarterbacks turning into wide receivers, tight ends lining up in the slot and so forth.
There were more looks on display in 15 minutes than an entire season under the previous coaching regime.
Too bad the A11 is probably illegal.
Por ejemplo. Wild-something-or-other a la Darren McFadden is in the house:
Don't be surprised to see tailbacks Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown in the backfield at the same time.
"It's a lot," Minor said, when asked how often the two are lined up in the backfield.
I have no idea what's going to happen this fall, but I am sure that Rodriguez will throw the kitchen sink at opposing defenses.
Update 7/21: Linked to articles on MS S Dennis Thames, FL LB Brandin Hawthorne, MD RB Tavon Austin, GA LB Devekeyan Lattimore, TX S Rex Burkhead, NJ DE Anthony LaLota, various pieces on SC DE Chris Bonds. And more fun Newsome stuff, plus rumor-mongering of a bogus variety.
Re-added SC RB David Sims.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting Board lives here.
Everybody thought IN OL Zach Martin was going to visit Michigan, then decide, but instead he committed to Notre Dame. This has been an unfortunately common occurrence over the last few years. Geniunely Sarcastic has the details; suffice it to say the scoreboard since 2006 is ND 9, Michigan 1. This overstates things since it doesn't include the likes of Dann O'Neill or Ricky Barnum, who are widely regarded to be players at least equal to the ten players fought over here, but it's a concern.
GS goes for the soothing balm of Dan Mozes, the two-star West Virginia center who became a four-year starter, All-American, and Rimington winner. I'm more circumspect. All-Americans and Rimington Award winners are picked by the media, who know f-all about offensive linemen, and when you've got a four year starter on a team that runs for 300 yards a game he's going to get fawned over whether he deserves it or not. See: Matt Lentz, All Big Ten 2005. Mozes went undrafted by the NFL and was cut in training camp by the Vikings. In all probability he was massively overhyped.
What does suit as balm: Weis' remarkable ability to turn a line not far off Michigan's last year in terms of recruiting hype and returning experience into the worst unit in the country and possibly the worst unit of the decade.
Other stuff: NJ DE Anthony LaLota is listing a number of schools that are all excellent academically, including Michigan. However, he's visited five of his leaders and has a trip planned to a sixth (Penn State) this weekend. Michigan not so much:
"I haven't had a chance to visit Michigan yet and I don't know too much about the new coaches," he said. "I'm really looking forward to getting to know them better. I think they'll do great and I really expect them to have a great season."
If he visits, then we might have a shot; for now we're just hanging on.
MS S Dennis Thames, nephew of Detroit Tiger Marcus Thames, had a lot of positive things to say about Michigan after his visit...
"It was like a dream come true," Thames said of his time at Michigan. "Everything I'm looking for in a college, Michigan had it. Education-wise, everything up there is professional. They know what they're doing. If football doesn't work, they make sure you get your education."
Based on what Thames witnessed in the weight room, he believes the Wolverines know what they're doing when it comes to training, as well.
"Mike Barwis -- that's an awesome dude," he said about Michigan's new strength and conditioning coordinator. "I'd say about 25 pro football players were there. He was helping them work out. It was awesome. He took me through some drills showing me how they do it up there."
... but he's backed off the assertion he made whilst in the Tigers locker room that Michigan leads:
As for his college choice, Thames said, "I will say Michigan is in my top three with Mississippi State and Auburn."
Mississippi State, bizarrely as ever, remains the biggest threat.
FL LB Brandin Hawthorne has five finalists and plans on " committing" August 30th; Michigan is regarded the favorite. Cause of scare quotes:
ESPN 150 Watch Lister Brandin Hawthorne will choose between South Florida, West Virginia, Michigan, Tennessee and Louisville during an Aug. 30th game against Olive Branch (Miss.) to be televised on ESPN, affiliate Web site InsideTheU.com reports.
Hawthorne will then take official visits to all those schools except South Florida and will travel to Iowa State instead.
Last season, the 6-foot-1, 181-pounder racked up more than 80 tackles, 28 tackles for loss and nine sacks.
And by "commit" we mean "announces early leader." And by "five finalists" we mean "six finalists."
GA LB Devekeyan (or "Dede") Lattimore says Michigan is a slight leader:
"I love the tradition at Michigan and they have some good new coaches that are really going to be changing things up," he said. "I like coach Rich Rodriguez and it really impressed me that he was one of the few head coaches (and UCF) that offered me himself. That meant a lot."
Lattimore is a three star with one other big offer, that from Clemson.
And, finally, what would a recruiting post be without more discussion of VA QB Kevin Newsome's status? It would be shorter. Anyway, Josh Helmholdt put up an innocuous story on the Free Press site headlined something like "Michigan's quarterback issues are temporary" that one of the OMG HITS editors at the Free Press changed to "If Kevin Newsome bolts, Michigan has a contingency plan." This set off a completely predictable mini-sitewar between Scout and Rivals with Scout touting Sam Webb's recent conversation(?) with the Newsomes and claiming 1) Newsome was totally solid and 2) if Newsome did end up decommiting it was Helmholdt's fault for writing that article. Helmholdt, for his part, has been writing articles that can be retitled "If Kevin Newsome bolts..." and include references to Jason Forcier and Eugene Smith. Read between the lines.
My contribution: a man named "Crotch Bat." A reader sends along this thread from Something Awful's "Sports Argument Stadium" in which a VT fan/insider(?) says thusly:
What I'm hearing is that Kevin Newsome is all but gone from Michigan and that scenario will play out sooner rather than later. Look for VT and PSU to be in the thick of it for him.
Again, don't shoot the messenger but like I said, none of this stuff is going away and I hear new stuff more and more.
Reasons to give this more credence than you would to your average random internet rumor? Well, there is the claim of deep insider info and the generalized respect shown this guy, who's been posting at SA since 2003. The emailer comments:
I tend to believe him because in the few years I've been reading that forum, he has always been there and is consistently a knowledgeable, intelligent poster.
A reason to disregard: even if he's got the info he claims it's coming from the VT side of things and may be biased or just incorrect. Also: "Crotch Bat." Also also: there was another Rivals even this weekend that was attended by both Bryce McNeal and Newsome; McNeal, at least, didn't detect any floppiness. As always, I throw up my hands and say "hell if I know."
Etc.: TX S Rex Burkhead doesn't mention Michigan here; longshot.
Piled up. Kudos to the Daily's Dan Feldman, who ferreted out a ton of interesting factoids and quotes in his latest article. Remember the spread punt formation that cost Michigan the Iowa game and sent Jim Boccher into insurance or accounting or whatever? It's back:
The Wolverines will use a spread punt formation, and they will send six gunners as opposed to the two last year.
Redshirt junior Zoltan Mesko will roll out on some kicks, and said he will stretch the field as far as he needs to. And he will directional kick, which wasn't part of last year's punting plan but won't be a difficult adjustment.
"Point your body that way, and that's the way it's going," Mesko said. "It's not that difficult."
You know those rumors that Terrance Taylor wasn't buying into the system and had some issues with the coaches and conditioning? True, but maybe not a huge deal:
Taylor said his place on the depth chart was due to "clashing" between himself and the new coaches as they got used to each other's personalities.
"Situations happen, problems occur," Taylor said. "But as the (spring) season went on, things worked out. I'm going to go out there and play. No matter if I'm third, fourth, fifth team, I'm going to go out and play like I'm on the first team, so it wasn't a big deal."
You know those rumors that Darryl Stonum might not be happy? (I didn't, but a couple emailers indicate they've been scooting around message boards.) He seems to be settling in:
Sam McGuffie arrived at the airport during the clinic, and running backs coach Fred Jackson playfully scolded Stonum for signing autographs while stranding McGuffie.
Need Barwis porn?
Stonum was the only early enrollee this year. He said he arrived in Ann Arbor in January weighing about 170 pounds. He now weighs about 195 pounds and has gotten faster.
Need evidence that random middle-aged women ask way better questions than actual journalists?
When Rodriguez asked the participants in the Women's Football Academy if they had any questions, one woman asked which assistants would be on the field and which would be in the press box.
Rodriguez explained offensive coordinator Calvin Magee and quarterbacks coach Rod Smith would be upstairs so they could see the entire field.
Then he turned to Shafer to ask what his plans were. Because the staff had been so busy with recruiting and spring practice, they hadn't formalized that. Shafer said he and defensive line coach Bruce Tall would be in the press box. ...
"In my opinion, you can't see a thing on the sideline during the game," Shafer said. "Anybody that's watched a game on the sideline in between the 30-yard lines realizes that you don't know what just happened unless it's run right at your side."
Also, Terrance Robinson will get Henne's #7.
By this point I've excerpted almost half the article and seriously pushed the boundaries of fair use. There's more original information in this one article than the Free Press has published in the past week. Contrast their article on the women's football academy with the Daily's: you get all that relevant info in the Daily; in the Free Press you get to find out that Rod Smith compares passing to Tae Bo.
Dear Daily: a winner is you.
Speakin' of... did I freak you out about Stonum and then drop it? Sorry. I will attempt to repair the hurt. A reader forwarded along this message Stonum sent out to Myspace friends:
I got a comment today about me being unhappy at Michigan and wanting to possibly transfer. I just want to take the time to let everyone know it's all rumors. I'm very content with my situation in Ann Arbor and want to wait and see how things play out before I make that kind of decision. I hope all this gossip can stop so I can just go about my business and play football. I love the tradition and hope to live up to all of your expectations.
All due Myspace caution applies (though the Bryce McNeal stuff turned out to be basically correct, if premature); Stonum will be around in the fall but I think Rodriguez will have to pass a bit more to keep the receiving talent Michigan's collected happy.
I loathe MGoBlue's new picture gallery software, which doesn't allow you to save or even link to specific pictures, but there are some great ones in the academy gallery. #39 is a particular favorite.
Scoutin'. The hockey team recently acquired a recruited walk-on from the same school as 2009 D recruit Mac Bennett. Bob Miller took the opportunity to get a scouting report on one Luke Glendening from Bennett. Bennett's favorite thing about Glendening? He uses the point a ton in the offensive zone, naturally. Also:
He's in the gym day in a day out and you can tell that he wants to get better. He was told that he was going to be a "support" player, but with his work ethic and determination I wouldnt be surprised if he ended up being a fourth line player. He's definitely someone that you want on your team and someone you don't want to play against.
Meet the new JJ Swistak/Charlie Henderson/Danny Fardig?
Schedulin'. Michigan's just released the hockey schedule. Michigan State, Ohio State, and Miami are Michigan's clustermates, which should be fun. (In the CCHA, you play everyone twice and two extra games against three teams in your "cluster"; State is always in Michigan's cluster.)
- two home games against St. Lawrence
- A Thursday(!) home game against Niagara, followed immediately by
- a Saturday game at BU
- Minnesota and Wisconsin on the road, and
- the GLI.
Michigan's opening GLI opponent will be Tech; North Dakota is the guest this year. There are no games at the Palace or in Fort Wayne or anything.
Does it seem like the schedule is short a couple games? Michigan trips to Alaska this year. Those games are exempted by the NCAA and should allow Michigan another couple nonconference matchups.
Etc.: This has to be the most unlikely thing that's ever shown up on youtube: a six-minute Johnny Sears highlight reel. No... seriously. Elsewhere, Dave Barry scouts Chad Henne and Jake Long, and Rodriguez blah blah blah West Virginia blah blah.
sorry this is late, it had to be rebuilt after Firefox froze. I was asking for it though... something like 80 windows open.
If my feedreader is any indication, you're already stuffed with information about Michigan's spring practice and game. But I would be remiss if I didn't chip in with what I have.
First, something that purports to be the entirety of the spring game-like substance in four minutes and seventeen seconds:
Given other descriptions of the game I believe the above is missing a number of plays -- no dropped balls -- but it's still a quick primer on what went down.
You can get most of the same thing with better video quality and some guy who calls Troy Woolfolk "Woolfork" and Nick Sheridan "Andy Mignery"(!) twice(!!!), plus some interviews in the extended highlights provided on the Big Ten Network:
(What is with this "Woolfork" stuff, man? It's an error rampant on message boards and it even showed up in a Free Press article... three times! Who would make a fork out of wool? It would be floppy and when you got stuff on it, which you would constantly because that is the life purpose of a fork, you couldn't wash it because then you'd have mini-woolfork. And HIS DAD, who is also NOT NAMED "WOOLFORK," is ONE OF THE BEST RUNNING BACKS IN THE HISTORY OF THE PROGRAM. I think I NEED TO CALM DOWN ABOUT THIS.)
Holy crap that's a lot of ugly interceptions. The only other thing that pops out: Avery Horn is as fast as rumored. Oh, and Threet looks a little like Justin Timberlake.
Michigan Sports Center has collected the media available on the game, and MVictors has an extensive photo gallery.
H'okay. In marked contrast to years previous, information about Michigan's spring practices is flying around, giving us a new problem: instead of one secretive and possibly sketchy source, Michigan fans are confronted with a wide array of often conflicting information.
Let's try to sort it out. In addition to the material published in the paper and online I'll intersperse some impressions from emailers; the largest bulk comes from Craig Ross, a dedicated observer of the program and author who's been to a lot of spring practices.
Quarterback. Rodriguez said Sheridan and Threet were both equal on Saturday but Threet had pulled ahead in the practices leading up to the game. In all likelihood, he is your Utah starter. Ross:
Threet was a bit better than Sheridan. But, man, this looks like a sore spot. Teams are just going to sit on the run and underneath stuff and ignore us deep. But, it was wet and cold. The ball was probably hard to throw. Antonio Bass would have been perfect in this offense. What a heartbreak for another truly kind and thoughtful person. [My guess is Carlos Brown will get some reps in the fall, unless Feagin can pick the offense up quickly and is better than most think.]
In the video above you can see the long bomb completed to Mathews was underthrown by about 20 yards. Chad Henne's deep ball will be missed. Oh, and his tendency to not throw six interceptions.
Fellow attendee Stephen Raines:
Threet looked really weak. Although, he showed good decision making at times, his passes were not pretty and often into tight coverage. Sheridan actually looked decent, at times, at others you could really see how his height will get in the way of him ever being a starter, but he had some good throws. Where he was a better runner than Threet, this benefit goes out the window when we tried to run the option and he completely missed the pitch.
The attempted options in the spring game were few, far between, and ugly as sin. As previously theorized, it's going to be confusing and ugly early. I expect at least three players (Threet, Feagin, and one or both of Brown/Minor) to take snaps at QB, though one or two of those players will be operating as an Incredibly Surprising Running Quarterback in the vein of Darren McFadden. Hopefully very much in the vein of Darren McFadden.
If David Cone strides onto any field of play when a game is remotely close, cower. (Ross repeatedly mentions he's a fantastic kid, though.)
Running back. This is one spot that will likely find a strong starter simply because Michigan has too many bullets in the chamber to miss with all of them. Mike Barwis ate Carlos Brown's finger, causing him to miss much of the spring as Barwis grows him a new one; Kevin Grady had a lingering knee injury of some variety that held him out. Grady did come back midway through spring practice, but most of the reps went to Horn and Minor.
Avery Horn was not mentioned in AA News today (at least I didn't see anything) but he has big play potential. The rumor is that he has had trouble learning the offense (moving to slot?) but he has remarkable speed. I thought Minor and Grady played hard and pretty well.
You can see Horn's lightning quicks in the video above. There are two sweep handoffs that together tell a story: on the first, Minor pops outside the defensive and and gets decent yardage but can't get the corner. On the second, Horn does the exact same thing, bursts to the outside, and ends up grabbing a big chunk of yards.
Still, it's Minor gathering praise for his work ethic and leadership and Horn who is still reputed to be having difficulties with all the things he has to do in the offense. And then there's Grady, who had one impressive run during the scrimmage and was the subject of Brandon Graham's violent attentions. Ever spring we hear he's driving bowling-ball shaped holes through defenders and rescuing the princess with dashing derring-do, then in fall we either get unimpressive performance or exploded ligaments.
Minor is your tentative front-runner now, but as many as six players (the four on campus now plus Mike Shaw and Sam McGuffie) will vie for carries in the fall.
Wide Receiver and Tight End. This position group was extremely thin due to NFL draft entry and Junior Hemingway's high ankle sprain. Greg Mathews, Toney Clemons, Zion Babb, and James Rogers were the only scholarship players available, and the latter two were DBs for part or all of last year.
Some positive indicators from Raines:
A plus here, M
athews showed that he can catch the ball, even on a bad pass. And because he was covered by Trent, this impressed me. Clemons looked pretty solid too. He had a couple quick slant passes that showed he can catch it in the middle.
Mathews will be reliable but not game breaking. Ross sounds an alarm about the general lack of speed in the unit:
But mostly we went with one tight end. Sometimes two. Rarely 4 wideouts. The fact is we have tight ends but not much in the way of slot receivers. ... Over the coming years, I would expect to see less and less of the tight end. The theoretical key to RR's spread is 4 wide----and my guess is he wants to get there. But not this year. I think we will see a lot of 11 packages [1 TE, 1 RB -ed] in the fall. Recruiting might look to TEs who can also play OT, as opposed to TEs who might be used as WRs---our current batch.
RR seemed pleased about the team understanding of his offense. From an intellectual point of view, the team is well ahead of where he guessed it would be at this time. The problem is (according to RR) "we are too slow." I think this references (primarily) the slot receiver position (and QB, of course). This will change with the 4 guys coming in---I know Odoms and TR and McGuffie ain't slow.
This is how bad it is: Jim Potempa, the little guy you might remember from the end of the Notre Dame and Purdue games, has been pressed into service as the wacky slot guy. The starting wacky slot guy. Terrance Robinson and Martavious Odoms are going to get all the snaps in the slot from day one.
Offensive Line. Justin Boren is a communist. Past that, the threat level here is pink or orange or whatever is equivalent to "the nukes are on their way." Virtually every observer has called the offensive line a Sauer -- zing -- this spring, and when Rodriguez made the quarterbacks live for a brief period Threet was immediately knocked out with a minor injury.
It looks like the first group right now is Moosman, Schilling, Ortmann, MacAvoy and Zirbel. My guess is Molk may still sneak in. But, for the moment, the first five seem like the leading candidates.
They weren't awful. At this time of year, that might be OK. I have seen some good lines look awful in the spring. On the other hand, they weren't very good---at least w/o looking at the tape.
I think this group would mean a move inside for Schilling, as Ortmann and Zirbel have always been tackles. Moosman and Schilling won awards are thus good bets to start. Ortmann basically has to be the left tackle unless Dann O'Neill is just awesome. MacAvoy and Zirbel should be considered provisional with David Molk and the true freshman threats to take their jobs. (Dey tik er jebs!)
I dunno. It's gonna be rough.
Defensive Line. Michigan's hopes for a good season rest on this unit being frickin' awesome. So... hope that Terrance Taylor's apparent demotion to second string is successful motivational ploy and not an indication that he's not taking to the Way of Barwis. I kinda think he might be, though:
Will Johnson won kind of a weird award for a fifth-year senior and returning starter to pick up:
Fifth-year senior Will Johnson (Oakland, Mich./Lake Orion HS) received the Meyer Morton Award, granted to the senior football player that experienced the greatest development and showed the most promise during spring practice.
Johnson was excellent in spot duty as a sophomore but only okay last year. He was pretty highly touted as a recruit before an ACL tear cost him his senior year, so he could have some upside left. He's always been renowned as one of the hardest workers on the team... hopefully he can make a big leap.
Meanwhile at defensive end, Jamison and Graham are both reputed to have lost 15 or 20 pounds during their period of Barwisization. Rodriguez has apparently gotten a little ticked at defensive coordinator Scott Schafer for unleashing the DEs a little too frequently and violently. There's certainly the potential for these guys to blow up. Jamison has alternated explosive plays with wheezing and Graham was clearly a physical marvel on par with Woodley but lost his conditioning late in the year, most prominently when Michigan State plowed him over again and again in the second half. Both of these players were top-50 recruits.
Behind them there's very little. Ryan Van Bergen did get an award of his own:
Freshman defensive end Ryan Van Bergen (Whitehall, Mich./Whitehall HS) led all newcomers, earning the John F. Maulbetsch Award. This honor is given to a distinguished freshman athlete on the basis of desire, character, capacity for leadership and potential for future success.
Michigan really needs him to work out given the way defensive end recruiting has gone the last couple years.
Linebackers. Obi Ezeh is penciled in as a starter somewhere, which is unsurprising. The surprising thing is the emergence of senior JUCO transfer Austin Panter. Ross on an earlier practice:
The LBs looked good, notably Panter (!!!!) who seemed to be running with Thompson with the top DL group.
Insert default moaning about blown redshirts here. IIRC, Panter was an MLB/SLB type, which would mean he's battling Thompson for one of the two big beefy guy slots.
On the weakside, I guess Brandon Logan is still technically a threat but it's Jonas Mouton and whichever freshman impresses the most. There were a few rumblings that Mouton looked pretty good but after last year, when he could not see a snap playing behind a poor Chris Graham, this blog is spooked about his ability.
Secondary. Except for the nasty rumors flying around that Donovan Warren might transfer, cornerback is set with three returning starters. As for the rumors: they're widespread enough that I give them credence but I think they're unlikely to come to fruition. If he was going to go he probably would have already announced it a la Boren. And if they were serious he probably would have missed some time in the spring a la Carlos Brown last year. Knock on wood.
The questions, then, are at safety, where both starters graduated. Stevie Brown was a special teams standout and practice hero as a freshman. He was given the starting spot for The Horror... and immediately gave up a long touchdown and entered the Hall of Infamous Michigan Athletes. Not bad for a first start. Brandent Englemon replaced him before halftime.
Yeah, now he's basically guaranteed a starting job. Ross says he looked "pretty good," and there is the potential that Michigan Safety Hating God has moved on to other pastures with the departure of Carr and his staff. I, and probably all of you, will be nervous until his play dictates otherwise.
The other spot is probably going to go to Charles Stewart, but sophomore Artis Chambers and redshirt freshman Mike Williams also played well. Ross says Williams was noticeable during the spring game and Chambers had the wherewithal to catch wounded ducks thrown directly to him, which will b
e a critical skill for the Notre Dame game (zing!).