someday I hope to be as happy as Robert Landers (far left) [Fuller]
Ohio State’s punt coverage team is pretty good. Drue Chrisman, Ohio State’s punter, is really good. As a unit, they’ve allowed four returned punts for a total of 55 yards this season. Forty-two of those yards came on this play.
[After THE JUMP: more on both returners, parsing the punting, appreciating James Foug]
[Ed. A- I was too sick to make the trip in yesterday, but thanks to 247’s Isaiah Hole I had video from which to transcribe.]
“I thought after the first big run that he has we did a decent job of containing there. They hit some big plays. Quarterback’s phenomenal. Hit some big plays on us in the pass game and kind of flustered us a little bit and then we couldn’t get re-settled down in terms of that. I don’t think we paid too much attention, though.”
What happened to Quinn on the missed extra point? Crowd was booing him pretty heavily but did that affect him?
“No, I mean, that’s unacceptable. That can’t happen. He knows that. He just let his emotions get carried away and kind of kicked the ground a little bit and pushed it and that’s got to be fixed immediately from a mental standpoint. Can’t have that ever happen again.”
Ambry [Thomas] seems to really be progressing in kick return. Talk about what you’ve seen from him.
“He’s explosive, fearless. He’s what you want back there. It’s a really good combination we have now. We got Ben Mason, Brad Hawkins, Ambry, three true freshmen working together, getting to know each other, feeling each other out, because all three of those guys could get the ball and two of them have to be a blocker on every kick. Really, really happy with that unit’s progression and how those guys are really coming together and feeling each other out and stuff like that. Really happy with that group.”
[After THE JUMP: Rashan don’t read this, he wants you to keep the chip on your shoulder]
Jim said the Lavert [Hill] pick was not a penalty. What did you see on that play?
“Yeah, I was astonished. I actually asked the official at halftime, I said, ‘What happened? What’d he do?’ He said he tugged on his top shoulder and that’s what made him able to slingshot in front of him. You look at the film and you don’t see that, you just see a kid making a hell of a play, so I was surprised.”
Tyree [Kinnel] said he sees a little Jourdan [Lewis] in him. Do you see that?
“Yeah, you know what, I can see it. I can see what Tyree’s saying, and Lavert is starting to come out of his shell a little bit and you can see his fieriness, his competitiveness more in practice as the year goes, so absolutely.”
Have you been pretty happy with David Long’s progression at the other spot?
“David has progressed well. B-Wat has progressed well. Yes, happy. We still need to progress, absolutely.”
We’re starting to see a little bit of Ambry Thomas in pivotal game moments. What has he been able to do?
“Ambry’s come along. He had to go in there because David got dinged up a little bit or a little dizzy, but Ambry’s coming and so is Benjamin St. Juste. Both those guys are working extremely hard. I would say if they keep up this pace, in a couple weeks I wouldn’t be afraid to put them in more than what they’re seeing now.”
[After THE JUMP: the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau is gonna love this]
This spot has gotten steadily wobblier as the offseason has worn on. Talk of an open competition went from fanciful to deadly serious. Coaches made grumbling noises about player availability. One of Michigan's only experienced wide receivers was added to the mix after spring practice. The ideal scenario where Long and Hill are second year players just like sophomore Jourdan Lewis seems unlikely at the moment.
Things probably shouldn't be bad. If you're not a little nervous you're braver than this preview. There is a distinct whiff of job-by-default here. If the two highly-touted second-year players aren't up to it the alternatives are either true freshmen, a couple of modest recruits with little on-field track record, and a guy who flipped from WR in spring.
But it'll probably be fine? Maybe?
The #1 spot here was an open question even after the insiders had several cracks at making projections. Then Mike Zordich evacuated LAVERT HILL [recruiting profile]prior to the Dresden portion of his recent press conference. Nobody can accuse Zordich of being a coachspeak robot after this:
How are those young corners coming along?
“Not fast enough.” [/laughs] “Not fast enough. They show flashes. I’ll say this: Lavert has, since his injury, he’s been pretty consistent and you can see him increasing every day and getting better. ...
So Lavert’s responded to whatever challenge you—
“He has. He absolutely has. He came back. He didn’t practice much in the spring. We were very disappointed about that and we expressed that with him. This summer he really worked hard, then unfortunately he gets injured. But he came back and just picked up and the arrow’s going up. The arrow’s going up. Can’t say that about the rest of the guys.”
In a way this might be good news? Seriously? Zordich clearly wasn't around to spare anyone's feelings and he was fairly enthusiastic about Hill, who entered as a massive wildcard. If he's putting it together enough to spare himself from a coach on the warpath... I might take that and run. One wonky spot is easier to fill if you have a bonafide War Daddy who can man up an X receiver aligned away from trips.
Hill can be that guy. He is a high ceiling, low floor gentleman. During high school he was either in Lewis-level coverage or watching a long touchdown from the next county. Current Belleville head coach Jermaine Crowell, who was at one time the position coach for both Hill and Lewis, laid it down:
“Vert is more athletic than JD [ed: Lewis's nickname]. He’s faster than JD ... His vertical is better. But JD has always had that edge, he doesn’t care who you are, he’s coming at you. JD will line up against a seventh grader and treat him like he’s the best receiver in college.
“Lavert might not necessarily do that. He rises to the challenge. He wants to go against the best of the best to prove himself. You have to be more consistent. Once his consistency gets there he’s going to be unreal.”
That take has been spot on so far, with Hill reports alternating between marvels at his "hip pocket coverage" and worries about his compete level. Webb cited an anonymous rival coach comparing Hill to Ambry Thomas:
"If Vert had Ambry's intensity he'd be the #1 corner in the country. Hands down."
Elsewhere in that post is an assertion from another Detroit-area high school coach that Hill, not Lewis, not Thomas, not Desmond King, is the "most talented corner in recent memory to come out of the city." Janus looks both ways. The duality of man, man.
In limited time last year (about 60 snaps) Hill came out at essentially zero to PFF; he was not frequently mentioned in UFR. He did have a couple moments where the incessant Lewis comparisons seemed pretty on point:
He had a couple of similar plays in garbage time; in the bowl game he was in good position and got hit with a dubious PI flag after mutual handfighting between DB and WR:
This is largely encouraging. When Hill was targeted he was in a good spot and able to make a play on the ball. Pass interference savvy can be developed. Being close enough to need it is a good start.
But inconsistency has continued to dog Hill, at least until recently. After spring practice the coaches were openly frustrated with his tendency to take a knock and then miss reps. Zordich:
“Lavert is a natural at it. LaVert has got to get better at finishing, straining, more effort, but talent – he has it. He just has to make up his mind on how he wants this to roll.”
Similar grumbles persisted through the first half of fall camp, and then they cleared like smoke. Webb started talking him up a few days before Zordich confirmed Hill's rise to the world at large, saying he is the lone "fixture with the first group" and that he "stepped up his game significantly"; Rivals reported that Hill has "finally stepped up, big time."
Webb has also asserted that Michigan trusted Hill covering the slots last year and might be the guy sliding inside when Michigan goes to a dime package. That opens up the sixth DB spot to any of the competitors and is a valuable thing in one of your corners. It's also a Lewis comparison point.
Hill could be anything from sophomore Jourdan Lewis...
...who was already an All Big Ten guy at that point in his career, or he could be a version of Jourdan Lewis who gets lost way too much and sees a bunch of TDs go over his head. Finding out will be fun! Or possibly not fun!
“Not fast enough.” [/laughs] “Not fast enough. They show flashes. I’ll say this: Lavert has, since his injury, he’s been pretty consistent and you can see him increasing every day and getting better. The other guys, they’ve shown flashes. They just need to grab it. Somebody’s got to grab it and run with it and take it. It’s just not happening. Hopefully somebody will in the next five to seven days because we’ve got to get ready for a game in less than two weeks.”
So Lavert’s responded to whatever challenge you—
“He has. He absolutely has. He came back. He didn’t practice much in the spring. We were very disappointed about that and we expressed that with him. This summer he really worked hard, then unfortunately he gets injured. But he came back and just picked up and the arrow’s going up. The arrow’s going up. Can’t say that about the rest of the guys. Again, you see some flashes. You know they can do it, but they’ve got to do it every single day.”
How often have you gotten to a point in camp where you feel like that and in other years have seen a group, a secondary, come along and do what you want?
“Well, I’ll go back to when I was in Philadelphia coaching with the Eagles. My second year there we had some new faces but they came together and played well. Certainly we’ve got new faces—I guess I can say young faces—and they’re not coming together. I don’t know if they’re just afraid to make plays because, again, they have the ability and they’ve shown the ability and they’ve done it in live situations out here. It’s just for them to understand that it has to be on a consistent basis and that is just not happening right now.”
Is it just a matter of experience?
“Possibly. It could be. It could be experience. It may be. It may just be that they don’t know how to dig a little deeper and to find it. That could be part of the problem, too.”
Is anyone closer? Do you feel like anyone’s making more flashes than someone else?
Are you sure this isn’t coachspeak?
“No. No. I’m not—I’m not gonna tell a story that isn’t true. That fair enough?”
“I mean, we got a game to play in, what, twelve days? They’re working hard, they just gotta work hard more consistently and do the right things more consistently.”
[More honesty (and WR and JKP and Brad Hawkins hype) after THE JUMP]
Benjamin St-Juste was literally unknown to football when he showed up at Michigan's camp two years ago, angling for an offer from a MAC school or something. Instead he got the big one. People scrambled to figure out what this guy's name even was, let alone who he was or how he played.
"You see him and it's kind of like, 'is he a receiver? A quarterback? If he fills out, he could probably play tight end,'" Howard said. "Then when we finally break down for positions, he comes over to the DBs and I'm like, 'man, are you sure you're in the right line?' He said, 'yep.' "
That was the recruiting world's reaction at first as well: ATH or S rankings in the who-dat range. 24/7's first ranking was an 82, solidly in the MAC-or-Michigan-State range.
There he would have stayed if St-Juste had enrolled last year as was initially planned. Instead he delayed to 2017 and hit the camp scene hard. (Canadian primary schools have 13 grades, so most players emigrating to the US to play have a choice to skip that last year.) His performance there validated Howard's initial take, which seemed ludicrously optimistic at the time:
"He's a legit corner," he said. "He got out there, got into drills and got after it and showed tremendous footwork. He's ridiculously coordinated for his size, and that's the thing … I kept saying for his height, and yet he's got good feet for a 5-7, 5-8 kid. It's something to watch, just to watch him move.
"You need those big corners to battle the 6-3, 6-4 receivers, but he handled guys that could particularly be called slot receivers. He was all over them," he said. "If that kid got beat on anything it was a perfect throw, one on one with no pass rush or DL and the ball was barely squeaked in."
Michigan fans (read: your author) who remembered the late Carr tendency to take a bunch of mediocre prospects just because they were at camp were skeptical.
There is far less to be skeptical about after St-Juste ran a sub-4.0 shuttle at an Opening regional—his 3.93 was 7th nationally and bested only by the kind of WR generously listed at 5'11"—and then blew up at the event itself. He ran an even faster shuttle (3.86), the second best time in a loaded field. He was named to the 24/7 Opening dream team for his play on the field. He was definitively, obviously a cornerback.
Many of the following takes from St-Juste's 2016 camp appearances echo Howard's from a year prior:
Adam Friedman, Rivals: “…great height and length, and really flies around the field. Bigger wide receivers were not a problem for St-Juste, but it was surprising how well he did covering the smaller, quicker receivers."
Barton Simmons, 24/7: "…may have been the best big cornerback at the [Oopening]. He moves so well for a guy of his size and was the most impressive cornerback physically as well. He was challenged a lot but was rarely beaten."
Simmons, again: "you're just not going to find a more impressive looking cornerback … really good at staying hip-to-hip with wide receivers and then finding the ball … ideal physical outside cornerback."
Brian Dohn, Scout: "long, good acceleration … just has to get bigger and stronger. Really high [ceiling] just based on his frame … Probably has to redshirt."
Adam Gorney, Rivals: "…spent a lot of time during the one-on-one portion of camp defending slot receivers and he did a fantastic job of getting his hands in there to poke the ball away. The three-star Michigan commit has length and great timing to not hit the receiver but still get his arms around receivers to deflect the pass."
Sam Webb, Scout: "incredible length … readily apparent on a jump-ball he knocked away from four-star wideout Tee Higgins in the end zone in game two. Later in the same game he showed his great quickness when he was beaten off the line across his face, recovered with a quick burst, then dove to break up a pass at the goal line. Then later in game three he showed his good speed (4.58) running stride for stride on a nine-route to Higgins before breaking up a pinpoint pass deep down the sideline. The kid has a lot of tools."
Higgins is nearly 6'5" and was #34 on the composite, FWIW.
You'll notice a paucity of Scout and ESPN takes from that section; unsurprising then that those two services were more or less unbudged in their evaluations. Scout did move him a to high three-star; ESPN was unmoved. The range of opinions here is truly vast. He is top 100 to 24/7. ESPN slots him in behind a dude going to Rutgers and one of Michigan State's desperate late pickups, not to mention three different guys headed to Arizona.
Terrific height and length for a cornerback prospect. Runs and closes well with very good overall range. … Makes up a lot of ground with his length and stride. Shows he can press, reroute and defend the 50/50 ball. Some rigidness when mirroring quicker receivers out of their breaks. … Adequate tackler; lunges a bit as opposed to running through his tackles. College upside is at safety in our opinion.
That was not good enough to get him a ranking higher than the #84 CB.
So recruiting sites still don't know what to do with him, and for good reason: I'm almost certain this is the first time that this series has embedded Canadian football highlights—like, 12 a side, three downs, rouges and everything—for a player.
There are a couple other reasons to be cautious about St-Juste. His electronic 40s from camp season were 4.64 and 4.58, which are only okay in context. (Opening 40s may be electronically timed but it still feels like they're tweaked down.) Tim Sullivan noted a "lack of elite top-end speed"; various evaluations had something along the lines of "not exactly a burner." He's fast but not super-fast.
Also, that brief aside from ESPN about his "adequate" tackling was part of a larger section on his run support that came off as dubious. All of St-Juste's evaluations are based on no-pads camps and passing-mad Canadian football played against guys who are not exactly Leonard Fournette. His run D is almost certainly very bad right now.
Like Thomas, St-Juste enrolled early. With relatively little cornerback chatter from insiders takes were mostly limited to parsing coach quotes…
"He's a big kid who can go up there and get the ball, and he can be aggressive playing press-man coverage. He has good feet for a guy his size, and he can turn and run with receivers. … extremely long, very talented, has great hips, great movement."
…and observing him in the spring game, where he played fairly well for three quarters before the Tarik Black Runs A Fade show repeatedly victimized him in the fourth. St-Juste got beat a few times, picked up one of those unfortunate underthrow PI calls, and looked like a dude from Canada who needed to spend some time marinating. Brown in the aftermath:
“Ben St. Juste, really solid through three quarters. Struggled with a couple fade balls at the end, which a lot of times it’s focus and concentration for a young guy. You’re grinding, grinding, grinding, and just the mental fatigue of competing at a high, high level kind of gets to you, but I’m very confident as to where he’ll end up. He’s 6’3”, he’s long, he’s athletic, he’s fast."
Michigan is looking to cap his weight off at 195 in an effort to keep him quick and agile at the cornerback position; he's currently sitting at 192 from what we've been told and has shown the fluid hips and quickness that pushed him into a Top100 player according to 247Sports.
St-Juste is physically ready to play. Technically and mentally? Never say never but dude is playing a different dang sport; I'd imagine an adjustment period is in order.
Etc.: Speaks French.
Why Ahkello Witherspoon?You may remember Witherspoon as the other Colorado cornerback (ie, the one who didn't kill Speight). He is an enormous person capable of running with guys like Darboh.
When he gets in that trail position on a fade route he provides little window.
Witherspoon offers elite length at the cornerback position with his 6-foot-3 frame and 33-inch arms. He uses his long arms to disrupt the receivers route and stay on top of him. Even if he is trailing the wide receiver by a step on a vertical route his height, long arms and vertical leaping ability all combine to help him disrupt passes other cornerbacks might not be able to make a play on. His length also reduces the size of passing windows and allows him to still wrap his arm around and break up slants where he has already given up inside leverage.
This is the kind of thing St-Juste will offer if he works out. It'll be interesting to see if St-Juste's shuttle ability translates, because every serious eval of a guy like Witherspoon mentions redirect issues despite a 4.13 combine shuttle. They also call out his run support as "not for the weak," specifically pointing to two TDs against Michigan. We have zero information about St-Juste as a run defender but that might be an issue for him since he is all arms and legs as well.
Other comparables include Jeremy Clark, the only 6'3" corner in recent Michigan history, and… drumroll… Richard Sherman. FWIW, Witherspoon was a third round pick.
Guru Reliability: Low. Huge spread, Canadian football, most scouting off camps.
Variance: Very high. List of Michigan guys from Cegep De Vieux is a sobering one: Dubuc, Sagesse, Kashama, Casseus. Kashama was the only guy to play much, if at all. Flameout always possible when grabbing a guy straight from Canada.
Ceiling: Very high. On the other hand, dude has Richard Sherman size with slot receiver change of direction.
General Excitement Level: High. St-Juste is a great lottery ticket to have when you've recruited Long, Hill, and Thomas in the last two years. If he works out he has nearly unmatched upside, and if he doesn't Michigan is probably fine, and he's got a shot at safety.
Projection: Have to figure a redshirt is in the offing here with probably five CBs (Long, Hill, Washington, Watson, Thomas) in front of him and what must be a shocking uptick in the level of competition, Opening notwithstanding. Maybe a 25% chance he pushes through a couple of those guys onto the two-deep, though.
Like Thomas, St-Juste is either going to blow up and be outstanding immediately or he's going to have to cool his heels for longer than you might expect. If he does end up on the bench this year he's got at least one more year of waiting and probably two since the only CB graduating in the next two years is Watson.
The first time there will be a clear opportunity to win a job will probably be when he's a redshirt junior, whereupon he could be just about anything from All American to ghost.
What were your initial impressions of the secondary after the spring game?
“After the spring game I thought—I still believe we’re young and talented, but there’s quite a ways to go. Quite a ways to go. On the outside, the young guys were still very critical of the technique we play, especially in our man coverage. So, they’ve got a ways to go even though they should be in high school. We’ve got to change their habits, if you will. So we’re happy, but lot of room for improvement.”
Last week Brian [Smith] was saying that Keith is coming along a little bit but that he was pretty hard on himself, like he’d pick up something, maybe wouldn’t get it again the next time, and was pretty hard on himself. What have you seen out of Keith?
“Yeah, Keith has always been hard on himself. Keith is a competitor, and that’s one thing I always like about Keith. He works his tail off. You gotta remember, he played at quarterback at high school. We brought him over and said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna make you a cornerback’ in a system that plays press-man 90% of the time, so it’s not an easy thing to do and it’s a tough technique to learn. That’s what he’s trying to do and I think he’s doing it very well.
“I thought he had a heck of a game Saturday. Played really well, was very aggressive, had some nice tackles. He’s come along really well.”
[After THE JUMP: On winemaking, which is not a metaphor. We talked about making actual wine. Also defending fades, but wine, too]
Welp, the backup DTs are a problem. The mere presence of Ron Johnson, who arrived last year as a 245-pound weakside end, on the interior is indication enough. Johnson was bad because it is not possible for a person to go from 245 pounds to a plausible DT in a year. I assume that dalliance will end the moment Michigan's fleet of incoming DTs arrives.
It was slightly more disappointing that neither Carl Myers nor Lawrence Marshall showed much. Myers is a walk-on but hey maybe he was a spiritual Glasgow; that looks really doubtful. A Higdon TD run was largely on Myers getting buried by single blocking. (Spanellis, for what it's worth.) Meanwhile Marshall's added weight and added weight and gone from WDE to SDE to 3T and usually your second position switch is when it starts getting late early. It's late early for him.
Aubrey Solomon is going to walk right onto the two deep, and thank God for that recruiting heist. Mike Dwumfour is going to get playing time by default so let's hope some of that positive chatter is good, and then it would be very nice if another freshman—probably James Hudson—was ready to eat some snaps.
The starters are more or less established and performed as you'd expect. Pass blocking was a major issue not just because of Devin Bush, but these gentlemen. We know what Maurice Hurst looks like as a player. We've got a good idea about Chase Winovich—though he's looking much more DE-sized than a year ago—and Rashan Gary is a given. He stunted inside once on a play that should have caught Michigan's D dead to rights, with Kugler pulling right to him. Gary blew through him to tackle for minimal gain. Dude is scary.
Bryan Mone looked healthy and effective on the snaps he got, so hooray for that. He shed Bredeson a couple times, albeit after giving up some yardage. He is likely to be a downgrade from Ryan Glasgow but with the guys around him he just has to be good for the line to be excellent.
Now encase them in carbonite until fall.
Carlo Kemp looked okay; Rueben Jones didn't show much; Donovan Jeter looks like a guy who will eventually be a DT/3T swing guy a la Wormley.
Mike McCray did not get a starter hook and had significant playing time in which he looked like Mike McCray.
sidewinder has missile lock [Eric Upchurch]
We got extended looks at couple non-starters guys, most prominently Devin Bush. Bush looks like he's benefited a ton from a year of S&C; this has amped up his blitzing, and Don Brown took full advantage. His timing and burst got him through the line frequently, and he is a major problem for RB pickups. He's short, so he's hard to get under. He's thick, so he's got a lot of momentum. He's fast, so also momentum that's how momentum works. The result was a number of blitz pickups that looked good for a moment before falling apart.
Bush's recruiting profile is (for the moment) prophetic:
if you ever thought to yourself "I wonder what Don Brown would have done with James Ross," Bush will answer that question for you.
Hurl him pell-mell over the line of scrimmage to good effect, it seems.
In that context the talk about Mike Wroblewski is probably a positive instead of an indication Michigan has a desperate lack of depth. (See Moundros, Mark.) He looks the part of the heady gritty grit gym rat, but more importantly he plays like it. I can't tell you how many times I've seen linebackers fail to understand what the line slant in front of their face means; here Wroblewski knows that the Gary slant means the ball is likely coming to the gap outside of him, and he fills with aplomb:
It's a simple thing; again I cannot tell you how many times I've shaken a fist to the heavens because a linebacker does not understand the implication of the line call.
Wroblewski's prominence isn't great news for the other inside linebackers currently on the roster. (This exempts Noah Furbush and Josh Uche, who are at SAM.) I don't know what number Jared Wangler is even after my annual "who the hell is that /googles roster" spring game outing. Elysee Mbem-Bosse is 52, and I mostly know that because he got edged on the early Isaac touchdown run.
I assume from the way Don Brown talks that these are the things Robocop does not do. Again, simple thing where you've got to know that you get outside your blocker and funnel back to help, and a thing I've seen not executed time and again. By long-term starters.
I did catch a couple plays I liked from Devin Gil, so he may be an exception.
Meanwhile, Furbush and Uche... I don't know what Michigan's going to do with them. Furbush had one impressive Jake-Ryan-like play on a crack sweep where he blasted through a block to pick off another blocker, but I'm not sure how he fits in Don Brown's defense. We've heard some things about how Uche is going to get some run as a pass rush specialist.
Not a lot of action for David Long or Levert Hill, which is probably a sign they're solid leaders at cornerback. (Or dinged up. Long was out on some kickoffs, FWIW.) Between the two of them they combined for one tackle; when they were out there they were barely targeted.
Washington is now in the conversation [Eric Upchurch]
Amongst folks who played a bunch Keith Washington stood out. I was watching him during a brief period where he was matched up on Donovan Peoples-Jones. He had good coverage on an incompletion, made a tackle after a drag route for two yards, and generally looked in DPJ's league. He added an impressive downfield pass breakup and a couple of "who is that?!" edge tackles when Michigan tried to run it to his side of the field. He was credited for half a TFL on one of those. This one is impressive awareness; I've seen a lot of cornerbacks fail to fall off their WR this quickly and give up ten yards on the edge:
Spring caveats apply. Two years ago Brandon Watson had a press-heavy spring game that featured a couple of impressive PBUs on Moe Ways; since then he's faded to an occasionally-used nickel who usually tackles after a slant is completed on him. His pick six in this game was a very bad decision by Peters he took advantage of; it wasn't paired with other plays that might have moved the needle for him as he tries to battle his way up the depth chart.
Both early-enrolled freshmen looked like they could use some seasoning. Benjamin St-Juste was repeatedly victimized by Tarik Black on quick fades during the John O'Korn-led comeback section of the game. I kind of hated one of the PI calls on him but this is because I am adamantly opposed to underthrow-caused pass interference and cannot be trusted in these matters.
Meanwhile Ambry Thomas looked like a freshman in the way DPJ and Black did not. He's lankier than I expected—"high cut" is the jargon term I believe—and looked spindly. Problematically so. Kareem Walker's impressive touchdown featured Thomas being fended off with ease.
If Washington has made a move like it seems Michigan can afford to redshirt one or both.
here comes the BOOM like it or not now that song is stuck in your head [Barron]
I said in the spring game preview I didn't want Khaleke Hudson to end someone but if there was a walk-on or band member or random civilian who would volunteer to get in a car crash they would be remembered. John O'Korn is none of those; he will be remembered nonetheless.
Hudson also picked up a PBU and a sack in his time on the field and looked sufficiently Peppers-esque for this site's honor and prognostication cred to remain intact for the time being. The emergence of a couple legit safety options and the Khaleke-Hudson-shaped spot in a Don Brown defense means Hudson's found his spot, and I'm eager to see how that works out. Good start.
Those legit safety options are Josh Metellus and Jordan Glasgow, both of whom showed well. Both guys got over the top of sideline fade routes to get or assist on PBUs. Glasgow stepped in front of a Speight pass for a 101-yard pick six. Less spectacularly but probably more importantly, both guys tackled with authority when called upon to do so. There was one particular open-field Glasgow tackle that was Kovacsian in its textbook solidity. Assumed starter Tyree Kinnel got his share of action as well, leading all players with seven tackles.
The coverage bust on the Gentry touchdown couldn't be traced back to any of those guys since they weren't in the area or on the field, and something Ace mentioned on the podcast was clearest with these guys: there was way less pointing and confusion as Michigan enters year two under Brown. Like the offensive line, these are a bunch of new starters who could be expected to dorf a number of plays. This happened rarely, if at all.
Assertion: no position group put in a more reassuring performance than the safeties. Michigan clearly thinks they have a hidden gem in Metellus and Glasgow turns out to be a Glasgow, so Hudson can slide down, and Kinnel is there to quarterback the whole secondary. This position group looks set to reload, not rebuild.
Houston, we have liftoff [Barron]
It's night and day from two years ago at this time, when people were openly petrified of the kicking situation. Kenny Allen eventually locked that down for two years, and now that he's gone Michigan looks... fine? Very good, even? Kyle Seychel, Ryan Tice, and Quinn Nordin all popped in to blast some kickoffs and groove field goals down the middle. Nordin's 48-yarder was a highlight because it almost cleared the net; I've heard people say that would have been good from 60 and I think this radically undersells what a bomb it was. Look at this thing!
That is a 48 yard field goal that goes over the goalposts. Tailwind or no that is spectacular.
Small sample sizes, of course. One good thing that we haven't heard coming out of the practice rumbles: kicker concern. Maybe they'll be fine. (Maybe they will suffer #collegekickers.)
Punter Will Hart looked okay, averaging 40 yards a kick on 8 punts. He seemed to have excellent hang time and could have gotten some more distance but angled a couple to the sideline. My main concern with him was that it seemed to take a while for him to get the ball off. There were two or three punts on which the crowd went "oooh" because the defense almost returned one to sender.
OTOH, if that could be more about Michigan being consistently good at getting to punts now that would be real nice. Michigan had impact block units last year for the first time I can remember. Maybe they downloaded Jon Baxter's brain into Partridge during the one year he was here.
Returns are an open question and something of a concern after two muffs, one on a punt, one on a field goal. I have a feeling we might come to fully appreciate Peppers's ability to cleanly field all manner of junk fired in his direction when his successor is not Jabrill Peppers. Kickoffs should be fine; they've got enough athletes now that they can just put a DPJ or, heck, Keith Washington back there. Punts are much trickier and disaster-prone. FWIW, Oliver Martin arrives in fall with a reputation for being something of a punt-fielding maestro.
Talk about the secondary, what with all the departures and the progression not only today but in the spring with the young guys.
Brown: “You know, I’m really happy with our young guys. I mean, they’re all young. Thought Brandon Watson did a good job today, but he’s done a good job all spring, so that’s not surprising. Lavert Hill’s been hurt a lot, so him getting back and getting repetitions was good. David Long made it for three quarters. Nothing serious, but he’s been fighting it as well so we really had to lean on the young guys: Ben St. Juste, Ambry Thomas, and a couple of our younger roster guys, Matt Mitchell.
“So, all those guys were well informed today. Thought we did a pretty good job for a good chunk of the time. Obviously there’s so much to learn as a young player the first time you come and play in front of an audience. It’s just different. I think it was an important task and we did it. Obviously we were challenged on both sides of the ball; I’m sure Drev would feel the same way. You know, neither of us unveiled our attacks, but at the same time, you just want to see your guys compete and play hard and see where we can go technique and fundamental-wise.”
I remember that Josh Uche wasn’t participating in bowl practices. He came pretty close to blocking a punt today, Devin was in the backfield a lot--
Brown: “Oh yeah, jeez. Josh has had some good days. We have a few things special for him, so when we let him do those things he’s been exceptional. But he’s got a long way to go. Again, he’s a guy who was a defensive end in high school who I absolutely loved because he was fast. Now we’re teaching him to play linebacker. That’s a huge challenge for him, so that’s a big deal.
“Devin Bush is exactly what we knew he’d be in this type of environment. You know, he played a year ago. He’s certainly right in form to stepping in to do a good job. Between him and Mike McCray and Robo helping out at times, I feel good about those three guys. We’re really looking for a fourth guy, and I’m not sure we know that yet. From a linebacker standpoint, that would be my huge task.”
Anything that jumps out at you as far as progression with Devin? Is he faster? Is he stronger?
Brown: “I mean, just look at him. You know, I teased him yesterday. He walked by me and didn’t have a shirt on; ‘Last year you were a short, pudgy guy,’ and he’s chiseled. He’s got a Division I body now. I’m asking him to play two positions. Played pretty much one today, and I’m very pleased with where he’s at, obviously.
“You know, this is a day about individual evaluation. Again, I think Drev would say the same thing. Guys are playing out of sorts in different units and spots and all that, but it’s about your performance individually and just see where you take it from that standpoint.”
[After THE JUMP: Don Brown’s Rome plans include scheming for Michigan’s week-three opponent]