Penn State 42, Michigan 13

Penn State 42, Michigan 13

Submitted by Ace on October 22nd, 2017 at 12:03 AM


A matchup problem. [Patrick Barron]

Michigan has weaknesses that playoff teams lack. Tonight, those weaknesses were brutally exposed by a Penn State squad that sure looked like a playoff team themselves.

This game looked all but over in the opening five minutes. On the second play from scrimmage, future Heisman winner Saquon Barkley shifted over to quarterback, ran a read option with quarterback Trace McSorley acting as the running back, and gutted Michigan for a 69-yard touchdown. The Wolverines, on the other hand, went backwards on their opening possession, then watched as Barkley finished off a four-play, 78-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown off a speed option pitch. Michigan, again, had negative yardage on the following drive.

A miscommunication between McSorley and tight end Mike Gesicki resulted in a David Long interception that briefly gave the Wolverines new life. After marching down to the PSU three, it took four cracks for Karan Higdon to finally break the plane. Quinn Nordin, getting booed by a crowd that never forgets a slight, missed the extra point. Michigan's counterpunch brought the defense to life; Khaleke Hudson nearly picked off a screen pass in the end zone.

Also a matchup problem. [Eric Upchurch]

The teams traded punts until a flurry of action at the end of the half. First, an unlikely connection from John O'Korn to Kekoa Crawford set up a six-yard Ty Isaac touchdown to bring Michigan within a point. Then McSorley threw Penn State down the field in the blink of an eye before finishing the drive on a three-yard keeper.

While the Wolverines went into the half down only 21-13, the numbers were foreboding. PSU amassed 302 total yards in the first half, more than Michigan had allowed in a full game this season. The safeties, steady to this point, were exploited in space by Barkley and McSorley. The offense mustered only 141 yards on five fewer plays, still hampered by poor blocking and a lack of trust in the passing game.

Given all that, it probably shouldn't have surprised too many people when Penn State blew the game wide open in the second half. Issues new and old appeared on PSU's first possession of the half. Tyree Kinnel got dusted one-on-one by DaeSean Hamilton on a slant for 26 yards; Barkley dropped a big gain after easily beating Mike McCray on a wheel route; McSorley seemingly juked half the defense to find the end zone on a beautifully designed inverted veer that had Barkley motion before the snap, drawing much of the defense's attention. Just like that, PSU took a commanding 28-13 lead.


Once again, John O'Korn couldn't generate much in the passing game. [Upchurch]

From then on, it was a merciless beating. On offense, O'Korn was improved from last week's woeful outing but still only managed 5.9 yards per attempt. Any hopes of a comeback were dashed when cornerback Christian Campbell beat Karan Higdon around the edge and ripped the ball away from O'Korn. They were really dashed when Barkley toasted McCray in man coverage for a juggling 48-yard touchdown two plays later; McCray had no hope of keeping pace, yet the normally unassailable Don Brown kept allowing that matchup to play out. 

It was academic from there. McSorley added another rushing touchdown with 7:53 to play. Michigan's final possession ended in appropriately inept fashion. Facing fourth-and-nine, the coaches pulled right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beattly, who allowed consistent pressure, to insert Nolan Ulizio as an apparent pass-protection specialist. Before they could snap the ball, O'Korn took a delay of game. After the penalty, redshirt freshman backup Shaka Toney ran right around Mason Cole to sack O'Korn for the coup de gras.

Michigan can only fix so much this season. With the schedule letting up considerably over the next few week, they're likely to try some new patches, potentially including one fans have wanted for weeks. Quarterback Brandon Peters was warming up on the sideline before O'Korn ultimately took the field for M's last drive. Given how that drive played out, that was probably for the best. Now that the conference title is essentially out of reach and a top-ten defense isn't facing M's O-line, it's time to see what Peters has got. While that won't solve everything, it could be the spark this offense desperately needs.

Many of tonight's other issues will be taken care of for this year, at least, by not having to face Joe Moorhead and this Nittany Lions offense again.

They want Bama. They can have them.

WTKA Roundtable 10/19/2017: Détente

WTKA Roundtable 10/19/2017: Détente

Submitted by Seth on October 19th, 2017 at 11:13 AM

Reminder, we have a live podcast at 5 p.m. TONIGHT at THE JOLLY PUMPKIN and NICK HOPWOOD of PEAK WEALTH MANAGEMENT is buying BEER for YOU!

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[Marc-Grégor Campredon]

Things discussed:

  • Craig now sits between Ed and Brian, who get along. Craig is a bystander.
  • Offensive adjustments: more manball. Michigan went to a Harbaugh identity: 22 personnel and equal parts power and inside zone.
  • Higdon made yards, won the game with his OT run, which wasn’t even his best.
  • O’Korn: coaches gave him a freshman gameplan and avoided him as soon as they got a two-score lead. Coaches say he always wants to make the big play and a lot of coaching him is settling him down.
  • The bad man yelled: horrible PI wiped out a Fant interception, then Tom Allen flagrantly violated the “Just for Jim Harbaugh” rule to get 10 calls in a row to go his way (says Craig). Yes, Urban doesn’t get flagged for this either: it’s just Harbaugh.
  • Indiana pass pro success: got their RT back, used an RB to block Bush, which didn’t go well for them but went better than leaving Bush unblocked.
  • Stunt game should be shelved—just opens up running lanes. Too tricky. Mone effect means less pass rush too.
  • Speight earlier this season? Pressure, WRs, stopped seeing things and lost footwork.
  • Sam has a recap of his Brandon Peters take: no he’s not a whiff, he’s not bad, he’s not transferring, he’s not behind, he’s a freshman and the offense asks the quarterback to be very advanced before and after the snap. Sam Darnold was a different story: he came in and threw 2-yard passes to 5-star receivers as a freshman.
  • PSU: McSorley is a B+, Barkley is legit. This isn’t an national championship team but it’s a very good one that’s closer to challenging Ohio State than losing to Michigan.

You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.

Segment two is here. Segment three is here.

THE USUAL LINKS

Wednesday Presser 10-18-17: Tim Drevno

Wednesday Presser 10-18-17: Tim Drevno

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on October 18th, 2017 at 6:15 PM

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[Fuller]

How much improvement did you see from your guys up front in that Indiana game?

“I saw a lot of improvement. It was good. We still need to play better offensively and the guys up front, but when you rush for 271 yards there’s a lot of positivity. Guys are moving guys off the ball and protection was better, so it was a step forward as we prepare against Penn State this week.”

How much improvement have you seen out of Mike Onwenu?

“A lot, a lot of improvement. You can see that he’s moving his feet, he’s understanding it, he’s finishing. He could finish a little bit better, like all of them can, everybody on the offense. But you can see it. Light bulb’s going on, which is neat. He’s playing good football—really good football.”

How did Juwann Bushell-Beatty do in his first full contest?

“Juwann did a nice job. He competed well. There’s some thing we’ve got to clean up but he did a nice job for his first start here. He had a false start there at one point in time in the game but for the most part his protection was good. We’ve just got to clean up some of the run blocking things, but it was real positive.”

[After THE JUMP: Tim Drevno, an American Legion baseball field, a water pump, and a metaphor for the offense]

Game Over, Insert Freshman To Continue

Game Over, Insert Freshman To Continue

Submitted by Brian on October 16th, 2017 at 1:01 PM

10/14/2017 – Michigan 27, Indiana 20 (OT) – 5-1, 2-1 Big Ten

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[Bryan Fuller]

I am at stage five. I have passed through denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. And here we are: acceptance. Michigan is not very good this year. I accept that they are rebuilding.

Well... wait. Let me rephrase that. 60% of Michigan is righteous. 20% is questionable but encouraging. 20% is a deep, black pit of infinite depth that you fall through for hours at a time. The walls murmur foul, unspeakable red-zone stats. You yell "I DON'T BELIEVE RED ZONE OFFENSE IS MEANINGFULLY DIFFERENT FROM OVERALL OFFENSE"; the walls ignore you. Occasionally a gust of wind buffets you from below, braking your descent. It doesn't really matter, though. Terminal velocity or soon-to-reach terminal velocity are functionally identical when you are dropping forever in an inky expanse of nothing, waiting for the sickening crunch that will never come except when it does about every 365 days.

Woe! Woe! Fire and flame, death and brimstone! Woe. Dolorous woe.

...is what you might have said like 15 years ago when this stuff still had the capacity to hurt you. Now? Nah. Some Indiana fan sent me a picture of scoreboard from The Horror on Saturday and I just snorted. This is no longer a fanbase that considers 7-5 the "Year of Infinite Pain," as this site did way back in the ancient past. Michigan's going to lose some more games this year and end up in Florida on New Year's Day.

That's more or less fine. They return something like 21 starters next year, give or take QB. This depends on whether or not Brandon Peters can humorously conk John O'Korn in the head and sneakily don his jersey at some point in the next few weeks.

-------------------------------

You've probably figured it out already but the righteous bits are the run defense,  the pass defense, and special teams. The questionable-but-encouraging bit is a ground game that appears to be waking up and putting things together. And the black, infinite, inky pit is the passing offense.

O'Korn's 10-for-20, 58 yard performance was actually worse than last year's Indiana game, when he managed 59 yards on 16 throws. Michigan completed three passes for four yards in the second half—two of them screens—and did not even think about involving O'Korn in their attempts to put away the game. It got so bad that on one of Michigan's few downfield attempts of the fourth quarter that Official Journalists were barely concealing their bewilderment:

Very same, Zach Gentry. A quick glance at the photo that leads this column will confirm how very, very covered Kekoa Crawford was. And yet.

Meanwhile Harbaugh almost lost his mind on the sideline when Michigan pulled out a shovel pass they hadn't put on film, saw it break for a first down and more, and then had it called back because O'Korn didn't get the snap off in time. Harbaugh's clearly toning down his sideline behavior this year after the PF in Columbus and the supposed extra focus on coach behavior; that was a moment where he just about relapsed. But did not!

Also this:

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somehow not an INT [Fuller]

So here we are. That's three of four O'Korn games with extended playing time where he's been horrible. I have no idea what happened against Purdue, but if you're asking me to project future performance it's more in line with the last two weeks than the outlier. Teams are now preparing for a guy who's only good when he breaks the pocket, and there goes the efficiency of that gambit.

It's bad, man. It's so bad that Michigan spent half of its dropbacks presenting O'Korn with just two guys—or even one—in a downfield pattern. The interception he threw at a dominated Eddie McDoom was third and seven; Michigan had outside receivers run fades. Nobody else was in a pattern. O'Korn somehow still threw the wrong fade, choosing the 5'11" guy being checked by Indiana's best cornerback. Michigan dumbed down their passing offense to an extraordinary extent in this game, and their quarterback still couldn't keep up.

Game over, man. Game over.

It turns out there is a difficulty level too hard on the Jim Harbaugh Quarterback Constructor video game, and it's "Houston transfer who lost his job as a sophomore." Noted, and forgiven. Michigan's desperate scramble for quarterbacks upon Harbaugh's arrival turned up a strike in Jake Rudock, and a... not strike in O'Korn.

Michigan still has their goals in front of them, and maybe O'Korn has another Purdue game in him somewhere. I doubt it, personally, but we'd all written off the Brown Jug in 2008 just in time for Nick Sheridan to put up 200 passing yards in a 29-6 win. You can just barely cobble together a justification for continuing with O'Korn for another week, because a road night game at Penn State is next and we don't want to send our baby lamb to slaughter.

But win or lose against PSU, it's hard to imagine Michigan not taking Brandon Peters out for a test drive against Rutgers. Because Michigan's future is extraordinarily bright if they can find a QB. Even if O'Korn turns it around he's not going to be part of that future. Meanwhile it's hard to imagine production worse than what they've currently got. Here is where people say "it can always be worse": I submit that it cannot. Two point nine yard an attempt and two shoulda-been interceptions, people.

Game over. Insert freshman to continue.

AWARDS

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go go go go [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week

-2535ac8789d1b499[1]you're the man now, dog

#1 Karan Higdon. Yeah, maybe several defensive players had better individual games in chart-world. All of those guys reinforce each other, though. Higdon's efforts were emphatically not reinforced by Michigan's passing game and he still put up Michigan's first 200 yard RB game since Mike freakin' Hart. He earned all 25 of Michigan's overtime yards, showed legit deep speed on his long touchdown, and ground out countless YAC without much, if anything, in the way of a missed read.

#2(t) Rashan Gary and Mo Hurst. Gary's 2.5 TFLs coulda shoulda been 4.5; he was robbed of a couple more sack by bloody circumstance but for the first time felt like an omnipresent terror. Meanwhile Hurst continued being Hurst, repeatedly whipping guys and getting pressure directly up the middle. The downgrade when both gents were out on the first IU touchdown drive was obvious. Both guys get two points, because I want them to have these points.

#3 Lavert Hill, Brandon Watson, and David Long. Michgian's CB crew all but erased Simmie Cobbs, and Hill turned in a Jourdan Lewis-esque INT. Most completions were to guys they were not in coverage on. Also: I mean, 40 yards for Cobbs. Get it.

Honorable mention: Chase Winovich wasn't far off his DL mates. Devin Bush turned in another very good outing, albeit one without fireworks. Ty Isaac chipped in eight productive carries. The OL was excellent on the ground and gave up zero sacks... narrowly.

KFaTAotW Standings.

8: Devin Bush (#1 Florida, T2 Cincinnati, T2 Air Force, #1 Purdue)
5: Chase Winovich(#1 Air Force, #2a Purdue), Mo Hurst (#1 MSU, #2(T), Indiana) 
3: Mason Cole (#1, Cincinnati), Ty Isaac (#2, Florida, #3 Cincinnati), Lavert Hill(#2 MSU, T3 Indiana), Karan Higdon (#1 Indiana)
2: Quinn Nordin (#3 Florida, #3 Air Force), John O'Korn (#2 Purdue), Rashan Gary(T2 Indiana).   
1: Khaleke Hudson (T2 Cincinnati), Tyree Kinnel (T2 Cincinnati), Mike McCray(T2 Air Force), Sean McKeon(T3 Purdue), Zach Gentry (T3 Purdue), Brad Robbins(#3 MSU), Brandon Watson (T3 Indiana), David Long (T3 Indiana).

Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week

Michigan busts out a new counter look on a fourth-quarter drive, running it three times on a five-play drive that ended with a 59-yard Higdon touchdown. Don't stop:

Honorable mention: Michigan wins the game with a goal-line stand from the two. Higdon bounces outside for an OT touchdown. Higdon bounces outside for a first-half touchdown.

imageMARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.

John O'Korn throws to a double-covered Kekoa Crawford instead of finding the other guy on a two man route. That guy, Zach Gentry, was open for a 40-yard catch and run touchdown. Also he was the only other guy in a route.

Honorable mention: Indiana breaks off a punt return that gets them to overtime; various absurd calls after the mean man yelled at the refs but especially the Cam Cheesman "hold" that was critical for IU's tying FG drive; Michigan picks up a bunch of legitimate penalties, including PFs against Kekoa Crawford and Josh Metellus (unless Drake Harris is on the punt return team).

[After THE JUMP: How can Peters be behind this guy?]

Preview 2017: Quarterback

Preview 2017: Quarterback

Submitted by Brian on August 28th, 2017 at 2:01 PM

Previously: Podcast 9.0A. Podcast 9.0B. Podcast 9.0C. The Story.

DOES THIS THING HAVE A DIFFICULTY LEVEL HARDER THAN "INSANE"

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The Law of Harbaugh: it doesn't matter who your QB is

Jim Harbaugh is a kid sitting in a basement frustrated because Dark Souls is too easy. Sure, he crafted the first draft pick of any variety in San Diego history. He beat USC with a pottery major. He got Alex Smith a 70-million dollar contract. He nearly won a Super Bowl with a guy the league is currently passing over in favor of Stoney Case. (For bad reasons, admittedly.) And he turned an Iowa castoff into an NFL draft pick and in-demand trade bait:

Quarterbacks? Quarterbacks are easy. He has all the Quarterbacka Universalis IV achievements. Except one: take a quarterback recruited by Al Borges and have him finish his career as the starter. It's never happened. Never! Never ever ever. And no wonder. This Speight quote from last year only gets more boggling 12 months later:

"In their eyes, myself, David Cornwell, and this kid from IMG Academy Michael O'Connor are the best quarterbacks in the nation in this class."

Cornwell and O'Connor were both nowhere near the two deep before they transferred, Cornwell to Nevada and O'Connor to UBC. As in British Columbia.

The Borges achievement wasn't going to happen this time either, because John O'Korn was going to swoop in and gun-sling his way into our hearts. Then it did happen. Wilton Speight, a redshirt sophomore who played a chunk of the season with something deeply wrong with his collarbone, was the second-most efficient QB in the Big Ten, averaged nearly eight yards an attempt, and had a 18-7 TD-INT ratio. He's already the best Borges-recruited QB ever, easily outstripping Cam Coffman's 6.7 YPA (and subsequent move to TE) in 2012.

At this point I'm willing to see what the Harbaugh version of Denard Robinson looks like under center. Just in case.

[After THE JUMP: references marginally less dorky than EUIV!]

Big Ten Media Days Presser 7-25-17: Jim Harbaugh

Big Ten Media Days Presser 7-25-17: Jim Harbaugh

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on July 26th, 2017 at 10:00 AM

harbaugh media day

[Isaiah Hole/247 Sports]

I wasn’t there but I figured this would make for a good workday read since it took place during a workday. Have at it, you transcription junkie.

“Good afternoon. Wonderful to be here. Gotta come from behind the curtain. Can’t enter from in front of the curtain, apparently. I can take questions.”

Your team took a trip to Rome in April where they practiced and had many unique experiences mixed in. You said about the trip that it was the best thing you’ve been a part of on a football team and that not all learning is done in the classroom and not all learning is done on the football field. After this season you plan on taking a team trip to Paris, Normandy, and London. My question is can you expound on why the Rome trip was valuable and why trips in the future will be valuable to your football team?

“Yes. It’s just incredible to connect with somebody from a different country, to see something that you’ve never seen before, taste food that you’ve never tasted or hear a language that you’ve never heard and then experience it as a team, like eighth grade classes that go to Washington D.C. for a field trip or a twelfth grade class the goes to Rome, much like that.

“To be able to experience it as a group makes it so much better, 900x better, because you’re getting not only your own experience but everyone in the group’s and it’s a chance to put the ‘college’ back in ‘college football.’ It’s a chance to have the whole world be your classroom. Not all learning is done in a classroom or on a football field. It’s out there living, out there seeing and doing. I would recommend it because it has bee the best thing that I’ve ever done personally as a part of a football team.”

Could you talk about Rashan Gary? I can’t recall any D-lineman at Michigan having this much preseason hype since LaMarr Woodley. Talk about how Rashan has handled that and how high the ceiling is for this young man.

“Thank you, yes. Very interesting to see how Rashan has handled it. To me, I’ve watched it—was one of the top recruits, maybe the top recruit coming out of high school. He’s had a lot of hype. He’s had a lot of adulation. You know, there’s some people that that’s what they live for. They live for that approval of others and to be recognized as a hyped-up player and then there’s other people that they see that hype or that adulation and they go by it like it’s a cone, an orange cone, on the side of the road.

“There’s some people that are just aspiring to greater things than just the adulation of somebody, and I think Rashan is that type of guy. You really like him. He really doesn’t care too much about that. He’s gone by it like it’s a cone, an orange cone, on the side of the road. He just works, and I really think competing is his favorite thing to do. And he has the license and ability to be great, to be really good. I don’t know what more to say about that.”

[After THE JUMP: thoughts on every class, dropping two-a-days, how long it takes to find a starting QB, and tapping a losing streak for motivation]

The Next Best Ten Returning Big Ten Players

The Next Best Ten Returning Big Ten Players

Submitted by Seth on July 12th, 2017 at 4:00 PM

AKA

Draftageddon 2017: The Peters is Happening

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Draftageddon is pre-season All-Big Ten #content given the ol’ MGo-Really-Do-A-Job treatment. We hold a snake draft (1-2-3-4/4-3-2-1 etc.) of Big Ten players and try to build the best teams. You come out of it with a four-deep preseason All-Big Ten. We come out of it primed to cover the upcoming football season.

Previously: The first 10 picks (Hurst, Speight)

Where things stand after 10 picks:

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  1. Ohio State (4 players): DE Nick Bosa (3rd, Seth), QB JT Barrett (6th, Seth), DE Tyquan Lewis (8th, BiSB)
  2. Michigan (3 players): DT Maurice Hurst (2nd, Brian), DE Rashan Gary (5th, Ace), QB Wilton Speight (a reluctant 7th, Brian)
  3. Penn State (2 players): RB Saquon Barkley (1st, BiSB), QB Trace McSorley (4th, Ace)
  4. Indiana (1 player): LB Tegray Scales (9th, BiSB)
  5. Minnesota (1 player): DT Stephen Richardson (10th, Brian)

Keep rowing the boat Big Ten West! We stopped in the middle of the 3rd round so we’re picking up with Seth, who has already drafted two Buckeyes.

-----------------------------

Seth: ROUND 3, PICK 3: Denzel Ward, CB Ohio State

No, not the 6'9 OT who was briefly in Hoke's 2014 class.

Off: QB JT Barrett (OSU)
Def: DE Nick Bosa (OSU), CB Denzel Ward (OSU)

Okay so now I'm definitely getting myself photoshopped onto a rival's uniform. But it's hard to argue the value of this guy at #11. The conference lost a ton of cornerback talent to the NFL, leaving just 2-4 sure things, and a very clear #1 for this fall.

Ward was more or less interchangeable with OSU’s two first round draft picks, liberally rotating with Marshon Lattimore, who went #11 overall, and 24th pick Gareon Conley. His position coach didn’t see much difference between him and the 1st rounders:

“[Ward is] as good as the other two. I played three guys of equally talented ability,” [CB coach Kerry] Coombs said. “I don’t run out a guy who is not as good as they other guys. Who would do that? Have you met my boss?”

That link notes Ward allowed a Jourdan Lewis-ian 15 completions on 42 targets, breaking up 9 of those. Like Lewis, the knock on Ward is his height—just 5’10—a shortcoming (ha!) he makes up for with uncanny closing speed. A junior, Ward’s expected to be among the top corners taken in next year’s draft.

-----------------------------

[Hit THE JUMP for a defense of Al Borges]

Rome Wrap: Feelingsball, Offense

Rome Wrap: Feelingsball, Offense

Submitted by Brian on May 1st, 2017 at 1:34 PM

One of the nice things about Michigan dragging reporters a long distance is that Harbaugh has pity on them and opens practice. Last year the IMG trip saw three or four practices open to the public, and the just-concluded Rome trip finished with three as well. The first day in Rome was just shells and a walk-through since the team had downshifted from full-on padded practices after the spring game, but there's a fair amount of useful intel coming out of the latter two.

Feelingsball section

It would be hard for a trip to Rome to not look pretty cool for the croots; Michigan really hammered it home with all-access media coverage and an itinerary that ranged from seeing the sites to drinking out of public fountains...

...to paintball (in khakis, naturally)...

...to hanging with the Pope...

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...to coach-versus-coach gladiatorial contests:

It looked better than any vacation I've ever taken by an order of magnitude.

All of this was documented by Michigan's own social media team and a legion of reporters, with an embedded ESPN guy.

Quite a turnaround in public relations skills from the last regime, and all of it pushed by a guy who is also the football coach.

This no doubt had various SEC coaches seething in rage and there will be a proposal to ban or limit such things as soon as possible. Michigan chose wisely by going to the center of Western Civilization(tm) and meeting the freakin' Pope, but no educational argument is going to withstand the white-hot fury of a bunch of dudes who can't imagine why you'd ever go anywhere but Waffle House.

That would be sad, since this seemed like a life-enhancing experience in a way a week in central Florida is not.

Most of the players had never been overseas.

Senior fullback Khalid Hill, a Detroit native who attended East English Village, said his biggest takeaway from the trip was the learning experience.

“Coming over here, learning different things, seeing different things, it’s amazing,” Hill said. “It’s something you don’t usually get a chance to do. I can go back home and say, ‘Man, I’m a kid from Detroit that got a chance to come over here and play and practice.’

“Not too many kids from Detroit can say that, even kids from Michigan. To do that is amazing. I love the experience of my last spring ball.”

We'll see what happens, but when the NCAA's official site is promoting your trip...

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...you might have a shot. This is supposedly part of the NCAA's core mission.

Harbaugh’s motivation for the trip was to, as he has said on multiple occasions, put the student back in student-athlete. He has seen college football become a 12-month a year sport, and wanted the players to have some breathing room in May.

Many of the players are venturing off on backpacking trips for a few days before returning home, while others are leaving for three-week study-abroad programs.

Michigan plans to go to South Africa next year; let's hope they get to go.

Football section

Not enough data to go position by position but some additional practice buzz from folks who were in Rome mixed in with some standard insidery takes follow. There wasn't much on either line because of the nature of the practices, in which a lot of 7-on-7 was played while the linemen did drills.  7-on-7 is a lot more immediately comprehensible than line drills and thus understandably drew the bulk of attention from observers.

Nick Baumgardner's headliner was WR Tarik Black, who showed he can run a lot more than fade routes:

He caught a crossing route over the middle that was thrown high and behind him, with a defender on his hip, where it was simply all hands. The ball looked like a sure incompletion -- and in a live setting, maybe worse. But he was able to time his leap right, reach back and just glide through the catch. He has a unique ability to make difficult receptions look relatively easy.

For a first-year receiver, this seems rare. I've seen so many freshman receivers get into a camp -- whether it be in the spring or the fall -- and just look lost with their fundamentals. Black is not one of those guys.

Baumgardner threw in another Black mention in a subsequent article to emphasize his take, and Black also led Sam Webb's practice take roundup. Good news with a "right, still a freshman" twist:

Tarik Black looked impressive once again. At this point the coaches are really working him hard on route precision. Rounding off routes... standing up at the top of routes... things that he will improve upon in time. He's trying to learn the playbook while working on those things, so it's going to take some time. But he's too good right now to not see the field. He'll play. A lot.

Players ranked in Black's range are even less likely to be year one contributors than five-stars that hit at only a 33% rate (in year one), but enrolling early and impressing are big steps. One insider report has Black, not Donovan Peoples-Jones, starting next to Crawford if the season started today. It does not, and DPJ was limited for much of the spring with a series of minor injuries so he is a candidate to surge back into the lead. Black's prominence is worse news for Drake Harris and Moe Ways, neither of whom generated any spring buzz.

Quarterback is in a bit of a weird spot where... well, here's Sam describing the situation in an extensive board Q&A:

If you're asking me if what I've seen is further confirmation that Brandon is the most talented quarterback on the roster, my answer would be yes. No one is disputing that.  I don't think the quarterbacks themselves would dispute that.

Despite that everyone has Wilton Speight the clear leader for the job, as rising juniors who finished in a dead heat for second in the Big Ten in passer rating tend to be. A couple of turnovers he coughed up while playing with a busted collarbone and a big-time spring game from Brandon Peters have everyone and their mother clamoring for the backup. The many upward pointing arrows on various parts of Peters's profile don't mean he's a favorite, or even particularly likely, to wrest the job away this fall. If Speight struggles or get hurt, I don't expect last year's Indiana game.

As far as the projected starter goes, he was locked in on Friday for the second practice:

On Friday, though, he was dealing.

Once Michigan cranked up the intensity of practice and got a little bit more live, Speight seemed to settle right into a groove and made some really, really impressive throws.

He hit a 25-yard corner route to a receiver in stride -- inside an air-tight window -- on an absolutely beautiful throw.

Pep Hamilton thought so, too.

"That's what we gotta do," Hamilton belted, pumping his fist into the air and slapping Speight on the back after the throw.

From there, he was on the money the rest of the day.

This is both a reminder that the spring game is a weak indicator and a throwback to last year, when Speight had spurts where he looked like the best QB in the country... and spurts where he looked like Michigan's biggest problem. I may be thinking of several deep balls that landed about four yards too long one night in Iowa City.

My operative theory last year was that the Harbaugh-ized version of Speight is a very, very good QB but he reverted to previous bad habits too often. If that is the case and the guy who is spooky accurate goes from 40 of snaps to 70% this year Michigan will have a hell of a passing game. Don't write off Speight yet.

Finally in passing game notes: Ian Bunting is still the expected starter as an inline TE, with Tyrone Wheatley's blocking still inconsistent.

Interestingly, Zach Gentry was mentioned as the starting FLEX, which is probably good news. Nick Eubanks has looked impressive this spring, so Gentry potentially forcing his way onto the field says good things about his ability to deliver matchup problems to opposing defenses.  He's not far off Mike Gesicki, the Penn State tight end. Gesicki is the only football player in history worse at TE blocking than Devin Funchess, but 48 catches for 679 is outstanding receiving output.

Offensive line is status quo: Cole/Bredeson/Kugler/Onwenu/Runyan, with JBB held out of contact in Rome. Per Baumgardner, Bredeson did take some tackle snaps but his impression was that Michigan was relatively set with that line, give or take a freshman at right tackle. Per Webb there's good news and bad news here, with Cole "going toe to toe with Rashan Gary" and Ben Bredeson improving a great deal. On the downside, Mike Onwenu's weight is still an issue and Michigan is insisting he get down to 360.

I have a dollar on Andrew Stueber as the opening day RT, FWIW.

This Week’s Obsession: Spring Movers 2017

This Week’s Obsession: Spring Movers 2017

Submitted by Seth on April 18th, 2017 at 12:44 PM

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We really have to stop forgetting about Kemp. [Bryan Fuller]

The annual question:

Player who made the biggest move this spring?

The annual responses:

Adam: I'd argue that a guy who looks like he could be a contributor yet doesn't have a headshot on the official site made a big move, so I'm going with Nate Schoenle. Prior to the game I knew of him because I glanced at the roster and figured he too must be familiar with people butchering his last name despite its relative simplicity. After the game I knew of him because he can do like, wide receiver things.

He's more of a downfield threat than a wiggly slot bug; he presents a matchup issue for safeties nevertheless. He lined up against legitimate competition and showed good speed as well as adequate hands and route-running. Schoenle may not see the field this fall--Michigan's bringing the Monstars of WR recruiting classes--but we now know that there's substantive competition in the slot.

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David: I liked Keith Washington. He was always an intriguing prospect at 6'2" but came in very raw. After an obvious redshirt, he got onto the field a bit last year, covering kicks and grabbing a couple of tackles. With all of Michigan's 2016 starting secondary gone and most of the replacements being very young, Washington looks like he could make a run at some playing time. He had a fantastic PBU on a fade route down the sideline. He seemed to stay step-for-step with wunderkind DPJ and brought him down after limited gains a few times. Washington also flashed some solid run defense, coming off the edge to make a couple of nice tackles (one specifically on Higdon after Karan bounced it outside). From what I could tell, Keith has made strides in all areas and with that lengthy frame, he could work his way onto the field for more meaningful snaps, this Fall.

Plus, how can you doubt a guy who will offer to spontaneously backup his 40 time in a parking lot?

[After the JUMP: How long will we wait for Ace to take Peters?]

MGoPodcast 8.21: Ace Gets a Shock Collar

MGoPodcast 8.21: Ace Gets a Shock Collar

1 hour and 22 minutes

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HomeSure Lending’s Schembechler conference room. Foreground: fancy vases

We Couldn’t Have One Without the Other

This podcast is presented by the Bo Store, UGP & Moe's. Rishi and Ryan have been here since the beginning—shopping with them supports us and supports good dudes.

It was recorded in the Schembechler Room at Homesure Lending’s swanky new Ann Arbor office on State Street, where someone had put “Win the Game” on the whiteboard.

Our sponsors make this possible: The Residence Inn Ann Arbor Downtown, Ann Arbor Elder Law, the the University of Michigan Alumni Association, Deo Bookkeeping, Michigan Law Grad, and Peak Wealth Management.

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1. Offense

Starts at 0:55

While Ohio State played two-hand touch and charged fans for a show of fanservice, Harbaugh (with an assist from the weather) packed the Big House by making competitive football the spectacle. QB: Peters is the worst, Speight’s game was concerning. HB: Evans is coaching football. WRs: DPJ & Black look like NFL bodies, Schoenle is real. TE: Wheats can block, Eubanks looks like a TE, Gentry is a gazelle, McKeon has the QBs’ trust. OL: Vastardis is a viable guard. Right tackle is short on guys who can pass pro.

2. Defense

Starts at 33:10

Thanks O’Korn for taking the hit to show off how Hudson can dish them. LB: Devin Bush is gonna rock you—finally our own Denicos Allen. Robo can play. DL: Starters woo, backups woof. CBs: Let’s hope this was a real sign that Washington is good and not a Brandon Watson 2015 thing. St Juste looks like he could use a redshirt. S: Not worried—Metellus ranged out, Glasgow is another Glasgow, Kinnel is flat-out good. Special teams: Is depth at kicker a thing? That kick would be a home run in most ballparks, a double in Comerica. YOU CATCH THE DANG BALL.

3. Gimmicky Top Five Under the Radar Spring Takes

Starts at 53:43

Ace thinks this means “Things that are obvious.” Demo thinks Rashan Gary’s 19-year-old body looks fit. Brian thinks we need a device that delivers electric shocks to podcasters who misbehave. We all think Harbaugh needs a holster for his megaphone, that a Rich Rod package would be cool. Not on the podcast: Seth and David signaling to each other that the five-wide package was about not being able to block Don Brown’s dirty blitzes.

4. Salute to Red Hockey

Starts at 1:10:26

We are fussy because we were babies when Berenson made Michigan hockey awesome. Thank you for all the Comries, and for running the cleanest, most watchable, most likeable, most hateable, most spectacular experience in sports.

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MUSIC:

  • “In The Air Tonight”—Phil Collins
  • “I Aint Gonna Work Tomorrow”—Don Julin
  • “Tea and Thorazine”—Andrew Bird
  • “Across 110th Street”

THE USUAL LINKS