Spring games are mostly useless because there are so many weird guys on the field. Most of the freshmen haven’t arrived yet, guys with injuries are held out, and those who’ve earned starting jobs appear briefly if at all.
But we did get to see one matchup all game that is of some interest: new starting center (probably) Mason Cole vs. returned from the dead NT Bryan Mone. Both are expected to be very good this year, but Cole is moving down from two years of playing left tackle, while Mone lost all of 2015 to injury. So I thought we might take a trip through the spring game, focusing solely on plays when they went at each other.
Please don’t take this as a UFR—Brian has his own system for that, and I’m not trying to recreate it here. We’re not looking at what Mone does to JBB or walk-ons, but who scored points against each other.
Pull & seal
Cole is pulling around the left guard (JBB), whom Mone put on skates at the snap. Cole correctly IDs that he has to deal with that and uses up his block, which means this play is about to be dead. Mone wins the point by pushing Cole backwards to cut off even the hope of a cutback, then tossing Cole to the side to close in on the back, leaving Godin totally free. Monster start for Mone.
Mone shows great hands as he works from a 2-tech (over the LG) to the A gap on the other side and remains clean. He doesn't pressure but the offense is using up 3 blockers, meaning the rest of the protection is 1-on-1 (including Isaac vs. Godin). That creates pressure and Speight's throw downfield is a bit too far OOB. Cole did his part though so this round has no victor, except Don Brown.
Step & seal backside
On a power play like this Cole is starting playside and just has to block down and seal, a job he is put in an advantageous position to do. We will see this a lot so I’m establishing a precedent that Cole doesn’t get a “win” for this even though he successfully blocked Mone. If Mone gets blocked down and beats it he gets double points. If Mone pushes Cole enough to bother the pulling guard, Mone gets a point. Here Mone tried to push Cole backwards to cut off running room but Cole stalemated him.
Cole got some help from JBB but didn't need it, keeping Mone at arm's length and giving Speight a pretty pocket to throw the Butt TD.
3rd and 10 and they're one on one. Cole absorbed the first punch then Mone tossed him aside. Cole did well to spin around and regain position between Mone and Speight, but by then the center's in the QB's knees.
Protect left A
Cole wins the arm war this time and keeps Mone at bay without help, leaving Peters a nice pocket to step into if he chooses.
Step & seal backside
They're running power away from Mone again so Cole just has to block down. He erases Mone and then releases downfield, nearly taking out a linebacker and setting up to cut off pursuit. Point Cole.
Protect left A
This pass (the one Wheatley dropped) got off, but Cole got shoved deep into the pocket by Mone before handing the NT off to Pliska and picking up another rusher. No pocket equals point Mone.
Standings are at 4-3-2 in favor of Cole at this point. Obviously the white/maize team was game-planning to run at Godin (at 3-tech) instead of Mone.
SDE Charlton has been tough to handle [Eric Upchurch]
The most interesting thing about the configuration of the defense thus far is the weakside end. I thought they'd shift Taco Charlton over there and go with a very large and very fierce unit; instead Charlton looks set to start on the strongside and Chase Winovich is a tentative leader on the weakside. Chris Wormley spent most snaps I saw from him at three-tech.
While there's a chance that Michigan reconfigures once Ryan Glasgow gets re-added to the mix, right now it looks like Michigan will have a line that looks a lot like a traditional 4-3 under line instead of the mondo unit they could have had. One man's current guess at what a depth chart looks like in fall:
SDE: Charlton, Gary
NT: Glasgow, Mone, Hurst
3T: Wormley, Godin
WDE: Winovich, Marshall
If they can get production out of Winovich that's an incredibly deep, veteran, and proven defensive line. If Winovich doesn't work out you can slide Charlton over and still have a great two-deep at the bigger spots, but this is Don Brown's first draft.
So… Winovich. After a rather wasted year spent at h-back he returned to defense, now bulked up to 245 pounds. That's light, but if he can get up to 250 or 255 by fall—reasonable—it's not eye-poppingly so. And WDE does fit his talents. As a recruit he was reputed to be Jake Ryan 2.0, and weakside end is a spot Ryan definitely could have played. Winovich has started gathering some hype himself:
Chase Winovich had himself a day at defensive end. We’d said all week that he was a bigger, stronger version of his former self. Grant Newsome definitely learned that Friday. Winovich won their one on one match-up, and was one of the best edge rushers on the day. On one play he literally flattened Newsome with a bull rush to get into the backfield.
Whether that's hooray Winovich or a collar pull about Newsome is in the eye of the beholder. On the downside from that report: on "more than one occasion" Winovich got edged and lost contain. (Yes, just like Jake Ryan.) He's going to have to cause a lot of havoc to make up for what projects to be a serious downgrade in run efficacy from the much larger and more experienced Charlton.
"He was one of our top players last year," Mone said. "We ranked the team going into training camp from one to 125 and Mone was three."
I have many questions about that assertion. They will never be answered.
Mone seems to have picked up where he left off before his injury, but to be honest I didn't see much from him in either practice I observed. I wasn't looking for him much since nose tackle is just about dead last on my list of concerns for 2016; even so last year you saw Maurice Hurst blow through an assortment of players, including Graham Glasgow, en route to spring hype and a very productive season. Mone didn't deliver that when in front of fans. He did draw a tough matchup against Mason Cole, to be fair. I'm still waiting for him to indicate that he's going to be better than Glasgow was a year ago.
He was rarely blocked one-on-one, and managed to still be effective against the double team. Twice in the early portion of 11-on-11 action he engaged Ben Braden, tossed the 322 lb. offensive lineman to the side with relative ease, and then got in on the play in the backfield. On another play he split Braden and Mason Cole with great off-snap quickness and nailed Ty Isaac in the backfield.
I'd have liked to see that myself; it's good that someone did.
Godin's playing time might get squeezed [Upchurch]
Chris Wormley is still Chris Wormley. He'll probably be incrementally stronger and better and this will be a very good thing indeed. Matt Godin had an impressive spring game, blowing through a number of second-string OL. I thought he'd be a better fit at SDE, where he was on relatively level footing with Wormley early last season, than three-tech but Michigan looks set to play him on the interior. That might make it tough for him to get a lot of time—he is not likely to pass any of the other four DTs. The current Taco/Winovich DE setup steps on his toes more than anyone else.
Carlo Kemp and Reuben Jones played a lot as DEs on the white team and mostly got beat up. That's not a huge surprise since Kemp is a freshman and Jones is still listed at 222 pounds on the (possibly outdated) roster. I wouldn't expect either to break through this year.
McCray is a thumper [Upchurch]
Mike McCray is obviously the story of the spring here, and it was appropriate that he was one of the main reasons his team stuffed Henry Poggi on the goal line to end the Spring Game. McCray brings a load. At Ford Field he hammered a number of lead blocks like James Ross playing a Penn State OL. He is a tough customer.
What remains to be seen is whether he's a two-down backer or if he's fast enough to be an asset in coverage. Noises coming out of practice are positive. Per Lorenz Michigan is "quietly excited and optimistic"; Webb observed him have a lights out practice down in Florida:
Early in 11-on-11 action he met Ty Isaac in the hole and brought him down for no gain. A few plays later he showed nice feel in coverage and would have de-cleated Jack Wangler on a crossing pattern. His best play came later on in the practice when he timed a blitz perfectly and tagged Kareem Walker in the backfield.
While McCray ended up chasing a lot of completed mesh routes in the spring game I wouldn't read too much into that: mesh is designed to hang up man-to-man defenders trying to cover those drag routes. It did so with McCray. I'm assuming Michigan has better answers for mesh that they declined to show the public.
McCray did get juked by O'Korn on the final touchdown, but he was in a ton of space and did force the play back to his help. That help did not arrive in time. Ideally you get an open-field tackle like those Delano Hill turned in a couple times last year, but failing that McCray at least mitigated damage insofar as that was possible.
Ben Gedeon remains just as much of a default starter as he was before the spring. Harbaugh is saying all the right things about him, calling him a "stud" amongst other praise. When you've got a guy who hasn't quite established himself but will start because there are no other options save freshmen your floor can be very low—Johnny Sears is the canonical example. There was never going to be a way for Gedeon to disprove that this spring.
At least we have seen enough of Gedeon to estimate that he'll be all right—he was more or less a starter for a game in the middle of the season when Michigan was suffering through their ridiculous targeting call period, and he did fine. As long as he doesn't run upfield of blocks I'm good.
McCray's emergence allows the Devin Bush Jr project to have a more reasonable timeframe. Going into spring everyone was assuming he'd end up starting out of necessity; exiting it he's probably in the same position Gedeon was last year: a rotation player who spots both starters. That's still not ideal, but neither is it starting a freshman. Bush didn't generate a ton of buzz other than the occasional mention of a big hit and he didn't leap out at me. He was of course victimized by Ty Wheatley on that one play, but when you force a one-handed attempt to catch a pass you've done your job.
Noah Furbush did not play in the spring game, which is unfortunate since he came in for a reasonable amount of hype himself as Jabrill Peppers's main competition at SAM. Sam related that Harbaugh "loves" Furbush's attitude and general guy-ness, and he did have a number of impressive special teams plays a year ago. Obviously Furbush and Peppers are not particularly similar players—Furbush coming into his own would allow Michigan to move Peppers around.
Another reason I wouldn't read too much into the crossing routes that were wide open all day: somehow the top six defensive backs* all ended up on the white team, and after the opening series we saw little of Lewis and Stribling. Victims on the crossing routes were often walk-ons.
Most downfield passes were attempted against guys who don't project to see the field much this year. Ken Stross was this year's version of Norfleet: a converted WR who gets bombed all day.
There were a couple of plays of note for projected contributors, this one the most impressive:
Dymonte Thomas came from the dead center of the field to get over the top of a reasonably well-thrown ball near the back corner of the endzone. He took off as soon as Morris committed to one side of the field, which is encouraging.
Jarrod Wilson, blessed be his boring name, is not making that play. I can't imagine many people do. If Thomas can reliably execute his assignments he has the potential to be something Michigan hasn't seen since Marcus Ray**: a bonafide playmaking safety.
The other play of note was discussed yesterday when we talked about Drake Harris and can be seen briefly at the 52 second mark of the above highlights: Jeremy Clark with fantastic coverage on Harris. I don't doubt that Channing Stribling's had an impressive spring, especially since he got the sure-starter yoink on Friday and this vote of confidence from Harbaugh…
“Channing Stribling. He’s a starter. It’s cold. It’s in stone.:"
…but at Ford Field and the Spring Game it's been Jeremy Clark who looks like the guy.
Channing Stribling was given the game ball by Jim Harbaugh after practice #4 and with good reason. … His route recognition led to numerous plays including two interceptions. His first pick came while covering Drake Harris and seemed to run the pattern better than his offensive counterpart before jumping it and intercepting the ball. He nearly picked off another pass… a deep out to Harris… where he also seem to run that route better than Harris also before knocking it away. His second interception occurred when the Sean McKeon beat Noah Furbush down the seam and Stribling slid over the top to help, skied for the ball, and picked it off.
I expect that competition to be hot and heavy this fall. TBH I'd be perfectly happy with another year just like the one Clark turned in, minus some of the absurdly bad luck he suffered. For Stribling to surge past is a potentially excellent sign.
Kinnel is hugely important for 2017 [Upchurch]
Tyree Kinnel was the other name of note. He turned in a pick-six at Ford Field and looked very comfortable in a box safety role in the spring game. Despite that, Harbaugh made it clear that the two starters have "nobody really pushing them right now."
*[minus Peppers, if he's more of a linebacker.]
**[Ernest Shazor's candidacy here was rejected since he made as many plays for the opposition as his own team. ]
Michigan didn't run any full-go, but there was the occasional thing of note:
At Ford Field it looked like Michigan was trying to find folks other than Peppers to take kickoffs back. They can get similar production from some of their other fast guys and lighten the load on their two-way star.
They did practice both NFL and spread punting; in the game they went entirely spread.
Kenny Allen had a booming conventional punt. This does not surprise since he's been blasting them in practice for years. It is unlikely he has the precision that Blake O'Neill did but if Michigan needs to send it 60 yards he's more than capable.
Andrew David has been tasked with rugby punting. He had a pooch punt that was relatively effective.
Can't judge return units since nothing was full contact.
Chris Partridge appears to be the main guy on special teams, with little help from other people, at least on the practice field.
David was shaky on field goals.
I expect Allen to take the large bulk of the kicking jobs. Surprise!
What are you watching for in the Spring Game? What is there to learn?
David: Brian and Ace did a good job during the Podcast of pointing out some of the main things to watch for on Friday night. Here are some additional battles/guys that will grab my eyes:
No no the one on the right. [Fuller]
Not De'Veon Smith running backs. At this point, we know who Smith is and what he can do. After him, there is quite a race happening. Isaac has been hyped a little, but he was last year, as well. Kareem Walker is a big recruit, but as of a couple weeks ago, he was still with the Maize group. Also, I guess Joe Hewlett has gotten some nice run. Bobby Henderson at fullback. He's the only returning true fullback. They've moved a couple other guys (Hill and Poggi) back there, but I'm curious to see if Henderson will fend them off and be able to earn PT just because he will be more familiar with the position.
Dymonte Thomas and Tyree Kinnel at safety. Thomas blew up towards the end of 2015 and earned his spot on the field. He's a crazy athlete and a little more practice time could turn him into a dynamic deep safety. Tyree Kinnel is a guy I still wish they would have red-shirted, but he is also a guy to keep an eye on for not only next season but for the future. There's not a whole lot behind these guys. *We've seen Delano Hill before and mostly know what we'll get from him.
The rest of the tight ends. Jake Butt is YAY! There are also some interesting guys after him. Bunting, Wheatley, Jocz, and Gentry are all different kinds of players and each can create his own matchup problem. Seeing Wheatley slip out, Jocz block (ha), and Bunting/Gentry use their size against smaller DBs will be some things to keep an eye on that could get them on the field in the Fall...and very much diversify Michigan's tight end arsenal.
[Hit THE JUMP to find out who the coaches' thought their #3 overall player was at this time last year. Hint: he didn't play.]
Playing three different positions in three years isn’t usually the recipe for success, but what about defensive end works for Chase Winovich that you think he’ll fit better there?
“Well, Chase has had a very good spring. We saw that in the bowl practice, and that’s why bowl games are so important. I’ve always felt—I recruited him, and I always felt he had a real high motor, he’s a very, very tough young man, and he can really run. When we got a chance to get him back on defense we just put him in in practices and I would have played him in the game. I would have put him in the bowl game at the end except our offense did such a great job of controlling the ball I didn’t have time to get him in at the end. Then this spring, he’s added some weight. He’s got a lot of learning to do with the technique but he’s willing to, and I think you’re going to be—you know, he’s got a very high ceiling and I’m excited about it.”
How about Bryan Mone? Is he at full health?
“Yeah. Bryan’s, you know, he’s rusty; you don’t take a whole year off [without rust]. But every practice you see it getting more like the guy when he was a freshman but older, and he’s working really hard. I’m very pleased. Obviously he’s very hungry. You know, you take a year away from a young man, it’s hard. And he seems to be really excited about what’s happening, and he’s getting a lot of great reps.”
On the other side of the ball, can you talk about what you see in practice from Chesson and Darboh and Butt in terms of they’re so experienced and so talented that whoever the quarterback is how much they’re going to help that guy?
“Yeah, again, you’re talking about three guys that are veterans now. They’re very talented. I don’t follow our offense. You know, you’ve got so much to do with your own side, but they just have such a great attitude and they seem to be the ones that make the plays. And they’re leaders. They’re leaders by how they play, leaders off the field, leaders in the cafeteria. They’re big-time guys and it’s fun to be on a team with them. I’m really excited about what they’re going to do this next year.”
You’ve talked a lot over the years about how you remember coaching Chris [Wormley] and Hurst when they were really young. Now they’re old. This is the most veteran line you’ve had. Are your expectations, I assume, that much higher?
“Yeah, very high. You know, they know me that if a guy shows that he has talent that I’m going to expect him to get all the way to the top of that talent, and so sometimes things that might be acceptable some places are still not acceptable. I’m always after them for perfection. I want them to be as good as I know they can be, and that’s hard to do in a four-hour practice but they’re being pushed to do that.
“You see those guys, you know, Glasgow, he can’t go right now but he’s doing some things that he wouldn’t get injured with. But all those guys, Taco, it’s four years for them now and you’ve seen them. It’s funny because when you see a Shelton Johnson or a Carlo Kemp or Winovich, you see a young guy and you remember that’s just what they looked like, so you want to get them there faster so they can be up with them. But it’s good. The bar is very, very high for this defensive line.”
[After THE JUMP: If tickets for the Rashan Gary Hype Train weren’t already sold out…]
Michigan no doubt has a very good idea of who those guys are already and is recruiting to match. Rivals has a rundown of the general situation that lists a number of names, most of them obvious.
Potential fifth years who have not seen the field much are not likely to return. That's a group that includes Terry Richardson, Blake Bars, Tom Strobel and maybe Allen Gant. Drake Johnson was a maybe due to playing time, something I'd also heard, but now looks set to come back. Matt Godin is mentioned as a possibility, but that seems far-fetched since he saw a ton of snaps this year. He's not a great fit as a DT, but move him to a plugger DE spot and he can be useful taking on tight ends on the like.
Rivals also suggests that a current offensive line starter might move on, which sounds absolutely ridiculous. Even if a guy might get beat out that guy would almost certainly be your #6, and asking that guy to transfer is not something any program is likely to do. File that under "motivational ploy" or "drunken telephone".
Aside from the fifth year guys, space will come from a couple places. One are Michigan's specialists. We currently count them against the cap but their situation is probably more fluid than that since I assume a couple of them are on "you get the first available slot in fall" kind of deals. Those slots are near-certain to open up by fall; I don't know if Michigan has to account for them on Signing Day.
Then there are plain old transfers. Derrick Green disappeared in the second half of the season and didn't make the bowl trip; I have heard that he is very likely to transfer. You have to figure that players passed by freshmen are going to be inclined to look around. There are few WR/DB types that applies to, and then at least one quarterback is going to look at the guys around him and say NOOOPE. It sounds like Harbaugh is already aware of who those guys are.
Ty Isaac doesn't seem like one of them. With virtually zero playing time after a couple of mid-year fumbles Isaac would be a guy to keep an eye on even though he's already lost a year of eligibility by departing USC. But Isaac says he's going to stay and scrap:
"I didn't play as well as I needed to, and I obviously had some things come up," Isaac said last week in Orlando. "But I still feel the same way. Anything the coaches want me to do I'll do, and I want to do.
"It didn't go my way, but the team overall's had a successful year and I'm happy to be a part of that."
I'd heard that he was very prominent in practices late, but that clearly did not translate into enough trust to put him on the field. He'll work on rebuilding that this offseason.
Early entries. It's departure season, as the deadline to declare for the NFL draft is the 15th. Michigan seems to be getting everyone other than maybe Willie Henry back; others have not been so fortunate:
Penn State: QB Christian Hackenberg and DT Austin Johnson have declared. Neither is much of a surprise.
Indiana: RB Jordan Howard declared, and Michigan fans quietly high-fived. So did DT Darius Latham, who was their most talented defender.
Nebraska: DT Maliek Collins declared. Michigan doesn't play Nebraska next year.
Maryland: DE Yannick Ngakoue declared.
Rutgers: LB Steve Longa is gone, but Seth will still draft him anyway next year.
Ohio State: DE Joey Bosa, RB Ezekiel Elliott, S Tyvis Powell, QB Cardale Jones, WR Michael Thomas, CB Eli Apple and LB Darron Lee have all declared. S Vonn Bell is widely expected to go as well.
Iowa is getting CB Desmond King back, so that's good for them. Everyone else of note is out.
Ratings! I don't care about ratings. A lot of people seem very mad that the playoff semifinals dropped a third of their viewership after moving to New Year's Eve. I don't care that much about other people setting money on fire, but yeah it was bad:
Per Sports Business Journal's Jon Ourand, overnight numbers for the Oklahoma-Clemson Orange Bowl and Alabama-Michigan State Cotton Bowl were 9.7 and 9.9, respectively (about 15.6 million viewers for the Orange Bowl and about 18.6 million for the Cotton, per Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch).
Last year's Rose and Sugar semis got 15.5 and 15.3 (about 28 million viewers apiece, per The Washington Post).
That's more than a third fewer viewers for the sport's biggest games of the year.
Two games that didn't exactly come down to the wire—MSU-Alabama was particularly uncompetitive—didn't help. The idea that college football would change the country's New Year's Eve paradigm was massive hubris, but this is an organization that kept Bill Hancock as their main mouthpiece even after they'd decided everything that came out of his mouth for a decade was complete bollocks. Hubris should be expected.
Let's see what Bill Hancock has to say now, I bet it's reasonable and logic—
"That decline, frankly, is not much of a surprise and it's modest."
Hancock's business card reads "will lie but seem respectable for money."
Wisconsin down one Dave Aranda. LSU hires him away for a reported 1.3 million a year. That is bad for Wisconsin, which seems to be clearly handicapped by their administration at this point. Gary Andersen fled to one of the worst jobs in the Pac-12 rather than stick around; Bo Ryan retired midseason to spite people who would not give the job to his primary assistant; they lose their DC and Barry Alvarez cries poverty afterward.
I'm sure they'll maintain competitiveness but it feels like their golden age is coming to an end here.
"I used (the injury) as motivation to be honest with you," Mone said. "Just motivation. Watching the guys practice and play got me excited to work out and not only that but in the classroom, too... I feel pretty good body-wise. I was at 330 when I got hurt, I'm at 309 now. My expectations are just to get better with my technique football-wise."
He also says "everybody is coming back," which predated reports about Willie Henry exploring his options but is still an enouraging sign for how he thinks that decision will go.
Partridge on departing. DJ Durkin made a run at Chris Partridge after he was hired at Maryland, but Partridge decided to stay. It sounds like that's not a short-term decision:
“My future is whatever Jim Harbaugh thinks my future is,” said Partridge, with his mother, Bonnie, and father, Rick, nearby. “My number will be called and I know that, and for now I’m trying to be the best in the country in whatever role my team needs me, whatever I’m asked to do. My loyalty is with Jim Harbaugh — who I consider the best coach in the country — and my heart is with the University of Michigan. I’m just part of a team trying to do my part to help us win Big Ten and national championships.”
Partridge coached linebackers in the bowl game and is probably in line for a full assistant spot in the relatively near future, possibly when Mattison retires.
“Nice to see everybody. I just spent a nice 45 minutes over at the Weber’s with the M Club of Ann Arbor. Now I get to be here with you to follow that up. It doesn’t get any better!”
What have you seen from your offense so far, and what do you like about the competition?
“What I love about the competition is that…oh, where you talking about offense?”
Yeah. “It’s been good. Intense competition, which it always is on a football team. There’s a great deal of honor and satisfaction to be one of the 11- a starter. Competition for those roles has been intense, as you would expect. Offensively, defensively, and on special teams.”
Any updates on the quarterbacks?
“I was informed that our competition for Thursday night’s ball game, Utah, would be sending us their official depth chart Monday, and in the interest of fair and healthy competition we will also send our official depth chart on Monday as well.”
Does that mean you’ll have made up your mind by Monday, or are you still hashing it out?
“Like a lot of positions there are some that are very close, some are closer than others, some are still being competed for, and some positions there’s individuals that are ahead. To give you an example, the kicking position is very tight right now and still playing out. At some positions it might continue into the ball game itself. Yeah. I think we’re getting a good idea of things, whether it’s even, close, or someone’s ahead at this point.”
Is it important for you to tell your QBs or team who that is so they can rally behind that one guy?
“To the team? Yeah, I think that’s something that’s been ongoing and that takes place.”
I don’t know if you-
“And they do. They do. It’s been a tight, close competition. Especially at that position.”
[After THE JUMP: “You can also say we really enjoyed each other’s company in a football fashion”]
What's the status of Bryan? Can you comment on Bryan Mone at all? “Yeah, Bryan is a great kid and a great player for us. We really like him.” If he’s not able to play how does that affect how you use Hurst? Do you use him more at the nose tackle spot?
“A great thing about our team right now, when you go through camp, is that we’re building depth at all positions. That's what this time of year is for is find where we’re strongest at and where our depth is and so I think across the board you've done a good job of that. We've developed some guys and we've got depth at all positions.” So how do you expect to use Hurst then? “Mo Hurst? Mo is definitely part of that depth up front and he can play all the spots too. Really he can play inside [or] outside, so he's a guy we’re counting on. He'll play a lot for us.” What were some of the positives that you took away from Saturday as far as the defensive line is concerned? “I think it was good. I think the biggest thing is probably that was the first time we were out with crowd noise and it was good seeing them communicate on their own. You know, coaches, we like to– either you're standing out and you cheat a little bit, you're yelling and you're kind of helping the guys out because you're into it, and we weren't able to do that. That was the first time they were out there on the field on their own, no one out there helping them make checks, and they really communicated well and for the most part were assignment-sound.” What's the most interesting thing you’ve learned about your secondary in these last 2 1/2 weeks? “The best part is we’ve been finding out the competitors, because there's good competition back there and we've put them in a bunch of spots where they’ve got to show up. And they know its competition. We've moved guys around a little bit and so I think it's been great. You find out the guys who really thrive in that type of environment.” What do you like most about your defensive front? “I think just their work-type mentality: blue-collar. We've brought it every day. This has been a tough camp, and they've responded every day. I mean, they've been locked in in meetings and done well on the field. There've been a few instances where I could say it wasn't that type of mentality, but really when you look at the whole grand scheme of camp they really brought it. They've done great.”
[After THE JUMP: I ask about the secondary and someone asks about Freddy Canteen. Also Jabrill, because there’s always a question about Jabrill]
Greg Mattison returns in 2015, and though he’ll be working in a different capacity he inherits a line of which he was one of the chief architects. He talked about the functional differences (and similarities) between the 4-3 and 3-4 and the progress his linemen have made over the summer at last week’s Media Day.
[I jumped into the scrum mid-response]
“You know, one thing [is] you don’t get around the kids much in the summer. I saw him [Lawrence Marshall] today [and] I said, ‘What do you weigh?’ He looks great. All our kids- Kevin [Tolbert] did a tremendous job in the weight program and all our kids worked extremely hard whenever I had a chance to pop my head in and take a look.”
DJ said you guys are going to be multiple. How much of a challenge is that for your defensive linemen?
“It’s not. It’s not. You know, when people talk about different schemes it really comes down to techniques. You can call it anything you want; one time you play a five-technique, one time you play a four, one time you play a three. You’ve got to learn them all.”
Do you like the depth and talent that you have up front?
“Yeah, I definitely do. These kids, we’ve been together for a long time. These guys have played a lot of football and maybe before they should’ve, but now they’re bigger, stronger, and older. Now it’s our job to get them to be as good as they can be.”
You guys have used Taco [Charlton] at a couple different spots his first couple years. He’s played some here and there. He’s a junior now. What does he have to do to really [inaudible]?
“I think he’s got to keep working on his technique. He’s a guy coming out of high school that really wasn’t a defensive lineman, so I think you’ve got to continue to take the technique with the strength. Add both of those together. And he makes flashy plays, [he] makes good plays. Now he’s got to do that consistently.”
[After THE JUMP: ways the 4-3 and 3-4 are the same]
Rumors that sophomore DT Bryan Mone had suffered a serious injury in Tuesday's practice first hit The Fort yesterday, and unfortunately they've been corroborated by multiple sources, including a Scout writer based out of Mone's home state of Utah:
Michigan's starting defensive tackle Bryan Mone broke his ankle in practice yesterday. Likely out all of 2015. Mone is from Salt Lake City.
This would be a major blow to depth on the interior of the defensive line. Ryan Glasgow, Willie Henry, and Maurice Hurst are going to have to play a lot of snaps, and Mone's absence likely means larger roles than expected for Matt Godin and Brady Pallante, as well. Chris Wormley should also be able to fold inside on occasion, though that will in turn test Michigan's already lacking depth at end.
With Mone looking poised for a breakthrough season, there's no question this is a significant loss, even at a position of relative strength for the program. Here's hoping for a speedy and full recovery.
[why take a new picture when there’s perfection in your file?]
"What can I answer?"
Can you just tell us about the whole process of staying? There was some uncertainty there about what your future was going to be and then talking to Jim…
"Yeah. Whenever there's a changeover the head coach will always hire who he wants to hire and I feel very fortunate to be able to stay at Michigan. You know I love Michigan and I feel very strongly about the players coming back and the guys in this program and I feel very strongly about Coach Harbaugh. I've known that family for a long time. It's just great to be back. That's the thing I'll say."
Were you exploring other options in that interim?
"I had a number of offers. Some in the NFL and things like that, but I made up my mind that if I had the opportunity I'd love to stay and I did, so I stayed."
Talk about this defense. You were excited about it growing last year but obviously this year–
"Well, I'll tell you what. One thing: DJ Durkin is doing a tremendous job, and I think the defensive coaches– It's exciting because you see some of the things we're doing, some of the kids with experience, some of the kids picking it up and it's exciting to see it moving forward. It's exciting to see the kids getting really coached and wanting to get coached and it's good."
Do you have a preference between the defensive line and linebacker, because you've coached both?
"Yeah, I've coached defensive line my whole life. You know, I started out as a D-line coach and I coached the line, oh, I don't know, if you figure– I'd hate to say how many years because that'd give up how many years I've been coaching, but I do know I've coached defensive line probably a lot longer than linebackers and I really like the defensive line. It's a place where I think technique and teaching [are important] and you can get guys to be better. You can make improvements there through technique and hard work so I'm excited to coach the D-line."
There's been a lot of talk of running some 3-4 defense this year, which you haven't done a lot of. Is that different for the defensive linemen?
"You know, we're exploring everything. We did that last year. We ran that last year, but what we're kind of doing on defense [is] trying to see what scheme fits the players we have, so we're pretty broad with what we're doing."
What has your working relationship been like with DJ Durkin and how are you guys kind of feeding off each other?
"Well, Coach Durkin and I are very, very close friends. We coached together a long time ago at Notre Dame. I traveled down there two years ago back to Florida to talk to him about what they were doing and he's done a great job wherever he's been. I've known DJ for a long time and I've always felt that he's a tremendous football coach. Some of the things that he's done at a young age at Florida is remarkable and I knew that, and that's why it's exciting to work with him. It's fun because were not just coaches together, we're friends and that's – I've always liked to be a part of something like that."
[After THE JUMP: Position buzz and 2-gap talk]
Who are some of your pass rushers, and talk about the standup outside linebacker.
"We've had a number of guys get nicked up and guys are really working hard. Our numbers are down on the D-line and they just keep working through it. I'm not going to single out anybody because they're all working extremely hard, and we won't know until into the season who our pass rushers are. I hope every one of them are. I think the one position, if I did single one out, that I'm really, really pleased with is the noseguard position. I think Glasgow and Mone and Hurst are doing a really, really good job. And the other positions are working hard also, I just– that's the group that really seems like they've got a lot of experience."
Is Willie [Henry] playing the nose too?
"No, Willie will be playing tackle and end."
You have a good relationship with these guys on defense already. Have you served as a liaison between the players and the staff?
"No, I haven't needed to do that. I think somebody else asked me that one time. These coaches are so experienced and there's no liaison necessary. I think when the kids are in their meetings and they're being coached by them, players understand right away when a guy who's coaching them is really doing a great job and is really sharp and I think these kids knew right away. I mean, how could you help but not? I talked about DJ and you've got Mike Zordich and Greg Jackson, who played 12 years in the NFL. He coached at the highest level and both of them have coached in the NFL. They are very experienced, very good coaches."
How about from the other end? Have any coaches come to you and said, 'Hey, this guy responds this way' or 'This guy plays real well in this technique'?
"No, it hasn't been– we all speak so freely in our meeting room that if somebody would bring up something about a player and I've seen it before or I haven't seen it before I'll just say that. I kind of have the luxury of having been with them so I'll just say, 'This kid really is a good player, he really is doing a good job,' and I'll say, 'He had signs of showing that before,' that kind of thing. They've done such a good job, in my opinion, knowing what each player's strength is and each player, what he needs to work on so it hasn't been that kind of thing."
You were pretty adamant last season about the experienced youth on this team and that it was coming. You're here this spring now: Have you seen it?
"I have. Yeah, I have. I've seen these kids working hard. I've seen them be a lot more mature. I mean, these practices are tough practices, and if you're a young kid you kind of maybe fold. There's times sometimes where that happens. I've been real pleased with our guys as far as stepping forward and just keep going, keep going. That shows experience."
You talked about coming back to finish what you guys started. Is that the message from you to the guys you're coaching? I mean, you recruited a lot of those guys.
"Yeah, I don't know if it's to finish because when you finish you say it's over. I just wanted to stay a part of what Michigan is and what Michigan will be and what Michigan has been forever and I think that's coming. I just want to be a part of that and I'm fortunate to be a part of it."
You've worked for a lot of different guys at all different levels, including Jim's brother. What's it like working for Jim? What are his unique traits?
"Well, he's just a very, very, very sharp coach. He's really, really intelligent. He's demanding. He's very businesslike. Every day you're going to work to get better. He expects his coaches to work hard. He expects his coaches to do their job. You don't win 49 games in the NFL in three years and not be a great coach. And he's always been that; you don't do what he did at Stanford and not be a great coach. And everywhere he's been he's just done a great job."
There's a lot of guys on the staff with NFL experience, whether it's playing or coaching. How are you seeing details of that applied to this spring practice?
"I think the one thing when there's a lot of experience in a coaching staff [is] you can make adjustments very easy and be able to teach it. Sometimes what happens if you don't have a lot of experience and there's adjustments to be made [is] you have to teach the coaches first and then the coaches have to teach the players but this staff, they have so much experience that they've done that. They say, 'Oh yeah, we've done this. We can get this done' and it's easy to make adjustments that way."
What have you seen from Chris Wormley so far?
"Chris Wormley is working really, really hard. He seems every day to be taking another step toward being the Chris Wormley that we recruited and the Chris Wormley that you were really expecting to see before he had the knee [injury], and I'm really happy with the way he's been working. He's been very physical. He's totally into it. He's been a leader by example. I'm get pleased with what Chris has done."
MGoQuestion: Are there guys on this line that can play two gaps or are you not really looking at 2-gapping this season?
"Well, I think in every defense you have to 2-gap sometimes, so it's nothing different. But it remains to be seen. There's not a lot of people that do play 2-gap."
You've run the show here defensively for the last four seasons. How difficult is that transition to not be-
"Not at all. Not at all. Not at all because, as I said, I really respect the guy I'm working with and the guys I'm working with, and I've done that for so long that sometimes you say it's kind of enjoyable just to take these four guys and see how good they can be. And I knew that when Jim hired me, there's only one coordinator and what he says we do and once you get that you say, 'Okay, my job is to go coordinate the defensive line and to do a great job with that.' And I've done it so long, I've had so many opportunities to do it that it's really just about seeing how good we can get this team."
[Note: Mattison and Greg Jackson’s availability overlapped, so this transcript isn’t complete. I switched over to Jackson’s huddle at this point and missed 1-2 minutes of Mattison.]