Canteen's status was known to be in question after offseason surgery; this would appear to resolve that. No word yet on whether that's a transfer or a retirement. He kept bouncing between WR and corner throughout his career, never getting established at either spot. He wasn't expected to contribute this year, although the surgery probably had something to do with that.
Pallante is a bit of a a surprise since he saw scattered snaps towards the end of the year and Michigan is already two under their scholarship limit. While he didn't look like a guy who was going to play much going forward you'd think the program would keep him around for this year at least; looks like Pallante could read the enormous four- and five-star ratings on the wall.
Both Canteen and Pallante were slated to take up slots on the 2017 roster and will no longer. Michigan now has 21 slots in the 2017 class and is recruiting for around 30; it's not too hard to look at the roster and find another four spots from would-be fifth year seniors and early NFL Draft entry.
Reon Dawson and Jaron Dukes are medically retiring.
Freddy Canteen and Moe Ways recently had shoulder and foot surgery, respectively. Canteen’s status with the program is in the air; Ways should be back in 3-4 months.
Speight, O’Korn, and Morris are getting more snaps than the other QBs, but they’re all still making at least one “big mistake” every practice.
Devin Bush Jr. had his best practice of the spring on Saturday.
Harbaugh responded to Gene Smith’s comments because he felt a shot was fired across Michigan’s bow and, after waiting many hours, thought he needed to do the same. Just never, ever tell him that he likes to get in twitter wars because it’s a form of competition.
Harbaugh said it doesn’t matter to him what time of day games are played; a night game or lack thereof doesn’t faze him.
What did you see out there from your group today, and what were you looking for specifically here today?
“Uh, you know, good, competitive football fight. Getting better: in a lot of areas we are and in a lot of other areas not bad and other and all areas we need to keep improving, so…the guys are grindin’.”
Did your quarterback rotation go about how you wanted, and what did you see out of those guys?
“Uh…you know, there’s—like I told them, there’s, you know…we’re looking for a quarterback to move the team and not make the big mistake. They’re all in the mode of a big mistake a day, so we’re not—we’re just gonna keep plugging away and keep getting better, keep giving them things they can improve on, things they can take and use. Looking forward to the game setting. Maybe that’ll be another good test, but they’re getting a lot of tests right now. Strides are being made, but we’ve still got a long row to hoe.”
What does it do for your fans and for your team to come out here in this setting at Ford Field and open it up?
“I think it’s great in the way of sometimes spring practice can get monotonous. Some would even say boring. There’s no game that comes at the end of the week. It’s something different. Something to make it livelier, special—that’s what we get out of it. To have people in the stands, always felt that makes it better. Even the cameras, even the TV cameras—even if they didn’t have film in them, you know?”
They don’t anymore.
“Touché. So even if you had a camera that wasn’t actually recording anything guys would work hard. Guys would enjoy it more. People are watching, so that’s a good thing for us.”
With the quarterbacks, are you still repping them evenly or are you changing that up some?
“I’d say there’s Wilton [Speight], John [O’Korn], Shane [Morris] getting more. It’s not dead even anymore, no.”
Would it be Wilton, John, Shane in that order?
“I can’t even make an order right now. It’s to be determined still. It means a lot to all of them. You can tell in the way they play and just continuing to be able to play loose and play smart and continue to get repetitions. Continue to get looks and learn—that’s what they need to see right now. Looking forward to some game-like action. We’re going to make it game-like in the spring game. Everything’s going to be real tackle football live; the quarterbacks, everybody. There’ll be live bullets for them, so that’ll be a nice, good-size task for us. Looking forward to seeing how that plays out.”
The departures of Dukes and Dawson bring Michigan to or under 85 depending on the status of the as-yet-unsigned Dytarious Johnson; if Canteen does not make it back they'd be at 84 and able to issue a scholarship to Ryan Glasgow.
That is twice the individual attention for each player. That might not be practical for every practice but when they're not in pads it's an obvious win, except I haven't heard of anyone else doing this so it's apparently not that obvious.
Roster items. Blake Bars and Damario Jones are off the roster and have left the program. Per Rivals, Bars is off to law school. Not sure what Jones's next stop is, but he announced he would grad transfer on Twitter. Pretty sure that the only player to leave the program without a degree this offseason is Brian Cole.
With those departures Michigan stands at 86 scholarships accounted for, plus walk-ons-you-really-expect-to-get-scholarships Kenny Allen and Ryan Glasgow. If Dytarious Johnson does end up enrolling they'd be at 87. I think that's pretty unlikely, as I can't remember a player who couldn't sign a letter of intent who managed to get to Michigan without a pit stop at a prep school. So Michigan needs to lose one more guy before fall.
There were a number of position switches and number changes:
John O'Korn is wearing #8, so he doesn't conflict with Peppers.
Chase Winovich is now listed as a defensive end(?!) because his career is designed to be that of an itinerant laborer. That may be a misprint or misunderstanding; Sam Webb tweeted that he was playing SAM. More on that in a bit.
Freddy Canteen spent all his time at WR. This kind of bouncing back and forth without seeing the field is usually not a good sign for a player's future playing time. See: Ross Taylor-Douglas.
A coach roster item. Harbaugh confirmed the Brian Smith hire and said he'd coach safeties with Zordich remaining with cornerbacks. I was kind of hoping for that Viney dude but you have to let Don Brown make that call.
Cease ringing the Drake Harris injury klaxons. He missed practice today… with norovirus. He should be good to go for the next one. Webb says he's up to 185; was listed at 174 last year. (The roster as a whole has not been updated with new weights, thus the absence of a "phonebooks are here!" post.)
What is a linebacker, anyway? I'll be really interested to see how the defense configures itself during the spring game. Reports that Winovich is playing SAM don't mesh with the expectation that Taco Charlton will play WDE and Peppers will still be a nickel. Or, you know, something else:
Peppers worked a great deal w/ LBs today. If 1 practice is an indicator he'll play in the box even more this year. Time will tell of course
Those in possession of MGoCookies for remembering stuff will remember that a recent recruiting roundup pointed out that MI LB Antjuan Simmons was told he was being recruited as a SAM and then compared to, yes, Jabrill Peppers.
To me this implies that Michigan will be altering its defense to look more like the OSUs and MSUs and PSUs of the world. Those teams mostly run "quarters", which means they have two deep safeties. Varieties of this defense that roll the safeties close to the line of scrimmage often have a coverage-oriented linebacker called "star" who walks out over the slot. That's usually the strong side, thus he is a SAM linebacker… but not the kind of SAM linebacker Jake Ryan was. Same hybrid space player, different system around him?
Ken Mastrole, a quarterback coach who has worked with Rudock and O’Korn, has described O’Korn as having “off-the-chart physical intangibles"
There is a reason the "intangibles" section of every preview is a picture of a cat.
Anyway, that's from an Angelique Chengelis article featuring O'Korn's parents:
“He’s been chomping at the bit, there’s no doubt,” his father, Gary O’Korn, said this week. “He had the right attitude coming in — ‘This isn’t taking a year off, this is a year to prepare.’ He’s done well and Michigan demands that. That’s not something you really have a choice, but mentally this was where you decide, ‘Am I going to go through the motions or put myself in position to get serious?’”
By all accounts it is the latter.
Important hair update. Reuben Jones is coming for De'Veon Smith's crown:
The Question: Five things you want to hear coming out of spring practices?
1. De'Veon Smith is not missing holes that do exist. After struggling most of the year with hitting holes with consistency, Smith appeared to get 'Lasik Surgery' before the Citrus Bowl. He definitely had his best game of the season in terms of vision. Hopefully, it was not just against a defense that was checked out and it will be obvious as Spring Practice picks up. Also, hopefully, the offensive line, who has mostly been together for a few years, will give him something to see.
2. John O'Korn's decision-making is ahead of schedule. With Gentry apparently moving to TE and Peters taking his first reps as a collegian, it should be O'Korn's job to lose. He's always had the arm and measurables. The only question has been his head. Making the right reads and understanding the offense early in Spring will be a great sign.
3. Devin Bush Jr's reactions are impressive. With Ben Gedeon being the only LB left on the roster to see significant playing time, snaps at LB are wide open. DBJ fits Don Brown's LB profile very well. He also enrolled early for a reason. There's a good chance Michigan will need him to play right away. Usually the main issue with young players is the speed of the game. If he's reading and reacting well from the get-go, that will be a very encouraging sign.
4. No new serious injuries. Injuries in football are usually unavoidable. Two of the past 3 seasons Michigan has had a devastating Spring injury (Ryan in '13 and Butt in '14). It was very nice to not have one of those in 2015 -although, Mone was lost in Fall Camp. I would be happy with a major injury-free Spring.
5. The attitude around the program is not winning but dominating. Time for my #hottake. In Spring Training of '86, Davey Johnson told the Mets that he didn't expect them beat teams but to dominate them. The Mets put some pieces together in '84 and '85, but they didn't put together final piece or have the experience of knowing what to expect down the stretch. After keeping things close initially, the Mets blew the doors off the league in the 2nd half and had one of the most dominating teams in last half century.
This is the attitude that I expect from Team 137. They played well last season but were just not good enough in a few crucial moments. If you think that multiple guys turned down the NFL just for a B10 title, you're crazy. This team is talented enough, they're deep enough, they have the experience, now. There is no reason to think that anyone they play is legit better. I don't want to just see them beat the opposition. I'd like to see them dominate the game play.
Over the past two games the passing numbers for the opposing quarterbacks were obviously a lot higher. Is there something that you can pinpoint on that to change?
“Well, the Michigan State game you’re facing a really good quarterback. They made a lot of plays and we made a lot of plays ourselves in that game, but you’ve got to give credit to the quarterback over there.
“Last week, I’m not taking anything away from Minnesota [but] we just laid an egg defensively, especially in the secondary. We just played poorly. That contributes to a lot of the passing yards this past week.”
Do you attribute that to rust from a bye week or…?
“You know, we’ve all tried to figure it out. Nobody knows but we’re fighting through it and certainly we’ve talked about it, we’ve addressed it, and we are working on getting better starting yesterday in practice.”
Anything you saw specifically on some of the breakdowns that led to long pass plays?
“I just, again, think our guys in the backend didn’t play as aggressively as they have in the past; weren’t going after footballs, had bad eye control, and just losing their guys. Did not play well.”
Connor Cook is ancient history at this point, but was he one of the better quarterbacks you’ve seen this year?
“Oh yeah. He’s a real good quarterback. I mean, he puts the ball places where it’s hard for other guys to catch. He’s good. A lot of credit to him. He’s gonna be- you’ll be watching him on Sundays for sure.”
[After THE JUMP: The wings on the helmet will tell on you if you lose eye control]
“We expected more higher energy out of our players and more competitive spirit. I don’t think- I think they went into the game playing more cautiously than just relying on what they learned in camp. And I know with our older guys, you know, Jarrod Wilson and Jourdan Lewis, they’re going to make a difference for this week. I know they’re going to make sure that we up the tempo this week in playing the defense in the secondary.”
Were you pleased with your corners in coverage?
“I was. I mean, I was. Can it be better? Yes, it can be much better. Same with the safeties. One thing, I don’t try to divide it. I think corners and safeties should all be together, so if the corners look good the safeties look good, if the safeties looks good the corners look good. The coverage overall, I thought it was fair. It could have been much better than what it was. The one thing we strive on is not letting up a big play and we pretty much gave up one big play in the game. Sometimes you can’t give up those plays, so I think we have to be a more aggressive defense in the secondary, which our defense allows us to do that. We just have to get it done.”
Did you feel like Jabrill kind of trusted his instincts a little more in the second half?
“I did. I did. Jabrill came out [and] I think it was more nerves rather than just playing, because this was actually his third game. You know, so he’s still really a true freshman. One of the things Jabrill I think has to do is just trust his instincts, because he’s really very instinctive. One of the things I think he has to do a lot more is just play within himself. He’s trying to get out there and use his speed rather than thinking about the game, and I think that’s what got him in trouble early in the first half. I think he’ll bounce back, just like all our guys will.”
At the start of fall camp Jeremy Clark was a safety and Wayne Lyons was at corner. What’s the reason for that swap?
“Well, we just felt that Jeremy Clark could bring a lot more to the table at corner because he’s long, he’s tall, he’s quick. You know, he could use his hands a lot more and he can run with the big guys, the big receivers in the Big Ten and we felt Wayne was more instinctive as a safety, and he plays in space a lot better back there in the middle of the field so that was one of the reasons we made that change.”
[After THE JUMP: Aggressively pursuing aggressiveness and Freddy Canteen the WR?]
There is another book. Jon Falk's second book also came out this week, and he secured a rather nice gentleman to write the forward: Jim Harbaugh.
Forty Years In The Big House—which I do not have a snarky name of questionable utility to deploy about—is much like Falk's first book, If These Walls Could Talk. It's a look inside the Michigan program from a guy who was there for all the ups and downs. When you've been around as long as Falk, it's mostly ups.
Falk mentioned his previous book had sold out, which surprised me, but yup: his previous is only available secondhand or on Kindle now. This is a man who understands the principle of scarcity that Marty Bodnar and the Michigan athletic department did a very good job of maintaining until recently.
Anyway: since you're all probably done with Endzone this can be next on your list.
Intros past. Via Wolverine Historian:
Brutal losses. BYU's weekend was a manic depressive thing featuring a Hail Mary win over Nebraska and a parade of injuries that threaten to derail their season before it really even starts. The most severe:
Shortly after the Cougars knocked off Nebraska, 33-28, on a last-second hail mary, coach Bronco Mendenhall told reporters that star quarterback Taysom Hill was lost for the season with a fractured foot.
Hill missed last season, and most of the season before that, and that is completely terrible. Tanner Mangum, Hill's gunslinging backup, was a major recruit a couple years ago who is just back from his two-year Mormon mission and is kind of a true freshman; he looked okay after taking the reigns but he also led a frantic one-minute drill that featured just one completed pass—the Hail Mary. He's going to be a big dropoff from Hill, who was impressive as both a runner and a passer before getting hurt again.
Adding injury to injury: by the end of that game BYU's defense had also taken major hits, losing their starting NT and one MLB and safety. Travis Tuiloma, the excellent nose tackle, is out 4-6 weeks and should miss the Michigan game. No word on the other injuries. BYU of course already lost their top RB and TE before the season. They may be in for a rough year that you can blame Bronco Mendenhall for in no way whatsoever.
Michigan health. They seemed to escape Utah without suffering any injuries of note. Freddy Canteen, who did not play, says he'll be back this week:
At 6-foot-3, 232 pounds, [X] is an undersized inside linebacker who doesn't have the speed or explosiveness to make up for that deficiency. But he has been able to overachieve at the collegiate level, thanks in large part to his outstanding instincts and football intelligence. [X] projects as a backup who effectively steps in when called upon on defense and contributes on special teams.
If you said "Desmond Morgan," you are wrong… somehow. That's his take on Joe Bolden. I don't know how closely any of these draft guys are paying attention.
He never said, "I'd like to wish my mom, whose birthday it was YESTERDAY, a happy birthday."
This April, Beckman explained the mix-up. He is well aware of his mom's birthday -- he wanted to give her a shoutout as a coach's wife and coach's mom who never really got to be around her husband/son as much as she wanted around her birthday -- but I always liked the idea of Beckman celebrating his mom's birthday 365 days a year.
I was hoping we'd get one last season of the guy squinting at people, but the way he went out is perfect. Of all the bad hires in the last decade of college football, his has to be the most mysterious. I cannot imagine Beckman walking into a job interview—any job interview—and coming out of it employed.
Pat Narduzzi almost went to jail for kiwi murder. He would have missed no games for MSU:
Pat Narduzzi w/ quite the first impression on the ACC teleconference, sharing a Scott Shafer tale from their URI days pic.twitter.com/Wt28m9GxeE
At Harbaugh's request, O'Korn has reverted back to how he used to throw the ball before he got to Houston and the coaches there changed his mechanics. "There was a lot of stuff just from top to bottom in the program that my family and I didn't agree with," O'Korn said of his final year at Houston.
O'Korn is completely onboard with the high-energy Harbaugh, though. He has come to expect the unexpected from his new coach, including a phone call at 6 a.m. to ask what jersey number he wanted. O'Korn has also gotten used to Harbaugh's relentless competitiveness. O'Korn still laughs recalling Harbaugh's demonstration of a drop-back drill during a workout this summer.
Harbaugh did eight to 10 repetitions, while each of his quarterbacks only got one or two. "He was going to make sure he got his reps," O'Korn said. "That just shows you what type of competitor he still is. His footwork is phenomenal. He can still play you know."
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It has to be a special kind of hell being coached by a former Michiganquarterback while trying to become the next Michigan quarterback.
Especially when the coach is a deity in these parts.
"They don't get it easy," Wolverines guard Kyle Kalis said. "They get the hand of the Lord."
This was published just a couple days after I posted the QB preview piece. If any Michigan players inclined to drop awesome quotes in the future could do so a tiny bit earlier in the summer I would appreciate it.
[NOTE!This section uses the UFR catch chart. Passes are rated on a three point scale for catchability. 3: routine. 2: moderate. 1: difficult. There's also a zero for times when the player was thrown to without any chance of a reception.]
[NOTE: though flex tight ends are listed above since they will fill some of the WR snaps they are addressed in the TE & Friends post, not here.]
It's not often you lose a guy who broke the single-season receiving record and think that things could get better, but it's not often you come across a guy like Devin Funchess, either. Behind Funchess there's not a whole lot that's proven but there are sufficient numbers and hype to believe that Michigan goes five or six deep in quality options, especially after Jake Butt gets back.
If things break right, this unit could hearken back to the Breaston/Edwards/Avant days where you had the NFL-level ludicrous deep threat, the possession ninja, and the screen merchant all in one receiving corps, getting all mother/maiden/crone in your face. It'll take some luck… but not that much luck.
everybody get up [Fuller]
The charade is over. Devin Funchess is a wide receiver, 100%. Not that you had to be told that after he spent 87% of last year split wide, faking bubble screens and occasionally catching them and oh right running downfield and leaping over dudes. Funchess put his hand in the dirt in passing situations only, and no one has tried to suggest he might do even that much this year.
This is pretty terrific. Michigan had a guy break Braylon Edwards's single-season receiving record and there was still enough left over for Funchess to rake in 49 catches for almost 750 yards. By the Big Ten opener he was just, like, running right by cornerbacks.
At the end of the year Michigan was handing him the ball on end-arounds and watching him nearly break them for touchdowns, if only Devin Gardner could ID the safety he needs to block. Oh, and this!
"I can't believe he's that big and that fast. He made us look silly. You can't get around him. He's just such a big body that he's going to block you from making a play on the football. …
"He could be like Calvin Johnson in the red zone. Just throw it up and let him go get it. I bet we see a lot more of that this year."
I didn't say it! I may have thought it, but I didn't say it. I did call him Minitron a few times, and I may have wondered privately about whether Funchess could be, like… him. But naw. I mean, Calvin Johnson ran a 4.35 at his NFL draft combine.
Funchess proved last season he's capable of being an elite-level receiver. There were some dropped passes here and there, but his combination of size and speed (he clocked a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash in the spring) remains unmatched on the U-M roster.
FAKE! FAKE, I say! That is not a real thing, because physics. Only… you know, it's only almost impossible. Because Calvin Johnson. And when you watch him go up against top corners like Stanley Jean-Baptiste, a second round pick last year…
…or Trae Waynes, a projected first rounder this year…
…it's just like… maybe I should make this comparison I should not make. Because he is smoking those dudes. Not every time, because it never happens every time, but enough. A lot. At 6'5".
BUT WHAT ABOUT HANDS, the bits of the internet with short attention spans ask. Okay, yes. The one catch was a late-season spate of dropped balls. He derfed three in the Iowa game alone, greatly contributing to Michigan's inability to move the ball. One of those was a very conspicuous one on a screen, and that is currently playing an outsized role in people's brains. Because the last thing that's happened is the thing that is always going to happen, Funchess now has a rep for having shaky hands. Once you see the first derf it is a natural inclination to start judging harshly, like when he gets hit in the back by Gardner because of a bad blitz pickup.
This is why we track the numbers, and the numbers say Funchess is anything but a problem:
But once you get a reputation in this area people start looking at anything you don't catch as a drop. This is probably one of the plays that stick in skeptics' minds:
That's crazy tough! That's low and behind him and it's only his freaky long arms and Brad Nessler that even give that pass the semblance of a drop.
Until the Iowa game, Funchess's catching ability was unquestioned. Don't let one bad game in the bitter cold overwhelm a large sample size that indicates Funchess's hands are in fact an asset, especially when you consider that the chart above doesn't take the fact that he's 6'5" and can leap over defensive backs into account.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FACT THAT CALVIN JOHNSON IS A UNIQUE UNREPLICABLE HUMAN WHO IS PROBABLY PART ALIEN AND BITTEN BY A RADIOACTIVE SPIDER, says the tiny bit of the internet with common sense. And… okay, well, yeah. You should never project anything at the extremes of possibility because probability is going to make you pay for that, son.
So Devin Funchess probably isn't Calvin Johnson. Michigan should try to prove that assertion wrong. Expect something between first team All Big Ten and an All-American followed by an early entry into the NFL draft. He may even win the Mackey award, because people don't pay attention.
[After THE JUMP: refugees, JUNGLE BEATS, and tiny dancer.]
The Q: Michigan graduated much of its 2013 receiver depth chart and did away with the fancy Borges stacks and routes. In this new world, after Funchess, who's going to be Gardner's favorite target this year? Who are we going to see more or less of among the receivers/tight ends?
Brian: 1. Amara Darboh. Darboh was going to start last year and the buzz there was palpable. He brings physicality against what I promise you will be the grabbiest set of Big Ten pass defenses you've ever seen—the MSU effect—and he's even got mutant muscles in his arms, which I assume will be the entirety of Ace's response. He should ease past Canteen for the starting job, at least to start, and Canteen will have a tough time catching up since he's not going to drop off the face of the earth.
2. Dennis Norfleet. This is an artifact of some assumptions about the rest of the offense. Namely, that they won't be able to run that well and the tight end situation is going to be suboptimal. With reports that Norfleet looks great in space and an offensive coordinator who's not afraid to throw to his WRs on the perimeter, Norfleet's catch volume should spike as Michigan looks to him for easy yards that get defenders out of the box.
3. Freddy Canteen. Yeah, he's probably Manningham again, but even Manningham had a bit of a slow start. It'll be close with Norfleet.
4. Jehu Chesson/Jake Butt. Your guess is as good as mine about relative frequency here. I have a hunch we're going to see tight ends stay in to block frequently this year what with the lack of NFL OTs, and Butt is going to miss at least a game or two after his ACL tear. But he's got a much clearer path to playing time than Chesson and already had more catches than Chesson did a year ago.
Everyone else gets scraps, maybe a dozen catches spread between AJ Williams, Keith Heitzman, Da'Mario Jones, and Jaron Dukes and another dozen to the tailbacks. I hope we don't see any of the true freshmen other than Canteen, because there's not much need either this year or next and all could use work.
[Jump for the rest of us twisting ourselves to not have the same responses]