Exit: Ian Bunting

Exit: Ian Bunting

Submitted by Seth on January 30th, 2018 at 6:22 PM

See you when you’re back, Bunting.

Via Baumgardner, Ol’ Skillet Hands, er, senior tight end Ian Bunting plans to transfer for his final year of eligibility:

This site especially had high hopes for Bunting—as the original prospectin’ name suggests—as a dangerous receiving tight end. When Bunting seamlessly replaced Mackey Award-winner Jake Butt in the Orange Bowl last year it wasn’t hard to project the then-rising junior as heir apparent.

Despite more snaps for tight ends than any year since Bo—yes, I’ve tracked this—Bunting rarely cracked the rotation behind emerging stars Sean McKeon and Zach Gentry, not to mention Nick Eubanks. With a new position coach, his degree in hand, his path to playing time blocked by younger, upwardly mobile catchy-catchy-blocky tight ends*, and his eligibility running out, Bunting’s transfer makes plenty of sense. We’ll always have the Orange Bowl. He should be eligible to play immediately wherever he goes, and Michigan should be okay with the kids.

On a personal note, I’m saddened he never got to star at Michigan. I lost my dad at 34 and promptly got drunk for a week—Ian, not old enough to buy himself a beer when it happened to him—was at practice the next day. He has since been a major presence with the Michigan Relay for Life charity, which helps raise money for cancer research.

* [Tyrone Wheatley Jr. is more of a blocky-blocky-catchy tight end and not necessarily competing for all the same chances.]

Upon Further Review 2017: Offense vs Air Force

Upon Further Review 2017: Offense vs Air Force

Submitted by Brian on September 21st, 2017 at 4:37 PM

2017 logoo_thumbSPONSOR NOTES. Just recommended HomeSure Lending to a friend and it's weird that I have to say "you should know this guy sponsors us," because I actually would recommend Matt even if that was not the case because when we refi-ed our house I had quotes for various mortgage lengths very very quickly.  The deal was done in a flash.

But yeah like he does sponsor us, which is even better. It's nice to have sponsors you can actually recommend with a clear conscience, especially because they have never paid a dime to the Larry Culpepper guy.

FORMATION NOTES. Air Force runs a 3-4, but it's not like that. Whereas your conventional 3-4 has big guys who two-gap, Air Force has little guys. It's a one-gap 3-4, if you will.

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The NT almost always shaded between the C and G in a one tech, with four linebackers in the traditional 3-4 umbrella. Sometimes head up with the same umbrella, and check those safeties on first and freakin' ten:

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Now, there are a ton of very obvious ways in which this is not at all the 3-3-5 stack Michigan runs. Air Force doesn't stack their linebackers, for one. They rarely insert an OLB between their DEs as anything other than a twist blitz; Michigan is constantly making Furbush an extra DL. AF just about always shaded their NT instead of running a zero-tech, and they had a clear weakside and strongside end, with the strongside end basically a DT. Michigan's DEs have run identical techniques for the duration of the season. Also there is not a withdrawn MLB like Bush; instead two ILBs.

These are the ways in which Michigan's defense is not at all like Air Force's, which is a one-gap 3-4.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES. The regular at QB and OL. Onwenu got pulled for the last three plays of the final drive, with Runyan coming in. Isaac was the starting RB and got the bulk of the work; Evans was pulled after his fumble until late, when Isaac went out with a minor injury. Mason one snap at FB, with the seniors going the rest of the way.

WR was Black, Crawford, and DPJ outside with cameos from Schoenle on running plays. That's getting into a major play tip zone, though Black's injury might change that. Perry got most of the run in the slot; McDoom had maybe a dozen snaps, and not all were jet stuff.

Tight end was the usual rotation of everyone, minus Wheatley. He had a ding that held him out. Also I might not have seen Eubanks? I don't think I saw Eubanks. Bunting is losing ground, BTW, to McKeon and Gentry.

[After THE JUMP: the bone! oh if only]

Preview 2017: Tight End And Friends

Preview 2017: Tight End And Friends

Submitted by Brian on August 29th, 2017 at 1:58 PM

Previously: Podcast 9.0A. Podcast 9.0B. Podcast 9.0C. The Story. Quarterback. Running Back. Wide Receiver.

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assembly line, er, assemble [Eric Upchurch]

Depth Chart


Fullback Yr. H-back Yr. Tight End Yr. Flex Yr.
Khalid Hill Sr.* Khalid Hill Sr.* Ian Bunting Jr.* Zach Gentry So.*
Henry Poggi Sr.* Nick Eubanks Fr.* Tyrone Wheatley Jr So.* Nick Eubanks Fr.*
Ben Mason Fr. Ben Mason Fr. Sean McKeon Fr.* Ian Bunting Jr.*

Jake Butt's gone. In his place are tight end Constructicons.

decepticon_constructicons_classic_by_tyrranux-d9d9jk5

If you throw Khalid Hill in—he can be "Bonecrusher"—Michigan has a variety six-pack of tight end sorts, all of whom have a shot at the field. When insiders bring the tight ends up it's usually as a group. 247: "have a solid core of 5-6 guys that can play at any time." And so forth and so on. Chances are a subset emerges, but maybe they'll all have slightly different uses. Maybe they'll combine into the living manifestation of Tacopants.

But probably a subset.

ANNUAL EXPLANATION OF THE FINE GRADATIONS OF BLOCKY/CATCHY

A few years ago we split tight ends from the WR post and fullbacks from the RB post, figuring that under Brady Hoke there would be enough of them to warrant it. We even split guys into various categories because a tight end is not just a tight end. Then Jim Harbaugh came in. After an internal struggle this site has decided not to split each one of these columns into its own post, but it was a near thing. Those columns are:

  • FULLBACK: a man with a steel plated head who runs into linebackers, gets two 50 carries in his career, and has six catches. See: Kevin Dudley, Sione Houma.
  • H-BACK: A "move" tight end who motions all about, rarely lines up on the actual line of scrimmage, often goes from fullback to a flared spot or vice versa, and operates as more of a receiver than the fullback. Must be a credible threat to LBs; ends career with 40 catches. See: Aaron Shea, Khalid Hill.
  • TIGHT END: Larger than the H-back, the tight end is a tight end who is actually tight to the end of the line. He comes out, lines up next to a tackle, helps him win blocks, and clobberates linebackers at the second level. He goes out into patterns as well, and may end his career with 40 catches himself. See: AJ Williams, Jerame Tuman.
  • FLEX: Big enough to play on the end of the line credibly. Agile enough to play H-back credibly. Not great at either. Capable of splitting out wide and threatening the secondary. Sacrifices some blocking for explosiveness. Can be a prime receiving threat. See: Jake Butt.

And of course many of these people bleed into other categories. Think of these position designations as Gaussian distributions in close proximity to each other.

TIGHT END AND FLEX: GET ON UP

RATING: 3.5

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[Bryan Fuller]

IAN "Ol' Skillet Hands" BUNTING [recruiting profile] was stuck behind Jake Butt for years. Once Butt went down with an ACL tear in the bowl game he wasted no time demonstrating he was Also Jake Butt:

He followed that up with a very very bad attempt at a pass block, further confirming our comparisons. Bad pass blocking was something of a theme for Bunting, whether it was the above or getting run over by Malik McDowell. "Why leave that guy in to block?" is a valid question, and the answer was usually "because Jake Butt is in a pattern." Now he's the Butt, as it were, and pass blocking instances will be measured in the low single digits per game. Butt was under 3, for what it's worth.

Bunting's receiving chops are currently the very definition of small sample size. While he's still perfect in the UFR receiving charts it's on extremely limited opportunities. He's 12/12 with one non-routine catch, that embedded above. He had two catches for six yards on the season before the bowl game. The semi-breakout several predicted did not happen. Jay Harbaugh at last year's media day:

“He’s going to be a star. He’s going to be a very great player. He’s going to help our team a lot cause he is a tight end that can do both jobs. He can run, catch, block and he has the size... Maybe 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-7, 250 or 250-plus, and he works hard and he’s a smart football player. He has everything you need to do to be successful.”

Bunting was named Michigan's #2 TE there and then; he proceeded to accumulate fewer snaps than not only Butt but (sigh) Devin Asiasi and Tyrone Wheatley Jr. If that's because both those guys are inline sorts and Bunting is a flex, fine. The bowl game snaps certainly suggest that Bunting was blocked, not untalented. Bunting's near-total lack of targets does give some pause.

[After THE JUMP: i could have called them dinobots but sledge is so dumb]

The Top 61-70 Returning Players in the Big Ten

The Top 61-70 Returning Players in the Big Ten

Submitted by Seth on August 10th, 2017 at 4:38 PM

is a nicer way of saying

Draftageddon 2017: Jukeboxes and Jitterbugs Edition

Four_Horsemen_by_MarkWilkinson1

This is Part VII. We are drafting Big Ten players to give you an overview of the guys and dudes around the conference. You come out of it with a four-deep preseason All-Big Ten. We come out of it with very strong opinions on Justin Jackson.

Previously: Picks 1-10 (Hurst, Gary Speight), Picks 11-20 (Peters), Picks 21-28 (Cole), and Picks 29-40 (McCray, Mone) Picks 41-50 (Winovich), Picks 51-60 (Bredeson, Kekoa, Khaleke)

THAT WHICH HAS ALREADY OCCURRED:

image

  1. Ohio State (11 players): DE Nick Bosa (3rd, Seth), QB JT Barrett (6th, Seth), DE Tyquan Lewis (8th, BiSB), CB Denzel Ward (11th, Seth), DT Dre’Mont Jones (13th, Ace), OC Billy Price (17th, BiSB), DE Sam Hubbard (20th, Ace), LB Jerome Baker (21st, Ace), OT Jamarco Jones (28th, Ace), NT Bob Landers (51st, Seth), DE Jalyn Holmes (54th, Seth)
  2. Michigan (11 players): DT Maurice Hurst (2nd, Brian), DE Rashan Gary (5th, Ace), QB Wilton Speight (7th, Brian), QB Brandon Peters (an obligatory 16th, BiSB), OT Mason Cole (26th, Brian), LB Mike McCray (36th, Ace), NT Brian Mone (40th, BiSB), DE Chase Winovich (48th, BiSB), OG Ben Bredeson (57th, BiSB), WR Kekoa Crawford (58th, Brian), VIPER!!! Khaleke Hudson (59th, Seth) 
  3. Iowa (7 players): RB Akrum Wadley (18th, Brian), G/C Sean Welsh (22nd, Seth), LB Josey Jewell 23rd, Brian), OT Ike Boettger (35th, Seth), DE Anthony Nelson (42nd, Brian), CB Manny Rugamba (43rd, Seth), OC James Daniels (47th, Brian)
  4. Penn State (7 players): RB Saquon Barkley (1st, BiSB), QB Trace McSorley (4th, Ace), “TE” Mike Gesicki (25th, BiSB), S Marcus Allen (29th, Ace), OT Ryan Bates (41st, BiSB), LB Jason Cabinda (49th, BiSB), Brendan Mahon (53rd, Ace)
  5. Wisconsin (6 players): LB Jack Cichy (14th, Seth), TE Troy Fumagalli (15th, Brian), OG Beau Benzschawel (33rd, BiSB), OC Michael Dieter (34th, Brian), LB TJ Edwards (39th, Brian), WR Jazz Peavy (44th, Ace)
  6. Indiana (5 players): LB Tegray Scales (9th, BiSB), WR Simmie Cobbs (12th, Ace), WR Nick Westbrook (30th, Seth), CB Rashard Fant (32nd, BiSB), S Jonathan Crawford (52nd, Ace)
  7. Maryland (3 players): DT Kingsley Opara (19th, Seth), OT Damian Prince (45th, Ace), WR DJ Moore (56th, BiSB)
  8. Minnesota (2 players): DT Stephen Richardson (10th, Brian), WR Rashad Still (38th, Seth)
  9. Nebraska (2 players): OG Tanner Farmer (46th, Seth), S Joshua Kalu (50th, Brian)
  10. Northwestern (2 players): S Godwin Igwebuike (24th, BiSB), RB Justin Jackson (60th, Ace)
  11. Michigan State (2 players): OG Brian Allen (37th, Ace), RB LJ Scott (55th, Brian)
  12. Rutgers (1 player): OT Tariq Cole (27th, Seth)
  13. Illinois (1 player): WR Malik Turner (31st, Brian)

So we just got done having an argument about Justin Jackson. Speaking of guys wearing #21 for the Wildcats…

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

Seth: Round 16, Pick 2: Kyle Queiro, Safety, Northwestern

Off: QB JT Barrett (OSU), WR Nick Westbrook (IU), WR Rashad Still (MN), OG Sean Welsh (IA), LT Tariq Cole (RU), RT Ike Boettger (IA), OG Tanner Farmer (NE)

Def: NT Robert Landers (OSU), DT Kingsley Opara (MD), DE Nick Bosa (OSU), DE Jalyn Holmes (OSU), LB Jack Cichy (UW), VIPER!!! Khaleke Hudson (UM), S Kyle Quiero (NW), CB Denzel Ward, CB Manny Rugamba

  1. No. No he didn't. Unless you're thinking of an entirely different pick.
  2. That's pretty cool
  3. The reason he one-handed it is his other hand was in a club.

PFF's College football twitter last month started putting out graphics of their top 3 returning players for each team, with last year's grades. The Northwestern one both confirmed a sleeper pick I've been close to pulling the trigger on for a few rounds, and outs him.

PFF thought Kyle Queiro was almost as good as Iggy while playing mostly deep centerfield to Igwebuike's boxier role. On film the distance is wider. Igwebuike is a Player who eats jet sweeps and screens for lunch. Queiro, who's 6'3, is more of a Jarrod Wilsonian binkie, keeping the hashes clean and long runs to field goal drives. He's athletic enough that they use him to cover slots out of the nickel in their sub packages. Injuries kept him off the field for the early part of his career and much of September so his 53 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, 6 PBUs, and 2 INTs (you remember the club) are in 10 games.

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

Seth: And let's make this clear: Lewis was alone in man-to-man and in better "I'm not touching you" personal space invasion technique than my brothers could master in a childhood of up north road trips. Queiro is drifting back in zone coverage with help over the top and Lagow significantly underthrew it.

[Hit THE JUMP for what Tom Haverford calls a scatback]

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...

ncaa

...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.

First Look: 2017 Offense

First Look: 2017 Offense

Submitted by Brian on January 12th, 2017 at 1:21 PM

DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE.

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[Bryan Fuller]

  1. TE Jake Butt. Mackey win might have been a career award but it was warranted in that context. Sure handed, huge catching radius threat. Blocking indifferent. Butt will be missed by more than last name aficionados. 69% catch rate is nuts. He's off to the second round of the draft unless people are spooked by a bowl-game ACL tear.
  2. WR Amara Darboh. Delivered on Jim Harbaugh's assertions that he was Michigan's best receiver with an All Big Ten year. Still left you wanting a bit more, though, as he had multiple opportunities to bail Wilton Speight out of iffy throws and took few of them during Michigan's unfortunate finish.
  3. RT Erik Magnuson. Quiet, steady performer at tackle. Was never a star and I'm a little dubious of people projecting him on day two in the draft, but if Michigan had five Erik Magnusons the year ends very differently. Alas.
  4. WR Jehu Chesson. Never recaptured his stellar late 2015 form as a senior. Still moderately productive, but only that. Speed did not translate into downfield production, or even many targets. Those went to Darboh, with iffy success.
  5. RB De'Veon Smith. Workhorse back had solid season. Detractors will point to middling YPC (4.7) relative to the rest of the platoon; this is unfair since Smith got all the short yardage work and was often making yards on his own just to get to that number. Pass protection dipped in senior year.
  6. LT Ben Braden. Pressed into service at left tackle after Grant Newsome's injury, where he was neither as bad as expected nor actually good. Reduced his tendency to lean on guys as his career went on but never fully excised that from his game. Draft chatter minimal, understandably.
  7. RG Kyle Kalis. Promising start to senior season submarined by a recurrence of mental errors and then just straight up getting crushed by top-level interior pass rushers. Extravagantly whipped by Jaleel Johnson, Nick Bosa, and DeMarcus Walker in Michigan's losses. I will never say "it can't get worse" in reference to a Michigan offensive line again, but Kalis seems eminently replaceable.
  8. RB/QB Jabrill Peppers. Offensive output was minimal after wildcat QB business was diagnosed. Effective decoy mostly.
  9. QB Shane Morris. Never found playing time and is taking a grad transfer.
  10. OL David Dawson. Announced a grad transfer even before spring practice, further emphasizing how thin Michigan was on the OL this year: either he or the coaches didn't think he had any shot at a job this fall.

WHAT'S LEFT

 

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[Fuller]

  1. OL Mason Cole. Move to center went relatively well, though I was less into him than PFF was. Had difficulty moving large nose tackle types and didn't get to do much operating in space, oddly. Pass protection was very good once he was removed from edge types, and I might be expecting to much. He had an NFL decision to make at a spot that usually doesn't see a ton of guys go.
  2. QB Wilton Speight. Debut season was solid statistically: 7.7 YPA, 62% completions, 18-7 TD-INT, third in the Big Ten in passer rating, 29th passing O in S&P+. Michigan's sack rate allowed was pretty good (27th) largely because of Speight's excellent pocket presence. Late wobbles leave the door open a crack for Brandon Peters.
  3. The rest of the running back platoon. Chris Evans will headline after the bowl game touchdown; Ty Isaac and Karan Higdon also had their moments. Evans is a jittery speedster who promises to hit the home runs Smith could not. Higdon will probably pick up most of the mooseback work since he's a low-to-the-ground guy who runs behinds his pads, as they say. Isaac's never had it click, really, but played well in relatively limited opportunities last year.
  4. OL Ben Bredeson. Flat out bad most of the year, because he was a true freshman. Should get a lot better, whether it's at guard or tackle. Honestly we should just forget about this season entirely when it comes to projecting him down the road.
  5. FBs Henry Poggi and Khalid Hill. FB duo was quite a dichotomy. Hill led the team in touchdowns and paved various players on spectacular edge two-for-one blocks while catching 89% of the balls that came his way. Poggi was not the threat as a receiver or runner and was substantially below average as a blocker. Despite this the two FBs split time about down the middle.
  6. Kaiju. Devin Asiasi and Tyrone Wheatley Jr were mostly blockers. Both were up and down, as freshmen tend to be, flashing A+ power while occasionally falling off dudes. They were not targeted often but made the most of their opportunities. With Butt's absence Michigan will rely more heavily on both; the potential for a Leap from one or both entices.
  7. TE Ian Bunting. Looked like Butt 2.0 on a slick seam catch in the bowl game, and also looked like Butt 2.0 when he gave up a comically easy sack a few plays later. Previous bullet makes his role in the offense somewhat in question
  8. (Probably) WR Grant Perry. Legal troubles probably get pled down to misdemeanors and allow him to stay on the team. Slippery slot receiver will have a role if still around.
  9. RB Drake Johnson. Star-crossed running back lost last season to a forklift accident and will apply for a sixth year. Fast straight-line runner who will find a role.
  10. OL Juwann Bushell-Beatty. Temporarily the LT after Newsome left. Displaced after struggling mightily.

WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY

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Bredeson is a returning starter, sort of[Fuller]

 

Basically the whole offensive line. For purposes of this bullet we're pretending freshman Ben Bredeson and not freshman Ben Bredeson are different people, because we need that to be the case. Michigan needs to replace three starters and get a transformation from the aforementioned; this is a lot of turnover. Mike Onwenu is penciled in at right guard and unlikely to be dislodged by anything short of a supernova; Bredeson will start somewhere. Cole exists. The other two spots are anyone's guess.

Ditto the receivers. Michigan got some good blocking, one bad drop, and one badass catch from Kekoa Crawford this year; Eddie McDoom took a bunch of jet sweeps and had one nice slant catch; Drake Harris was targeted deep several times, all of those incompletions except for one sweet catch invalidated by an unnecessary offensive pass interference call. That is the sum total of returning experience for the WR corps.

Tight ends in a post-Butt world. Ton of potential at the spot; probably fine; need to see that potential develop.

WHAT'S ROD STEWART 1977

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[Fuller]

Probably Wilton Speight. Speight's 2016 did not have the clear takeoff narrative that Jake Rudock did. He was great for a couple games early, then bad, then indifferent, then awesome after the bye week until he turned into a pumpkin a third of the way through Iowa. He was terrific against Ohio State despite an injury that seemed to prevent him from throwing it downfield whatsoever... except for two turnovers 100% on him that lost the game. He gets an incomplete for the Orange Bowl since every time he dropped back he was beset by hounds instantly.

It would be much easier to draw an upward arrow if he'd packed the bad stuff in early and then got a lot better; unfortunately that is not the case. I'm still a Speight optimist for three reasons:

  1. Harbaugh. This should be self-explanatory but if you need a refresher here's the QB season preview.
  2. Speight seems to have the hardest thing down: pocket presence. His ability to turn garbage into first downs is exceptional for a guy his size.
  3. His good periods came after an opportunity to take a breather and focus on the things Harbaugh was coaching him to do. Speight was hot at the beginning of the season, after the bye, and after he missed the Indiana game. As we go along here he should be more that guy than the one who forgot and reverted to high school/Borges stuff when the heat got turned up.

Also, redshirt sophomores generally get better. It's not a big step from where he's currently at to an All Big Ten type season.

The three to five horsemen. I really like Chris Evans and Karan Higdon, and with Johnson, Isaac, Kareem Walker, and O'Maury Samuels also available this looks set to be a very deep and good running back crew. It may lack the out and out star that Najee Harris would have provided; I'm not stressing about the ballcarriers not getting what they should. All three returners graded significantly positively on PFF (relative to workload).

Blocky/catchy blocking. If one or both Kaiju takes a Williams-esque step forward and Hill gets most of the fullback work, Michigan's ability to generate yards off tackle will take a big step forward. Butt was an excellent player overall; he was average-at-best as a blocker.

WHAT'S ROD STEWART 2017

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Newsome's injury recover is critical [Bill Rapai]

Tackle. Hoke's OL recruiting was, in a word, disastrous. Michigan enters 2017 with exactly one Hoke-recruited OT: Bushell-Beatty. That means Michigan will have to do two of the following:

  • Get Grant Newsome back from a terrifying injury that kept him in the hospital for over a month. (FWIW, there's been some chatter that Newsome's injury doesn't have an unusually lengthy prognosis despite the hospital stay.)
  • Move Mason Cole back to the tackle spot he couldn't pass protect at.
  • Move Ben Bredeson out to tackle, where he might have the same issues Cole does.
  • Start Bushell-Beatty, who got beat up by Rutgers last year.
  • Start Nolan Ulizio, a low-rated redshirt sophomore.
  • Start a true freshman.

Two of those options might work out really well. But probably not.

 

 

WHAT'S HEISENBERG ROD STEWART UNCERTAINTY

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[Patrick Barron]

The guys on the end of Speight passes. Young receivers are usually bad. Of late, however, you're seeing a couple guys a year break through as true freshmen. Michigan has a couple of candidates in the 2017 class. Both Tarik Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones enrolled early, and both seem like sharp guys who will pick up the offense quickly. Add those guys to the McDoom/Crawford/Johnson troika that the coaching staff is high on and Drake Harris and it's not too hard to see Michigan being at least as good as they were this year.

Or they could be first-and-second year guys and run into each other on the regular. Ask again later.

Meanwhile, Michigan has a solid candidate to do Butt stuff in Ian Bunting. Still a difficult ask for anyone to live up to Butt's ability to reel in anything in his area.

The interior OL. At guard, a dropoff is unlikely from a true freshman and a guy who ended up –12 on the season per PFF. Michigan needs to do much more than tread water, though. Mike Onwenu is a unique prospect at one spot, and Bredeson will either be a lot better... or playing tackle, and then the other guard spot is a series of question marks. Cole stabilizes; whether or not these guys are any good is still very much an open question.

The Pep effect. Is Pep Hamilton an upgrade on Jedd Fisch? Does it even matter when Harbaugh's running things?

MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS

Another mediocre season is in the offing unless Michigan gets a Christmas miracle an the offensive line that will probably feature one upperclassman and is 50/50 to sport another true freshman. That is a tough hill to climb for anyone. The skill positions should be good but are likely a year away from being able to offer win-games-on-our-own help—again Michigan is all but devoid of upperclassmen.

A projected Speight uptick is the main reason for optimism; it's asking a lot of him to be Andrew Luck in an environment where he's going to be running away an awful lot.

The good news is good news about 2018, when Michigan loses only a few projected contributors: Mason Cole, the fullbacks, Drake Johnson, and Ty Isaac. Whatever they find this year will enter 2018 just about unscathed.

Upon Further Review 2016: Offense vs UCF

Upon Further Review 2016: Offense vs UCF

Submitted by Brian on September 14th, 2016 at 3:55 PM

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SPONSOR NOTES: Oh man Sauce Castillo, you're in for it. You already turned El Assico(!) into a blowout. I'm supposed to talk about mortgages. Right: low rates right now, and Matt will take these rates and turn them into a home if you qualify for things such as loans.

In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, he is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.

If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.

FORMATION NOTES: UCF was a 3-4 front with a couple of adjustments. This is their base front; Michigan is in "ace diamond TE," with Asiasi at one of the FB spots.

ace-diamond-te

On passing downs UCF would go to a nickel with two DL on the field and standup ends:

nickel standup end

And they'd frequently line up their three DL right next to each other and shifted to the run strength of the formation:

pinched 3-4

Called this "pinched 3-4."

PERSONNEL NOTES: Michigan cut down on the rotation severely despite having a huge lead. With the exception of left guard, the starting OL got almost every snap. Non-LG starters (Newsome, Cole, Kalis, Magnuson) got all 81 snaps. Braden and Bredeson platooned at LG with Bredeson(49 snaps) getting the plurality of time. Bushell-Beatty and Onwenu came in very late in a 7 OL package.

At WR, Chesson and Darboh got most of the run in a game featuring a lot of heavy packages. Grant Perry got just 15 snaps. Butt was near omnipresent; Bunting was the next-most utilized blocky/catchy guy. Poggi and Hill are still splitting things down the middle.

Smith got about half the work at RB(37 snaps), with Evans, Isaac, and Higdon splitting the rest about down the middle.

[After THE JUMP: pass great, run not so much]

Preview 2016: Tight End And Friends

Preview 2016: Tight End And Friends

Submitted by Brian on August 30th, 2016 at 2:25 PM

Previously: Podcast 8.0. The Story. Quarterback. Running Back. Wide Receiver.

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[Bryan Fuller]

Depth Chart

Fullback Yr. H-back Yr. Tight End Yr. Flex Yr.
Henry Poggi Jr.* Khalid Hill Jr.* TJ Wheatley Fr.* Jake Butt Sr.
Bobby Henderson Sr.* Henry Poggi Jr.* Devin Asiasi Fr. Ian Bunting So.*
Michael Hirsch Jr. Jabrill Peppers So.* Zach Gentry Fr.* Nick Eubanks Fr.

A few years ago we split tight ends from the WR post and fullbacks from the RB post, figuring that under Brady Hoke there would be enough of them to warrant it. We even split guys into various categories because a tight end is not just a tight end. Then Jim Harbaugh came in. After an internal struggle this site has decided not to split each one of these columns into its own post, but it was a near thing. Those columns are:

  • FULLBACK: a man with a steel plated head who runs into linebackers, gets two 50 carries in his career, and has six catches. See: Kevin Dudley, Sione Houma.
  • H-BACK: A "move" tight end who motions all about, rarely lines up on the actual line of scrimmage, often goes from fullback to a flared spot or vice versa, and operates as more of a receiver than the fullback. Must be a credible threat to LBs; ends career with 40 catches. See: Aaron Shea.
  • TIGHT END: Larger than the H-back, the tight end is a tight end who is actually tight to the end of the line. He comes out, lines up next to a tackle, helps him win blocks, and clobberates linebackers at the second level. He goes out into patterns as well, and may end his career with 40 catches himself. See: AJ Williams, Jerame Tuman.
  • FLEX: Big enough to play on the end of the line credibly. Agile enough to play H-back credibly. Not great at either. Capable of splitting out wide and threatening the secondary. Sacrifices some blocking for explosiveness. Can be a prime receiving threat. See: Tyler Eifert, Jake Butt.

And of course many of these people bleed into other categories. Think of these position designations as Gaussian distributions in close proximity to each other.

So. These are the categories. The men who, uh, man them are many and varied and in one case the bar-none best in all the land. Let's start with him.

TIGHT END AND FLEX

RATING: 5

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opponents will call Butt dastardly this year [Fuller/MGoBlue]

In keeping with this site's tradition of dignified reserve, last year's preview claimed Jim Harbaugh called Jake Butt an "Ertz/Fleener Voltron" based on this quote:

"Jake is as good a prospect as we've coached at the college level," Harbaugh said. "We've produced a lot of great players in college at the spot and it's vital to our success."

And lo, he pretty much was an Ertz/Fleener Voltron. Per Pro Football Focus he graded out better than any tight end in the country as a receiver. Survey says: yup. I sort catch opportunities into four bins: routine balls, challenging ones, crazy ones, and uncatchable ones. Butt was a perfect 36/36 on routine balls, an outstanding 10/12 on challenging balls, and 3/3 on circus catches. Meanwhile Butt's enormous catch radius and excellent route running tend to move opportunities into easier categories. Only eight times last year did a Jake Butt target get filed uncatchable. (I don't count balls thrown away in the general vicinity of a player.) That means 83% of the time Jake Rudock tried to hit Butt, Michigan moved the ball. Butt targets averaged over 11 yards a pop. Voltron achieved.

There's still no better example of Butt's prowess than the touchdown from the opener where Jake Rudock first explored the wonders of the #buttzone:

Unless it's this sensational one handed catch against Rutgers in 2014:

Jake Butt can make your wrong-ass wrong throws of wrongness into something so right.

Even so, after eight catches in the opener Butt's production fell off. Over the next six games a struggling Rudock only hit him 14 times downfield for a measly 133 yards—there was a 44-yard screen that Harbaugh conjured in there as well. Butt's a tight end. Sometimes he's covered, sort of, and Rudock didn't look for him.

Then Harbaugh beat the stone-cold fact that a covered Jake Butt still isn't covered into Rudock's brain and production took off. Butt had 28 catches in the final six games and 376 yards. That's double the catch rate and triple the yardage. Much of that production returned to the magical land where only Jake Butt frolics:

There is no defending that. Welcome to the #buttzone. Take a highway to the #buttzone. Right into the #buttzone.

In addition to his pterodactyl-like catching radius and Wilt Chamberlain hands, Butt's athleticism allows him to shake safeties with his routes...

...and occasionally split them after the catch:

Or just flat outrun a corner. An Indiana corner, yes. Still, this is a guy who had a 70-yard screen against OSU as a freshman and drew this praise from an anonymous Big Ten player even before his breakout junior season:

"We played them late in the year, and [Butt] was someone that was really tough to defend. He's incredibly athletic. He made a catch against us that not that many receivers even make, so he has great hands."

You could not draw up a better receiving tight end.

As a blocker... I mean... he's a great receiver. I say this somewhat seriously. Opponents have to treat him differently than a normal tight end, and the run game benefits from it. Against OSU Jabrill Peppers picked up a seven yard chunk largely because he looked like he'd throw to Butt for a moment and that was enough for two OSU players to freak out.

When it came to making actual contact with the opposition, Butt was decent. Middling. Okay. He was very much a finesse blocker, and this was good enough given the strictures his presence put on the opposing defense. This isn't a brutal finish; it's good enough:

[Butt is on the right side of the OL]

There will be no comparisons to Devin Funchess here. Butt is functional as a blocker. He gets in the way of guys and stays in their way, mostly, if they're not real mean.

That is kind of the cap, though. Get him soloed up against a defensive end and it'll go like "tight end versus Chris Wormley" most of the time. In UFR his run contributions came out moderately positive against the lesser teams on the schedule and negative against likes of Utah, BYU, MSU, and... uh... Rutgers. The bowl was a nice step forward but repeatedly caving in the edge of Florida's defense could be interpreted as a motivation issue for the Gators. Pro Football Focus tastefully omits mention of his blocking when they reference him because he came out negative on the year.

Remaining upside in this department is limited since he's going from his third to his fourth year. What remains is probably more about the mental side of the game than a sudden surge in ability like AJ Williams had. He'll get a little stronger and a little wiser; what you see is close to what you're going to get.

That happens to be a guy who is going to break Jim Mandich's all-time TE receiving record, a guy guaranteed to be off the board by the end of the second round of the next NFL draft. Jake Butt is a captain on a team with Jehu Chesson. I mean. Harbaugh:

"From day one, Jake Butt is an A++ guy as a player. We're in a meeting or in an install and I see him on the edge of his seat sitting through a two-hour meeting and he's communicating with guys next to him. He's interpreting for the younger guys. He has pizzazz."

Butt's about to be the best tight end in Michigan history.

[After THE JUMP: Ol' Skillet Hands and friends.]

Media Day Player Interviews: Ian Bunting, Grant Newsome, Moe Ways

Media Day Player Interviews: Ian Bunting, Grant Newsome, Moe Ways

Submitted by Ace on August 12th, 2016 at 3:52 PM


With guidance from Jake Butt, Ian Bunting is poised for a breakout year. [Fuller]

Ian Bunting

MGoQuestion: This seems like the year where you're going to see the field a lot more. What's the biggest thing you're doing to prepare for that?

"Just getting the little tweaks I'd say is the most important thing, especially at—the higher level you get to, whatever you do, the distance between being good and being great gets smaller and smaller. So I think that little tweaks like footwork or just understanding more of the whole concept or of the whole play or the whole offense, it's the little things like that that I'm going and I have been focusing on to get better."

MGoQuestion: Working behind a guy like Jake Butt, what's he been able to impart on you as an All-American?

"He's been very influential. He's been a great teacher, a great role model since I've gotten here. I'm very appreciative of that. We are always competing, him and me and the rest of the tight ends. We compete with each other but we also help each other. We're not a selfish group, like our room is very close-knit, but we also understand that we're always going to be going up against each other and competing with each other, and that just brings out the best in everyone."

MGoQuestion: Does it help knowing that Jim Harbaugh is going to be happy to play two, three, four tight ends?

"Yeah, we love it. That's music to our ears. Last year we had four-TE sets, so we love that. In our opinion, the more tight ends we have on the field, the better. If there's any opportunity for us to get on the field and make a positive impact on the game and help us win, we're all for it."

[inaudible] ...with everything you guys have got going, the returning offensive line, the running backs, the wide receivers.

"I think we can be very, very dynamic, very explosive, and very smart football-wise, very intellectual. There are a lot of guys that have been here for a while. Coming into the season not having to learn a whole new offense, there's definitely something to be said about that. The sky's the limit."

Do you expect the ball to be thrown your way a decent amount this year?

"That is not up to me. I don't make those decisions. But I would not complain. As a tight end, you love blocking, and you love catching the ball and doing what you can with it after you catch it. That's what the tight end does, especially nowadays, it's kind of an evolving position. It's not as much a glorified, other lineman. It's really evolved. As you can see with Jake, he's been a big part of that evolution. I don't know how many catches he had last year but he had a lot of catches and he did a lot with the ball after he caught it. We want to improve on that and take that to a whole other level this year."

Is taking it to a whole other level making rap videos?

"(Laughs) Yeah, I love doing that stuff. I did a little bit of that in high school. One of my best friends who lived two blocks away from me, Pat Foley is his name, he actually started a production company in high school, it's called Hued Productions. They're down in Atlanta now going to school and also doing that. He's great at what he does. In high school he just had a makeshift little studio, so we were just like, yeah, let's mess around and make some music. We both love music, and we did it, made a few songs, made a music video right before we all left for college. I guess people like it."

MGoQuestion: What's the reception from the rest of the team?

"They all love it. A lot of the guys were in the video, too, so that was a lot of fun. It's just something that is a passion of mine outside of football and outside of school. For now, that's going to get pushed to the side and it's going to be football. It's going to be focusing on winning football games for a while now."

MGoQuestion: It seems like with Harbaugh that blocking is the path to get on the field. (Bunting: "Yeah!") What have you done to take that next step?

"A lot of blocking, in my opinion, is footwork. We work on that all the time with each other, on the field during practice or even just when we have seven-on-seven or something, just spend a little time afterwards just working on footwork, steps for different types of blocks. As much as we like to catch the ball, we love blocking too. It's just fun. It's fun to go and hit someone."

[Hit THE JUMP for Grant Newsome discussing the difficulty of facing M's defense in practice and John O'Korn crashing my interview with Moe Ways.]

Fall Camp Storylines: Offense

Fall Camp Storylines: Offense

Submitted by Brian on August 9th, 2016 at 11:42 AM

It's submarine time. Yea, the beat writers will rend their garments and republish articles about Clayton Richard from ten years ago. Insider rumblings of wildly varying utility will leak out in drips and drabs. Half of them will be outright falsehoods. A quarter will be somewhat true. A quarter will be very true.

As per usual, I enter this month of the season frantically assembling data for the season preview; fall camp chatter will factor in as it always does. Here are the things I'm hoping to hear, the things that I'm hoping are never said, and ridiculous things I'll dismiss out of hand.

QUARTERBACK

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[Bryan Fuller]

STATUS: Wilton Speight exited spring with a slight lead on John O'Korn, at least per spring draft and practice snap order. Even if that means more than "we want to motivate a guy" it's a 51/49 situation. It's all up for grabs.

THING YOU WANT TO HEAR: Someone is taking the job forcefully. Which guy doesn't matter so much. One of them grabbing the job by the throat, whoever that happens to be, is preferable. I'd prefer that gent is O'Korn since I think his mobility and arm strength gives him greater upside but if Speight is going to defy the Curse of Borges with authority, fine. Authority. This is the goal.

THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: "Brandon Peters really has a shot!" No offense intended, but the two leaders coming back to the pack would not be a good sign. Meanwhile true freshman anything is never great. I am open to hearing further encouraging things about Peters's future. Present not so much.

THING I WILL DISMISS OUT OF HAND: "Shane Morris really has a shot!" Morris was at best equal to Speight going into last season when Michigan agreed to redshirt him; Speight now has an extra slice of on-field experience and should improve more since he's younger. Also they put him at WR in the spring game.

RUNNING BACK

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[Eric Upchurch]

STATUS: It's De'Veon Smith's job. Not his job to lose, his job. Smith's injury history—he was banged up all last year—and Harbaugh's tendency to play multiple tailbacks at once mean that the #2 and #3 guys will still be important.

THING YOU WANT TO HEAR: Ty Isaac remains on a rampage. With Smith getting he's-the-man rest, the story of spring practice was the emergence of a "rougher, tougher" Ty Isaac. His outside burst picked up piles of yards in the spring game, culminating in a run where he tacked on an extra 15 by outrunning Jabrill Peppers in the open field. That's something nobody managed all of last year, off balance or not. There's still a five star in there somewhere. The best possible news from camp would be Isaac looking like it.

THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: Smith is banged up and not practicing. It's not a coincidence that Smith's killer Citrus Bowl came after a month off. He missed the Maryland game and was limited in a few others because his pounding style racks up nagging injuries. His absence in the spring was as much precaution as triumph.

THING I WILL DISMISS OUT OF HAND: Someone insisting that Drake Johnson did not have a) a house land on him, 2) a gang of radioactive bikers abduct his dog, c) a mouth that spews nothing but sass grow on his finger, or d) all of the above.

WIDE RECEIVER

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[Eric Upchurch]

STATUS: Darboh, Chesson, and Perry are your dudes, with a side of Peppers no one will talk about.

THING YOU WANT TO HEAR: "Gotdang, Moe Ways can play." The two outside starters are established so nothing we hear about them will mean much relative to all the stuff we've seen on an actual field. Ways is coming off a lot of spring hype we didn't get to see ourselves thanks to a foot injury late in spring practice. He's the best bet for a solid #3 this year and a smooth transition to the next generation in 2017.

THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: There are lingering Chesson PCL issues. Chances of this are low since the injury happened eight months ago, but WR is one of a couple positions where an injured starter is a big big deal.

THING I WILL DISMISS OUT OF HAND: Freshman X is going to have a big role. He ain't. Darboh, Chesson, Perry, and Butt are back. Michigan had no slot receiver a year ago and Grant Perry caught 105 passes as a high school senior and it still took him until the bowl game to be a major contributor. Freshman wide receivers suck.

I will accept "Eddie McDoom looks like a guy who can play a lot in 2017."

TIGHT END

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[Bryan Fuller]

STATUS: lol all the dudes

THING YOU WANT TO HEAR: "Ian Bunting's Citrus Bowl was no fluke." Bunting flashed a surprising ability to whack dudes in the bowl game, and if he can continue that he'll be on the field with Jake Butt a lot. That is a tent-your-fingers situation there.

I have a runner up here, and that is "Ty Wheatley Jr has re-emerged from the sea after destroying Tokyo."

THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: "Henry Poggi is still missing blocks." To clarify, I expect to hear almost literally nothing about Poggi during fall camp because he is a fullback/H-back. I expect to hear even less about his specific ability to ID the man he should go hit in the chaos of camp. But if we were to hear that I would not be having a good time. Poggi has high upside as a blocker; the main thing that prevented him from hitting that a year ago was finding the right guy.

THING I WILL DISMISS OUT OF HAND: Further chatter about Sean McKeon playing this year. There was a consistent drumbeat that this was a possibility during spring; one glance at the depth chart should dispel all such notions.

OFFENSIVE LINE

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[Eric Upchurch]

STATUS: Harbaugh announced Grant Newsome as a sure starter at media day. Oddly, he still maintained that the rest of the line—three fifth year seniors and Mason Cole—wasn't set. But, I mean, it's basically set.

THING YOU WANT TO HEAR: Year two in the same system with the same coaches is a revelation. Michigan had a lot of problems executing their assignments in front of the ever-shifting fronts defenses will throw at them. Some of this is expected. They've had three offensive coordinators over the last three years. This is the first time in their playing careers that they have an opportunity to build on something they already know.

THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: "Rueben Jones is tearing Grant Newsome up." Newsome got worked this spring. Getting worked by Taco Charlton is one thing. Getting worked by a Chase Winovich freshly moved from offense is another. Both happened. Newsome has the frame and mental ability to get there at left tackle; there are going to be hairy moments. Newsome getting negative reviews would be alarming since it appears there are few or no alternatives.

THING I WILL DISMISS OUT OF HAND: One of the three seniors is going to get benched. I know that possibility is the direct implication of Harbaugh's media day press conference, but I'd be flabbergasted if Dawson, Kugler or Bredeson managed to slide past any of them. Dawson and Kugler have had their shots the last few camps, and true freshmen are true freshmen. You can point to Mason Cole if you like but as a reminder, Mason Cole's main job as a freshman was to survive by the skin of his teeth. He did that; his performance wasn't any better than Kyle Kalis's projects to be this fall.

There is a version of this that wouldn't be dismissed and would be another thing you want to hear: a couple guys are pushing the seniors and are at least some threat to unseat a guy. Michigan's OL depth right now is questionable and it's more questionable going into next year. Being able to pencil someone in at a couple of the vacancies would be reassuring.