SPONSOR NOTE. This was going to be a three-thousand word sponsor note because there's not much to say about this game, but Matt was like "no, stop that," like most of our advertisers have to say to us on a regular basis. "Please stop doing that," Matt said, "and instead have a brief item noting HomeSure Lending's ability to get you a mortgage from the comfort of your own home rapidly."
Thus this note, which is not an exegesis on various details of mortgage lending, and that's just another reason to get a mortgage from HomeSure.
FORMATION NOTES. Like last week, Michigan spent the vast bulk of this game in a four-man front. Whether that's disrespect to the opposition's passing game or Aubrey Solomon emerging into Michigan's best option as the seventh guy in the front seven is to be determined.
Minnesota was all three-wide gun except when they were in their irritatingly effective jet sweep package.
More on this in a bit.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES. 247 published snap counts earlier in the week so no speculation necessary: the back seven barely changed, with McCray, Bush, Kinnel, and Hill getting all or almost all of the 60 snaps. Long and Watson split the other CB snaps. Metellus would have gone the whole way but for his ejection; Glasgow entered in his place.
There was more rotation up front. Gary, Winovich, and Hurst got about 90% of the snaps before Minnesota's late FG drive; Solomon had 26. Kemp, Paye, Marshall, Mone, and Dwumfour all got 10-20 snaps. Uche got 5, Rueben Jones 2.
[After THE JUMP: another week, another Big Ten quarterback.]
11/4/2017 – Michigan 33, Minnesota 10 – 7-2, 4-2 Big Ten
FACE TO FACE [Bryan Fuller]
Michigan has a new starting quarterback, a highly touted redshirt freshman who flashed potential a week ago. This week he got his first-ever start, completed some simple throws early, and then went home to have a cheese sandwich. Probably? Maybe? I don't recall if he continued playing after the first drive.
He probably did. Starting quarterbacks leaving the stadium during a game tend to make the news. I think I remember a hitch on third down in there somewhere, now that you mention it. But if Brandon Peters hadn't stayed around the result would have been little different, because Michigan's rushing game can optimistically be termed a Ground Assault now. Michigan assaulted a large number of Gophers on Saturday night. They did not battle or fight or contest Minnesota, because all those terms imply a certain evenness. They assaulted Minnesota, like a gang of Hell's Angels descending on a gaming convention. "Aaaaaargh, why are you still playing Settlers of Catan instead of something fun," screamed Michigan's running game, metaphorically. Also, I hope, literally because Catan is trash dot emoji.
I don't even have to subtract sacks to bring you a stat that's absurd: 10 yards per carry. Ten. One first down of yardage per carry. Also this:
I'm genuinely not sure which is more impressive: that they averaged 6.9 ypc after contact, or that they averaged 6.6 ypc BEFORE contact. https://t.co/X5DxY06RSG
In three weeks there will be a ripped from the headlines Law & Order episode in which Michigan is convicted of murder in the zeroth degree, because of this game. Ice T will accuse Michigan of being hopped up on Zebra Glitter and only be half-wrong. Michigan is hopped up on life, Ice T. Life and 60+ yard rushing touchdowns. And murder.
ANKLE TO FACE [Fuller]
And now for the lame bit: hoping this sticks. Falling apart at the end has been the fate of all excellent Michigan football things over the past decade or so. The 2006 defense. Denard Robinson's elbow. Chad Henne's shoulder. Last year's top 5 team. Michigan's pursuit of David Cutcliffe. All of these things ended poorly.
Also some less than excellent ones like Brady Hoke. And last year's passing offense. You probably don't remember this but this was the state of Michigan's passing attack after nine games last year:
Speight's 8.9 YPA leads the Big Ten by almost a half yard and is 11th nationally.
His 15-3 TD/INT ratio is second in the Big Ten to JT Barrett (21-4).
His passer rating is now five points clear of Perry Hills for best in the league and is 14th nationally.
He's fifth nationally in ESPN's QBR metric, which accounts for rushing yards and SOS.
I wrote that and can barely remember it in the soup that followed. Michigan got ambushed in Iowa City the next week—though not as ambushed as Ohio State did on Saturday, amirite—and Speight got hurt at the end of that game. Since it's been somewhere between coping and total disaster against teams not named Purdue.
So it must be mentioned that the parking lots that were once Rutgers and Minnesota are very likely to be terrible run defenses, and Minnesota's was badly hurt by their injury issues in the secondary. Back when Harbaugh was hired I talked about his Stanford offenses, which went against the prevailing trends in college football by putting very big guys on little guys; here Michigan put no guys on the littlest guys. They ignored the Minnesota cornerbacks and saw that decision pay off with a series of comically bad attempts to execute a run fit. This kind of hamblasting is always equal parts you, the opponent, and luck.
DESPAIR TO FACE [Fuller]
If you're still waiting for the other shoe to drop, that is a well-learned tendency. I sort of am as well. The last two opponents did not have sufficient confidence in their secondaries to jam everyone forward, and they were probably correct to do so. Michigan's passing game is still almost totally nonexistent, and the two heavies at the back end of the schedule are going to make Michigan suffer for that deficiency.
Probably, anyway. Michigan has been steadily building to this for half a season and will continue refining now that they've put their foot down and become a thing. That thing is a semi truck careening wildly towards the end of the season. Maybe it will flip over in a ditch. Maybe it will careen right through a series of animals and trees until the thick paste on the grill is an unspeakable mélange of the defeated.
no no no no no no no no no[Eric Upchurch]
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Khaleke Hudson. Michigan appears to have noticed what we did while taping the podcast on Sunday: Chase Winovich got credit for the sack on the intentional grounding call. They've fixed that and are now claiming 3 sacks and 8 TFLs for Hudson. The former is a solo Don Brown Hat Trick; the latter is a school record. So, yeah, that's good enough.
Gotta block that punt, though.
#2(t) Karan Higdon and Chris Evans. The backs edge ahead of their top blockers this week because they made a lot for themselves. Higdon ran through Cesar Ruiz on his first big run and set a number of others up with hard cuts after initial feints that bought him a second level block. For his part, Evans ripped off two 60+ yard TDs, the second one featuring a broken tackle near the line of scrimmage on an unblocked linebacker.
#3(t) Mason Cole and Ben Bredeson. Two gentlemen that did work on the opposition defense, consistently and ruthlessly. JBB and Ruiz narrowly miss because their pass protection was alarming.
Honorable mention: Mo Hurst did his usual Mo Hurst things. The rest of the front seven was impregnable on anything but a jet sweep. JBB and Ruiz and Kugler do deserve some recognition for their ground efforts.
8: Devin Bush (#1 Florida, T2 Cincinnati, T2 Air Force, #1 Purdue) 7: Karan Higdon (#1 Indiana, #2 PSU, T2 Minnesota). 6: Mason Cole (#1 Cincinnati, T2 Rutgers, T3 Minnesota). 5: Chase Winovich(#1 Air Force, #2a Purdue), Mo Hurst (#1 MSU, #2(T), Indiana), Rashan Gary(T2 Indiana, #1 Rutgers), Khaleke Hudson (T2 Cincinnati, #3 PSU, #1 Minnesota). 4: David Long (T3 Indiana, #1 PSU) 3: Ty Isaac (#2, Florida, #3 Cincinnati), Lavert Hill(#2 MSU, T3 Indiana)) 2: Quinn Nordin (#3 Florida, #3 Air Force), John O'Korn (#2 Purdue), Sean McKeon(T3 Purdue, #3 Rutgers), Mike Onwenu(T2 Rutgers), Chris Evans(T2 Minnesota). 1: Tyree Kinnel (T2 Cincinnati), Mike McCray(T2 Air Force), Zach Gentry (T3 Purdue), Brad Robbins(#3 MSU), Brandon Watson (T3 Indiana), Ben Bredeson(T3 Minnesota).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
Uh... let's pick the first Evans touchdown, on which he broke a linebacker tackle and then glided into the endzone.
Fun fact: I always think "glode" is the right past tense of "glide" for one point six seconds.
Honorable mention: Higdon's enormous touchdown. The other enormous Evans touchdown. Enormous Higdon run that doesn't reach the endzone. Khaleke Hudson tomahawks the ball out from Demry Croft; Hudson tackles for loss like seven more times.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
Quinn Nordin misses another extra point. What's the deal man? #collegekickers? Let's not #collegekickers. Let's not do that at all.
Honorable mention: Nordin pushes a 49 yarder just wide; Peters is thundersacked on third down on consecutive third quarter drives; Minnesota has a legitimate touchdown drive; rush is stopped for three yards. Hudson doesn't block that punt.
This was recorded at the Residence Inn Ann Arbor in one of their TEN conference rooms.
We Couldn’t Have One Without the Other
We can do this because people support us. You should support them too so they’ll want to do it again next year! The show is presented by UGP & The Bo Store, and if it wasn’t for Rishi and Ryan we’d be talking to ourselves.
Wetfeels: Brian’s 20-year streak of going to home games ends; Thanks Delany. Shout out to Black Engineer for tracking this: 20 commercial breaks, which is twice an appropriate limit. Did not play even 5 minutes of football between commercial breaks, couldn’t even get to 9 minutes of real time.
Offense: he Indiana split flow counter worked all night—we were actually getting annoyed with the Minnesota linebackers screwing that up. Manball approach took advantage of DBs who couldn’t run support. Running game is now consistently getting to ol’Stanford/Wisconsin levels. JBB is still an awful pass protector. Higdon’s long speed is impressive (>>>). Passing game look extant and functional early, later was just eating sacks, and unnecessary.
starts at 27:38
They completed three passes and gave up five sacks—you really have to work to find complaints here. They kept running the wildcat despite that not working at all. Khaleke Hudson finally got a chance to be hitman. Might have been robbed of the grounding sack; if that’s the case he passes Foote with 3 sacks and 7.5 TFLs in a single game. Some of that was attacking the not-mesh. Like a shark. Hurst was Hurstian.
Metellus ejected for nothing—least equal offsetting penalties ever.
3. Brian’s Wet Gophers: Hoops & Hockey
starts at 44:50
The guys read my joke Lantana read verbatim because they’re deranged. Do you know who else is deranged? Spencer Tillman.
Hoops takes: Mathews (GVSU caveat) might be the real deal. Duncan Robinson is Duncan Robinson. Zavier Simpson started over Simmons; that probably won’t last. Expect Simmons to win that with Z regularly in. Working on transition a lot. Teske rebounds, knows his way around the court, has some passing skills.
Hockey: Michigan doubled up Ferris in shots, earned a win and OT loss. Lack of skill up front came back to bite them. Marody coming into his own at least. At-large conversation. It’s fun to go to Yost again.
4. Around the Big Ten with Jamie Mac
starts at 1:03:00
Chaos reigns in Iowa: JT Barrett made a statement in the Heisman race, which is that J.K. Dobbins was getting 8 ypc and they forgot to give him the ball. Josh Jackson is so good. Wadley finally got loose. Northwestern plays for OT with a 7-point lead because he always wins in OT. Maryland is down to an Air Force quarterback. Did Purdue put it on Lovie Smith? Indiana made it a game with Wisconsin. Penn State and Michigan State both discovered the other doesn’t have a secondary: 103 passing attempts in a rainy game.
For the second time this season they turned on the lights at Michigan Stadium, and for the second time this season nature showed its unabashed disapproval. Unlike last month, though, Michigan avoided throwing caution to the wind and, for the most part, avoided throwing at all. Michigan’s running game put up 371 yards, a performance Michigan fans haven’t seen the likes of since…well, I’d probably have to ask the people I saw in front of the stadium with commemorative Rose Bowl canvas tote bags.
The ominous been-here-before feeling that hung over the stadium lasted three plays. Demry Croft hit slot receiver Phillip Howard for 25 yards on a busted Josh Metellus coverage on 3rd-and-7; they then rushed for no gain and passed for eight before Maurice Hurst tipped a Croft pass and nearly intercepted it himself, forcing Minnesota to punt.
Brandon Peters got his first career start for the Wolverines and, on their first play from scrimmage, hit Donovan Peoples-Jones for an easy eight yards. From there Karan Higdon carried for 47, a Khalid Hill dive converted a 3rd-and-1, and Peters hit Sean McKeon on a throwback screen for 20 yards and a touchdown. The drive accounted for 32 of Peters’ 56 passing yards on the night, including his lone touchdown. Michigan was largely able to shelve the passing game before the midpoint of the first quarter.
Minnesota responded with a well-executed drive, first hitting Howard—who was again uncovered in the slot—for 16 before calling nine consecutive rushes, including a 10-yard toss to Rodney Smith that Brandon Watson closed hard on but was unable to keep out of the end zone.
Two plays later, Karan Higdon needed one cut and a nice seal of the edge from Khalid Hill to go 77 yards for a score. The ominous feeling had lifted, replaced by an offense averaging 18.3 yards per play.
By the midpoint in the second quarter, Don Brown had made his adjustments, Khaleke Hudson had already racked up seven tackles, and Chris Evans had started to trade long runs with Higdon. Evans put up back-to-back runs of 18 and 60 yards to put Michigan up 20-7, and Michigan finished the half with 266 yards on the ground; Higdon had 163 on nine carries, while Evans had 111 on six.
Michigan came out flat after halftime, going three-and-out on their first two drives of the third quarter. Minnesota took advantage of a short field and a couple of successful runs from their backs to creep into Michigan territory. Croft then dropped back to pass on 2nd-and-10. Hudson went over a cut block and lived up to his “Hitman” twitter handle, ripping down Croft’s arm and forcing a fumble that was recovered by Chase Winovich. The backs alternated carries again, Peters never had to look off his first read in Peoples-Jones to get 10 yards on a dig on 3rd-and-6, and Higdon then twisted his way into the end zone from five yards out. Michigan’s score off the turnover put them up 27-7 and essentially ensured that the Little Brown Jug would stay safely in Ann Arbor, spared from having to endure another Stanley Cup-esque tour of the land of 10,000 lakes.
The rest of the game played out in uniform fashion for Michigan. Don Brown’s unit was no longer surprised by Minnesota’s sweep action, while the offensive line continued to open holes for the running backs. Cesar Ruiz stepped in for the injured Mike Onwenu and showed that he could pull and target well in the run game in his first career start; he was yanked from the game after a pass-pro mishap resulted in a sack of Brandon Peters. The rest of the line had similar difficulties with Minnesota’s stunts, but they more than made up for it with their ability to gap-block; counters, power, and dives were enough to put Minnesota away.
The most eventful bit of the second half came at the end of the third quarter, when a Minnesota player appeared to punch a Michigan player after the play. Minnesota’s Donnell Greene was called for unsportsmanlike conduct and tossed from the game, as was Josh Metellus. Metellus acquired his penalty for reasons that remain unclear; asked what explanation the referees provided, Harbaugh said “it really didn’t have a lot of logic to it” but that it involved there being a scrum and Metellus walking toward it; he followed that with a low “womp, womp.”
Michigan’s defense, led by Khaleke Hudson’s 6.5 TFLs and 2 sacks, looked like it usually does: excellent 90% of the time, in need of adjustment 5% of the time, and cursed in coverage 5% of the time. The story tonight, though, was Michigan’s offense emphatically demonstrating that they, too, have an identity, a new usual.
“Looked up at one point and the statistics looked like we were Air Force. Thought we were Air Force the way we were running the ball,” Harbaugh said. And poor damn Don Brown thought he was done with them weeks ago.
Substitution/formation notes: Nothing at all different from the last couple of weeks, which brings us right to our normally-I’d-link-this-in-the-chart-but-let’s-put-it-above-the-jump of the week, which features Khaleke Hudson blowing up two Rutgers players and creating an opportunity for Michigan to down a punt at the two-yard line. Pretty convenient for a “khaleke hudson shatter machine” tag to already exist.
[After THE JUMP: punt clear-outs, Thomas’ continued success, and a saved touchdown]
Draftageddon 2017: The Gang Gets In an Argument About Justin Jackson
This is Part V. 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.
Ohio State (9 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)
Michigan (8 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)
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)
Penn State (6 players): RB Saquon Barkley (1st, BiSB), QB Trace McSorley (4th, Ace), “TE” Mike Gesicki (25th, BiSB), Marcus Allen, S (29th, Ace), OT Ryan Bates (41st, BiSB), LB Jason Cabinda (49th, BiSB)
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)
Northwestern (1 player): S Godwin Igwebuike (24th, BiSB)
Rutgers (1 player): OT Tariq Cole (27th, Seth)
Illinois (1 player): WR Malik Turner (31st, Brian)
Michigan State (1 player): OG Brian Allen (37th, Ace)
It’s my turn in our snake draft, and yes it’s another Buckeye, sorry.
Seth: Round 13, Pick 3: Robert Landers, DT, Ohio State
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), LB Jack Cichy (UW), CB Denzel Ward, CB Manny Rugamba
For our fifth Ohio State d-lineman let's try a nose, and at this point which one should be obvious. Landers racked up 7.5 TFLs (tied with Dre'Mont Jones) in his redshirt freshman campaign, and was at +10 on 243 snaps as of The Game preview PFF sent. Unlike Jones, who Wally Pipped the 3-tech job when Tracy Sprinkle was injured in Game 1, Landers had to scrap for equal snaps with standard plugger Michael Hill.
It only took a few games into the season for Ohio State fans to pick the low man in that battle, and after the PSU game PFF had joined them:
Bosa led the Buckeyes with seven pressures, but it is perhaps Landers who is pressing the strongest claim to jump into the starting lineup. Starting defensive tackles Dre’Mont Jones and Michael Hill struggled for the second straight week (longer still for Hill by himself), as Penn State gained 8.2 yards per carry between the tackles, with Jones and Hill frequently backed up into the second level when they faced double teams. After giving up 137 yards between the tackles to Wisconsin last week, the alarm bells are ringing loud and clear in the Ohio State run defense right now, and Landers has been performing well enough to justify a spot in the starting lineup.
Short in stature, Landers uses that to his advantage for leverage and speed. Urban Meyer calls him "twitched-up." Draft Analyst calls him a 2nd or 3rd rounder. I call him the last shot at a surefire disruptive NT.
[Note: this pick was made before we knew Hill would be suspended indefinitely. Not that it matters because Landers is better.]
Seth: From that last link:
One offensive prospect I’m not impressed with is Jamarco Jones. Rated by some as the number two offensive tackle prospect from the senior class, Jones is short, marginally athletic and won’t get drafted then will have to play guard at the next level.
Please be so.
[After THE JUMP: Time-traveling 2015 guy can’t fathom why the entire Indiana secondary is gone before anyone from the Michigan State defense.]
Welp, the backup DTs are a problem. The mere presence of Ron Johnson, who arrived last year as a 245-pound weakside end, on the interior is indication enough. Johnson was bad because it is not possible for a person to go from 245 pounds to a plausible DT in a year. I assume that dalliance will end the moment Michigan's fleet of incoming DTs arrives.
It was slightly more disappointing that neither Carl Myers nor Lawrence Marshall showed much. Myers is a walk-on but hey maybe he was a spiritual Glasgow; that looks really doubtful. A Higdon TD run was largely on Myers getting buried by single blocking. (Spanellis, for what it's worth.) Meanwhile Marshall's added weight and added weight and gone from WDE to SDE to 3T and usually your second position switch is when it starts getting late early. It's late early for him.
Aubrey Solomon is going to walk right onto the two deep, and thank God for that recruiting heist. Mike Dwumfour is going to get playing time by default so let's hope some of that positive chatter is good, and then it would be very nice if another freshman—probably James Hudson—was ready to eat some snaps.
The starters are more or less established and performed as you'd expect. Pass blocking was a major issue not just because of Devin Bush, but these gentlemen. We know what Maurice Hurst looks like as a player. We've got a good idea about Chase Winovich—though he's looking much more DE-sized than a year ago—and Rashan Gary is a given. He stunted inside once on a play that should have caught Michigan's D dead to rights, with Kugler pulling right to him. Gary blew through him to tackle for minimal gain. Dude is scary.
Bryan Mone looked healthy and effective on the snaps he got, so hooray for that. He shed Bredeson a couple times, albeit after giving up some yardage. He is likely to be a downgrade from Ryan Glasgow but with the guys around him he just has to be good for the line to be excellent.
Now encase them in carbonite until fall.
Carlo Kemp looked okay; Rueben Jones didn't show much; Donovan Jeter looks like a guy who will eventually be a DT/3T swing guy a la Wormley.
Mike McCray did not get a starter hook and had significant playing time in which he looked like Mike McCray.
sidewinder has missile lock [Eric Upchurch]
We got extended looks at couple non-starters guys, most prominently Devin Bush. Bush looks like he's benefited a ton from a year of S&C; this has amped up his blitzing, and Don Brown took full advantage. His timing and burst got him through the line frequently, and he is a major problem for RB pickups. He's short, so he's hard to get under. He's thick, so he's got a lot of momentum. He's fast, so also momentum that's how momentum works. The result was a number of blitz pickups that looked good for a moment before falling apart.
Bush's recruiting profile is (for the moment) prophetic:
if you ever thought to yourself "I wonder what Don Brown would have done with James Ross," Bush will answer that question for you.
Hurl him pell-mell over the line of scrimmage to good effect, it seems.
In that context the talk about Mike Wroblewski is probably a positive instead of an indication Michigan has a desperate lack of depth. (See Moundros, Mark.) He looks the part of the heady gritty grit gym rat, but more importantly he plays like it. I can't tell you how many times I've seen linebackers fail to understand what the line slant in front of their face means; here Wroblewski knows that the Gary slant means the ball is likely coming to the gap outside of him, and he fills with aplomb:
It's a simple thing; again I cannot tell you how many times I've shaken a fist to the heavens because a linebacker does not understand the implication of the line call.
Wroblewski's prominence isn't great news for the other inside linebackers currently on the roster. (This exempts Noah Furbush and Josh Uche, who are at SAM.) I don't know what number Jared Wangler is even after my annual "who the hell is that /googles roster" spring game outing. Elysee Mbem-Bosse is 52, and I mostly know that because he got edged on the early Isaac touchdown run.
I assume from the way Don Brown talks that these are the things Robocop does not do. Again, simple thing where you've got to know that you get outside your blocker and funnel back to help, and a thing I've seen not executed time and again. By long-term starters.
I did catch a couple plays I liked from Devin Gil, so he may be an exception.
Meanwhile, Furbush and Uche... I don't know what Michigan's going to do with them. Furbush had one impressive Jake-Ryan-like play on a crack sweep where he blasted through a block to pick off another blocker, but I'm not sure how he fits in Don Brown's defense. We've heard some things about how Uche is going to get some run as a pass rush specialist.
Not a lot of action for David Long or Levert Hill, which is probably a sign they're solid leaders at cornerback. (Or dinged up. Long was out on some kickoffs, FWIW.) Between the two of them they combined for one tackle; when they were out there they were barely targeted.
Washington is now in the conversation [Eric Upchurch]
Amongst folks who played a bunch Keith Washington stood out. I was watching him during a brief period where he was matched up on Donovan Peoples-Jones. He had good coverage on an incompletion, made a tackle after a drag route for two yards, and generally looked in DPJ's league. He added an impressive downfield pass breakup and a couple of "who is that?!" edge tackles when Michigan tried to run it to his side of the field. He was credited for half a TFL on one of those. This one is impressive awareness; I've seen a lot of cornerbacks fail to fall off their WR this quickly and give up ten yards on the edge:
Spring caveats apply. Two years ago Brandon Watson had a press-heavy spring game that featured a couple of impressive PBUs on Moe Ways; since then he's faded to an occasionally-used nickel who usually tackles after a slant is completed on him. His pick six in this game was a very bad decision by Peters he took advantage of; it wasn't paired with other plays that might have moved the needle for him as he tries to battle his way up the depth chart.
Both early-enrolled freshmen looked like they could use some seasoning. Benjamin St-Juste was repeatedly victimized by Tarik Black on quick fades during the John O'Korn-led comeback section of the game. I kind of hated one of the PI calls on him but this is because I am adamantly opposed to underthrow-caused pass interference and cannot be trusted in these matters.
Meanwhile Ambry Thomas looked like a freshman in the way DPJ and Black did not. He's lankier than I expected—"high cut" is the jargon term I believe—and looked spindly. Problematically so. Kareem Walker's impressive touchdown featured Thomas being fended off with ease.
If Washington has made a move like it seems Michigan can afford to redshirt one or both.
here comes the BOOM like it or not now that song is stuck in your head [Barron]
I said in the spring game preview I didn't want Khaleke Hudson to end someone but if there was a walk-on or band member or random civilian who would volunteer to get in a car crash they would be remembered. John O'Korn is none of those; he will be remembered nonetheless.
Hudson also picked up a PBU and a sack in his time on the field and looked sufficiently Peppers-esque for this site's honor and prognostication cred to remain intact for the time being. The emergence of a couple legit safety options and the Khaleke-Hudson-shaped spot in a Don Brown defense means Hudson's found his spot, and I'm eager to see how that works out. Good start.
Those legit safety options are Josh Metellus and Jordan Glasgow, both of whom showed well. Both guys got over the top of sideline fade routes to get or assist on PBUs. Glasgow stepped in front of a Speight pass for a 101-yard pick six. Less spectacularly but probably more importantly, both guys tackled with authority when called upon to do so. There was one particular open-field Glasgow tackle that was Kovacsian in its textbook solidity. Assumed starter Tyree Kinnel got his share of action as well, leading all players with seven tackles.
The coverage bust on the Gentry touchdown couldn't be traced back to any of those guys since they weren't in the area or on the field, and something Ace mentioned on the podcast was clearest with these guys: there was way less pointing and confusion as Michigan enters year two under Brown. Like the offensive line, these are a bunch of new starters who could be expected to dorf a number of plays. This happened rarely, if at all.
Assertion: no position group put in a more reassuring performance than the safeties. Michigan clearly thinks they have a hidden gem in Metellus and Glasgow turns out to be a Glasgow, so Hudson can slide down, and Kinnel is there to quarterback the whole secondary. This position group looks set to reload, not rebuild.
Houston, we have liftoff [Barron]
It's night and day from two years ago at this time, when people were openly petrified of the kicking situation. Kenny Allen eventually locked that down for two years, and now that he's gone Michigan looks... fine? Very good, even? Kyle Seychel, Ryan Tice, and Quinn Nordin all popped in to blast some kickoffs and groove field goals down the middle. Nordin's 48-yarder was a highlight because it almost cleared the net; I've heard people say that would have been good from 60 and I think this radically undersells what a bomb it was. Look at this thing!
That is a 48 yard field goal that goes over the goalposts. Tailwind or no that is spectacular.
Small sample sizes, of course. One good thing that we haven't heard coming out of the practice rumbles: kicker concern. Maybe they'll be fine. (Maybe they will suffer #collegekickers.)
Punter Will Hart looked okay, averaging 40 yards a kick on 8 punts. He seemed to have excellent hang time and could have gotten some more distance but angled a couple to the sideline. My main concern with him was that it seemed to take a while for him to get the ball off. There were two or three punts on which the crowd went "oooh" because the defense almost returned one to sender.
OTOH, if that could be more about Michigan being consistently good at getting to punts now that would be real nice. Michigan had impact block units last year for the first time I can remember. Maybe they downloaded Jon Baxter's brain into Partridge during the one year he was here.
Returns are an open question and something of a concern after two muffs, one on a punt, one on a field goal. I have a feeling we might come to fully appreciate Peppers's ability to cleanly field all manner of junk fired in his direction when his successor is not Jabrill Peppers. Kickoffs should be fine; they've got enough athletes now that they can just put a DPJ or, heck, Keith Washington back there. Punts are much trickier and disaster-prone. FWIW, Oliver Martin arrives in fall with a reputation for being something of a punt-fielding maestro.