Can you tell us what you’ve seen from Wisconsin on film on both sides of the ball?
“Very physical team. Number one defense in the country right now. Very, very physical on offense. Very good quarterback, very good running back. Really good in the lines on both sides, and skill positions as well. Talented players and very tough schemes to prepare for.”
Do you have an update on Karan [Higdon] and his status?
“We’ll get more today but seems good. Seems like positive news and update.”
You talked about Wilton [Speight] last week. Is he getting closer? Do you think he’s going to be cleared this week for contact is that still up in the air?
“Right now he’s cleared to practice, and we won’t—we’ll avoid contact again this week.”
So Brandon will be your guy again this week?
Update on Grant Newsome? How’s he doing?
“Been progressing well.”
Is Wilton probably going to sit out the last two? Have you made a determination on that?
“Don’t know. Don’t know. I don’t make that determination, that’ll be made by the doctors.”
[We don’t talk about injuries except when we do, and we do after THE JUMP]
Nick Eubanks: do you have an update on his status?
“Yeah, he’s healing.” Expect him back this year?
“Don’t know for sure.”
Grant Newsome as well and Tarik [Black], can you talk about how they’re progressing in their rehab?
“Um, well, both Nick and Tarik, bones healing. It takes some time to do that. Grant seems to be progressing weekly. Thanks for asking.”
You sort of said and kind of said but is Brandon [Peters] your starter this week? I know last Saturday you said you’d like to see how he handles a week of practice as the starter. Are you going into this week with him being the starting quarterback?
“We’re going in the way we have: preparing both quarterbacks. Not naming a starter today. We’ll see how the week progresses. Our system is a meritocracy where the best players play. It was time for Brandon to play. Went in, acquitted himself very well, and he will play again. He will play again this week.”
What do you like best about Karan Higdon’s running style?
“Well, it’s low. He drops his pads. At the line of scrimmage, his vision keeps getting better as well as his balance. Been a hard runner. Did a great job picking up the 4th-and-1, 4th-and-half-yard early in the ball game. By the narrowest margin, but found a way to get it done. So yeah, he’s popping—he’s making big runs. Pass protecting well. Yeah, I think that balance, the low center of gravity, the way he can drop his pads, physical nature of the way he plays.”
With Brandon’s performance on Saturday, what can he do to build off that and improve and how good can Brandon Peters be?
“Well, he can do a lot to build on it. Getting your first action and the things that you did well and how that felt when it happened, and then things that could have done better. Now he’s been in game action, so I think that helps a lot.”
[After THE JUMP: it’s like somebody went down to the presser cellar and brought up a nice 2016 for the table]
I felt pretty good about this game for a long time, and continued to feel better as we approached it. First Jim McElwain freaked out about someone on the internet facetiously claiming that he laid upon a shark in the nude. Then some Florida guy said this about the Michigan defensive line:
"They don't move well sideline to sideline, so I think we should take advantage of things like that."
Allegedly paying some SEO outfit 70,000 clams to scrub your Google results of a twitter joke that nobody would have remembered 24 hours later if you hadn't gone full Streisand Effect is one thing. Declaring Michigan's defensive line to lack Southern Speed is another.
The former is insane, yes, but insane manias are not just encouraged but required for high-level college football coaches. Telling your team that Mo Hurst, Chase Winovich, and Rashan Gary can't run is plain old laziness.Gary and Hurst made tackles on WR screens...
Heggie can't hold block on Hurst (duh, R-FR vs. NFL 1st rounder). McCoy, who's looking upfield to block 9, doesn't notice til it's too late. pic.twitter.com/cZu74GiA7T
A Michigan team that sent so much to the NFL a year ago could have been the subject of many, many legitimate critiques to be expressed in the media. For Florida Man to settle on that one, and say it out loud, was proof that the Gators' internal monologue was indistinguishable from any random SEC SPEED message board. Before this game they talked like one; during this game they played like one; after this game they probably imploded like one. Florida talked that work, got that work, and talked about getting worked.
Reporter: I saw you had a work type shirt with your name on it? What's that? Harbaugh: It's my work shirt. Reporter: Is there more of a story to it? Harbaugh: No, just a shirt I wear to work.
Jim Harbaugh is accused of stunts, antics, and bids for media relevancy on the regular. These are mostly true. The subtext, however, is that Harbaugh's profile-raising activities eat into time otherwise spent on the boring work of making a football team. That is not true. Harbaugh and his coaches are also doing that.
Michigan spent most of this game in a bonafide 3-3-5 that they had hardly shown on film last year, baffling Florida's blocking schemes and showing two unprepared quarterbacks a glimpse of hell. Hell is Rashan Gary closing on you unblocked. The proper response is to fall over and pretend you died of rabies, as Felipe Franks did.
On offense Michigan's backs repeatedly burst outside to find that Florida had neglected to deploy a force player. The consistency with which this happened was baffling at first and then felt like a thing Michigan saw and prepared to exploit. Probably 60% of their rushing yards came on the 10-12 carries that started inside and ended outside. At one point I thought about that sideline video from the Stanford-VT Orange Bowl where Harbaugh's telling his back the backside cut is there, and sure enough.
Mike Shaw would have kicked ass in this game [Cook]
In the aftermath, McElwain talked about how his team got beat up and pushed around by a bigger, stronger Michigan team... you know, the one deploying 10 new starters on defense and a receiving corps consisting entirely of baby lambs stretching their legs. That's default coach talk after taking it on the chin, but Florida didn't lose a bench press competition. They lost because Michigan presented them with a puzzle they could not solve.
Many teams have done that to Florida these last seven years. The Gators are now in the exact same place Michigan was during the dolorous late Hoke era. Spencer:
This is laughable, like openly contemptible. Consider the list of teams that with meager resources and worse recruiting footprints and every other curse imaginable have built top 30 offenses out of nothing. That list based on 2016 alone is hilariously bad given what Florida spends on their head coach alone, not to mention the resources surrounding the football program, one that even after all that spending has topped out at a recent ceiling of “sort-of fleshed-out secondary character with an inflated reputation who makes it into the second act of the Western before being killed in a gunfight when he runs out of bullets.”
Michigan is now on the other side of this equation and when Florida hires Jeff Brohm next year they will be too, and if you're not pulling for that you are a cold person indeed.
For Michigan, a fog of nervousness now evaporated. Your author spent 50k words talking about why he wasn't worried about Michigan's incredible outflux of starters, but as some guy named Foug walked up for the opening kickoff there were butterflies all the same. The difference between "should be" and "is" has bitten Michigan fans too many times in the last decade, and at kickoff all that practice talk is just talk.
Foug could have put that ball straight out of bounds and kicked off a clownshow. At one point, after three separate game-losing disasters in a row, it felt like he had. Michigan did not waver, and once the disasters stopped raining down they asserted themselves as one would.
"This is Michigan" no longer feels like a cruelly oblivious thing to proclaim. They lost the world, and they are still here, being Michigan. Working at it every day.
Full game tight cut:
Postgame presser from Harbaugh:
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Devin Bush. This space has asserted that Devin Bush was accidentally the perfect Don Brown linebacker recruit, and it took one game for that to become obvious. Bush got two sacks in this game and had a few more instances of QB terror; he takes angles that normally mean you lose and wins with them; he shows up in the QB's chest with a quickness that seems to shock them. He is a missile.
#2 Ty Isaac. Not sure how much this is going to translate to opponents that either make sure to have a force guy and pay attention to a run threat on third down, but Isaac was mansome in game one. He converted two third and longs on the ground, embarrassed a couple of would-be tacklers, and kinda looked five-star-ish against a very fast defense.
#3 Quinn Nordin. Nordin missing a 32-yarder was the only thing preventing him from ending up #1 on the list. One game into his Michigan career he's already tied for third in career 50+ yard field goals, with 50 and 55 yarders to his name. He also grooved a couple shorter ones down the middle. His other miss, from 52, was eminently understandable.
Honorable mention: Tarik Black's two catches went for 80+ yards; DPJ nearly broke two different punt returns; Winovich, Hurst, and Gary were all between good and dominant, also the entire rest of the defense.
3: Devin Bush (#1, Florida) 2: Ty Isaac (#2, Florida) 1: Quinn Nordin (#3, Florida)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
Embedded above: Chase Winovich seals the game in the most appropriate fashion possible.
Honorable mention: Nordin bangs in 55-yarder; Nordin bangs in a 50-yarder; Tarik Black is wide open for a deep touchdown; Nick Eubanks is a very fast quasi-TE; Ambry Thomas rips the ball out on a kick return; various and sundry assaults on Florida QB sanity.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
Pick six #2. This was the moment during the game when a loss felt most plausible, because every subsequent Michigan drive was destined to end in a pick six. Feels bad man!
Honorable mention: Pick six #1; punt block after pick six #2; Speight checks Michigan into the perfect play and he misses an easy TD; a couple of completions where Hill was in good position but couldn't get his head around and react.
[After THE JUMP: a play from the 2012 Nebraska game.]
Jake Butt's gone. In his place are tight end Constructicons.
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
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]
“Good. It’s been good. We had a good day. Our guys had more energy and were moving around better; [they] had a bounce in their step. This’ll be a big weekend. This is—guys are going to get done with training, get into playing positions. It’s a big weekend for it because we start making those two-deep rosters soon. Train’s already left the station and it’s picking up steam.”
Are you going to give us those two-deeps?
“Uh…no, I didn’t say that.”
You said 8-15 practices for the quarterbacks to--
Has anybody stepped up? Is it still a three-horse race or a two-horse race?
“Yeah, John [O’Korn] and Wilton [Speight] have really stepped up. I think they’ve created a little bit of separation and they’re battling now. It’s going one with the ones and the next day the other’s with the ones and the other’s with the twos. We’re keeping a very close eye on it and it’s progressing well.”
Pep said the other day that one of the things he really likes [QBs to have] is command of the offense. As a former quarterback, what does that mean to you when somebody says they have command of the offense?
“Well, it’s just a process of knowing where all your players are and figuring out what the defense is trying to do to you or take away or give you or where they’re more vulnerable, being able to move the team in and out of the huddle, and make reminders is always another one.
“If a guy has good command of the offense he’ll be able to give other guys reminders, the running back or the fullback or a wide receiver or a tight end. He’s got it on the tip of his tongue and he just knows it cold; that’s having command of the offense.”
Is that the kind of thing that Brandon [Peters] has to do to get back to the same level as John and Wilton?
“Yeah, I mean, it’s just a process for him. He’s competing hard and doing good. Not to say that it’s set in stone right now. I think that the two guys have really created a little bit of separation.”
[After THE JUMP: right side of the line, the unblockables, young guys likely to contribute, and more]
We really have to stop forgetting about Kemp. [Bryan Fuller]
The annual question:
Player who made the biggest move this spring?
The annual responses:
Adam: I'd argue that a guy who looks like he could be a contributor yet doesn't have a headshot on the official site made a big move, so I'm going with Nate Schoenle. Prior to the game I knew of him because I glanced at the roster and figured he too must be familiar with people butchering his last name despite its relative simplicity. After the game I knew of him because he can do like, wide receiver things.
He's more of a downfield threat than a wiggly slot bug; he presents a matchup issue for safeties nevertheless. He lined up against legitimate competition and showed good speed as well as adequate hands and route-running. Schoenle may not see the field this fall--Michigan's bringing the Monstars of WR recruiting classes--but we now know that there's substantive competition in the slot.
David: I liked Keith Washington. He was always an intriguing prospect at 6'2" but came in very raw. After an obvious redshirt, he got onto the field a bit last year, covering kicks and grabbing a couple of tackles. With all of Michigan's 2016 starting secondary gone and most of the replacements being very young, Washington looks like he could make a run at some playing time. He had a fantastic PBU on a fade route down the sideline. He seemed to stay step-for-step with wunderkind DPJ and brought him down after limited gains a few times. Washington also flashed some solid run defense, coming off the edge to make a couple of nice tackles (one specifically on Higdon after Karan bounced it outside). From what I could tell, Keith has made strides in all areas and with that lengthy frame, he could work his way onto the field for more meaningful snaps, this Fall.
Plus, how can you doubt a guy who will offer to spontaneously backup his 40 time in a parking lot?
[After the JUMP: How long will we wait for Ace to take Peters?]
The following folks did not play and are thus unmentioned: Drake Harris, Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Nolan Ulizio, Ian Bunting, JaRaymond Hall.
In addition, a few guys got the you're-a-starter hook: Mason Cole, Chris Evans, and Kekoa Crawford were only out there briefly.
A little more feelingsball
HI [Bryan Fuller]
That was fun! I enjoyed it. The weather was terrific and the game was sort of an actual one insofar as OL depth permitted it and there was football to be observed and conclusions to be drawn from that football. At no point did anyone put on a little mesh hat so they could run an hour of kickoff drills.
Jim Harbaugh may be completely unpredictable in many things—he did not talk to reporters after the spring game, oddly—but he's made Michigan football very fun. I appreciated this on Saturday, sitting outside and watching the actual football. So, it seems, did many other people: I've usually just driven to the Crisler parking lot and parked. This would have been impossible on Saturday. The announced attendance (57,000 and change) was a totally made up number but it seemed plausible. What a nice change.
So... this might be a thing. If you recall, last year we entered the spring game expecting John O'Korn to be the starter; there had been some mumbles that Wilton Speight was right in the thick of it that most people discounted because of previous mumbles about how great O'Korn looked in practice. The spring game was an inflection point:
I am now convinced it's a real competition. Wilton Speight only had six attempts, but he completed five of them, confidently. I also had the benefit of observing the Ford Field practice, where nobody seemed clearly ahead of the pack at quarterback. Another piece of evidence in favor of a real competition: no quarterback got a quick you're-a-starter hook. John O'Korn is not a lock.
On Saturday Speight didn't get a you're-a-starter hook. He got a you-threw-a-101-yard-pick-six hook. John O'Korn took over for his team's final two drives, driving for touchdowns on both. Meanwhile, Brandon Peters did this:
One pick six marred an otherwise confident and accurate performance. The two best throws in there are probably the ones to Nate Schoenle, about whom more in a second. The first was a third and long conversion at 4:30 that looks a lot like the guy we saw on Peters's high school tape—unusually, I mean that as a compliment. He's got his guy, he knows it, and he tosses an accurate, catchable ball. Peters's ability to vary speeds is uncanny for a young quarterback, and it's good to see some of that is translating to college.
The second is the Schoenle wheel route to open the winning drive, which is just... dang, man. That's a hell of a throw, and Peters was making it most of the day despite a strong and swirling wind. (The earlier fade down the sideline that Jordan Glasgow got over the top on felt like it had been pushed by that wind.)
Peters moved decisively to get out of the pocket when necessary, scrambled for a touchdown, did not throw into coverage much, and was accurate on all but a couple throws. He looked very plausible at the same time Speight struggled.
As always you do not want to read too much into a disjointed, pressure-laden spring game. Unlike last year's QB competition this one has an incumbent. It's always hard to dislodge a guy who has a season under his belt, especially a guy who was reasonably good last year. Speight finished third in the league in passer rating and #2, Perry Hills, had 18 attempts a game. He's still the starter, probably. The spring game added "probably" to that sentence.
easy for Isaac [Eric Upchurch]
Chris Evans got three carries and then sat for the day, in case you were wondering if he was a sure-fire starter. That's the same playing time De'Veon Smith got last year. Evans looked as shifty as he did a year ago but may have added some extra YAC power; hard to tell in that brief glimpse.
So instead of that let me tell you a thing about Evans: he coaches a local kids flag football team. This in and of itself is odd and very, very Harbaugh. An acquaintance of mine relates that his kid is in this flag football league, and that his game was at 7:15 in the morning, with a potential second game at 9:30 if his kids' team won. Chris Evans is at this game. Not because his team is playing—his team is the one waiting for the winner at 9:30. Chris Evans is... taking notes? Watching intently? Is Chris Evans, starting Michigan running back, scouting a flag football game at 7 in the morning? Yes. Yes he is.
One other Evans-related note: while he didn't participate in much of it, I'd be surprised if the frequent five-wide shotgun looks weren't related to his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Hopefully Michigan gets on the good side of that McCray-Dalvin Cook go route matchup this year.
In Evans's absence we got a lot of Karan Higdon (12 carries to lead everyone), Kareem Walker, Ty Isaac, and walk-ons. Higdon and Isaac looked like Higdon and Isaac; both were the beneficiaries of the second-team DTs getting consistently gashed. I continue to like Higdon's combination of sharp cuts and low pad level and think he'll a productive #2. Isaac looks fine, but his touchdown was untouched and he didn't make a ton on his own. Walker didn't get a ton of opportunity he did have another run like he did last year where he bounced off some tackles to gain additional yards.
Your walk-on du jour here is Tru Wilson, who was quick through the hole and very small. Very little chance he breaks through the five scholarship guys who will be on campus this fall.
Wide Receiver and Tight End
Black can go get it [Eric Upchurch]
The wide receivers are going to be young but that might not matter. Kekoa Crawford got a quick hook and can be penciled in as a starter. Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black certainly look the part already. DPJ was held relatively in check by Keith Washington, and I'm already like "impressive job, Keith Washington" when he's been on campus for two years and DPJ has been on campus for two months.
Black played the part of Guy Opposite Dennis Norfleet on O'Korn's touchdown drives, running the same fade over and over against Benjamin St-Juste for completions and flags. Black is bouncy, 6'4", and adjusts well to balls in the air. He's all right. Meanwhile, Brandon Brown got a shot of Nico Collins veritably looming on the sidelines.
The guy behind him to the right is 6'2" Brad Hawkins. Collins is huge. Collins, Black, DPJ, and Hawkins are a veritable fleet of catching-radius guys who can go get contested balls and make quarterbacks right. That is one recruiting class. Also they got Oliver Martin. I'd managed to forget how ridiculous this WR class was.
In the slot, Eddie McDoom was doing McDoom things before an apparently ankle injury knocked him out. On replay that injury didn't seem too bad: there was no plant or twist. Ankle injuries generally don't keep guys out months and months, so he's probably going to be fine this year. Here's hoping, because I don't want to disappoint this guy.
Curse everything in the world that prevents us from selling that.
Also in the slot was walk-on Nate Schoenle, who was on the receiving end of Peters's best throws of the day. One was a tough diving catch on the game-winning drive. At 6'2" Schoenle gives you downfield ability a lot of slots lack and Peters is clearly comfortable with him; I mentioned him as a guy generating buzz before the game and he'll generate more of it now. Nate Johnson didn't get a target, IIRC. Schoenle looks like a real threat for slot PT.
[UPDATE: Johnson did make a catch, fumbling as he fought for extra yardage.]
So with all that it's getting late early for Drake Harris and Moe Ways. Harris did not participate, and for a guy with his injury history facing down this wide receiver class that is tough. Ways did play but not until the second half when the rotation was getting deep indeed. Two of his plays were questionable, as well. He ran a four yard route on third and five; he messed up his footwork so badly on a back-shoulder fade that both of his feet were out of bounds on a potential touchdown. (Ambry Thomas got hit with a flag for holding him, FWIW.)
Eubanks looks the part now [Patrick Barron]
At tight end Nick Eubanks appears to have made a move. He looks like a tight end now, which is step one. He was also targeted frequently. Michigan only found middling success doing so; the sheer number of balls he saw implies he's been making plays this spring. Here he only almost made a play, dropping a tough fade route from Peters after executing a textbook Manningham slow-and-extend to wall off the safety he'd gotten over the top of.
As a recruit Eubanks was regarded as a crazy athlete who needed seasoning. He's probably a year away from delivering on that athleticism; he certainly looks the part now.
Zach Gentry, meanwhile, both does and does not. Does he look like a tight end? No.
no [Bryan Fuller]
Does he look like Jeff Samardadjzijaadfh? Kind of. Except tall!
Zach Gentry is out here at the spring game putting the secondary on skates.
That's a busted coverage and not exactly black-belt receivering but just look at the guy and his long loping strides and ability to shake enough to put not-Kovacs on his butt. Spring reports frequently noted that Gentry fielded a ton of targets, and sure if I'm a quarterback I'll look for the guy who puts Jake Butt's catching radius to shame. I feel a Funchess move coming on.
Ty Wheatley Jr is Michigan's sole remaining Kaiju, and that makes me sad. When I checked out his blocking that made me happy, though. He had another of his catches where he looks implausibly fast for a large man, and with Asiasi's departure he's going to get a ton of PT; he's Michigan's top blocking TE by a mile now and he brings a two-way ability that could be lethal. Just has to develop a bit.
if Runyan could be a real RT candidate that would be nice [Bryan Fuller]
The spring game format seemed designed to keep the defensive line from annihilating everyone and succeed in that regard. The starting line, or close to it, was kept together; the backups mostly got Michigan's second-team DL. And while those second-team DTs are huge alarm bells, that's another post.
This is for this post: I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of defenders swallowing a tailback two yards in the backfield. Setting aside five yards lost when Kareem Walker unwisely decided to reverse field, Michigan backs were TFLed for a total of six yards. That means that the OL was getting its assignments right virtually the whole day. I don't expect that when one OL is playing deep into the regular season; for two to mostly get it right in spring, with all the rotation they've been doing, is impressive. Steve Lorenz keeps bringing up the Ewing Theory in relation to the OL departures...
3. I'm sticking with my Ewing Theory belief on the offensive line's potential in 2017. Ace Anbender at MGoBlog picked out former PWO Andrew Vastardis as a guy who stood out today and I'm inclined to agree. Vastardis was one of three or four PWOs last cycle the staff believed would, not could, be a difference maker sooner rather than later. He's not going to start this season, but he was a good indicator that a lot of guys have improved this off-season. Cesar Ruiz is ready. The pieces still need to be shuffled out, mainly at right tackle, but holes were paved consistently today.
...and I can see that. If Michigan can field a line that doesn't have a guy who runs by first-level defenders on the regular that would be good for their YPC and my blood pressure.
Your starter-ish line was: Cole/Bredeson/Kugler/Onwenu/Runyan, with Cesar Ruiz and Andrew Vastardis from the second unit impressing both myself and Ace. Given the context...
Vastardis looks on another level from Myers and Marshall, necessary but not sufficient for PT.
...we shouldn't anoint the guy as Glasgow 4.0 just yet. Straight up dominating some bad players is a good first step, and he did that. Most of Michigan's big runs came when the second-team DL got caved in by the second-team OL.
Also in walk-ons I'd love to get lucky on: ominously-named Greg Robinson has plausible size at 6'6" 290, per a yet-to-be-updated roster, and played a bunch at left tackle. He got blown up on a couple runs and did not seem nearly as fluid as Vastardis.
Ruiz got some run at guard in the second half, FWIW, but Bredeson never kicked out to tackle. These things seem to be contradictory since the OL with Ruiz at guard necessarily has Bredeson at RT. Michigan either 1) thinks Bredeson can't play tackle, 2) thinks he needs all the time at guard he can get to get ready for the season, or 3) thinks a guy on the roster is a capable RT. That latter could be Bushell-Beatty, who we did not see because of injury, or Runyan. Your author is guessing that #2 is the truthiest here, after Bredeson's understandably error-prone freshman year.
Blitz pickups were pretty bad; unclear if that was a tailback issue or a QB issue or an OL issue. Probably some of all three. Blitz pickups in spring against Don Brown and squat missile dude Devin Bush were always going to be a problem. They are a problem. It would only be notable if they were not a problem.
I guess I need to include a SPOILER ALERT for those who weren't able to watch the live stream. If for some reason you want the ending of the Spring Game to be a mystery, and yet you still are on this blog, stop reading now. The full game is airing right now on tape delay on BTN and will be replayed several times this week.
Brandon Peters was the best quarterback on the day. [Eric Upchurch]
For the second straight year, the Spring Game came down to the final play. Kyle Seychel's 31-yard field goal gave the Brandon Peters-led Maize team a 31-29 victory over the Speight/O-Korn-piloted Blue team.
Newsy bits first: Juwann Bushell-Beatty was among the players sitting out, so the starting O-line from left to right was Cole-Bredeson-Kugler-Onwenu-Runyan. The coaches shuffled that combination quite a bit throughout the day even before Runyan exited with an apparent leg injury—he walked off under his own power. The other injury on the day was to Eddie McDoom, who went down awkwardly on the sideline after a deep catch in the fourth quarter; he needed help from the trainers to get to the sideline, eventually was carted into the tunnel, and was spotted walking around without assistance.
Here are a few initial standouts from each side of the ball; we'll have much more this week after a re-watch.
QB Brandon Peters. Peters had the best day of the quarterbacks, displaying good arm strength, touch on throws to all levels, and enough athleticism to repeatedly break the pocket and even scramble for a touchdown. While Peters had one ugly pick when he didn't see Brandon Watson waiting in the flat, Speight was worse in that regard. Caveats abound: it's one scrimmage and Peters got better protection from the line. That said, he looked like he could legitimately push Speight, especially if the incumbent starter doesn't clean up some of these sloppy mistakes.
RBs Karan Higdon and Ty Isaac. These two had the most complete days at running back, showing patience on impressive touchdown runs and breaking into the secondary multiple times. Chris Evans and Kareem Walker also looked good in less extended action; Evans looked bigger while still maintaining his ability to juke defenders in a phone booth, while Walker has an enticing combination of power and patience. There weren't always holes to hit, but when they were there, the backs made the most of them.
Tarik Black, not Donovan Peoples-Jones, had the best day of the freshman WRs. [Upchurch]
WRs Tarik Black and Nate Schoenle. Black dominated much of the second half, becoming John O'Korn's go-to guy on a touchdown drive in which he caught a fade over Benjamin St-Juste for a big gain, then beat St-Juste to the back corner to cap the drive. He managed to get over top of St-Juste on fly routes a couple times, and he provides a big target. Schoenle also had a couple long catches, including a ~50-yard throw from Peters that was perfectly executed on both ends. To stave off the inevitable questions, Donovan Peoples-Jones had a few short pickups on a relatively quiet day for him.
TEs Nick Eubanks and Zach Gentry. Gentry's inclusion here is based on one play, a long touchdown catch up the seam on a coverage bust; he's quite nimble for such a big dude. Eubanks had a more complete body of work, running a nice out route for a catch and nearly hauling in a deep throw from Peters on which he made a nice adjustment to the ball. Sean McKeon ended up with the most targets among the TE group but didn't get too much out of them.
OL Andrew Vastardis. I mostly have to punt on line play, as they shuffled around so much that it was tough to keep track of who was on the field from the press box. The right side of the starting line had a lot of trouble against the starting D-line—Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary dominated Runyan—but Vastardis stood out on the interior of the second unit, picking up a couple blitzes that were giving the other linemen trouble.
Devin Bush spent the afternoon in the backfield. [Bryan Fuller]
The starting D-line. As expected, the Winovich-Hurst-Mone-Gary line gave the offensive line a lot of trouble. Gary was flat-out dominant, Hurst batted down a couple passes, Mone held strong on the interior, and Winovich got multiple pressures off the edge.
ILB Devin Bush. Bush looked unblockable on A-gap blitzes; it was pretty much an automatic sack when he rushed up the middle. He looked equally capable at both inside linebacker spots. "It's so nice when you have a young guy like that who can play two spots," said Don Brown. "You can ask some guys to do that and they'd look at you like 'are you kidding me?' But he handled it really with ease. He's a really good player."
VIPER Khaleke Hudson. The hype here isn't going to slow one bit after today. Hudson was everywhere on defense, looking like the heavy-hitting player we expected against the run and proving equally formidable in coverage, where he broke up a couple passes and nearly came up with an interception. As is his wont, he came inches away from a blocked punt, too.
CB Keith Washington. Washington held his own one-on-one against DPJ, limiting him to minimal YAC after a couple short completions. Noticeably bigger than last year, Washington also played well against the run, making at least one stop in the backfield after extending an outside run to the sideline.
S Jordan Glasgow. Surprise! A Glasgow might see the field. Josh Metellus was limited due to injury today, so Glasgow started at safety alongside Tyree Kinnel and looked very viable. He came up strong against the run, stringing out plays to the sideline and finishing them off, and he undercut a (terrible) pass from Speight for a 100-yard pick-six in the second half.
K Quinn Nordin. There shouldn't be a kicking controversy this year if today's admittedly limited sample was any indication. Nordin booted a 48-yard field goal that would've been good from 60+, an impressive kick even with the wind at his back, and he was also strong on kickoffs.
Which freshmen do you NOT want to see burn their redshirts on Saturday?
BiSB: The blindingly obvious answer is Brandon Peters, so I'm assuming we won't spend much time on him.
As far as players who might actually play, I'll go with Josh Uche. Sure, Michigan needs to develop linebacker depth in a big damn hurry. And sure, Uche is a crazy athlete and has serious upside as an outside linebacker or weakside end. But he's skinny. Really skinny. He's listed at 6'3", 217 pounds. Remember how we all thought James Ross was too small as a freshman? He was 6'1", 225 pounds. But if Michigan wants some depth at SAM behind Peppers that brings some of the same pass rush and above-average athleticism, Uche might be it. He might be a fun toy to bring unholy brimstone off the edge, but I think an apprenticeship/eat-all-the-sandwiches year would be more valuable.
[Ace is typing]
[Hit THE JUMP to see who wants to redshirt Rashan Gary.]
You were with Coach Baxter last year and now special teams is kind of your baby. Talk about what you’ve taken from Baxter and what you’ve brought in yourself to make it what you want it to be.
“They’re kind of Coach Partridge’s and I’s baby together, I guess. There were some things with Coach Baxter that were great and that we’ve carried over and other things that kind of we took from other places and things we’ve done in the past. As with anything, it’s always kind of a hodge-podge of different parts of your experience and you kind of piece together whatever you think is best for your specific team and players, so it’s a little bit of everyone.”
How deep is this group and how many guys will play?
“At what position? Tight end?”
Tight end, yeah.
“It’s really deep. I think there’s like 12 people or something. I couldn’t tell you how many are going to play. I think I would like for five or six [or] seven guys to play, but you never know exactly how a game’s going to go. There’s certainly a group of five or six guys that are all capable of contributing, and as you kind of go down the totem pole a little bit some of the younger guys have specific roles in packages that are a little smaller.
“You talk about getting guys in position to do things that they’re good at, so if they’re a younger guy it might be a speicfic four- or five-play set whereas Jake Butt has the whole playbook he excels at. We’ll just kind of see how the game goes, but I would say I’d like if we ended with five or six guys playing.”
Sean McKeon: you had him in the spring and all the way through fall camp. How have you seen him progress as a true freshman in that time?
“A huge amount. I mean, he’s a tremendously hard worker. It’s just the knack for—you tell him to do something or say, ‘Hey, I want you to work on this’ and he just does it and doesn’t overthink it. He just puts in the work. Very blue-collar in his approach. He’s improved a ton in really every way. Specifically as a route-runner [and] his ball skills.”
Jim talked about how happy he is with Kenny Allen. He did a good job for you last year. Where have you seen some improvement in all of those phases?
“He’s another guy—I mean, pretty much everything he’s improved on. We asked a lot of him to really shoulder the burden in all three phases, which not many guys do in the country. I think Hawaii’s guy was one of five guys in the country to do it last year, the Sanchez kid, who’s a very talented kid. Kenny’s excelled. He’s improved in every way. It’s exciting for him as a senior to be playing so well in every category.”
Would you be comfortable with him doing all three?
“We’d be more than comfortable with it because he’s physically more than capable of doing all three and he has the talent. I think ideally you’d like to take a little bit off of his plate, but it’s a long season and as other guys develop into certain roles I think that could happed. We’d be more than comfortable with him doing it if need be.”
There are so many athletic guys in this recruiting class that did all these good things in terms of returns and things in high school. Are you more apt to try and work them in there to not put a burden on Jabrill or Jourdan or Jehu?
“Yeah, there are a few guys that will have an opportunity.”