Camp Chatter Hot Takes

Submitted by Brian on August 25th, 2016 at 12:43 PM

Previously: offense, defense & special teams.

Many people are saying things about Michigan's fall camp. Some are coaches, some are insiders, some are men wearing shoes as hats. Some of the things are true, some are maybe a bit misleading, some verge on balderdash. Let's evaluate things that people are saying for truthiness.

The quarterback battle is still up in the air

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[Eric Upchurch]

Thing: Nobody has ventured a strong opinion on Michigan's starter. You occasionally get a weak assertion that someone feels like a leader that's immediately followed with caveats. Tellingly, those assertions are split close to down the middle between the two main contenders.

Thing react: The coaches almost certainly have a good idea who it's going to be, but I believe that the race is tight enough that it might get overturned late and that there's genuine uncertainty amongst insiders. I'd strongly prefer an answer by now. I mean, it'll be fine since Harbaugh, but it's more likely that Michigan has one good QB than two.

Chris Evans!

Thing: Can't throw a rock on a message board without hitting an insider swearing up and down that Chris Evans is the truth. This has bled through to honest to God press conferences as well.

Thing react: It's tough to find snaps for Evans in an offense that's going to run a metric ton of tight ends onto the field along with Grant Perry and Jabrill Peppers. One thing Evans has going for him is Peppers's tendency to be the best at everything all the time: they'll want to keep his snaps down until they really need him. Evans is another spread H-back type. He'll slot into the Peppers role against the pushovers.

Still feeling like Evans hype is real but a year too early.

Ben Bredeson!

Thing: Ben Bredeson has been promoted into a bonafide 50/50 competition for the left tackle spot. Also impossible to throw rock on message board without hitting man enthused about Bredeson. He was the BTN's primary takeaway from their visit to practice, which says something about something.

Thing react: If you made me guess this instant I'd say he's the starting LT. I'm not entirely enthused about this either, but Bredeson is closer to the instant-start five star zone than Mason Cole was. Cole was the #127 recruit on the composite. Bredeson was #39. Bredeson's also 20 pounds heavier than Cole was as a freshman. He was the only OL at the loaded UA game who could annoy Rashan Gary, so maybe he is ready to take on mortals.

Cole managed to survive as a freshman. Bredeson can probably do better. The ceiling is probably something like Erik Magnuson's completely average 2015.

The freshman receivers are good

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[Bryan Fuller]

Thing: Michigan has already lost two of their five WR recruits, but initial reports on the three guys still on campus have been universally positive. All three are reputed to be explosive and dedicated.

Thing react: [sits and points at their recruiting profiles smugly]

None of these guys are going to play much this year, but if one or two emerges even a little bit that will ease everyone's mind about the 2017 receiving corps. I'm not worried. They can find three guys out of Ways, Harris, Perry, and the freshmen.

This defensive line is just… I mean…

Thing: All the usual suspects have come in for praise; the guys who have not been mentioned are guys who are taken for granted as really good players like Ryan Glasgow and Chris Wormley. Rashan Gary is mostly described with a blank look, a shake of the head, and a laugh because he is everything he's supposed to be. Chase Winovich and even Matt Godin are getting talked up as contributors.

Thing react: Yes to all of it. Godin suffered late last year because he played next to the third string NT and teams could double him with impunity; before that there was a period where he was keeping guys like Wormley and Henry on the bench to an extent. He's a good player and will see snaps. Charlton should blow up with increased playing time and his still-excellent upside.

Nobody says anything about the linebackers

Thing: Aside from the occasional direct response when a coach gets asked about them at a press conference, there is total radio silence about the inside linebackers. Brown keeps talking about redshirt junior walk-on Mike Wroblewski.

Thing react: I wouldn't take that as a sign either way. Linebacker play is difficult to get a read on. The last four years of Joe Bolden spring hype that petered out in to just okay play have made me suspicious of anything people say in this department.

One glance at the depth chart is enough to see that Wroblewski is going to play some. After the starters there is very little aside from freshmen. Devin Bush will play; Elysee Mbem-Bosse and Devin Gil are both very raw. Linebacker has more depth concerns than any position on the roster other than maybe safety.

David Long!

Thing: David Long is very fast and takes notes and is Jehu Chesson, cornerback edition.

Thing react: If Long remains healthy he is a lock. He's going to play this year and start in 2017 and that's going to be very little dropoff from Jourdan Lewis. Maybe not immediately, but by the time he's a junior definitely.

Backup safeties can play

Thing: Praise all available deities. Angry Michigan Safety Hating God seems to be focusing on receivers who might get moved to safety these days—in the last year he's hewed down Brian Cole, Brad Hawkins, and Ahmir Mitchell—and spared the actual DBs. As long as we're keeping Chris Evans on offense that trend can continue.

Tyree Kinnel and Khaleke Hudson are both getting plugged as definite contributors this year and solid replacements down the line. Neither is much of a surprise—Kinnel had a strong spring and Hudson is our favorite non-Gary recruit in this class—but not having either guy derailed is important for 2016 and critical for beyond. Josh Metellus has even come in for the occasional mention; hitting on him would be very nice.

Thing react: I expected to hear these things, but actually hearing them is a step on the road to having a functioning secondary this year.

Most of these things are about 2017 more than 2016

Thing: The camp chatter glosses over big swathes of the team because you don't need to be told about them.

Thing react: Gonna be a good year.

Comments

Muttley

August 25th, 2016 at 1:06 PM ^

more time to make a QB decision.  I mean, I think I could quarterback Michigan to a win versus Hawaii as a handoff QB.  Or maybe even a kneel-down QB, letting the defense outscore Hawaii.

If Harbaugh thinks it best to take a little more time to make the best choice, I'll happily await his choice.

Mr. Yost

August 25th, 2016 at 5:12 PM ^

But I've heard firsthand that they've discussed waiting until after week 3.

That doesn't mean they won't name a starter. It just means there are talks that both guys will get some quality run with the 1's in the first three games we'll see after that.

I was told there is ZERO chance we enter the B1G season without a definitive #1 and #2. 

This was right at the beginning of camp so the hope was someone would pull away...if that hasn't happened, I'm starting to think we'll see both early in the year.

Or what I think is we'll name a starter. That guy will be the starter and get the first crack at it...but as SOON as the game feels out of reach OR the offense is stagnant...we'll see the other guy. Generally Harbaugh has shown he'd roll with the starter, but I feel like for these first few games if we jump out to a quick 21-0 lead. You'll see the #2. On the flip side, if we start sluggish and it's 3-0 midway through the 2nd qtr...you'll see the #2.

Just my opinion based on what I've heard.

I do know that after game 2 or 3....there is a 100% chance we'll all know who "THE" guy is. As it was said to me "oh no, we saw what happened to OSU last year." Added "the coaches what to make the right decision and a long-term decision...it was nice having Rudock last year when he struggled no one was looking over the shoulder and he'd work his way back...all QBs need that confidence." 

evenyoubrutus

August 25th, 2016 at 5:18 PM ^

That makes sense but I would personally feel better if the drop dead date for a decision was after week 2. It would be nice if whoever the starter is gets one full game before Penn State. Obviously, however, Harbaugh is the best guy in all of football to be making this decision.

Kevin13

August 25th, 2016 at 5:47 PM ^

the first two games are cake walks, but it is still live competitionn againist another team so the coaches can get a good feel for who is playing better. I would think by the 3rd game they would want one of the two to take control. CU is a decent team and you want to get some continuity before you start the B1G season.

I think after two games it will be clear who the #1 is.

stephenrjking

August 25th, 2016 at 7:34 PM ^

If this indeed comes to pass, it seems like a situation where the coaches would use the weak non-conference schedule as a resource to further battle-test their QBs than a real necessity. That is, they could make the call earlier (like now, for example) but as long as the really tough stuff hasn't come yet they might as well get both guys in. 

 

YooperWolv

August 25th, 2016 at 11:44 PM ^

I hate anything remotely resembling a two QB system.  Messes with both QBs heads.  They spend more time worrying about getting replaced then they do getting better.  Jim is a very smart guy.  Hopefully he waits until the last possible second then whole heartedly jumps behind one guy. 

Hail Harbo

August 26th, 2016 at 12:05 AM ^

Harbaugh doesn't strike me as one who is shy about grabbing his balls and making a decision.  Ever since John Cooper thew away a national championship season by playing around with a two headed monster, I've feared that a Michigan coach would fancy himself smart enough to make it work.

Goggles Paisano

August 26th, 2016 at 6:11 AM ^

Will be interesting to see how he handles it - will he go in with the starter and try to get him as many reps as possible to get him ready for B1G ten play no matter the score?  Or will he try to get both QB's some quality playing time?  Last year, Rudock played most of the way even when we were up big. It seemed like he was trying to get him as many reps as he could to get him ready for the November push.  This strategy obviously worked as Rudock was playing at an elite level at the end of last year.  Based on this, I think whoever is named the starter will get most of the reps. 

stephenrjking

August 25th, 2016 at 2:47 PM ^

I don't think there's a competitive advantage to delaying the QB announcement at all. And I doubt Harbaugh thinks it's a serious upside, either. But process is process, and if a QB competition is generally not announced until late, that's how they do it. We all pretty much knew Rudock would get the nod last season; they still waited. 

And an advantage to this (and, perhaps, a reason they do it) is that there may be a season where it does make a difference. Next year we open with Florida, for example. What if the competition is between O'Korn, who it turns out we run a lot of pistol zone reads with, or Peters? A regular practice of keeping the cards close to the vest might not help every year, but it might help occasionally.

One thing it does do: Keeps the QBs in competition mode, while keeping outside pressure low.

Needs

August 25th, 2016 at 12:55 PM ^

Inexperienced LT has always been the main concern for this offense.

In particular, it should be a concern against Wisconsin, whose best defensive player (Vince Biegel) is an OLB who's going to be a challenge on the edge. That's a game UM should win, but that is close enough a matchup to turn on a couple of the kind of disasters that can happen if a LT is overmatched against a talented edge rusher. Fingers crossed that either Newsome or Bredensen can hold up.

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RockinLoud

August 25th, 2016 at 1:04 PM ^

I think the coaches can scheme around that disadvantage well enough to put up some points. I feel confident it'll be enough points as I just don't see their offense doing much against our D, and plus they have a grueling schedule so they may not be as fresh and/or in good spirits.

Glow Blue Mike

August 25th, 2016 at 4:56 PM ^

A couple of strip sacks AND a defensive TD in a game? It's relatively rare for one strip sack in a game let alone a couple, let alone a couple AND a defensive TD.  

Get a grip on yourself. I understand the concern to an extent but not anywhere close to that.  Just breathe.

stephenrjking

August 25th, 2016 at 5:30 PM ^

He's not being absurd. He's talking about a low-scoring game where the O just isn't moving the football and a reasonably competent opponent is keeping it close. Maybe it's a strip sack, or a deflected screen pass that turns into a pick six, or something like that. 

It's not Madden. We've lost small-margin games because of freakish plays like that. MSU last year, for example. OSU basically did all of the stuff he's worried about to us last year, but our D wasn't keeping us close.

A game we are leading 17-13 late could easily turn on a biffed block by an LT that turns into a defensive TD. Easily. 

markusr2007

August 25th, 2016 at 12:59 PM ^

Both QBs have Howitzer arms, but only O'Korn has the footspeed and mobility and is proven to be able to thread the need on the run and under pressure consistenly.  He also has a lot more game experience than Speight.

If leadership, making all the throws and not making f-ups are equal among the candidates, then  QB mobility and speed will be one glaring contrast.

In my mind, that signals O'Korn over Speight.

I could be wrong.

umbig11

August 25th, 2016 at 1:43 PM ^

Bredeson as well. Hudson is the real deal. Evans will touch the ball on occassion or at least see the field. Hill locked up the FB battle. Add McDoom to the playlist. Going to be a fun year! 

 

Take it FWIW:

This one paragraph still keeps me leaning toward O'Korn.

""For me to say that, it would be like splitting an atom," Drevno said. "They're all doing really good, and they all bring something different to the table. They're all working hard and competing. As we keep evaluating the tape and putting more on them, and as they digest it, we'll make that decision."

So, if they are truly this close, take a step back and think about a few things. Who has more game experience? Who has the physical edge? Who has the intangibles? Those point to O'Korn.

Sam Webb said yesterday, he thinks it is Speight. I know Sam gets some pretty solid info too. Yet, as soon as that came out two others step up and say not so fast. I can't wait to find out.

Only one player from your team can attend the Manning Passing Academy. Well, John O'Korn attended this year. Last year it was Jake Rudock that attended.

Final note: Ahmir Mitchell may have let the cat out of the bag already. He Snapchatted that O'Korn was the starter and that got deleted right away. 

CalifExile

August 25th, 2016 at 1:53 PM ^

The talk that Bredeson is genuinely competing with Newsome for the LT start makes no sense to me. If Magnuson is definitely out best OT why isn't he the LT? Experience shows your best OT should be protecting "the blindside." (Unless its because Shane Morris is the starting QB).

The only way this makes sense to me is that the coaches expect Newsome to be better than Magnuson in the very near future and they want the Bredeson challenge to push Newsome to get there faster.

Pepto Bismol

August 25th, 2016 at 2:04 PM ^

But based on other similarly "flip-able" positions I've played in other sports (SS & 2B, Defense in hockey), you always have a preference, or a stronger side.  One that feels more natural.  Right?

Plus you've got a full season of Kalis and Magnusson working in tandem on that right side.  If you flip Magnusson to his off-hand, now Kalis is paired with a freshman... I dunno.  I can see where that's more hassle and potentially more problematic than getting one guy up to speed at the LT spot he's played his whole life.

 

CalifExile

August 25th, 2016 at 3:58 PM ^

It makes sense that an individual will have a preference for one side or the other. And chemistry or familiarity with your fellow OL is important but that familiarity can be developed over a fall camp and the first three cupcake games. Both of those considerations are far outweighed, in my view, by the importance of protecting the QB's blindside.

Mr Miggle

August 26th, 2016 at 10:46 AM ^

flipped Riley Reiff from LT to RT and are starting a rookie at LT. Every report is that Reiff is the better player and that the Lions think so too. The move is being made because they think Reiff is a better fit at RT. Unlike last season, they think have a viable alternative at LT. They're not mirrored positions. While LT is the more critical, they don't require quite the same skillsets and physical attributes. For example, agility is more important at LT, strength is not.

Albatross

August 25th, 2016 at 1:55 PM ^

I think there has been an overwhelming O'Korn bias since he tranferred here. But all the available evidence points to the other way. O"Korn seemed challenged when going through progressions and in a pro style offense that is a deal breaker. Also he didn't look nearly as accurate as either of the two QBs in the Spring game nor in his practice clips.

Speight looked far more comfortable in the offense. That starter will be who it will be, But everything we have seen so far points to Speight and I wouldn't be surprised if he was comfortably ahead.

 

stephenrjking

August 25th, 2016 at 2:18 PM ^

I don't think it's a bias; I think the word on O'Korn throughout last season was very promising. Great arm, played well in practice, etc. 

People are open-minded about this. My guess, based on the "splitting atoms" paragraph, is that the ceiling for O'Korn is thought to be higher due to his ability to run and his ability to throw the deep ball, and they're giving him every chance to upgrade the rest of his game to match and beat Speight. Which would suggest Speight has a slight lead, as per insider chatter.

But that's only a guess. We'll know a lot more when we see people on the field. I think the ability to throw downfield will be huge, especially with our receivers, and I suspect O'Korn is better suited for that. But consistently moving the ball is Harbaugh's biggest priority, and if there's a clear difference there, that might make the decision.

BlueKoj

August 25th, 2016 at 3:05 PM ^

I totally agree this is largely academic because, Harbaugh. Have the coaches mentioned confidence, mental toughness and leadership one way or another? I'm not under the impression O'Korn has the edge in any of these -- nor Speight. I liked Speight pulling it together in crunch time in MN after looking lost. Mental toughness, leadership, confidence -- check, check, check. Freshman O'Korn -- check, check, check. Soph O'Korn? Not sure.

It sounds like Harbaugh liked both their summer leadership and competitiveness. My personal inference is that a part of "consistency" is good decision making, not getting rattled, etc.. I've heard Brian say that Soph O'Korn made some bizarre decisions. Again, I infer some possible mental breakdowns as lack of toughness (normal for a Soph).

But as you say...Harbaugh.  So it'll be fine.