Practice Items: Devins Will Catch Comment Count

Brian August 25th, 2012 at 1:16 PM

[The Mott practice this year was not a punting exhibition (at which my internal monologue went WOOOOOO) so there are a few things to discuss.]

Michigan's Devin Gardner high fives fans as he runs out of the Michigan Stadium tunnel for pregame warmups before Saturday, November 6th's Michigan versus Illinois football game.
Lon Horwedel |

The biggest takeaway. Devin Gardner took zero QB snaps and was on the first team as a WR. I think they moved him full-time. Swingin' for the fences.

Gardner didn't do anything spectacular in his limited opportunities, dropping one long ball and not quite bringing in a high hard one, but he certainly looks the part. Seeing him in 12 is still weird, and now Dileo is 9, and if I was Brady Hoke I'd be all like "you get one number and that is your number" but he might have different priorities. Maybe.

Devin Funchess. As first impressions go… wow. He is lanky and doesn't look like he'll be much use as a blocker early, but man is that guy a big target. Looks all of 6'5" and has freaky long arms. He was the only TE to get targeted in their kind-of-actually-playing segment; he caught a touchdown on a corner route (it got raked out but after the catch was secured) and was targeted on a late-release wheel route. If he can catch, he is going to crush Mandich's TE receiving record.

Not a whole lot to decide. I expected to have a blizzard of things to try and figure out but when the first team defense came out in a nickel package I was like "oh, right, they return basically everyone." Other than the line, there were zero surprises except for a couple of Mario Ojemudia WDE cameos.

On offense, it was "is Mealer starting" and "OMG Gardner"… and that was it. Consistency is good.

DL starting Washington? This is tentative, but the first DL set they ran out there was Roh-Washington-Campbell-Black. (IE: Washington at the nose, Campbell at the three-tech.) Beyer also showed up at WDE; Brink was the backup SDE.) Apparently Jerry Montgomery told someone that those guys were the starters as of this instant, but I can't find it. People are talking about it on message boards like it's a real thing, though.

Anyway: they showed the usual nickel package where they lifted the nose tackle types and moved the SAM down to DE and the heavy package where both SAM linebackers are in the game. All was as expected except for a couple snaps in a dime package that they didn't show at all last year.

[UPDATE: Ace points out that this comes from Tom Dienhart's BTN coverage.]

James Ross. Ross was your backup WLB, which isn't much of a surprise with Poole and Ringer hurt. He'll play.

Richard Ash. I kept an eye out for Ash as I'm hoping he can give Michigan some snaps as a rotation DT after he made a couple of nice plays in the spring game. He didn't get in much, if at all, but he certainly looks a lot better conditioned. He used to look like a battleship that had no chance of moving; now he looks relatively trim.

Mealer started. Your first team LG was Mealer.

Chris Wormley. Hasn't had surgery yet for whatever reason.

No Rawls. No idea why. They ran some passing stuff with Justice Hayes that seemed to work pretty well, and did the Vincent Smith throwback screen that always works.

It was good to see football. You're just sitting in the stadium and there's actual snaps being taken in front of you and your lizard brain is going FOOTBALL FOOTBALL FOOTBALL and you're like "I know exactly how you feel, lizard brain."

Heiko takes. Are on the board. FWIW, they ran that hook and ladder a dozen times last year. I think it's just for show.



August 25th, 2012 at 1:26 PM ^

Starters during the whole BTN look at-the-program thing. Dienhart has a write up of his observations floating around the BTN website somewhere.

Leaders And Best

August 25th, 2012 at 1:43 PM ^

Dienhart wrote on the DL:

I paid close attention to the d-line, which I think is a vulnerable area. Craig Roh looked good at strong side end. He has gotten bigger and looked good vs. the run. Defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery told me massive tackle Will Campbell looks dialed in and ready for a big senior season. For a man of his girth, he moves well and can get up the field quickly. But Montgomery said Campbell still can be dogged by inconsistency but seems primed for a big senior season.

Jibreel Black looks comfortable after moving inside from tackle. Pipkins is back after suffering a scare with a recent neck injury. He was a ballyhooed recruit. He is strong for his age and also showed good feet. Brennen Beyer has a burst off the edge from his weak side end spot. He could be the top pass rusher on this front. Depth at end doesn’t look great. I asked Montgomery who would be his starting line if they had a game today, and he said it would be Roh, Campbell, Black and Quinton Washington.

Nick Sparks

August 25th, 2012 at 1:32 PM ^

The quote about those four being on the starting D-line came from the BTN special last night and was apparently given to them from Coach Montgomery. 

You can watch the videos at

Edit: lol, not even 2nd

Silly Goose

August 25th, 2012 at 1:34 PM ^

I swear I saw Gardner taking snaps at the south endzone at one point when they had all the quarterbacks doing them. Didn't actually throw anything, but they still had him practicing under center a bit.

Gulo Gulo Luscus

August 25th, 2012 at 2:03 PM ^

First Heiko refers to Funchess as the "proverbial 'weapon'," and now Brian dishes out some lofty praise.  All part of the "swiss army knife" offense as an eventual foil to mauler AJ Williams.  I expect they both get eased in, but based on what has been reported here each has shot to supplant Moore by mid-season.


August 25th, 2012 at 2:19 PM ^

"While Hoke likes his corners, he says neither Countess nor Floyd has great closing speed."

I thought that Countess showed good closing speed last year.  Any observation on his progress?


August 25th, 2012 at 2:36 PM ^

I believe that it is directed to wait for surgery on a torn ACL for the swelling to subside.  Also you are directed to strengthened the other surrounding muscles as well prior to the repair.

"When should my surgery be performed?

ACL surgery is not an emergency.  In fact, it is extremely important that we delay your surgery until some of the inflammation in your knee quiets down.  The goal of waiting is to allow you to regain full motion back in your knee prior to surgery.  In general, this 
takes 2 to 3 weeks for most patients, but it can vary.  The reason to wait until full motion is achieved is that loss of motion before surgery can make it more likely for the knee to become stiff after surgery.


August 25th, 2012 at 2:41 PM ^

The more viable big targets we can give Denard the more I think we have a chance at winning that rose bowl we want. Hopefully by the time conference play roles around 2 of those guys can really solidify starting spots and reliability.


August 25th, 2012 at 3:14 PM ^

Qwash at NT is the best option for us, and puts Campbell, Black, and Roh in the best position to succeed. BWC facing one on one matchups and Roh and Black as beefy, athletic Ends? I'm fired up about this.


August 25th, 2012 at 3:16 PM ^

Do we have any sense for how much this switch to WR by Gardner is his desire compared to the coaches' desire?

I'm just wondering if Gardner is doing a bit of tea-leaf reading and is starting to see his NFL prospects enhanced by having "WR" on his resume along with "QB."


August 25th, 2012 at 3:27 PM ^

I wonder if we could see Mealer get the starting nod in the beginning of the season with Kalis overtaking him a few games in (once he gets more comfortable with the offense).


August 25th, 2012 at 4:30 PM ^

If Kalis doesn't overtake Mealer before the Notre Dame game, I don't believe he will this season barring injury or him completely struggling against the B1G schedule.  The staff doesn't like to mess with chemistry on the Oline and you need that to be successful once the  real important games start (B1G).


August 25th, 2012 at 4:30 PM ^

If Kalis doesn't overtake Mealer before the Notre Dame game, I don't believe he will this season barring injury or him completely struggling against the B1G schedule.  The staff doesn't like to mess with chemistry on the Oline and you need that to be successful once the  real important games start (B1G).


August 25th, 2012 at 3:29 PM ^

regarding Gardner I would say it is a  little of both. He worked hard to improve as a QB in HS and be a college QB....on the other hand though he is way to good of an athlete to be sitting on the sideline watching week in and week out.


August 25th, 2012 at 3:57 PM ^

I mean, you describe him as leanky, but when I met him at Fan Day, he looked to be built like a brick shithouse. I'm 6-2, 205 and he made me feel minuscule. Dude is ripped, may not be 260 like some TEs in the conference, but with his prowess, I'm not concerned about his ability to pass pro or to take a hit after a catch. After all, Doobie Smith has no issue in pass pro and he's 157 lbs.


August 25th, 2012 at 5:01 PM ^

appearences by Ojemudia as cameos.  Who knows if this is what we'll see this season, but I saw Ojemudia with the 1's, except for the heavy package (Black, BWC, QW, Roh) noted in a press conference a few days ago.  Beyer is healthy, but was running with the 2's.

Mr. Yost

August 25th, 2012 at 6:13 PM ^

My man, you care WAY too much about this number stuff. It's like it's eating at your soul and you can't let the thought of 'Tree, Gardner, Dileo, etc. switching jersey numbers out of your mind.

Breathe. It's not that serious, they're the same players...promise.

Mr. Yost

August 25th, 2012 at 8:56 PM ^

Here is what I've heard FWIW (nothing earthshattering):

QB - Denard is Denard, improved. Bellomy has improved enough to be a solid backup (still #3 for now, but coaches feel comfortable with him being the #2...not going to cross that bridge, because they don't want to use either).

RB - Rawls is being held out of SOME practice because the coaches know what they have in Rawls right now and can't risk him being injured with Fitz out as well. Fitz and Rawls are the CLEAR #1 and #2 and it's a drop after that (Smith not included, because he has a role). If Fitz wasn't suspended, he'd be held out more (like he was this Spring) and Rawls would be practicing more. ALSO, they know what they have in Smith, he's the 3rd down back/pass blocker/pass catching/role playing need to get him banged up, he's a senior, etc. So with that said, they REALLY want to get Hayes reps in practice and seem him progress. Plus he's a RS Freshman. Norfleet has gotten carries because he's going to be a returner (thus playing this year). Johnson will likely redshirt so there is no point in giving him a lot of carries and taking away from Hayes.

FB - Hopkins is much improved...look for a lot of 3WR, 2RB or 3 WR/1RB/1FB. Other FBs are solid as well, not as well rounded as Hopkins though.

WR - Not there yet. Roundtree had really improved, Jeremy Jackson is much improved (kind of news to me), Jerald Robinson has shown flashes (as always) and Gallon and Dileo are better, but going to play a similar role. However, as a unit...just not there in terms of consistency. No playmakers and Denard isn't the type of passer to make a playmaker from average/above average talent. Gardner is the wildcard...trying to get him as many reps as possible, if you put a "Braylon type" on this team, you go from "meh" to LEGIT. And yes '97 didn't have GREAT WRs, but they had decent ones (Streets went to the NFL) AND they had AWESOME TEs, which we don't come close to having now. We need Gardner to be GREAT.

TE - Moore is better, but no where close to Koger. Funchess and Williams could both be playing 3-4 games into the season (in roles, neither is developed enough as an all-around TE). Rich Rod effect...oh well. Borges will get creative, plus we have plenty of guys who fit a #4/#5 pass option type role (just don't have a #1)

OL - Haven't heard anything anyone else hasn't...Mealer is the starter at LG right now. Burzynski is trying multiple positions and he's got the slight edge on Kalis. Don't expect him to keep it. No OT depth.

DL - Coaches are "tinkering" with 2 lines. A "light" line of Beyer-Campbell-Black-Roh and a "heavy" line of Roh-Washington-Campbell-Black. Right now, the "heavy" is looking better. Beyer, Roh and Black work hard...just can't hold up and Lewan, Schofield and co. are destroying them. However, the coaches are very impressed with Campbell and it's his ability to play both NG and DT that is just as much a part of this. I'm skeptical, but Campbell is "the most improved player on the team --- certainly on defense. A lot like Prescott Burgess his senior year).
Personally, I don't think this gets settled and we rotate all 5 guys as "starters." Lastly, don't underestimate the loss of Frank Clark...we currently have no backup WDE if Beyer starts unless you put Ryan there and move Cam Gordon in at SAM. In the end, the "light" line is just too small for Alabama and the top of the B1G.

LB - All set. Morgan-Demens-Ryan. Hawthorne/Ross-Bolden-Gordon. Jones is backing up Bolden. From what I understand, the back 7 are ready, everything is pretty much settled. I said it from the beginning and it seems to be holding true "James Ross is going to be good, VERY good." I still think, Ross, Bolden and Ryan are going to be one of the best LB groups in the nation in 2014, Morgan will be there too as Ryan also plays some WDE.

DB - Same old, we know who everyone is and what they're playing. So much that my only question is where is Raymon Taylor playing? Everything else seems locked in. For once.

K - Brunettes. Sidenote, Wile is still your "LONG FG Kicker," however, we go for it when we're in those situations. So unless we're on the 38 yardline, up 35-0 at the end of the 3rd quarter vs. Air Force, I don't see him FG kicking this year.

P - Unfortunately, same as last year. Wile is more consistent, Hagerup has the bigger leg. Personally, I'd use both depending on the situation. If you can take the risk...Hagerup, if you need to play it safe...Wile.


August 25th, 2012 at 9:27 PM ^

With what I saw of Bellomy, I bet they put both him and Denard in the backfield (like they did with Gardner last year) and have Gardner run motion across. A simple play action to Denard in that situation would freeze the D-line, linebackers and safety. Gallon running a fly route would probably be wide open, as would a TE in the flat. Bellomy could easily make either throw.


August 26th, 2012 at 12:29 PM ^

I'm wondering if this is Heiko's alternate moniker considering this was basically his plan of action in the Big 10 draft-o'-snark.

I actually wouldn't mind it once or twice a game since you'd force opposing Ds to at least be aware of the package and game plan for it.


August 26th, 2012 at 12:23 AM ^

Let me admit....I dont know much abt the details of plays and such,but looking at limited footage of alabama and michigan last year....

i think alabama's game plan on defence will be no secret ...

1. load up the box and/or blitz...

2. dont let Denard get to the outside

3. make denard pass.

ND and MSU used this effectively last year against us..the lsu game was a great give away of things to come against us....

how do you game-plan against it this year? Smart football guys...anybody?

Mr. Yost

August 26th, 2012 at 10:35 AM ^

Bama doesn't really blitz. If they do, it's a zone blitz where they don't "lose numbers."

That's what makes them so good, they get pressure with 3-5 guys who are just bigger and better than most players they go up against.

Also, blitzing a moble QB isn't the smartest thing in the world (even though Denard does struggle vs. the blitz because he gets too excited and "loses the play.) However, a lot of times you create running lanes when you blitz.

This game is flat out going to be won/lost on the OL. We always say that, but in this game it probably holds true more than any other in recent memory.

How does our OL handle the multiple fronts and NFL level players coming at them every down?

Does it help that Bama will be replacing a lot and this will be the first game (instead of the last game) of the season?

Can our DL hold up against the 1st or 2nd best OL in the country? Are we that outsized where Bama can control the game by running the ball? Will we have to commit Demens and Kovacs solely to the run? Do we go with the "heavy" starting DL over the "light" starting DL?

Does Bama have the WRs to make Michigan be honest and respect the pass? Can Michigan attack Bama's youth on the OL? How injured is Lacy?

Bear Bryant and Bo are going to love this one. Whoever controls the line, controls the game...that team wins. I would be SHOCKED if the T.O.P. winner (assuming it's by a decent margin) didn't win the game.



August 26th, 2012 at 1:32 PM ^

dude ... i like that would be great if we could get a diary post with possible plays or possible strategies from alabama and michigan's answer...

i think the first score for michigan will be huge and borges would like it as early in the game as possible. I believe borges should take a chance in the start of the something totally unexpected ..... denard to gardner on a post route ?  any other insane starting series ideas?


August 26th, 2012 at 1:59 PM ^

Please tell us more about this:

All was as expected except for a couple snaps in a dime package that they didn't show at all last year.

We know Avery is the nickelback; who's the dimeback? Which player is lifted in favor of another DB? Or is it a dime package by alignment only, but with the same players as in nickel? Inquiring minds want to know.


August 27th, 2012 at 12:36 AM ^

Taylor Lewan: 22 starts, 27 games played.
Elliot Mealer: 0 starts, 37 games played.
Ricky Barnum: 3 starts, 9 games played (sidelined by injury after SDSU).
Patrick Omameh: 29 starts, 33 games played.
Michael Schofield: 10 starts, 33 games played.

The interior line has its questions, but the tackle play will be outstanding. I think we have the best (and most proven) starting five in the Big Ten. But, yeah, I'm cowering in fear over an injury outside.


August 26th, 2012 at 5:03 PM ^

I'm totally okay with no one giving Michigan a shot in this game, and everyone just patting Alabama on the back for what they did last year. No doubt, Alabama will be right there for a NC - but at the end of the year. They have some starters to replace and will have some kinks in their armor that hopefully Mattison and Borges can expose. If we can take care of the football, keep Denard healthy and force some turnovers (I really hope Mattison makes McCarron beat us with his arm against our secondary) I think we have a shot. Penn State was somewhat close last year, and they didn't really even have a QB (still don't). We're getting them at the right time, on a neutral site, and really have nothing to lose in this game. I hope we play like it.

I know a lot of people are heading to Dallas - but what is going on in Ann Arbor for this game? That really sucks for the students to not cap off their welcome week with a home opener, but hopefully there are giant TVs everywhere on SouthU.