- TE Nate Allspach, S Drew Offerdahl, and DL Kenny Wilkins have left the team.
- Everyone who was injured last season (Blake Countess, Chris Wormley, Fitz Toussaint, Chris Bryant) will participate in spring practice in some capacity. Wormley seems pretty far along and may be able to do everything. Fitz is recovering faster than expected.
- Will Hagerup is still suspended.
- Manball is still happening, even with Devin at QB.
- Interior linebackers will be expected to practice at both positions. Earlier I tweeted that Desmond Morgan will switch to MIKE and Joe Bolden will switch to WILL. Ignore that for now -- they'll be doing both.
“It’s exciting. I like how we worked during the winter and the winter conditioning and that phase of it. Excited for Saturday to get started. Spring ball’s for a lot of different things. You find out your competitiveness. You find out the guys -- who’s made the biggest improvements since fall and winter. [We’re excited to] have a great competition positionally on offense and defense. And just excited. Really, we all like how we’ve come to work every day and what the guys have done from a genetic (?) standpoint and what they’ve done in the weight room with Aaron Wellman. So we’re excited.”
“I think those are all things that you’ve seen him improve. The leadership, the way he finishes drills, we’re talking about the winter conditioning part of it -- and that’s all the example that you want him to show to his teammates. I like how he’s handled himself. I like how he’s -- the right word probably is ‘matured.’ His seriousness about being a quarterback at Michigan.”
What does his medical redshirt do for him and the program? Does it feel as if a burden been removed?
“You know, I don’t know if in conversation with him -- I think we were all anticipating what would happen. We all from our standpoint thought it would happen. You never know how those things can turn, but I think it obviously is an opportunity for him to play and be at Michigan another year and keep elevating his game, from intelligence of playing a position to again getting back to the leadership -- I think he feels very good about it.”
Are we going to see more of an offensive philosophy change? Will there be more passing?
“I think the play-action off the run game is going to be a big part of it. We’re not going to one-back sets and three-wides and four-wides and just start out throwing the football. That’s not who we’re going to be. We certainly get into the season, there’s game plans and those kinds of things, but when you look at what we are and what we want to be with two-back sets and being able to run the football and those things, that’s all part of it.”
What do you expect to learn about your run game?
“We have a lot of young guys up front who are going to have great opportunities to prove what they can do at the line of scrimmage. I think having Taylor [Lewan] back and Mike [Schofield] back gives you two solid guys at the tackle position. You have tight ends that are going to be a big part of it. A.J. Williams and his improvement, and [Devin] Funchess, and Jake Butt is a guy who’s been here since January. Running the football is something that we’re going to stress, and stopping the run on the other side of the ball. I think there’s a lot of young youth that’s going to get a lot of opportunity.”
What kind of boon is it to have Taylor back? How has he embraced his last spring here?
“Any guy who goes through four springs and five camps, however you want to count it -- those things are all part of it from what I can tell from the coaches’ stations. Through the winter, I think he has really done a tremendous job in leading by example and how he’s gone through drills and the competitiveness that you want to have and all those things. Having a guy that has that -- who’s at that level from a talent standpoint, he’s done a tremendous job of trying to improve fundamentals and technique. It’s real important to him.”
What are you looking for at running back?
“Well, [I’m looking for] improvements that Justice Hayes needs to have, and Thomas Rawls needs to have. You look at Dennis Norfleet, who we’ve moved back there. I think Drake Johnson is a guy who at the end of the fall and bowl practice, we liked a lot what he did.”
What did you like about him?
“Big. Ends up going downhill. Can break tackles. Has a level of fire in his play. Has an enthusiasm for it.”
Three players who are no longer on the team? Any comment?
“They’ve all made their decisions.”
“Will’s still suspended right now.”
Will that go through all of spring?
Is the running game something that you know won’t be decided until fall because of Derrick Green?
“Well I think Fitz is a lot further along than any of us thought he would be. Doesn’t mean we’re going to put him in there and do a lot of stuff with him, but he’s really ahead of schedule. He’s done a nice job. I think the run game, depends what we do up front, no matter who’s back there. Gale Sayers could be back there and if we don’t block the line of scrimmage, we’ll have problems. We’ll get a lot of work done with how we want to play up front in the spring.”
Will Eric Magnuson be moving inside on the offensive line?
“No. Not right now.”
Where’s Blake Countess in his rehab process?
“He’s coming along. I think all those guys -- we have 92 guys and no one is limited. I mean, I shouldn’t say that. They’re all going to practice in some part. It might be individual drill parts for some, which they can handle and can add a lot of value, the non-contact aspects of it. But we may keep some guys out of some of the contact.”
Will Blake do any of the contact stuff?
“No. But he, again, all those guys, Wormley, Blake, they’ve all done really well. And Wormley will be -- he’ll be doing everything.”
“Not yet. Not doing everything.”
But he’ll do some stuff?
Do you anticipate them being able to do more by the end of spring?
“Possibly. But at the same time I might decide Fitz has played a lot of downs. And Blake, for a young guy, has played a number of downs. They’re both intelligent football players, so how many looks do they need to get? That would kind of be my call.”
What are the chances we’ll see a full game?
“I’d love to do it. We’ll see how it goes, because I’d like the seniors to draft and have some fun with it and really make it hotdogs and steaks and all that kind of stuff. And have a lot of competitiveness. But you never know. Believe me, we’re getting more depth and I think more quality, so when we can get there I want to do it.”
How far away is this program from being where you want it to be?
“I don’t know if it’ll ever be where we want it to be. That’s just the high standards that we have because it encompasses everything, from academics and social and those things that 18-23 year olds get involved with. The competitiveness and how you win games and those kinds of things.”
How will you replace Jordan Kovacs?
“I think Thomas Gordon will play a lot of that. They were a good tandem back there. Both smart guys. Both guys did a nice job communicating. Thomas, I’m sure, will take a lead, but Jarrod Wilson played a number of plays. We’ve got Allen Gant, we’ve got Marvin Robinson, we’ve got Jeremy Clark, all guys that need to get reps, need to get out there, need to get comfortable. We have some young guys who came in in January, Dymonte [Thomas] and Ross Douglas. Where they’ll fit in? We’ll find out. I think the question about who’s going to be the bell cow will most likely be Thomas [Gordon]. We’ll look to him and I guess Courtney Avery as the two guys on the back end.”
Versatility in your linebacking unit?
“I think we probably have more versatility on the inside. Desmond Morgan will play some MIKE, and [James] Ross will play a little bit more at WILL, and put them on the field at the same time. At the same time, what we’ll do a little different than we have before, is they better know both positions because it makes them so you can slide guys in so you always have your best 11. Jake [Ryan] and Cam [Gordon] -- Cam’s had a tremendous winter. It will be exciting and fun to see the different things that we might be able to do with both of them on the field. Jake is one of those guys with his hand on the ground can rush the passer sometimes. It gives us some things that we can do.”
Can Jake and Cam be on the field at the same time?
How would that work?
“You would have one in the inside and one as a pass rusher.”
Have you looked at any position changes at linebacker?
“Well, yeah. That’s one thing that we’re -- he’s going to learn the MIKE. Joe Bolden’s going to learn some of the WILL. He’ll know the MIKE also, so they’ll do both.”
Ideally, how many linebackers do you want to have in the rotation?
“I think for that position, probably if you had four that you could rotate through, and if they were all quality, that would be great. We rotated tons at San Diego State. We rotated every four plays. We’re getting a little bit more to where we can do that a little bit more. The biggest difference here is we’re still not at the point where [we have] the quality that you want or don’t know yet because of some of the young guys who are going to be a big part of it [aren’t ready yet].”
Is the rotation system a tough thing to sell to linebackers?
“I think it depends. I don’t know if selling is what I would call it, but it’s something that you get in different packages and nickels and dimes, and that’s always a part of it.”
What have you seen out of your redshirt freshmen defensive linemen?
“Ondre [Pipkins] played, but he’s one of the guys -- and [Mario] Ojemudia played. Both of them improved from a physical standpoint from the movement and the body and body fat test and all that stuff. Those have been good improvements. The other four guys have done a nice job. Chris got hurt early in camp, but watching him move around, we’re really excited to see what he can do. Willie Henry, his body has changed. It’s always the same with freshmen. There’s very few times the maturity that could talk about during the season. They’re going to hit the wall some time. Now they’re better equipped because they’ve been through a winter conditioning. They’ve been through a season, a summer, and the pressure of academics and all that. But I think Strobel and Godin have both made body improvements weight-wise, again, the leanness that you’re looking for.”
Have you seen any of the guys out for Pro Day?
“I really haven’t, to be honest with you. I looked over the balcony a little bit, but for me, there’s other things that we need to get going on. Saw them out before they got started this morning. I think they’ll all compete like heck.”
How do you handle Devin's backups this spring? Are you leaning towards redshirting Shane Morris?
“Oh, he’s going to compete. I don’t lean anywhere with anybody. We feel pretty good about Russell Bellomy. I think at times he’s the lost man in this whole conversation, but Russell Bellomy, you look at what he’s done through the winter and what he looks like. He’s a competitive guy. Obviously we thought he was a pretty good quarterback or we wouldn’t have gone down to Texas and recruited him. We’re excited about him. Devin and him, they’ll compete. Don’t assume that this is ‘here you go.’ They have to compete.”
So we can’t assume Devin’s the starting QB?
“I would never assume anything. Because you know what that does to you.”
But logically …
“At the end of the year he was the guy who was first, right?”
“So. Quinton Washington ended the year as the guy who was first, but he’s going to compete with Ondre Pipkins.”