Spring Sprang Sprung

Submitted by Brian on April 13th, 2009 at 10:48 AM

Spring games don't lend themselves to narratives, so how about some bullet points? Bullet points.

Media explosion. If you missed it, there's a torrent. This would be a good moment to consider how vastly different the world is now than it was five years ago. There is a torrent of Michigan's spring game.

If you don't want to bother with that, four minutes of highlights from the Big Ten Network:

Also, Brandon Minor and his sweet beard talk to Shireen Saski: "that's like a real quarterback." Other interviews:

Photo galleries exist from the Free Press, Detroit News, Ann Arbor News, and various places on flickr: user dennisdolan3, the Daily's photostream, user snotzzz73, and Alex Karpowitsch. MVictors has photos of the locker room if you skipped the Line That Never Ends. Notice the U in "honour." Weird. Also from MVictors are alumni game photos.

Pleasantries dispensed, away we go:

Most encouraging development: The general existence of Tate Forcier. Forcier chucked one pass into a linebacker's pads but other than that was worlds better than anything Michigan's seen at quarterback since Lloyd Carr rode out of the Citrus Bowl on the shoulders of his team. Forcier was as advertised: quick and scrambly in the pocket, accurate on the run, worryingly small, &c.

He's not going to be great but his slipperiness and ability to operate out of a moving pocket—which should simplify reads, mitigate whatever issues his lack of height brings, and prevent his head from being taken off—should allow him to be effective without having total command of the playbook. Early competence beckons with the possibility for more down the road.

As always, you take intrasquad scrimmages seriously at your peril, but let's discount the effect of the defense and just look at the opportunities presented:

  • Roy Roundtree bursts open deep and Forcier hits him between the numbers for a touchdown.
  • Roundtree works free on a slant, upon which Forcier hits him between the numbers, on time.
  • Forcier throws an okay fade to Mathews, which he brings down.

There was one overthrown screen and the shoulda-been interception, but other than that he was dead on. Unofficial stats had him 11/14 for 130 or so yards. That's worlds different from last year's spring game, in which both quarterbacks threw multiple interceptions to legends like Artis Chambers and everyone started panicking in earnest about what fall would bring. Forcier's first excursion as Michigan's quarterback could not have been more reassuring.

The final word goes to Greg Mathews:

"The fans were cheering his name before the game, and I said, 'Don't get nervous, Tate,' and he said, 'I'm not nervous. There's some times he gets confused out there, but he's a high school senior. But his poise is definitely what stands out about him. His command when we huddle up, or on the sideline, he's focused in practices instead of goofing around."

A close second most encouraging development: Insert praise about Lloyd Carr here but, man, am I glad Rodriguez has done a 180 on the spring game. That felt like an event. It was fun, and though the 50k reported seemed a little generous—I and most around me thought it was 40k—it was probably about four times the number who attended Carr's last spring game. The line to see the locker room snaked all the way around Crisler and might have impeded traffic on Main.

Least encouraging development: Stevie Brown put a stake through the now annual "this is Stevie's year!" meme by getting juked out his jock by the Coner. Coner has mad flow, and since he was a 6'5" option QB with all the mobility of John Navarre in high school he must have a wicked option fake, but… yeesh, man. At least we're going into the fall with our eyes open.

A close second least encouraging development: the second-team offense, led by the aforementioned Coner, drove the field for touchdowns a couple times despite Cone amply demonstrating why anyone who talks about him starts his paragraph with "Cone is a terrific human being." They did this against the first team defense. Yerk.

This isn't totally unexpected. When the second team running backs are Grady and Brown and Vincent Smith and the second team defensive line includes 5'7", 249 pound Dominic Ware, the talent is not exactly balanced. Once Van Bergen went out with a knee injury (it's minor; six weeks and he'll be fine) the first team defense was missing four sure starters to injury (RVB, Warren, Martin, and Mouton) and using another sparingly to prevent injury (Brandon Graham), putting further pressure on that lack of depth. Said lack of depth is severe, though, and Michigan looks like it will be facing huge dropoffs from the first to second team if they can't remain unusually healthy next year.

What it is. Staying with the defense, the projection about the new scheme was that it would look like a 4-3 with a standup defensive end, and this was for the most part true. Like the spread 'n' shred they're going to look pretty limited early, what with the lack of talent and the missing starters and the new alignment, but GSimmons picked out even, under, and 3-4 fronts even this early. Also picked out: very bad linebacker play from walk-ons.

Obviously. Martavious Odoms fumbled Michigan's first punt return attempt of 2009.

Ok, Carlos, now it's time to pull a hamstring. Tantalize us one last time, Carlos Brown. For old time's sake.

I was going to fret about the defense on this play and then I was like "oh those guys are all walk-ons." So, yeah, if walk-ons play they will not be good. This lesson you have already burned into your brain, so we'll skip the rehash.

A first depth chart bitch of the year. Junior Hemingway, stuck on the second team, had ample opportunity to prove he has nice body control and hands by flagging down a number of Coner ducks. Meanwhile, Darryl Stonum made one spectacular leaping grab… and dropped a screen right in his hands. I'm betting Hemingway emerges as the #2 outside receiver early.

As long as we're on receiver depth chart stuff: Terrance Robinson was also as advertised, quick but with a significant case of the dropsies. Odoms didn't feature much, leaving much of the work in the slot to Roy Roundtree, who looked excellent, sure handed and good with his routes. His rep is as a fearless possession receiver lacking in the speed, so I don't know if we'll see a whole lot of deep seams unless he has the good fortune to be going up against walk-ons in Big Ten play, but a reliable receiver is a reliable receiver.

Also, if Roundtree doesn't already have a nickname

Roundtree had difficulty focusing on passes this Spring because he had trouble seeing the ball. The U-M staff ordered him contact lenses, which arrived just in time for the spring game. Roy put them in and then put on a show for the Michigan faithful, making big plays and catching a handful of touchdown passes, including a big 60-yard touchdown from Forcier.

"All Spring ball my coaches have been asking me when I'll get my contacts, when I'll get my contacts," laughed Roundtree. "I got my contacts today. I couldn't see the long balls in practice, but today I saw them just fine."

ricky-vaughn…he should be "Wild Thing". Rodriguez on this impossibility:

"In the first half of the spring, he was struggling catching some balls, and then we looked at him, and he'd squint at you," Rodriguez said Saturday.

"That was the first sign, 'You'd better get your eyes checked.' The doctor said he didn't know how he was walking a straight line."

How does a guy go an entire year at Michigan before anyone realizes he can't see? This is symptomatic of the chaos that went on last year. Deeply symptomatic.

Either that or Roundtree was afraid Carson Butler would give him a wedgie and leave him hanging on a bathroom hook.

Overly-optimistic post-spring chatter. (HT: Dr. Saturday.) I didn't watch Mark Huyge enough to confirm this for myself—and, honestly, I'm an amateur who needs to go over running plays a half-dozen times before I can form an opinion on who did what right—but the general opinion on his play was hugely (HA!) positive. Even without the benefit of tape review I can say this: if Huyge has surged in front of Perry Dorrestein, who was functional last year, and the much-hyped Patrick Omameh that bodes well for his future and for Michigan's line.

With the influx of the redshirt freshmen, maturation of John Ferrara, and healthy return of Huyge there are now a lot of lottery tickets on the line and chances are the guy who lays claim to the right tackle spot is going to be pretty good, at least eventually. This is a situation more akin to Chad Henne beating out Clayton Richard and Matt Gutierrez (sort of; labrum and all that) than Nick Sheridan beating out Steven Threet and No One.

Vincent Smith, on the other hand, was pretty easy to evaluate since he's a running back. He looked small and darty, tougher to tackle than you might imagine but not an instant impact sort. Smith has flashed Mike Hart's crazy ability to defy tackling in practice; too bad he didn't have some crazy spinning run for the crowd to ooh and aw at.

Vlad Emilien is the safety taking a poor angle and trailing Carlos Brown all the way to the endzone in the video above, but, again, people seem highly encouraged by his play. I've had Michigan safety skepticism beaten into me by Angry Michigan Safety Hating God and will remain skeptical until such time as I can't anymore.

Walk-on quarterback Jack Kennedy is so obscure that he sported a regular contact jersey and was used as cannon fodder repeatedly, but… uh… he looked way better than Cone.

The incoming and signed. Denard Robinson made his way up to check out the competition:

"I came up just for the spring game," Robinson said. "I wanted to see the game and the fans and stuff. It's good. It's got me speechless."

That article has an outstandingly FAKE 40 time for Robinson: 4.38. Justin Turner, Isaiah Bell, and Brendan Gibbons also stopped by to see the festivities.

The incoming but unsigned. This will get more coverage tomorrow in Tuesday Recruitin', but the recruiting weekend was a successful one. Thumping Texas back Stephen Hopkins committed. Four star Miami offensive lineman Torrian Wilson left saying Michigan was his leader. So did FL S Marvin Robinson. Unconfirmed chatter on MI CB Dior Mathis and—surprise!—presumed Spartan and MI RB Austin White was also highly positive.

Also hanging around was another Forcier: Jason, MGoBlog's favorite backup quarterback of all time. He's graduating from Stanford and plans to enroll in grad school at Michigan. Presumably he'll try to get on the football team, but he's only got one year of eligibility left and will have to jump through—or, more accurately, create—the proper NCAA hoops if he's going to be able to participate. If you recall Ryan Mundy's immediate playing time after his fifth-year transfer to West Virginia, also recall that the NCAA immediately repealed that rule after Florida pirated one of Utah's starting cornerbacks. He'll have to apply for some super secret waiver, which I don't think he'll get.



April 13th, 2009 at 4:19 PM ^

then 10.28 FAT is very, very impressive. That's right up there among the top in the country in COLLEGE level. There's no reason for me to think that he can get up to 10 flat and maybe even into the 9.90s. Ladies and Gent, Michigan will finally have a player who has a near world class speed. Can't wait to see him on the field in zone read or spread option plays.


April 13th, 2009 at 11:01 AM ^

re: Emilien

No Safety, ever, is going to look good when a RB has 15 unimpeded yards to build up a head of steam, he's facing the RB, and has no help to either side. That could have been Ronnie Lott out there - the breakdown came on (walk-on) Kevin Leach's utter whiff on the tackle.

Durham Blue

April 13th, 2009 at 3:01 PM ^

you're correct. But it seems that if he started back-pedaling right after seeing Brown break to the second level (instead of running towards him) then he might have an opportunity to get an angle on Brown. I don't know, I'm sure I'm oversimplifying things. I probably play too much Madden football.


April 13th, 2009 at 11:07 AM ^

first thing to happen when they started the scrimmage, me, my dad and a group of other people around us were standing with excitement and from behind us i hear "are you planning on standing this whole time!?"



April 13th, 2009 at 11:39 AM ^

clicked to be reminded why jason is our favorite backup and find this July 2008 nugget:

"We might not die. Michigan fans look to Vegas for reassurance they won't end up in Detroit against a MAC team this winter, and Vegas provides. Earlier this year they provided absurdly good odds for a Michigan national title, naming M the tenth most likely to win it all."



April 13th, 2009 at 1:01 PM ^

I still contend that the Jason Forcier transfer to Standford set this team back as much as any single player development in the past few years......insert laughing here if you wish.

You can tell he didn't want to transfer based on his brother coming here, photos of him wearing Michigan stuff even while at Stanford, and the fact that he's coming back for Grad School. He got scared off by Mallett.

In reality, if he had stayed I think he would have been just as effective as Mallett was when Henne got hurt - possibly more. Then he would have been an agile Junior QB when Rodriguez arrived and the likely starter for two years in an offense that suited his skills.

I'm not saying he would have been the next Ricky Leach, but I think he would have been significantly better than Mallett in 2007, anything we threw out there in 2008, and probably better than his brother in 2009. Here's hoping he finds a loophole to give us some depth.


April 13th, 2009 at 1:51 PM ^

I sat in the 40s in Section 27 and I was about 10/20 rows in front of a family of 10 wearing Pahokee gear. Anyone have an idea whose crew it was? I know Odoms is from Pahokee but I figure it'd be more likely that it was the family of some new recruit.

Six Zero

April 13th, 2009 at 2:11 PM ^

But judging just by overall spring buzz alone, this year will be a sea change from the last. By this time last year we all KNEW it was going to be bad, we just didn't want to believe it.

This is an exciting time for us, brothers... continue to hold steadfast in your faith. GO BLUE.


April 13th, 2009 at 2:40 PM ^

Agree completely. Of course there are still lots of question marks, but its great that there is so much to be positive about.

At this point, I think if the defense is absolutely dreadful we still could make it to 6 wins. We'll get 8 or 9 if absolutely everything clicks. I'm setting my expectations at 7 wins, and I'd be totally happy with that number.