Spring Stuff

Submitted by Brian on April 1st, 2010 at 3:02 PM

A roundup of Spring Practice happenings, all of which should be taken only somewhat seriously. Steve Breaston was "Black Jesus" before he even set foot on Michigan Stadium turf. Patrick Omameh was instantly the star of Michigan's six-member line class despite his status as the least-heralded of any of them. Meanwhile, the warnings about future Bronco Dann O'Neill were immediate. On the other hand, Grady Brooks was supposed to be a ninja and Kevin Grady a ball of knives. Practice rumblings seem to have the same predictive power as recruiting rankings: far from infallible but equally far from useless.


Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson tries to fire a pass to wide receiver Roy Roundtree, but it was picked off by Penn State's Navorro Bowman, one of four Michigan turnovers that helped the Nittany Lions hand Michigan a 35-10 pasting, Saturday, October 24th at Michigan Stadium.
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.comnooooo… oh, that guy looks open. 

Erm, so… yeah. I will believe this two to three years after I see it but apparently Denard Robinson is running with the ones a lot and looks "radically improved," according to one emailer. Forcier seems to have struggled in comparison. I'm a little leery of spring practice reports at all times and that goes triple when it comes to using a few spring practices to overrule what we saw in twelve games last year. The improvement Robinson would have to undergo—and the lack thereof from Forcier—to be a viable threat to start is vast. I'm filing this under "motivational tactic" for now. Jon Chait is on the "it could happen" side of the fence.

By all accounts, Gardner is considerably behind the two sophomores. If Denard is a capable QB this year his redshirt seems assured.

BONUS: here is Robinson running a long way, albeit with aid from crappy walk-on tackling.


I don't usually do this, but when you've spent a lot of time extracting the superfluous bits from AnnArbor.com's SEO-friendly headlines, this brings out your inner thirteen year old:

Michigan evaluating running back Mike Cox closely this spring

I loled.

Past the middle school bits is the picture of an emerging running back in Michigan's five-way spring derby. His high school coach hints at some of the practice reports coming from the usual sources:

“He’s tough as nails,” Driscoll said. “He’s very tough and they’re going to have a hard time with him because he’s a big guy that’s really fast. That’s the trouble. He’ll hit you, too. He’s not going to back down from anybody.”

Everyone else comes in for sporadic praise and criticism. There's no consensus on who might be emerging as a tentative (and largely ceremonial starter). Probably the biggest news is a lack of all-encompassing Fitzgerald Toussaint hype.

Wide Receiver And Tight End

With Junior Hemingway and Je'Ron Stokes out there's not much on the outside and Roy Roundtree has moved there intermittently in sets with Martavious Odoms and Jeremy Gallon at slot. When the outside guys return, Michigan will have three or four slots they'd like to work into the lineup.

Here's Odoms answering some questions:

Odoms remains an endearingly terrible interview, but the mention of more two-slot formations is something to pay attention to. Tight ends, like Toussaint, have been largely absent from the spring buzz thus far.

Jerald Robinson has been the most impressive freshman so far, but the outside receivers have been plagued by drops. Kelvin Grady has evaporated, for what that's worth.

Offensive Line

On the offensive line, Schilling and Molk stand out to AnnArbor.com, which is not something I feel spectacular about since 1) Schilling is an established quantity entering his fourth year as a starter and 2) Molk is injured and not practicing.

Patrick Omameh is staying at guard for now, though I'm still holding out hope they shift him outside and let Ricky Barnum and Quinton Washington fight to the death for the spot. Four guys competing at tackle, two of them redshirt freshman and two of them upperclassmen who struggled badly in pass protection last year, is a sketchy situation. That has not come to pass, nor has either freshman pushed through into the nominal starting lineup.


I'm a little leery of a strapping 6'3", 208 pound kid who spent the brief duration of his Michigan career to date at wide receiver being the starting deep safety, but with Vlad Emilien out with a minor injury it's Cam Gordon who is the front-runner in the 2010 Grady Brooks Memorial Spring Hype Award chase. He comes in for mention by Rodriguez during a speech at a local football coaches' convention:

"Defensively, guys that have been impressive the last week or so, Kenny Demens, Cam Gordon, Craig Roh’s had a couple good days. Renaldo Sagesse, we were teasing him, Thursday he had the best practice since I’ve been here. I asked him what he ate for breakfast. I didn’t know if it was Canadian bacon or something, but he’s had a terrific spring."

It has been Gordon this, Gordon that at deep safety. This may be largely due to a lack of bodies. Justin Turner is practicing at cornerback, Vlad Emilien is injured, and the three guys who played the spot last year are either box safeties (Williams, Kovacs) or corners (Woolfolk). It's gotten to the point where Brandin Hawthorne, who was a high school defensive end (albeit a tiny one), is splitting time back there.

On the defensive line there's been a consistent stream of positives about virtually everyone. Sagesse, Campbell, and Banks all came in for specific praise from Robinson at today's press conference.  Even longtime non-entity Adam Patterson is getting some praise at the defensive end spot he and Greg Banks are keeping warm for Mike Martin. Perhaps the biggest news is the Sagesse praise. If Sagesse is a legit option at DT, Michigan doesn't have to think about sliding Martin inside to platoon with Campbell. I think he will be. I like him in UFRs last year.

Demens, meanwhile, has been the only linebacker to get a fair share of practice hype. Ezeh and Mouton have not been mentioned; Roh comes in for praise as a 250 pound outside linebacker but that's not a surprise. I'm not sure what to make of that: Demens was behind a walk-on last year and didn't see the field even when Michigan was rotating their linebackers so they could yell at them better. His only appearances were on special teams and Michigan's goal line package. Maybe he's a guy who is aided significantly by the move to the 3-3-5? If his issues were mental this defense allows you to do a lot of blitzing and play downhill.

And then there's corner, where Justin Turner still lags behind JT Floyd. No offense to Floyd, but I think that gives everyone hives. Even if Demar Dorsey comes in and is lights out as a true freshman, he's a true freshman and having a hyped guy like Turner struggle to break into the starting lineup in a secondary this chaotic is not a good sign.

Also, Craig Roh coughs and answers questions:

(Odoms, Roh HT: The Michigan Faithful.)


Trust the Process

April 1st, 2010 at 3:17 PM ^

"Demens was behind a walk-on last year and didn't see the field even when Michigan was rotating their linebackers so they could yell at them better."

This line is hilarious. Thank you Brian for this instant classic.


April 3rd, 2010 at 5:51 PM ^

My SWAG at the reasoning behind that is that there isn't any difference between big mistakes and little mistakes in that situation.

If you make a little mistake, it's a one yard TD. If you make a big mistake, it's a one yard TD.

I'm hoping that Demens has the athleticism to play and an understanding of the position that can be corrected.


April 1st, 2010 at 3:20 PM ^

Equally surprised about the Robinson/Forcier differences, but I agree that it sounds more like motivational speech than a clear shift at signal-caller. That said, it will be interesting to see if Robinson has made the supposed strides throwing the ball. If so, it certainly gives the offense a whole new dimension.

Also surprised that Fitz is a non-entity, but that is still one position I am not too worried about.


April 1st, 2010 at 3:30 PM ^

ooooo… oh, that guy looks open.

It was usually followed by a, "Crap."

Still really interested in seeing how his passing and understanding of the offense develops over the off-season... he just has more upside than Tate, and I have man-love for Tate.


April 1st, 2010 at 3:31 PM ^

Nothing in this summary is making me particularly happy. In fact, it's filling me with dread.

I'd love to see some more clarity from a team that desperately is lacking it. But again, it's only spring practice.


April 1st, 2010 at 3:37 PM ^

...is not accurate. RichRod has provided some Ezeh/Mouton love, even if it's been fairly minimal.

DetNews.com: With that in mind, Rodriguez says he has high expectations for seniors Jonas Mouton and Obi Ezeh.

"(They are) two veteran guys that have played a lot of football for us," Rodriguez said this week. "We're expecting a lot out of them. I'm really pleased with what they've done the last seven weeks in the weight program and with what they've done in the first (few spring) practices."

A2.com: “As a coach, you want all of your guys to have their best years as seniors … leading a team and certainly on the field,” Rodriguez said. “And I would be very shocked, I’d be disappointed if those two don’t. I think they will have great years.”


April 1st, 2010 at 3:36 PM ^

I didn't get the memo (like Miley) that Michigan already named its starting lineup after six practices of spring ball.

I see no reason to be concerned about the fact that the more experienced JT Floyd (who by all reports had a fantastic winter workout period) is getting marginally more reps than the redshirt freshman, who was reportedly very good in winter 7 on 7s.

Is it a bad thing to have two JTs that might actually be performing well? Just because Floyd is starting, it doesn't mean Turner is playing poorly.


April 1st, 2010 at 6:21 PM ^

A veteran starting over a redshirt freshman is not breaking news.

JT Floyd has apparently made great strides in the offseason, and makes up for his lack of ideal athletic ability with great savvy and knowledge of the D. DB is a position you can't afford to screw up at, so I'm extremely happy that JT Floyd is showing improvement.

JT Turner has an ideal frame, good measureables and great potential (hence the 5*'s) but reportedly a lot of work to do technique-wise. Cullen Christian is very similar in that respect. JT Turner not being the second coming of DWarren or Woodson isn't surprising.


April 1st, 2010 at 3:36 PM ^

I am very excited to hear DROB is making strides. I don't know how his HS coaching was, but seeing the offense he ran I doubt he had much mechanical coaching in high school. He has now had 9 months of college coaching to refine his delivery, I could see the improvements in one of the practice videos. His arm is plenty strong enough, and if his touch and accuracy have improved he could be one of the most dangerous QB's in the country.

Kilgore Trout

April 1st, 2010 at 3:50 PM ^

Does Grady has evaporated mean that he's fallen so far on the depth chart that he's a non-entity, or has he actually evaporated off of the team? As a baskeball first fan, I'd be happy with the latter if it means he will be back to playing hoops full time next year.


April 1st, 2010 at 8:34 PM ^

Grady started off with glowing praise from the announcers, to the tune of 'former basketball player!' and 'great hands!'. Insert great catch. 'Former Basketball Player!!!!' and 'Great HANDS!!!!!'. Insert drops. Less praise from the announcers. Insert more drops. Delete from TV screen.\

I'm guessing 'evaporating' means that he can't make his way onto the three-deep at slot (even when there are two slots on the field) because of inconsitency catching a football. Which is too bad, because it would have been a great story and I'm sure he's a great kid.

Crime Reporter

April 1st, 2010 at 4:02 PM ^

Actually, it might be the alcohol, but Brian hit the nail on the head.

We still have a long way to go before our first game. I'd expect the defense to play better than last season, but that isn't saying much.

The offense should improve as well, and we will know a lot more once the freshmen get here. I have hope.


April 1st, 2010 at 5:28 PM ^

those that said that despite his late arrival, if he really would have stood out last season in practice that he would have played. That can certainly change, but for now we can put to rest the meme from last year that went: "he's been tearing it up in practice and the coaches were SO tempted to burn his redshirt but were smart and didn't."


April 4th, 2010 at 1:33 PM ^

The kid is tough, smart, hasn't whined about the lack of respect (here), never gets in trouble and is playing with a chip on his shoulder (not giving an inch or any pt), which I believe is a good thing. Just doing his job and coming hard to work everyday. I think y'all will be surprised this yr.
Hope Tate shows maturity both on and off the playing feild this year.


April 1st, 2010 at 4:27 PM ^

If he is in fact a Pat White clone (the evidence is compelling) it would make sense if he had a breakout sophomore season. Who knows what White may have looked like as a true freshman had he played. And as for Rasheed Marshall, in his limited playing time he was an up-and-down guy like Robinson (from what I have heard, which may or may not be credible). Perhaps Robinson's second year in a winged helmet will be similar to White and Marshall's second years as Mountaineers. I don't think it's fair to write him off right now.


April 1st, 2010 at 4:30 PM ^

is a mug's game, especially if it's based on anything coming from the walking undead zombie transmogrified corpse of the AA News and its crack reporter David Birkett. I'm just going to enjoy the sunshine at the spring game. There'll be plenty of time to obsessively worry in the fall.


April 1st, 2010 at 4:51 PM ^

...few outsider practice/scrimmage observations and the spin of the Michigan Football press corps is akin to Kremlinology.

During the Cold War, lack of reliable information about the country forced Western analysts to "read between the lines" and to use the tiniest tidbits, such as the removal of portraits, the rearranging of chairs, positions at the reviewing stand for parades in Red Square, and other indirect signs to try to understand what was happening in internal Soviet politics.

Wonder what our WLA comrades think about that?

Zone Left

April 1st, 2010 at 4:52 PM ^

I like that the coaches are starting to temper their enthusiam. Coaches are often from the school of building players up when things are bad and acting less than enthusiastic when things are going well. They want the players to stay positive yet focused.

The Denard Robinson thing is probably part of that, but also a measure of just how far behind he was last year. There's no way he should have had to see the field last season. Forcier was more able to because he was really coached up in high school. However, Robinson really getting the offense and becoming a servicable passer would give him a much, much higher ceiling than Forcier--which would bode well for this season and in the future.


April 1st, 2010 at 5:31 PM ^

Lump me in with Chait. From what I gathered, D Robinson's main drawback last season was his lack of familiarity with the offense. He's got the tools, just needs for the offensive system to become like second (and eventually first) nature to him, and I think he could be a huge competitor. It could happen, especially if Forcier lets attitude issues of his own (which have been rumored) close the gap.


April 1st, 2010 at 5:53 PM ^

Denard's progress, liking the idea. The conservative scared guy in me might prefer a settled QB situation, and the guy who is super-skittish after 2 years of terrible losses and attrition prays that Tate is a grownup if Denard is that good.

Memories are short, but there were suggestions Denard WAS that good when he first came along. And I agree with Zone Left, if last year hadn't been Armagideon Time (note old school Clash reference) Denard might be making a much-heralded debut this year.


April 2nd, 2010 at 10:57 AM ^

Odoms seems like he has very bad "Interview ADD". His eyes were all over the place.

I'm very happy to hear Denard is playing the "Des" position next year.