Random Observations from Yesterday's Practice

Submitted by readyourguard on April 1st, 2011 at 8:12 PM

[Ed-M: Bumped because this is all important stuff. Photos: MGoBlue.com: all from March 30 practice. Click through to see, among other things, Urban Meyer on the sidelines.]

I want to start by wishing a Happy Birthday to Bo.  Born this day in 1929.

I attended practice yesterday and here are some very random notes and observations.

I gravitate to the LBs because that's what I coach and I try to pick up new drills/techniques.  Here are the 11 guys who were working with the LB corp:  Cam Gordon, Brandin Hawthorne, Marell Evans, Kenny Demens, Isaiah Bell, Mike Jones, Jake Ryan, JB Fitzgerald, Paul Gyarmati, Brandon Herron, Jordan Paskorz.  They were running a lot of basic drills because, quite frankly, this group has a LOT of work ahead of them.

  • Cam Gordon is ALL of 6' 3". He's gotten taller since he was a senior in HS (I know because I stood next to him at a spring practice last year and I was definitely taller than him). He looks good, physically. He's added a significant amount of muscle and has real good pop. During one particular drill where the LB shuffles downhill then forms up on the "ballcarrier," Cam surprised the ballcarrier with an explosive pop. It was either Bell or Demens. Whoever it was felt it, I can promise you that.
  • Josh Furman has sweet dreads. He's a good sized kid too and got a lot of reps
  • Marell Evans got a lot of reps with the ones during the scrimmage. He seems very comfortable with his teammates and coaches.
  • Jake Ryan's helmet is chipped all to hell, which tells me he keeps his head up at the point of contact and has a nose [Ed-M: Or more accurately forehead] for the ball. I thought Cam looked taller but they're both listed at 6'3" on the roster.

During the scrimmages, the defense moved around a lot, displaying multiple looks. Although they were running a 4-3, Mike Martin was lined up over the center (or shaded) most of the time.

Big Will and Q got a lot of reps (with the 1s and 2s). I think Will probably gets more coaching than any kid on the team. It appears to me that the coaches REALLY believe they have something special in Will if they can just coach him up and bring it out of him. He is a big kid with a lot of potential and could be scary good if he makes up his mind and puts in the work. BTW, Will talks a lot of shit. On one play, he pursued Devin to the sideline and out of bounds, gave him some lip, then smacked the ball out of Devin's hands. It was all in good fun and I think it shows that Big Will is feeling like he's an integral part of this team.  BW is big but QW isn't far behind. These two have a chance to make a huge impact, if they simply learn to work hard and realize what they can achieve.

Curt Mallory is by far the most intense person on the entire field. He is working hard with the DBs.

It's obvious both sides of the ball are learning new schemes. Lots of mistakes and miscues. However, the intensity is there. Ryan Van Bergen is your vocal leader of the defense.

Here are the DBs I noticed getting lots of reps: Courtney Avery, Jordan Kovacs, Thomas Gordon, Floyd Simmons, Cullen Christian, Jared VanSlyke, Greg Brown, Marvin Robinson, Tony Anderson, and Al Backey.

  • During one scrimmage, Jordan Kovacs dropped the hammer on an outstretched Je'Ron Stokes. It was a BIG lick, but Stokes held onto the ball and popped right up.
  • Courtney Avery ran with the 1s all the time. He looks good although I think 5'11" is generous. I talked with his dad (Courtney Sr) for a while. Super nice family (mom and younger brother were there too). He said everything is completely different for Courtney and it's like starting over: Terminology, technique, alignment, philosophy, scheme.
  • Cullen Christian has sweet tats on the back of both arms. Written in old english font with a 2 and C on the left arm and 4 and C on the right. (That's some Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporting, isn't it?)
  • Speaking of tats, it's one thing I noticed we have a LOT of. There's some sweet artwork out there.  
  • Woolfolk and Floyd were off in the corner with a S&C coach, working their asses off. The coach had one of those punching dummies that the two players would take turns delivering two handed shivers in rapid succession.

Here's something I'm sure you'll all be fired up about:  the 1st team D owned the first team O in Red Zone scrimmage. Three times in a row the D stuffed the O, including a 1st and goal from the 2 which resulted in a fumble, recovered by Herron. The defense was noticably more vocal than the O, but I don't think that means anything other than the O is doing a lot more thinking, rather than just playing.

It was quite evident that this was the first week of practice under a new system. On the other hand, the 2nd team O scored in one play (both passes to the right side) TWICE against the 2nd team D.

Offensively, Rocko Khoury was the center during the scrimmages, but Molk participated in the conditioning. I don't recall seeing Molk out on the field, but maybe I just overlooked him (shame on me).

Your first O line was (from left to right) Huyge, Barnum, Khoury, Omameh, Schofield. Lewan wasn't in pads. Second O line was Barnum, Khoury, Burzynski, Pace, Gunderson.

Every time I looked up, it seemed Drew Dileo was retunring a punt or kick. There was a decent amount of time devoted to special teams at the begining and end of practice, which I thought was, you know....... important (lol). Both kickers were lined up on opposite hashes (Seth on the right hash, Brendan on the left), starting with 27 yard kicks then moving back to 35 yarders. I will leave you with this....... they need more practice.

I didn't watch the offense all that much as I was trying to concentrate on what the defense was doing and who was on the field. However Denard is sweet. His smile and personality resonate from across the field. I honestly feel like we have been blessed, not with just a hell of an athlete, but a hell of a kid. That is all.

Finally, I had a chance to talk with Coach Jerry Hanlon for a bit. I haven't seen him in a LONG time, but he looks and sounds great. I'm surprised he still has a voice because he did a LOT of yelling back in the day. I remember one spring practice, for some reason, Coach Hanlon decided to coach from the press box, which was really odd. Nobody ever did that..   Anyway, we were going through a scrimmage or inside skele and all of the sudden, from WAAaaaay on high, this high-pitched, angry voice bellowed down from above. It brought practice to a screeching halt as everyone stopped what they were doing so they could take in the ass chewing Coach Hanlon's dished out to some poor linemen from 100 feet  in the air. I guess you had to be there, but it was memorable.

Go Blue!



April 1st, 2011 at 8:52 AM ^

Thanks for taking the time to write all this up.  I've been pretty optimistic with the D and most of that optimism is based on the fact we'll have the best dline in the Big Ten with Martin, RVB, Q and Roh.   The coaches have kept things pretty close to the vest.   You didn't rave too much either.

Do you think that unit has a chance to be special or have I built them up too much in my head?  I just think Martin, Roh and Black are differnce makers and RVB and Q can be rocks in there freeing the raw lb's and db's to function as a good unit.


April 1st, 2011 at 10:14 AM ^

I don't know if I'd anticipate a "special" defense.  They have a lot of ground to make up.  That's not a slam on RR or GERG, it's just the realities of learning an entirely new system. 

Coach Mattison exudes experience and confidence.  He's been around a long time and knows what he's doing.  He's not out there screaming and motivating.  He's teaching.  It seems to me, the kids totally respect that and realize that if they listen, they'll be good.



April 1st, 2011 at 8:56 AM ^

Thanks for the informative update!  Nice to see something today that's not an April fool's joke.  I am very excited about this LB core. 


April 1st, 2011 at 9:10 AM ^

That was awesome.  Just great great work.  Did you get a chance to see who they were running at fullback in any of the offensive sets during red zone? 


April 1st, 2011 at 10:01 AM ^

Every time I looked we ran a single back set.  Smith seemed to get most of the carries.  The time I noticed Hopkins was when he was getting a little ass chewing for having the ball ripped out from his grasp.

I also forgot to mention that Mike Shaw has really nice legs.  Thick as hell.  On the hoof, that kid looks like a nice back.


April 1st, 2011 at 10:20 AM ^

Smith is a guy that is awfully tough.  I find myself thinking he won't factor in because of size, but that would be my mistake.  Can't wait to see Rawls in fall practice. I also noticed earlier this week, Jihad Rasheed busted one in the Mgoblue videos.  He's a guy that you don't hear much about.  Should be really competitive back there. Thanks again.


April 2nd, 2011 at 5:46 PM ^

I see Will Heininger, Courtney Avery, Mike Jones, Carvin Johnson, Jared Van Slyke, Jake Ryan, Chris Eddins, and whoever #98 is.  Yeah, those aren't necessarily our best defenders...

...but this was Michigan's worst defense.  Ever.  We don't have [many] good defenders.


April 1st, 2011 at 9:20 AM ^

He was good in Sideways.

Man, if we get some solid play out of Big Will it will be such a relief.  Mike Martin is going to kill it this season.


April 1st, 2011 at 9:19 AM ^

Due, Great Post.  We need someone at practice every day with updates likes this.  Really fired up!   I know you said that you didn't watch the offense much but with limited looks (or if anyone else can chime in)  can you post as to how Devin looks in this offense.  I believe he will flourish in man ball.  Our future looks bright.  I worry about the present in this style, but I trust our coaches!


April 1st, 2011 at 10:06 AM ^

Devin and Denard are both learning a new system, and it's obvious.  They have a long way to go to learn the plays, reads, timing, etc.  The one thing I'll say is, Devin tucked the ball and ran more than Denard did.



April 1st, 2011 at 9:31 AM ^

This kind of quote:

He is a big kid with a lot of potential and could be scary good if he makes up his mind and puts in the work.

Makes no sense to me. The kid enrolled early and has obviously worked hard in attempting to get on the field. The fact that the previous coaching staff had no idea where he should be on the field and mistakenly burned his redshirt is not his fault. It's also not his fault that when he was on defense before being switched to the O-line, he was being coached by a safeties coach.

Now, he's got Hoke, Montgomery and Mattison, all guys who know what they're doing wrt defensive line play. The guy will be just fine to good this year.


April 1st, 2011 at 10:13 AM ^

was the safeties coach at WVU and then became the DL coach at UM.  I think he's just saying that he may not have been the best person to get the most out of BWC because that wasn't his natural coaching position or at least the position he had coached the most.


April 1st, 2011 at 11:03 AM ^

The other poster is what I'm getting at, Ziff. Tall "tutored" defensive linemen in 2002 at Western MICH, and that's it. He spent 5 years before coming to Michigan as West Virginia's safeties coach. He also coached linebackers at other places.

How confident would you have been in Hoke if he had hired Jerry Montgomery, a defensive line coach, to coach the defensive backs? You'd have wondered what in the world was going on. That's what I'm getting at.


April 1st, 2011 at 11:23 AM ^

That makes some sense.  I think a lot of that is blown out of proportion on the internet nowadays, because I think a good coach can teach just about anything.  I think Gary Moeller  coached just about everything at Michigan, but with that being said you do get a certain confidence knowing a guy has coached the same position group for a while.


April 1st, 2011 at 10:56 AM ^

Playing time isn't given, it's earned.

Completely irrelevant to my point. No one here knows whether Campbell works "hard" or not. To allege that he wasn't working hard isn't fair to the player.

We all knew that Campbell would need time to develop into a fine player, because he's at a position which takes time for players. What I'm saying is that normal college programs allow beast defensive linemen 2 years to develop. We all saw Campbell develop on the field, which was unfair to him because he should have been given the time to transition to college and develop his body into a soul-destroying force.


April 1st, 2011 at 12:07 PM ^

I don't think it's irrelevant to your point.  The answer lies somewhere in this post of yours:

"The kid enrolled early and has obviously worked hard in attempting to get on the field. The fact that the previous coaching staff had no idea where he should be on the field and mistakenly burned his redshirt is not his fault. It's also not his fault that when he was on defense before being switched to the O-line, he was being coached by a safeties coach."

There is something obvious there that you are overlooking. 



April 1st, 2011 at 9:38 AM ^

I don't get the love for dreadlocks and don't care about players' tattoos (channeling my inner old man/Andy Rooney) but really appreciate some of the football-related detail on players and the practice.



April 1st, 2011 at 11:15 AM ^

Well, at least he's alive. That's something.

I was just curious, since he was someone who looked pretty competent last season for a true freshman. And from what I remember from his recruitment, he's supposed to be a very smart player, so I'm holding out optimism that he goes from "competent for a freshman" to "very solid contributor as a sophomore."



April 1st, 2011 at 9:57 AM ^

Not too sure how I feel about our deffense stuffing the offense in the red zone drills.  It brings me back to last year when our offense could move the ball effortlessly between the two twenties but had a hard time crossing the goal line.  I have a good feeling that won't be the case this year, but who knows.  I am glad that the defense is improving and playing with some swagger...excited to see how they pan out.


April 1st, 2011 at 10:47 AM ^

I had the same initial thought - i.e. our D sucked last year, and if they are stuffing our O in the red zone, this is not good.  But, the OP made clear that the offense looks pretty raw - they are clearly learning a new system with which they are not comfortable.  It will take time for them to learn to play this new system.  Fortunately, it is April, not August.  Also, as a general statement, I would expect that the D will be ahead of the offense in terms of learning the new system.  Most of these kids played the 4-3 in high school, so they are not learning a new system entirely from scratch.  Sure, there is learning, but not nearly as much.  On offense, Denard has likely never played in the pro-style offense that he will be running, and I expect a longer transition period.