Biggest spring game surprise?

Submitted by Magnus on April 16th, 2012 at 10:26 AM

Which player, position group, or development was the biggest surprise to you in the spring game? 

My pick would be the linebackers as a group.  We know several of them are solid (Morgan, Ryan, Demens), but Hawthorne, Ringer, and Cam Gordon played pretty well, too.  Bolden didn't really stick out in any way, but at this point, I think we've got five linebackers who could legitimately start without much of a drop-off: Morgan, Ryan, Demens, Hawthorne, and Gordon.

I would also like to toss in that all of the position coaches seem to be doing a good job, but Mark Smith seems to be doing an excellent job with his guys.


Blue in Yarmouth

April 16th, 2012 at 10:35 AM ^

Here in Canada I couldn't get the game but have been scouring the internet for highlights. 

I enjoy getting guys like you to give their input as it helps guys with far less knowledge of the intricacies of the game like me get a gauge of how the team is progressing. 

In the limited highlights I saw, I agree that Hawthorne looked good...really good to my untrained eye. I hope he gets some more playing time this year and continues to improve.

I also read you write on touch the banner and was encouraged by your feedback of the defensive line, particularly Craig Roh. That is the position on the team that has worried me the most and I hope we can see some major improvement between now and the Alabama game in Sept.


April 16th, 2012 at 10:40 AM ^

I've only watched highlights, but from what I've seen/heard Rawls has impressed me. He's not going to get the not over Fitz, but he'll still get his reps in and should be very effective. I hope we get to assemble our MANBALL o-line before he leaves because I think he would thrive if he could consistently get to the second level and plow over some db's.


April 16th, 2012 at 12:32 PM ^

I know this is fantasy land here, but I would love to see a set with Russel at QB.  Denard and Devin at WR, and run some crazy stuff out of it.  I know it is never going to happen, but it would be a crazy wrinkle.


April 16th, 2012 at 10:44 AM ^

Random question that i noticed. Our linebackers looked really good because they were running in space with not to many o-lineman in there way. Was this a case of the d line occupying the oline. Which would be awesome, or was it the fact out oline just wasn't getting to the second level?


April 16th, 2012 at 10:49 AM ^

Our offensive line was not very good, in my opinion.  Lewan was and Schofield started slowly but picked it up.  Omameh is just so-so, and I wasn't too impressed with Burzynski and Barnum at first glance.  I'm going to watch the game again to take a better look, but yeah, I think part of the reason the defense made plays up the middle was because those interior guys haven't turned into a cohesive unit yet.

I think guys are afraid of what William Campbell can do so they're leary of getting to the second level, but he didn't necessarily do it consistently.


April 16th, 2012 at 10:50 AM ^

Entering his third year, I was expecting and hoping that he would show a new proficiency in the passing game. But it was good to hear Borges say afterwards that he's had a very good spring, so I suppose it was just an off day


April 16th, 2012 at 10:52 AM ^

I was surprised that the TV commentators didn't seem to grasp that all of the offense was in blue and all of the defense was in white.  They kept reporting the score as if the White Team might actually catch up once they got the ball.

I was also surprised to not see as much pointing out of Hoke.  I think it was because he had a whistle, and maybe he was trying to disguise his body language until the first game of the season.


April 16th, 2012 at 10:59 AM ^

Hawthorne looked really good, he did a really nice job of reading plays, both getting through holes in the LOS to meet the RB in the backfield and jumping that route for the INT.

Rawls is a tough SOB, he ran through some solid form tackles, not just arm tackles. I think he'll play a big part in short yardage situations.

Freshman all looked pretty good. Nothing spectacular, but considering they've only had 15 practices, none of them really looked out of place or had big blown assignments as far as I could tell. How many practices do they have in the fall before the first game? This kinda gives me hope that some of the incoming non-EE freshmen will be able to contribute right away (WR and TE mostly, Kaylis and Pipkins would be nice but linemen jumping right in is a tall order).


April 16th, 2012 at 11:22 AM ^

There was really nobody at the game who was in danger of committing, at least not unless some sophomore was going to get an offer.  None of the big-time 2013 recruits was close to coming to a decision. 

Space Coyote

April 16th, 2012 at 11:20 AM ^

People seem really high on Hawthorne, and I guess I'm just not as high as others are.  Don't get me wrong, he filled holes well and seemed to react a bit better.  He seems like a pretty good athlete, but all he did in the Spring game was do what he should have been doing at this stage in his career.  The pick was nice, but it was more a terrible pass than anything.  He just got to the area he was supposed to get to and had an easy pick.  The run fill was good, but to me that was clearly an offensive line problem as they never even came close to getting off the double team.  It was a very clear read, and the offensive line did nothing to disrupt him.  Hawthorne, in my mind, is still going to struggle against non-spread teams where he has to fight through more traffic.  Can be a decent backup, but I don't think he is starter quality over the other options.

A lot of people are talking up Black, but I still think he has a long ways to go.  It's one thing to get penetration, it's another to know what to do with it (that's what she said).  Black does a good job of getting by his man, but he still gets his shoulders turned too often, seems to take himself too deep at times and therefore out of the play (allowing the linemen to get to the linebackers easier), and doesn't seem to always find the ball well.  I think some coaching and added bulk will help him a lot, and I'm not disappointed with where he is right now, but I think people need to simmer a bit on him. 

To me, the player that was the biggest surprise was Fitz.  I like Fitz, thought he would improve some.  But I think he improved a lot.  To me, he has emerged from someone that was solid a year ago, where he seemed to have a pretty good sense of things, but often times made awkward lateral cuts in which he feet stopped and therefore he gained fewer extra yards, to this year, where he seems to know when to make cuts, when to run with more conviction and put a foot in the ground and churn for more yards rather than cut, and has improved vision.


April 16th, 2012 at 11:25 AM ^

I don't think Hawthorne is a superstar, but I do think he could start and we wouldn't miss a whole lot.  And yes, he's doing what he should be doing...but he's also doing things that other guys aren't.  If I remember correctly, he had two tackles for loss and the pick.  He's taking advantage of other people's mistakes, and that's what you have to do.  Lots of guys wouldn't have been able to make that pick (even though it was a bad throw) and lots of guys probably wouldn't have been able to slice through the OL so quickly to get into the backfield.  I like Desmond Morgan, but quickness isn't his strong suit.

Space Coyote

April 16th, 2012 at 11:37 AM ^

I think Hawthorne brings much more athleticism, I also think he took advantage of the opportunities and did well with it.  To me it just wasn't a big surprise.  He did pretty good, made some nice plays, but nothing that really awed me.  As I also said, I think he is much better suited against spread teams where he can use his athleticism and slice into the backfield more often.  I think he was decent at that last year.  Where he struggled is when there were a lot of moving pieces in front of him.  He isn't very physical and doesn't use his hands extremely well to take on blocks (though we didn't see this much in the spring game), and I think he will still struggle against more "traditional" based offenses.


April 16th, 2012 at 11:25 AM ^

Wile FG would have been good from 53 yards and it was impressive to see. Cant remember the last time that I have seen a Michigan kicker hit one from that distance.

It was for sure a surprise to see Burzynski start the game.

The LB's and Secondary looked pretty good to me.

Finally, DG was a surprise to me in a bad way, and not just the INT. He is still a run first in passing downs when first option is covered, and hold on to the ball more times than not in the option run game. To me he looked like he still isnt reading what is available, but more just making his mind up of what he is going to do. I know its a process, but this is his second year in this offense as well. To me he has more talent the Bellomy for sure, but Bellomy looked to be much more comfortable with what he was being asked to do.


April 16th, 2012 at 11:30 AM ^

For being a true freshman, Bellomy did pretty well.  But let's keep in mind that all he really did was check down to underneath receivers.  He didn't throw the ball downfield at all, and every one of his passes was probably thrown fewer than 5 yards downfield.  He has 3 or 4 years to improve, and I'm not down on him at all.  But I also don't want to blow his performance out of proportion.  If you showed me that video and said it was from 2008, I'd probably say "There's Nick Sheridan for you."


April 16th, 2012 at 11:37 AM ^

I agree that he wasnt really challenged with the calls that Borges had for him, and he has and showed some limited arm strength. However, he did move the ball, had no TO's( I cant remeber if he dropped a snap or not) and seem to have a better command. Sometimes it seems to me that with DG he is trying to create the game winning  play on each snap instead of simply dumping the ball into the flat if that is whats available to him. Hard to take too much away from Spring Games but DG didnt look too good. I guess in the end I was just hoping for more, but there is still time for him.


April 16th, 2012 at 11:31 AM ^

Oh, one more . . . To me Joey Kerridge looked like he has a chance to be a pretty good fullback. He looked good on his one catch, had a couple nice blocks, and was open on the Hawthorne INT the throw was just late. He seems to have the prototypical size and skill set that will translate into alot of playing time in the future. Plus if he is good enough to play that means Sionne has more time to add needed size.

Space Coyote

April 16th, 2012 at 11:31 AM ^

I agree that it seems like the position coaches are doing a really good job so far.  Mallory (DBs coach) has done wonders, as has Mark Smith.  The biggest testiment to all of them is how well it seems they can recruit and relate to the players.

Two things though: I'm a little worried about Coach Heck.  I think he does a great job recruiting, but WRs still seem to be having trouble getting seperation.  Now, the athletes Michigan has there aren't the greatest ever, but I have seen worse athletes or worse WR groups get much more seperation, and it's even a little more worrisome with how good Michigan's run game is.  I know the WRs had a ways to go to learning more complex routes, but I'm just not sure their route running has improved enough at this point.  I still think it's way too early to write him off (he hasn't even coached anyone he's recruited yet), but it's something to look at going forward.  Note: he was a RB coach at SDSU, has a bit of experience as a WR coach at lower levels, along with some experience as a QB coach (he was a college QB as well).  Maybe WR coach isn't the best position fit for him, I don't know.  It also doesn't help Heck's case that former Michigan WR coach Erik Campbell was one of the best at his job under Carr.

I would also still like to see a designated QB coach that isn't the OC, but that's just me.  I like when the QBs have someone on the field to go to, but I think it is much better for OCs to be up in the box.  Those are my only concerns (still think it's too early to completely tell at this stage one way or the other).


April 16th, 2012 at 11:40 AM ^

As far as the wide receivers go, I feel like his grade is "TBD."  None of the receivers he's had so far have been great.  Roundtree has a chance to be pretty good and so do the incoming freshmen, but all the other guys are limited (Dileo is short and not very fast, Gallon is short, Jackson is slow, Robinson doesn't look like he has the speed to get separation, etc.).  He's got a bunch of slow receivers to work with, even the little guys, and there's not much competition because virtually everyone has to see the field to keep guys fresh. 


April 16th, 2012 at 12:10 PM ^

but I also feel that there appeared to be no really deep routes run in the game.  I don't think much can be made from the performance of the secondary and/or wide receivers due to the vanillla play calling.  That said, based on the very little we have to go on from the tight videos and plain-jane play calling, I think your (Magnus) assessments are accurate.


April 16th, 2012 at 11:37 AM ^

Beyond Denard only playing one series, I was most surprised by Robinson, Black and Ash. 

I wasn't expecting much from Robinson, but he looked good in all the plays I saw.  It's nice to have depth at safety that isn't a freshman.

I didn't expect much from Black playing at DT given his size, but he didn't look small on the field and seemed to make a number of plays.

I was glad to see Richard Ash get some penetration.  He may not be ready for a lot of playing time quite yet.  However, after a summer of work plus fall camp I think he'll be able to make some contribution in 2012 and could be ready to start in 2013.  Not counting freshman, I suspect he'll be the first back-up at NT and 3-tech in the fall.

Mr Miggle

April 16th, 2012 at 11:55 AM ^

He played quite a bit. I was surprised to see him on the field at all after the reports that he wasn't at the spring practices. Also, that there were no deep balls even attempted. The safeties were not really tested in coverage.