Five Things to Watch During Spring Practice

Five Things to Watch During Spring Practice


March 22, 2018

Going into the beginning of spring practice, there are lots of questions about the 2018 team. Some are obvious. Some, maybe not so much. Here are the top five things I’ll be looking for throughout the spring.

1. What will the offense look like?
Michigan’s offense was, to be kind, largely ineffective in 2017. Offensive line coach and run game coordinator Tim Drevno was nudged out the door, and he was replaced by a combination of former Ohio State/Minnesota offensive line coach Ed Warinner and former Florida head coach/Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain. Furthermore, offensive tackle/tight ends coach Greg Frey left for Florida State and was replaced by Central Michigan’s Sherrone Moore. Moore won’t change the look of the offense. Warinner might switch things up a little bit, depending on what types of bodies he wants on the offensive line. McElwain is the key here. He’s not known as an innovator, but will Michigan be in shotgun? Pistol? Will the use of the fullback be dialed back a bit? Will he pack it in with multiple tight end sets, or will he spread it out more?

Hit the jump for four more questions about the spring.

2. Who will be under center?
The quarterback job is totally up in the air right now. Shea Patterson was brought in from Ole Miss, and he’s the expected starter (if he’s eligible). But wait, Brandon Peters has more starts at quarterback than any other returning Michigan player. But wait, some insiders have said that Dylan McCaffrey is preferred by the coaching staff over Peters, but he just wasn’t physically ready in 2017. So far the NCAA has failed to rule on Patterson’s eligibility, so how much will Michigan rely on him in the spring? If he takes most of the snaps with the first team and then he’s ruled ineligible, an opportunity for Peters/McCaffrey to develop chemistry with the other starters might have been missed. If the coaches let Peters/McCaffrey get all the first team reps due to the uncertainty surrounding Patterson, then what if Patterson is ruled eligible and misses his chance to mesh with the starters?

3. How will the offensive line shake out?
Michigan lost starters at left tackle (Mason Cole) and center (Patrick Kugler). Odds are good that sophomore Cesar Ruiz will start at center, but Michigan whiffed on some grad transfer opportunities to shore up the tackle position, most notably Rice’s Calvin Anderson, who chose Texas. That means Michigan has to fill the left tackle hole from within. Ben Bredeson, James Hudson III, and Andrew Stueber are all contestants, though it’s desired for Bredeson to stay inside at guard. Meanwhile, the right tackles (Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Jon Runyan Jr., Nolan Ulizio) return but they played poorly last year, and Stephen Spanellis might be looked at as an option there after spending the 2017 season practicing mostly at guard and center.

4. Who takes over for Mike McCray II?
Michigan only lost two defensive starters to graduation, and one was weakside linebacker McCray. The main backup last year was Devin Gil, but Michigan brought in three linebackers in the 2017 class (four if you count FB/LB Ben Mason). We saw Joshua Ross play a backup role and some special teams, but Drew Singleton and Jordan Anthony also loom. Singleton in particular has earned positive reviews now that he’s further removed from his ACL tear in 2016.

5. What kind of rejiggering will Michigan do on the defensive line?
The other departed senior on defense is potential first round draft pick Maurice Hurst, Jr. Michigan has two very capable players at nose tackle in Bryan Mone and Aubrey Solomon, but there are guys lined up for playing time who haven’t played a ton. Carlo Kemp is reportedly moving from 5-tech defensive end to 3-tech defensive tackle, a move some expected Rashan Gary to make at some point during his career. Michael Dwumfour has earned rave reviews as a Maurice Hurst, Jr., Jr., but injuries have limited him. Meanwhile, the coaching staff was very high on Donovan Jeter going into 2017, but a leg injury forced him to redshirt. The coaching staff tried him out at multiple spots on the defensive line before he supposedly settled in at 3-tech DT, but things can change from season to season.

6 comments

  1. Comments: 12
    Joined: 8/20/2015
    GoBlue
    Mar 22, 2018 at 9:35 AM

    Interesting stuff. Most of this covers the areas that I think most people are curious about.
    Here is my take on your points, and please feel free to let me know what you think.

    1. What will the offense look like? Do we really expect it to look much different? I would venture a guess that it will be what Harbaugh has already been running, with less zone running than last year. The RPO, pistol or shotgun stuff is blah. We ran a ton of formations and I think that is what Harbaugh was recently referring to, specifically when he said that things will be simpler. Not that we are going to dumb down things, but rather that the team may focus on running a smaller number of plays well, than a larger number of plays like crap. I like McElwain’s track record as an OC (NOT FROM FLORIDA!) and think he will bring some focus into what Harbaugh wants to run. Should be fun

    2. Who will be under center? Great question, I agree with your thoughts exactly on the QB situation.

    3. How will the O-line shake out? There is so much in the air right now, I agree with you. I am curious though, what do people think about Bredeson moving to right tackle and moving Filanga or some mauler to guard? I know this has been talked about, but I mostly hear rhetoric about not wanting to move Bredeson out….I don’t know why. He’s been solid, not great at guard, and if he can bring that “Solid” aspect to tackle with someone else moving people inside…I’d be good. Thoughts?

    4. Who takes over for McCray? Good question, I think we have enough bodies to fill in for him. I think we’ll get more athletic in that position with him gone, but frankly we’re going to miss his ability to read and understand plays as a senior. With the way Brown plays his WLB, I’d guess whomever it is will be a bigger body. I say that because as much as Singleton or Anthony might get some hype, I thought they were more in line with Bush or a viper position? My guess, Gil or Ross.

    5. Defensive line moves: This is the one I am the least worried about. Hurst was awesome and he will be missed. However we have the right people under the right men, this line is going to be awesome again. I’d guess Gary, Winovich, Solomon (NT) and Dwumfour (3T)

    Love the site, keep up the great work.

  2. Comments: 994
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Mar 22, 2018 at 9:44 AM

    OT is scary. As bad as our OL has been in the last decade, I feel like we always had a pretty good idea how it’d shake out. Not this year, not at Tackle

    QB is weird. Pick an identity. I hope Peters can improve, but we saw so little from him–all potential. Is that his ceiling, or was it the Offense? Mac needs calories, bad. I’ll believe Shea is eligible when I see it…
    Feeling good about the D though!

  3. JC
    Comments: 211
    Joined: 8/17/2015
    JC
    Mar 22, 2018 at 4:19 PM

    #3 is highest on my list, #1 is a distant second. Not worried about anything else. I just hope we can field a competent OL.

  4. 17years
    Comments: 57
    Joined: 2/6/2018
    17years
    Mar 22, 2018 at 10:58 PM

    I read some “inside” information that said because the coaching staff is so high on Dylan McCaffrey Brandon Peters is going to transfer out.

    Do I believe it? Well, it could be. Peters wants to be in the pros. It’s been his dream since he was a kid. If it’s already an unspoken to the public done deal that McCaffrey is the future after Patterson leaves, then sure, he would transfer out. I just hope he doesn’t go to Wisconsin. It seems he would fit in there well after Hornibrook is gone.

    • Comments: 864
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      WindyCityBlue
      Mar 23, 2018 at 7:06 AM

      ??

      Nobody transfers out because the coaches are “high” on another player at their position. McCaffrey hasn’t played a down against real competition yet, and is nowhere near being locked into the starting job. There is no “done deal” there.

      • 17years
        Comments: 57
        Joined: 2/6/2018
        17years
        Mar 23, 2018 at 9:31 AM

        Maybe it’s not true. Just saying what I read, and that it’s feasible. Most of the time the inside things I read pan out.

        The last inside information I got this same way said McElwain was already hired. That was 6 days before it was told to the public. Another time it was that it was an absolute certainty Shea Patterson was transferring to Michigan. I read it weeks before it happened. The man was 100% certain.

        I don’t think it can be said McCaffrey is no where near a starting job.

        I wouldn’t blame Brandon Peters for leaving if he finds himself 3rd string, and watching the coaches excited about McCaffrey in practices. It’s a very tough and close competition for QB now in Michigan. McNamara (if he does sign) will make it continue to be tough. Time is precious for those QB. They have to start somewhere to make. Matt Cassel was a very rare exception.

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