That was unexpected. Nebraska isn’t very good this season, but I still thought Michigan would struggle. I predicted a 24-17 game in which the Wolverines would play down to the level of the Cornhuskers. I was wrong. Michigan’s defense played superb football, and the offensive line was overwhelmed the whole day. It also helped that Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez was not up to full speed after getting hurt against Colorado; he wore a knee brace and only seemed to be operating at 75% or so. Michigan’s offense was also clicking at a higher level than they have been, and that’s a credit to them. Nebraska’s defense shouldn’t have been as out of sync as the offense, but a Michigan offense that had been struggling in many ways really took it to them.
Name: Brandon Peters Height: 6’5″ Weight: 220 lbs. High school: Avon (IN) Avon Position: Quarterback Class: Redshirt sophomore Jersey number: #18 Last year: I ranked Peters #21 and said he would be a backup quarterback (LINK). He started four games and completed 57/108 passes (52.8%) for 672 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. TTB Rating: 90
My oh my, how crazy 2017 seems in retrospect. Looking back at the 2017 countdown, it’s odd to think how the quarterback situation seemed to be in such good hands. I never loved Wilton Speight, but he had a solid year of starting experience under his belt, backup John O’Korn had played well in spot duty, and Peters was the young up-and-comer who looked pretty good in the spring game.
Then all hell broke loose.
Speight got hurt, and O’Korn backslid after an amazing performance against Purdue. Peters managed the games well when he entered against Rutgers and then started against Minnesota and Maryland. In fact, he completed 66.7% of his passes in those first two games, and in his first five games of the year, he threw 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Michigan relied on its defense and run game to win all but the Wisconsin game, in which Peters got knocked out (literally). He missed Ohio State week, and he looked shell-shocked against South Carolina in the bowl game, throwing 2 interceptions.
Now Speight is gone to UCLA, O’Korn is probably campaigning to be the top QB taken in the 2019 NFL Draft, and in their place is . . . Shea Patterson, a transfer from Ole Miss.
This spring there were rumors that Dylan McCaffrey had passed Brandon Peters in the pecking order at quarterback, but reports said Peters overtook McCaffrey again by the end of spring. That seems to me to be the right position for those guys at the moment, but Peters obviously doesn’t have a stranglehold on that #2 spot. Everyone expects Patterson to start, and Michigan fans hope he stays healthy. Peters should at least be able to be a game manager again, and hopefully he can be better if he needs to be. I have concerns that he will revert to looking shaken like he did against South Carolina, but I think some people forget that Peters was only a redshirt freshman in 2017. In ye olden days, he either wouldn’t have been on the field, or people would have expected trouble because he was so young. Now we want kids to grow up immediately when they hit a college campus. Hopefully Peters continues to grow and mature on the trajectory we used to expect from quarterbacks in the 1990s.
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.
Take a deep breath.Take a deep breath. It’s hard after that game not to be very frustrated with the state of Michigan football, but I’ll say the same thing I said toward the end of the regular season: This was not going to be a great season from the beginning. Michigan lost almost everyone on defense from 2016, lost a bunch of production on offense, and lost three offensive line starters. They also didn’t get back their starting LT who got injured from last year, got their best WR hurt, and lost their starting four games into the year. If you’re an objective observer, you can probably admit that those are some huge, huge hurdles to overcome.
Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Brandon Peters. If Peters were the quarterback in this game, I think Michigan probably wins it. Unfortunately, Peters got concussed against Wisconsin and was still in concussion protocol when the Ohio State game came around. It was the right call for the health of Peters, and I’m glad the medical staff didn’t clear him. But it was unfortunate for Michigan. Hopefully Peters is ready to go for the bowl game.
Let’s see less of this guy on offense . . . John O’Korn. O’Korn didn’t have an absolutely terrible game (17/32, 195 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), but he missed a handful of open receivers and threw a really, really, really, really, really bad interception when Michigan was down just 24-20 with a little less than three minutes left. O’Korn took the blame for the loss, and that’s entirely fair. Good for him. But he doesn’t give Michigan a very good chance to win.
Let’s see more of this guy on defense . . . Tyree Kinnel. For most of the season, I’ve said I like the defensive rotations. I just want Kinnel to be healthy after it looks like he suffered a concussion when hitting Ohio State receiver Austin Mack.
Let’s see less of this guy on defense . . . Jordan Glasgow. As much as I respect the Glasgow family – and even Jordan himself – Michigan has better safeties. Both Kinnel and J’Marick Woods got injured, which forced Glasgow into action late in the game. Hopefully, he can just concentrate on special teams in the bowl game.
Play of the game . . . Donovan Peoples-Jones’s 42-yard punt return. Peoples-Jones made several people miss, accelerated up the sideline, lowered his shoulder, broke a tackle, spun back for extra yards, etc. It was a brilliant return, and it indicated that it would be great if Michigan could find ways to get him the ball more.
MVP of the game . . . Rashan Gary. Naysayers might point to Gary’s missed tackle, which came right after he left the game with a shoulder injury (that seems to have been nagging him for several weeks). It didn’t look great, but bad shoulders can do that to a guy. Even so, he finished the game with 10 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks. He was Michigan’s best defensive player on Saturday, and nobody on offense had a standout game.