Red zone woes. Michigan has scored touchdowns on just 1 of 10 opportunities inside the 20-yard line. They don’t have difference-makers on offense at quarterback or wide receiver, and running back Ty Isaac needs a crease to be at his best. For the past couple years, Michigan could bring in Jabrill Peppers as a Wildcat quarterback, running back, or slot guy, but they don’t have that guy right now. The offensive line needs to improve to help make that difference, and Wilton Speight needs to be better, too. Luckily, kicker Quinn Nordin has been pretty darn good in his first three games, and he’s actually tied for #1 nationally with 11 made field goals (on 13 attempts). That is good for Nordin, but it’s disappointing that Michigan has attempted 13 field goals, which is the most in the country.
The elephant in the room . . . could probably throw a football just as well as Wilton Speight. I kid, I kid, but those expecting a significantly better game against the lowly Cincinnati Bearcats should have been disappointed. Speight was 17/29 for 221 yards and 2 touchdowns, but there were a lot of bad misses, usually in the form of overthrows. Perhaps worse than the overthrows were the two fumbles, one when Speight mishandled a handoff to Ty Isaac and another when there was a botched jet sweep handoff to Kekoa Crawford. The handoff to Isaac was 100% on Speight, and the timing/mechanics of the Crawford handoff seemed to be off, though Crawford might deserve some blame there, too. Either way, the quarterback play wasn’t stellar. He did hit a long TD to Crawford and then hit Grant Perry over the middle for a 33-yard touchdown catch-and-run, but his footwork and mechanics on short and intermediate throws are all out of whack. How much can that be improved when the guy is an old redshirt junior in his third year in the system?
The elephant in the room. Wilton Speight doesn’t look any better than he did in the spring. He was 11/25 for 181 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. He threw more touchdowns to Florida (2) than he did to his own guys. I don’t believe this is a Jim Harbaugh thing. Harbaugh has shown elsewhere that he’s capable of coaching the quarterback position. Speight is the lone guy in Harbaugh’s history who has regressed. I hope Florida was just really good defensively – despite having 10 players suspended and a starting safety out with a torn Achilles – but I have no faith in that being the case. Speight consistently overthrows balls, a frustrating thing when guys are wide open, and a dangerous thing when guys are in traffic. I’ve seen people insisting that the first pick-six was on Kekoa Crawford, whose hands it bounced off of, but that throw was high and a tough catch. The second pick-six in the general vicinity of Grant Perry was wildly overthrown.
The hippo in the room. John O’Korn looked about the same as he did last year, too. I don’t understand yanking Speight in order to have O’Korn hand off the ball three times before punting, either. You don’t need a backup QB to hand off the ball. Speight is better with the ball handling, anyway, so that first O’Korn series was a waste, and the draw play on third down was awkward.
The armadillo in the room. I sure hope Brandon Peters gets some playing time this year.
Name: Donovan Peoples-Jones Height: 6’2″ Weight: 193 lbs. High school: Detroit (MI) Cass Tech Position: Wide receiver Class: Freshman Jersey number: #9 Last year:Peoples-Jones was a senior in high school. TTB Rating:92
Peoples-Jones was perhaps the jewel of the 2017 class, as he was the most highly sought recruit in the State of Michigan, and one of the best in the country. He had the highest SPARQ score as an underclassman in the summer of 2016, and everyone raves about his speed and athleticism. Toss in the fact that he’s academics-oriented and wants to go to medical school someday, and Michigan seems to have pulled in a pretty solid all-around guy. He ended up playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl before enrolling early at Michigan.
Now Donovan Peoples-Jones is going to wear the #9 at Michigan. This is noteworthy, because he yoinked it from junior Grant Perry. (Perry may have yoinked it from himself with his alleged felonious behavior in East Lansing, but we’ll kind of ignore that for the purposes of this post.) Peoples-Jones impressed in the spring, though he doesn’t seem to have an otherworldly grasp on the game to the point where he’s going to be an immediate star in college. That’s a difficult task for almost anyone, but especially in a pro-style offense with lots of adjustments and virtually no emphasis on tempo. Kekoa Crawford will likely start at one receiver spot, so it seems to be a race between Peoples-Jones and fellow freshman Tarik Black for the open wideout position. My take based on practice rumblings and what I saw in the spring game is that Black might have the edge for now, but I think Peoples-Jones has the higher ceiling in the long run. Either way, both should play a considerable amount, but neither is destined for an all-conference year here in 2017.