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The Maize team won Saturday’s spring game by a score of 31-29 with a last-second field goal by Kyle Seychel. You can find videos and highlights here (LINK).
Hit the jump for some position-by-position thoughts on what we all saw. (Note: not every player will be mentioned.)
Believe the hype: The obvious standout was redshirt freshman Brandon Peters, who has filled out and looks like a tantalizing athlete. He went 9/17 for 160 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. He also added a 12-yard touchdown scramble on which he looked pretty damn athletic. His offensive line helped by giving him more time than Wilton Speight had (see below), but Peters definitely looked the part of a future star. His arm strength is apparent, and while he doesn’t throw the prettiest ball, he was mostly accurate. He did throw a pick-six to Brandon Watson, and I think the game is still moving a tad too quickly for Peters. He needs some seasoning, but I think he’s close.
Jury’s still out: Redshirt junior Wilton Speight went 9/26 for 78 yards, 0 TDs, and 2 INTs, one of which was returned over 100 yards by Jordan Glasgow for a TD. Here’s a passing chart, thanks to umbig11:
Screen behind LOS to Evans complete 1-1
Quick out to McKeon off his hands incomplete 1-2
Intentionally threw ball out of bounds 1-3
Under thrown to McKeon complete 2-4
Intentionally threw ball out of bounds 2-5
Threw behind McKeon on slant incomplete 2-6
Speight to Black complete 3-7
Intentionally threw ball out of bounds 3-8
Under thrown to black incomplete 3-9
Intentionally grounds ball under pressure 3-10
Speight to DPJ dropped 3-11
Complete to McKeon short gain 4-12
Complete to DPJ short gain 5-13
Complete to DPJ short gain 6-14
Incomplete knocked down 6-15
Free play over thrown
Over thrown to an open DPJ 6-16
Short pass to Black complete 7-17
Speight interception into coverage 7-18
Speight to Hill short pass 8-19
Almost picked into coverage DB Hudson should have caught it 8-20
Short Curl to 29 complete 9-21
Speight incomplete should have been sack in real game 9-22
Pass to Black over thrown in end zone 9-23
Speight over thrown screen to Higdon 9-24
Incomplete to McDoom over the middle off hands 9-25
Speight under thrown to DPJ, pass interference
Speight interception to Glasgow 103 yard TD return 9-26
Speight saw pressure almost every time he dropped back, and his offensive line was – for lack of a more accurate word – bad. Regardless, his performance was pretty terrible, and he did not seem to be in sync with his receivers. Michigan may be more talented overall at the receiver position, but Speight doesn’t have the same chemistry as he did with Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson, and Jake Butt. Meanwhile, fifth year senior John O’Korn also didn’t have quality protection, but he looks like the #3 guy to me. It seems like O’Korn’s confidence has dropped, and he’s just not decisive.
Believe the hype: It’s a sign of respect when you get yanked early from a competition like this, and sophomore Chris Evans (3 carries for 10 yards, 1 catch for 6 yards) didn’t see much action. He does look a little bigger than last year (he’s reportedly up 7 lbs.), but I think we already have a good idea of what he is. Meanwhile, Karan Higdon had the most carries (12 carries, 81 yards, 2 TD), and he looks to have taken a step forward. He’s up over 200 lbs. now and looks faster, and he did a good job of reading his blocks. Fifth year senior fullback Henry Poggi was crushing people, and classmate Khalid Hill looks quicker; the broadcasters said Hill lost some weight this offseason. I’ll also throw out that sophomore walk-on Tru Wilson (3 carries, 25 yards) looks like a guy who can actually play a little bit. I liked him coming out of high school, and he was a Semper Fi All-American; he runs tough.
Jury’s still out: Fifth year senior Ty Isaac (5 carries, 47 yards, 1 TD) had the longest run of the day (28 yards), but I don’t know if he’ll be any good or not. I don’t even know if he’ll play. I saw some people pick out redshirt freshman Kareem Walker (6 carries, 7 yards) as a standout performer, but I didn’t see anything especially good or bad for him, except when he tried to reverse field and got tackled for a good-sized loss. He’s not fast enough to run laterally against good defenses, and Michigan’s D falls in that category.
Believe the hype: We didn’t get a chance to see much from the receivers, because a) the defense was good and b) the quarterbacks didn’t have a ton of time. However, these young guys have way more talent than we’ve seen at the wide receiver position for Michigan in years. Physically, this wide receiver corps’ baseline talent is the most impressive I think I’ve seen in the winged helmet, and that’s without Brad Hawkins, Nico Collins, and Oliver Martin in uniform. Freshmen Tarik Black (4 catches, 50 yards, 1 TD) and Donovan Peoples-Jones (2 catches, 7 yards) both look the part, but they have some technical things to work on when it comes to route running, tracking the ball, etc. I also haven’t been high on former walk-on receivers like Bo Dever and Jack Wangler, even when they’ve had some spring success, but I think sophomore Nate Schoenle (2 catches, 58 yards) can play. There’s only one football to go around, so it will be interesting to see how the depth chart plays out over the next few years.
Jury’s still out: Sophomore Nate Johnson (1 catch, 14 yards) has earned some spring hype, but he muffed a punt and fumbled his only reception while trying to fight for extra yardage.
Believe the hype: Presumed starter Ian Bunting wasn’t participating due to injury, so we got a good look at several of the other guys. I still think the best blocker at the position is redshirt sophomore Tyrone Wheatley, Jr. He needs to play a lot this year, but he still needs to work on his pad level, and I think he failed to identify the right guy to block a couple times. Redshirt sophomore Zach Gentry only caught 1 pass, but it was for a 55-yard touchdown where he made walk-on safety Louis Grodman look silly. That may not be a huge accomplishment in itself, but the biggest thing to take away is that Gentry is pretty agile and has some very good straight-line speed for a guy who’s 6’7″ and 240+ pounds. I know I’m getting ahead of myself, but NFL coaches should be keeping an eye on him over the next couple seasons.
Jury’s still out: Redshirt freshman Nick Eubanks (2 catches, 18 yards) looked okay, but I didn’t think he stood out as an athlete and he struggled with blocking a couple times.
Believe the hype: Ummm . . .
Jury’s still out: The whole thing was a bit of a crapshow, to be honest. On the plus side, offensive line is the one unit on the team that really needs to work together, and they didn’t get much of a chance to do that. Based on the spring game, I think fifth year senior Patrick Kugler has to be the guy at center. Physically, he looks stronger than in past seasons (shoulder injuries early in his career negatively affected him), and he also did a good job of identifying protections. Everyone wants to jump on the Cesar Ruiz hype train as an early enrollee freshman, and I like him, too. His body is ready for the college game, but when he was at center, the group consistently failed to slide protections in the right direction, and he was slow to identify blitzers. I hope freshman Chuck Filiaga is working hard on his body and technique this off-season, because he might be the best option at right tackle as a freshman. I think the left side of the line should be solid with senior Mason Cole, sophomore Ben Bredeson, and Kugler at LT, LG, and C, respectively; sophomore right guard Michael Onwenu is decent, and the right tackle situation is unclear. Another positive nugget (I guess) is that Juwann Bushell-Beatty is penciled in for the right tackle spot, but he missed the spring game, so perhaps he can shore up the right tackle spot when he’s healthy. I think this group has a chance to be not terrible, but there’s not much room for error. Redshirt freshman walk-on Andrew Vastardis acquitted himself fairly well at right guard, and while he’s probably not athletic enough to help at tackle, he could potentially contribute down the road.
OFFENSIVE SCHEME AND PERSONNEL
I have no statistics to back this up, but Michigan ran a lot empty sets, seemingly more so than in the past couple spring games. I’m guessing this is the influence of new passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton, who spent the last several years in the NFL. If Michigan’s going to struggle on the offensive line, I think it’s a great idea to spread defenses out. When you spread the defense horizontally pre-snap, you limit the defense’s options to blitz and make things a little simpler for your offensive line and quarterback. It also makes some sense from an athletic standpoint, because the Wolverines have so much speed and size at the receiver positions.
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