There’s a lot that we could get into with the new offense, so I think it might be best to just go position-by-position on that side of the ball.
The two-quarterback thing needs to be nixed. Jim Harbaugh and Josh Gattis are probably trying to make Dylan McCaffrey happy by putting him on the field with Shea Patterson, but it’s a bad move. The offense isn’t in sync when both are on the field. Whoever’s behind center is late getting the play off, and then they threw an inside screen to McCaffrey, who was immediately swarmed under by big guys. Why put your lanky backup QB in a situation where he catches a ball three yards away from 250+ pound defensive linemen and linebackers?
Hit the jump for more.
QB1 looked good . . . to begin. I thought Patterson looked pretty crisp to start the game, except for that stupid fumble when he was carrying the ball too loosely on the first play of the game. Patterson was 17/29 for 203 yards and 3 touchdowns, but he was 2/9 down the stretch. There were a couple glitches early but nothing too concerning. However, once he took a shot in the ribs and started fiddling with his rib pads, I knew something was wrong. He looked rattled, and Jim Harbaugh said he was “evaluated for something” at halftime. His throws were a little off, he put the ball on the ground, and while he’s normally pretty unflappable, you could see he was visibly frustrated.
Running back roulette. The surprise start of the game was Zach Charbonnet (8 carries for 90 yards) running out there with the first team. It’s rare for a freshman to start the opener at any position, but especially for a coaching staff that purportedly values pass protection so much. Charbonnet actually did a good job in pass protection, so it makes sense. But the “starter” going into the season (Tru Wilson) only carried the ball 2 times for 8 yards. Wilson was seen jogging into the tunnel at one point, and I think he may have been dealing with an injury prior to the game. Meanwhile, Christian Turner (11 carries, 49 yards) showed a nice burst getting around the edge a couple times, but the coaching staff never got him in space; instead, they often ran him into the boundary so he didn’t have a ton of room to work. The other backs were unremarkable, with Hassan Haskins (2 carries, 1 yard) and Ben VanSumeren (4 carries, 7 yards, 1 touchdown) coming in for mop-up duty. Charbonnet was considered the most explosive back on the roster, and fittingly, he had a long run of 41 yards.
Wide receiver roulette. Tarik Black (4 catches, 80 yards, 1 TD) was the big winner of the day, whether through sheer talent or a little bit of injury luck. Donovan Peoples-Jones was in a walking boot, so Michigan was without its #1 (or #2) receiver. That seemed to mean more targets for Black, who did pretty well with them, including a 36-yard touchdown catch that was reminiscent of his first ever TD catch against Florida two years ago. Meanwhile, Nico Collins (3 catches, 49 yards, 1 TD) played fairly well, and Ronnie Bell (2 catches, 18 yards) seemed like a favorite target, even though a couple passes were just out of his reach. Absent from the reception list was Mike Sainristil.
Why two tight ends? The #speedinspace thing was all the rage this off-season, and then Michigan trotted out two tight ends to start the game. Nick Eubanks played more than he should have. Maybe that, too, was a product of Donovan Peoples-Jones’s injury, but I just don’t think Eubanks is in the best eleven to put speed in space. If #speedinspace is your motto, then put speed on the field. Eubanks made 2 catches for 5 yards. The primary tight end, Sean McKeon (2 catches, 37 yards, 1 TD), had a nice 28-yard catch-and-run for a TD and looks leaner this year, but his hands have been a question and he let another one slip through his fingers.
Get healthy, offensive line. Word on the street was that left tackle Jon Runyan, Jr. could have played if needed, but he stood on the sideline while redshirt freshman Ryan Hayes got his first game action. Redshirt freshman Jalen Mayfield got his first career start at right tackle. While both of them held up fairly well overall, Middle Tennessee was not the stiffest test. They sent a lot of blitzers, but the defensive linemen and linebackers going after the QB were smaller and slower than what we’ll see in Big Ten play. Mayfield was beaten on a stunt around the edge for a sack, and the myriad blitzes that Shafer threw at Michigan were tough to handle. That meant some big play opportunities over the top in man coverage, but Patterson and his receivers weren’t quite in sync on a few of them.
Graham Ryan Jordan Glasgow! Glasgow came through with probably his best game as a Wolverine, notching 6 tackles and 2 sacks. He earned the start over Devin Gil, and I’ve never seen Gil play like that.
Goodbye, Khaleke Hudson? Hudson had an okay game (8 tackles), but I think he might disappear for a week after I saw him take a swing at an MTSU lineman. There was no penalty during the game, but those reviews sometimes come from the league office.
Thanks for coming back, Ambry Thomas! Thomas missed the start of fall camp due to colitis, and he just returned to practice a week ago. Some insiders suggested he might be a few weeks away from playing, but he started game one and had his best career performance with 2 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 interception, and 1 fumble recovery.
The defensive line is still a huge question mark. Carlo Kemp and Ben Mason were the starters on the interior; they started their careers as a linebacker and a fullback/linebacker, respectively. Donovan Jeter missed the game with an injury, and Michael Dwumfour eventually played with an injury . . . and subsequently hurt himself again. I was initially annoyed with Dwumfour when he let MTSU quarterback Asher O’Hara out of his grasp for the opening touchdown of the game, but that’s when Dwumfour got re-injured, so I guess I shrug my shoulders. It’s a position where Michigan can’t afford to lose people, and they lost two by the second quarter of game one. Yikes.
Get Lavert Hill off punt returns. Yikes. With Donovan Peoples-Jones out, Michigan trotted out Lavert Hill to return punts. That was dumb to start. You’re thin at cornerback, so you put your one All-America-caliber corner back there to have people run full-speed at him while he’s looking up toward the sky? And you don’t tell him to just fair catch the ball? He looked stiff and uncomfortable the first two times just catching the ball, and both should have been fair catches. He finally waved his hand the third time . . . and muffed it. After that he was replaced by Ronnie Bell. Let’s please never see Hill back there to return punts again. (Also, he dropped an easy pick-six, which may have been attributable to his confidence wavering due to the muffed punt.)
Michigan debuts! All these players didn’t necessarily burn redshirts because they can play in up to four games this year while still maintaining redshirt status, but this is the group of players who saw game action at Michigan for the first time:
- WR Erick All
- OL Karsen Barnhart
- DE Mike Danna (fifth year transfer from CMU)
- CB Gemon Green
- S Daxton Hill
- DT Chris Hinton, Jr.
- WR/KR Giles Jackson
- WR Cornelius Johnson
- OL Griffin Korican
- TE Mustapha Muhammad
- WR Mike Sainristil
- TE Luke Schoonmaker
- LB Anthony Solomon
- DT Jess Speight
- LB Charles Thomas
- CB D.J. Turner II
- DE Luiji Vilain (third year)
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