Michigan 63, Hawaii 3

Michigan 63, Hawaii 3

September 3, 2016
Chris Evans 318x

Chris Evans was the star of the show (image via MLive)

I’m still in the same place I was with Wilton Speight. I have confidence that Jim Harbaugh can pick the right quarterback, so I believe Speight is the best guy for this team. However, I’m still not in love with Speight as a guy who can take this team to the next level. He started off the game with a bootleg on which he tried to dump the ball over the head of the flat defender, which ended with an interception. Okay, fine. No real harm done, but it was an inauspicious beginning to the Wilton Speight Era. By the end of the game, Speight was 10/13 for 145 yards, 3 touchdowns, and the 1 interception. Hawaii didn’t make it difficult, and Speight mostly made the right throws to the right guys. He did make another mistake when he hung a deep ball short that was intended for Darboh, but a spectacular interception turned into an incompletion when the safety couldn’t hold on. On the plus side, Speight threw a nice corner route to Grant Perry for the first TD, and he bought some time outside of the pocket to redirect Maurice Ways for a 20-yard catch. Otherwise, it was a pretty ho-hum day for a Michigan QB against an overmatched opponent.

Hit the jump for more takeaways from Saturday’s blowout of Hawaii.

Michigan took a blowtorch to the pile of redshirts. If you want to play early, I guess Michigan is the place to be. It would be a shorter list to highlight the freshmen who didn’t play, but here’s who did: TE Devin Asiasi, OG Ben Bredeson, LB Devin Bush, WR Kekoa Crawford, RB Kingston Davis, DT Michael Dwumfour, RB Chris Evans, DE Rashan Gary, CB Lavert Hill, S Khaleke Hudson, CB David Long, WR Eddie McDoom, TE Sean McKeon, S Josh Metellus, DE Carl Myers, OG/DT Michael Onwenu, LB Joshua Uche. In fact, here are the 2016 freshmen who didn’t see the field:

  • TE Nick Eubanks
  • LB Devin Gil
  • WR Nate Johnson
  • DE Ron Johnson
  • DE Carlo Kemp
  • LB Elysee Mbem-Bosse
  • K Quinn Nordin
  • QB Brandon Peters
  • OG Stephen Spanellis
  • RB Kareem Walker

In case you’re counting, that’s 17 true freshmen (a school record) who played and just 10 who didn’t. How is that possible, since Michigan has just 26 players remaining from the 2016 class and I just mentioned 27 players? That’s because true freshman¬†walk-on Carl Myers got in late in the game. I don’t think I’ve seen a true freshman walk-on play before, but there you have it, folks.

Baffling burned redshirts. Most of the burned redshirts were expected, but a few surprised me:

  • Kingston Davis is buried on the depth chart, but he played anyway. It makes sense to let guys play if they want to play, because it means you get more turnover and can fit more talented guys in your class. It also makes some sense for the player, because if he decides to transfer later, he doesn’t have to spend a second year watching from the sideline. But in a traditional sense, a guy who’s not one of the top few players at his position will have more value as a fifth year senior than as a true freshman. It’s an interesting dynamic to watch during the Harbaugh years.
  • Michael Dwumfour seemed like a lock to redshirt when he came out of high school, because he was very undersized, had some conditioning issues, and needed some technical work. Michigan has a stacked defensive line, so I thought they could afford to redshirt Dwumfour. However, he’s now listed at 300 lbs., and Bryan Mone left the game with another injury, unfortunately. Maybe Dwumfour was a “break glass in case of emergency” situation and Mone’s situation is dire.
  • Sean McKeon is another guy at a position with a lot of depth. He made 2 catches for 10 yards. He looked fine, but it’s similar to the Kingston Davis situation.

Chris Evans for the Heisman. Freshman running back Chris Evans was the #3 back on the depth chart, but he might have made a case to be #1. He ran 8 times for 112 yards (14 yards/carry) and 2 touchdowns, including a 43-yarder. And that was before the game really got blown wide open. I wasn’t sure whether he’d be a running back, slot receiver, corner, or safety, but he can obviously play at this level. He looked like Carlos Brown to me, except a Carlos Brown who can actually break some tackles. Hooray for some speed at the running back position. I thought there were a couple times where he was a little antsy and could have broken big runs for touchdowns if he weren’t so hurried, but his first carry and his 43-yarder both showed good patience.

Weekly running back rabble rabble. I’m still not impressed with De’Veon Smith. He left with a rib injury after rushing 6 times for 27 yards (4.5 yards/carry). He has had good games against weak opponents before, but Michigan’s offensive line looked solid this game and Smith suddenly didn’t. It’s not supposed to be a long-term injury, so we’ll see him again and we know he’s a decent back. But it wasn’t the ankle. We’re done blaming the ankle for him not being explosive, right? He’s not explosive. He’s just a guy. Anyway, Ty Isaac (9 carries, 52 yards) was running tougher than he did last year, and Karan Higdon (6 carries, 35 yards) looked solid, as well. Nobody else looked as explosive as Evans, except maybe wide receiver Eddie McDoooooooooooooom.

The linebacker situation. I was impressed with the starting crew of linebackers. I’m pretty confident in saying that senior Ben Gedeon, redshirt junior Mike McCray II, and redshirt sophomore Jabrill Peppers are the best trio of starting linebackers we have seen in a long time. Granted, the opponent wasn’t anything special, but those three combined for 20 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, and 4 sacks. McCray got picked on a little bit in pass coverage, but any team who goes five wide and matches him up one-on-one in coverage is going to have an advantage. Don Brown will have to scheme away from that, put in a dime package, or perhaps insert a backup who’s a little more athletic.

Solve your problems with aggression. Don Brown sure does like to blitz. I like/liked Greg Mattison as a defensive coordinator, but there were times when Mattison sat back and played it safe when he thought things were in control. That doesn’t appear to be the case with Brown. The only time Hawaii had success offensively was when they went five-wide, which removed the safeties and linebackers from the box, making it a little bit easier on the offensive line.

Defensive scores with an “s” on the end. Michigan scored twice on defense for the first time since Brandon Herron had an INT return and a fumble return for touchdowns against Western Michigan in the 2011 season opener. In this game it was safety Delano Hill and cornerback Channing Stribling returning picks 27 and 51 yards, respectively, for scores. They should both DM Ikaika Woolsey and Dru Brown, thanking them for the easy pick-sixes. Neither play was particularly difficult, but Hill and Stribling were where they were supposed to be and did what they should have done.

The offensive line looked solid. They didn’t convince me that they’ve taken a huge step forward in Tim Drevno’s second year, but like Wilton Speight, they didn’t do anything to hurt my opinion of them. Starting left guard Ben Braden was out with a minor injury, and Michigan started presumed backup center Pat Kugler. Maybe Kugler got the start because David Dawson was unavailable, but it shows that the coaching staff perhaps has some more faith in Kugler than the fan base does. I thought he got off to a slightly rough start, but things picked up after he was replaced for a short while by Bredeson. Bredeson also played well with a couple hiccups, and Kugler eventually replaced Mason Cole at center.

Injuries are a bit concerning. Nobody appears to be out for the season yet, but there are lots of starters or key backups who aren’t available right now. From most concerning to least:

  • Bryan Mone
  • Taco Charlton
  • Jourdan Lewis
  • Ben Braden
  • De’Veon Smith
  • Noah Furbush
  • Drake Johnson

What does this all mean for Central Florida next week? Michigan had some issues with the zone read, and I think Central Florida will have more success than Hawaii. Taco Charlton left with an ankle injury, and Chase Winovich isn’t the most athletic or disciplined backup at weakside end. I’m guessing Scott Frost has his eye on taking advantage of that spot next week. It should still be a comfortable win for the Wolverines, but it will be more challenging, especially if Charlton has to sit.


  1. Comments: 522
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    Sep 03, 2016 at 6:39 PM

    Very nice write-up … thanks!

    I listened to the game rather than watch, so I missed “seeing” how they played.

    Q1 — Chris Evans … how did he handle the ball? Did he have it well-protected?

    Q2 — Rashan Gary … on the radio there was some chatter about him not using his hands properly. Did he look like a freshman, though a talented one?

    Q3 — Wilton Speight … how did he look in the pocket? Poised, or a little jumpy?

    • Comments: 3844
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 03, 2016 at 7:34 PM

      I had no issues with how Evans was carrying the ball. He dived for the pylon on one of his touchdowns, and he held onto it securely even throughout that play.

      Gary didn’t do anything special. He did get called for illegal hands to the face at one point. It was a borderline call until his hand slipped up inside the facemask, and he ended up knocking loose the helmet of Hawaii’s left tackle. He looked solid, but this wasn’t really the type of team where I expect him to make a big impact against as a freshman.

      Speight looked good in the pocket. He didn’t really appear to be nervous, although he was late on a couple throws at the beginning of the game. He wasn’t jumpy, stood in there on the long throw to Darboh, etc. Pocket presence was solid.

      • Comments: 183
        Joined: 9/3/2015
        suduri xusai
        Sep 03, 2016 at 10:57 PM

        If we think of how Rudock was in the first game vs Utah… I have high hopes for Speight by the OSU game.

        • Comments: 118
          Joined: 10/22/2015
          Sep 04, 2016 at 12:11 AM

          Agreed! I thought Rudock was a pile of dung after the first couple of games, but turned into a magnificent swan at the end. I’m all for a Issac/Evans RB combo and let Peppers concentrate on defense.

          • Comments: 3844
            Joined: 7/13/2015
            Sep 04, 2016 at 8:45 AM

            I don’t know why people thought Rudock was a pile of dung. He was a solid QB at Iowa. We should have known that he had it in him to at least be decent, if not very good considering Harbaugh, better talent around him, etc.

            • Comments: 71
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Sep 04, 2016 at 11:26 AM

              I think everyone over reacted to the interceptions in the first game and let it cloud their judgement of Rudock when 2 of them weren’t his fault. He certainly wasn’t great but was fine. The calls for his benching were pretty ridiculous considering the other options on the roster.

              And was the deep pass to Darboh that was only picked off against Hawaii under thrown or was it late like a lot of Speight’s throws seemed to be?

        • Comments: 1356
          Joined: 8/13/2015
          Sep 04, 2016 at 1:29 AM

          You can’t compare this game in any way to last year.s Utah game. Utah was a fresh team with big goals, playing at home with talent across the board that was superior to Hawaii. Last years opener was a completely different thing.

          • Comments: 3844
            Joined: 7/13/2015
            Sep 04, 2016 at 8:47 AM

            Agreed. Utah was a team that led the country in sacks in 2014, and there was talk that they might be able to run the table and make it into the playoff. They also had “the best running back in the country,” according to some. Utah had a lot of hype and a considerable amount of talent. Rudock was facing a much better team. That Utah team would have trounced Hawaii.

  2. Comments: 1863
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    Sep 03, 2016 at 7:17 PM

    Thanks Thunder, great recap. I have my own questions:
    -JOK only got one drive; do you think that implies a big separation between him & Speight?
    -I thought Bredeson looked better than Kugler; what’s your take?
    -there was some buzz that Dawson ran with the 1s in camp, but didn’t play today; is he beat up too?

    • Comments: 142
      Joined: 8/12/2015
      Sep 03, 2016 at 7:20 PM

      Speight looked solid however so did O’Korn and the lefty Morris.
      My opinion, not much separates them.

    • Comments: 3844
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 03, 2016 at 7:39 PM

      I don’t think the difference in snaps means there’s a huge separation. I think Harbaugh has settled on Speight, and that’s the way it is. Whether Speight’s a 95 and O’Korn’s a 94, or whether Speight’s a 95 and O’Korn’s an 80, the starter is the starter. I don’t think Harbaugh wants a QB controversy, and giving O’Korn a lot more snaps might start one.

      I thought Kugler looked better in this game, but not until after he got removed and put back in the game. Bredeson has a higher ceiling. He’s bigger and stronger. He just needs more reps.

      Dawson was running with the ones because of an injury. I believe that Dawson is now injured himself, so that might explain the start for Kugler. It appears that Dawson is the #6 lineman, Kugler is #7, and Bredeson is #8.

      • Comments: 1364
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Sep 04, 2016 at 10:54 AM

        Harbaugh certainly doesn’t WANT a QB controversy, but I would not be shocked if he ended up with some manner of one this year. Hard to project too much from this one game, but I can certainly see Speight struggling against better defenses, to the point where Harbaugh may feel he has to give O’Korn a try. We’ll know more in games 4 and 5 about how tightly Speight can hold on to the #1 role.

  3. Comments: 23
    Joined: 1/29/2016
    Sep 03, 2016 at 7:34 PM

    Obviously, Hawaii is a bad team, but I think they may have a decent offensive line. They returned 4 starters from last year along with 2 upperclassmen backups, and it was the strength of their team last year. It was still a little disappointing that Michigan’s blitzes didn’t hit home more.

  4. Comments: 1364
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Sep 03, 2016 at 8:17 PM

    Agree about Evans vs Smith. The Smith lovers who have blamed a mediocre Oline for his limited production no longer have that excuse. Today they both played behind the same Oline, in prime time, against the same opponent, and Evans was indisputably better, despite it being his first game. I would not be surprised to see Evans solidly as the #1 guy (and a genuine #1) by mid-season.

    • Comments: 117
      Joined: 9/28/2015
      Sep 04, 2016 at 9:12 AM

      Smith and Isaac lack vision and quick cut ability. Anxious to get Drake Johnson back.

  5. Comments: 24
    Joined: 12/28/2015
    Sep 03, 2016 at 9:20 PM

    Hate to say it and hopefully not the case but the MRI makes it sound like the Mone thing might be serious. It would be pretty bad if we lost him for the second year in a row — especially considering he made the start along with Glasgow. Hopefully it comes up negative for whatever it was they are checking for…

    • Comments: 183
      Joined: 9/3/2015
      suduri xusai
      Sep 03, 2016 at 11:00 PM

      I know. God damn. It was the injuries at the D-line that screwed us at the OSU game. I hope this kid can get back quick.

    • Comments: 3844
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 04, 2016 at 8:44 AM

      On the plus side, he supposedly walked off on his own power and wasn’t limping. So if it is an injury, perhaps it’s a hand injury or something that he can work through or return from in a few weeks.

  6. Comments: 1356
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Sep 04, 2016 at 8:01 AM

    I don’t want to get too giddy here since this was a jet lagged, over matched Hawaii team whose only advantage was a game under their belt.

    But ….. that was pure physical dominance.

    I thought that with the exception of his first three, maybe four balls, Speight looked like a guy with a future as a QB. The first throw looked to me like way nerves as he delivered it with an almost Gardneresque motion. The next couple, even though completed looked a little like he was throwing darts and aiming it. Thirty yards later he’s stepping into his throw and hitting guys in the numbers. 80 yards later, he drops a perfect little ball into the corner of the end zone to one of his smallest targets. Nothing like handing off for yards for making a QB feel good about life in general and himself in particular.

    Evan’s TD shot up the middle felt like no other run I’ve ever seen at Michigan. I thought the timing at the line of scrimmage and the burst on that play was extraordinary. It felt like Stanford demolishing Virginia Tech at the Orange Bowl.

    I really like that feeling.

    • Comments: 3844
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 04, 2016 at 8:51 AM

      I agree that it was a good feeling, but it felt more to me like Carlos Brown going 90 yards against Eastern Michigan. (Obviously, it wasn’t 90 yards, but nobody from Hawaii would have caught Evans even if he had started the play at his own 10.) Unfortunately, Hawaii’s no Virginia Tech.

  7. Comments: 1356
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Sep 04, 2016 at 8:11 AM

    With regards to all the burnt redshirts, I’m thinking this staff will be on the phone all week telling kids, We just played 15 Freshmen on a team with Seniors and Redshirt Seniors all over the place. If you come here and are ready to play, you’re going into the game. This is an honest to goodness, real, no waiting meritocracy.”

    If I’m a four/five star kid thinking about Alabama, SC, whoever and Michigan, I’m liking that.

  8. Comments: 29
    Sep 04, 2016 at 11:29 AM

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but can’t freshmen play in this game and still redshirt this season?

    • Comments: 3844
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 04, 2016 at 11:35 AM

      Players can still redshirt, but they will need documented injuries to make that happen. In other words, if Devin Asiasi hurts his ____________ next week and has to miss the rest of the year, he can still be a redshirt freshman in 2017. That’s what happened with Devin Gardner in 2010 when he “hurt his back.” But you have to be careful. You can’t pretend Asiasi broke his femur unless you have a doctor sign off on that diagnosis.

      • Comments: 262
        Joined: 8/12/2015
        Painter Smurf
        Sep 04, 2016 at 5:29 PM

        Gardeners situation was different because he played in the 4th game his frosh year, which means no redshirt. He had to apply for a medical. These guys will not need medical a if they only play in the first couple games.

        • Comments: 27
          Joined: 9/2/2015
          Sep 04, 2016 at 11:36 PM

          Pretty sure you are wrong on that. If you play one snap then you lose your redshirt unless you qualify for a medical. You can’t get a medical if you play after the 4th game.

          • Comments: 3844
            Joined: 7/13/2015
            Sep 04, 2016 at 11:39 PM

            You are correct, BigSouthFork.

            • Comments: 262
              Joined: 8/12/2015
              Painter Smurf
              Sep 05, 2016 at 12:14 AM

              OK, Gardner was a bad example. Just read that his issue was that they did not document and apply for the waiver until late in his career, and that was the hold-up. It was BS of course in Devin’s case, just like Ed Davis’ application this year.

    • Comments: 6285
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Sep 06, 2016 at 12:12 AM

      They can. I would be at least 2 or 3 of them do.

  9. Comments: 29
    Sep 04, 2016 at 4:30 PM

    By the way, I think the coaches too were surprised to play Dwumfour as much – he wore #50, the same number as Onwenu who also played on the DL during this game (isn’t that illegal?).

    • Comments: 3844
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 04, 2016 at 5:17 PM

      It’s only illegal if they’re on the field at the same time.

  10. Comments: 33
    Joined: 8/15/2016
    Sep 05, 2016 at 12:13 AM

    I think that the burned redshirt might be a scholarship management strategy acknowledging the current state of the game. The best players will leave after 3 or 4 seasons anyway so burning their redshirt is no big deal. With Harbaugh’s meritocracy and recruiting engine both in top gear, the only folks that we’ll be worried about are the marginal (I know, it is easy to come up with several examples that defy this logic) performers who took 3 or 4 years to get into the rotation. With elite recruiting, these marginal players will no longer see the field even in year 5 so why keep them on scholarship (cold, I know.)

    In order to get the truly elite recruits, we have to get them on the field sooner or they won’t come. These will also be the players that come in ready to play and contribute in year 2 at the latest. Look at Bredeson if you think that elite OL need to percolate for 2 years before entering the rotation in year 3. It seems to me that we are seeing more and more true freshmen OL coming in and playing, at least the Top 100.

    The Spartans can afford to redshirt and must redshirt as the recruits that they get are not ready to see the field as true freshmen. This approach will consistently yield a lower level of recruit (all other things equal) as what 18 year old stud is not certain that he is ready to play immediately? So the game will be 4th and 5th year 3*’s playing against 2nd and 3rd year 4 and 5*’s. Also, if you average 4 years per player, your recruiting classes after attrition will be consistently 25 players rather than 20. Which side would you rather be rooting for?

  11. Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Sep 06, 2016 at 10:44 AM

    Evans looked great. Special talent. If he ends up passing up Isaac and Smith I don’t think anyone would be surprised after the way he played. You can’t read too much into “but it’s” Hawaii, but the burst Evans has is evident.

    “Smith is just a guy” will go down as another “Denard isn’t a good QB”. The “just a guy” guys are Isaac and Higdon.

    Kugler was a revelation. Not that he was great, but the fact that he’s in there with much hyped Bredeson and playing serviceable minutes is huge for our depth and probably next year as well.

    Stribling disappointed me. This is how little INTs matter – he had 2 and still had a bad game (at least relative to what I would expect against Hawaii).

    Speight disappointed me. The INT was baaaad. His motion was inconsistent. Not a disaster by any stretch but against Hawaii you want more.

    The trust in Harbaugh with QBs is noticeably in contrast with the (lack of) trust in Harbaugh with RBs. Care to explain? Harbaugh’s track record with RBs is excellent as well, and that’s at a position where talent is more important than development.

  12. Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Sep 06, 2016 at 10:47 AM

    Very happy to see freshman players not getting red-shirted. Harbaugh is smart enough to realize the big picture here, even if most fans are going to grumble about it.

    The only one I wonder about is McKeon, but perhaps he is poised to leap ahead of others within the next couple years. Onwenu and Dwumfour are needed as injury potential injury replacements. Red-shirting RBs is a waste of resources and time.

    The freshman talent is legit. So is this coaching staff.

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