Video: 2015 Michigan spring game

Tag: 2015 spring game

5Apr 2015
Uncategorized 16 comments

2015 Spring Game: Blue 7, Maize 0

After watching the spring game on Saturday, here are some thoughts on each position group:

QUARTERBACKS: With Wilton Speight nursing a slight injury, this was a game between Alex Malzone and Shane Morris. Malzone had the superior completion percentage, but Morris looked like the better quarterback. Malzone still has an ugly, baseball-pitcher delivery that needs to be shortened up. He looks okay on quick throws (bubble screens, etc.), but any time he has to drop back and set up, the ball drops down to waist level and takes forever to come out. That is not something that gets fixed quickly. He made some good decisions but just doesn’t have the ability to get the ball there quick enough (from a mechanical standpoint and an arm strength standpoint). Morris, meanwhile, also made some good decisions, showed nice touch on some throws we haven’t seen him make before, and generally looked calmer in the pocket. His Blue team picked on “cornerback” Dennis Norfleet a bunch, which I thought was a bit unfair. Norfleet has been practicing mostly at wide receiver, but he was playing corner due to a lack of depth with the split squads. Morris and the Blue team sent Amara Darboh and Jaron Dukes deep on him several times, both of whom are significantly taller and veteran receivers. If the season were to start today, I think Morris is definitely the guy . . . but Jake Rudock is on his way from Iowa.

Hit the jump for some feedback on the rest of the position groups.

RUNNING BACKS: De’Veon Smith had a very nice run on the first play of the scrimmage, although it was a play set up to succeed by personnel. The Maize team had Mason Cole, Blake Bars, Patrick Kugler, Kyle Kalis, and A.J. Williams at the point of attack against a front seven that included Royce Jenkins-Stone at DE, Allen Gant at SAM, and walk-on Dan Liesman at weakside linebacker. Regardless, Smith broke a tackle and got into the secondary for a 34-yard gain before getting pushed out of bounds. Otherwise, the running game was pretty paltry. Derrick Green and Ty Isaac were both limited by injuries, and fullback-ish Wyatt Shallman got a bunch of carries. Even Ross Taylor-Douglas – who has been practicing at corner – got to carry the ball. (This somehow stumped announcer Marcus Ray, who started complimenting #18 Antonio Whitfield on the run, even though Ray is a defensive backs analyst for Michigan and Taylor-Douglas wears #29.) Anyway, Smith looked the best on this day, but I still think Isaac is the best option on the team. Unfortunately, he has been nursing various injuries this spring, including a hand injury and a hamstring problem, which he tweaked on Saturday.

FULLBACKS: Michigan doesn’t have a whole lot right now outside of senior Joe Kerridge. With Sione Houma injured, the other guys don’t look effective. Shallman whiffed badly on at least one blown pass protection.

WIDE RECEIVERS: The Maize team was trying hard to get the ball to Jehu Chesson early on in the scrimmage, and the new coaching staff seems to like his abilities. They also called for him to throw two passes on trick plays, one of which he completed. Amara Darboh was the leading receiver for the Blue team, but again, he was largely picking on Norfleet. Freshman Brian Cole looked the part of a freshman at times, and it does not appear that he was called on to block much in high school; on one screen play, Cole was knocked on his butt by Blake Countess, who then made the tackle. Redshirt freshman Maurice Ways also looks the part, but he has an issue with drops, which is consistent with his high school scouting reports. Aside from redshirt freshman Drake Harris, the receiving corps was mostly intact, so Michigan’s lack of noteworthy talents at receiver is a bit concerning. This is a team that is going to have to find success on the ground and take advantage of some play action through the air. As of right now, I don’t think any of these receivers will surpass 800 yards, but there will be a few in the 400-700 yard range.

TIGHT END: Jake Butt was hampered by the lack of a running threat, so he got hit on some short throws pretty quickly. We know what we have in him. I thought A.J. Williams did a better job as a blocker than we have seen him do in the past, which is a good thing. Ian Bunting and Chase Winovich are both thin right now, and Winovich had an ugly drop on a drag route. Bunting can be a receiving threat this year, though, and should be a pretty good weapon once he packs on a few more pounds. I think he can help out this year as a move tight end, but not with his hand in the dirt.

OFFENSIVE LINE: I have heard good things about Logan Tuley-Tillman this spring, but he seemed to be making lots of mental mistakes. Juwann Bushell-Beatty looked very slow off the line. This is a group that I think has a pretty solid core, but ability drops off rather quickly. Mason Cole, Ben Braden, Graham Glasgow, Kyle Kalis, and Erik Magnuson look like the best five. Kugler looked better than I expected, based on scouting reports, and I thought David Dawson and Blake Bars looked just okay.

DEFENSIVE LINE: We generally know what we have here, but the one guy I really liked was Lawrence Marshall. He’s still a little bit on the thin side, but he has the length and the explosiveness to be an asset on the edge for a team that is lacking pass rushers. Willie Henry did not seem to be giving 100%, which is one of his struggles. But when game time comes around, he’s bound to be a good one. Jenkins-Stone is pretty undersized and seems to be playing defensive end out of necessity. His presence on the line reminds me of the Rich Rodriguez years, when a guy like Adam Patterson was playing nose tackle. Things aren’t that  bad, but Michigan needs defensive ends. Luckily, they’ll get a bit of help in the fall from freshmen Shelton Johnson and Reuben Jones, plus Taco Charlton should be healthy by the fall.

LINEBACKER: Michigan had several injuries at the linebacker positions, including James Ross and Mike McCray. That allowed players like Gant and Liesman to get more playing time. Generally, Michigan has four seniors and should be in good shape with five starter-quality guys. Desmond Morgan made an interception, and both he and Joe Bolden were giving the offensive line fits. Noah Furbush has also missed the spring with an injury. Mario Ojemudia is a defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid, depending on the front, but he missed the last couple weeks of spring practice with a leg injury.

CORNERBACK: Despite an overall lack of depth, I was very encouraged by the play of the cornerbacks. Blake Countess and Jourdan Lewis both look good, and Countess looks more physical at the line of scrimmage, which was an issue last year. Brandon Watson also made an outstanding interception on a Malzone-to-Ways pass in which Watson raked the ball out and possessed it before rolling out of bounds. Watson might not be the fastest guy around, but he is known for physicality and has long arms that can help him on plays exactly like what he showed.

SAFETY: The safeties weren’t tested much in the game, but they generally fared well. Jabrill Peppers batted a pass, Delano Hill made an interception, and Jeremy Clark looked physical as a defender in tight spaces. Michigan’s combination of quarterbacks and receivers was bound to put more pressure on short areas and the corners than the safeties.

It was fun to watch some actual competition going on in the spring game. It was difficult to gauge units, because both teams were split up between starters and backups. Also, Michigan had numerous injuries, but some of those guys probably would have been available if it were a game and not a spring scrimmage. Even so, it was a physical game and even the quarterbacks had to scramble for safety since they were live. Previously, Brady Hoke had the referees blow a quick whistle when a defender got within arm’s reach of the QB.

Michigan will not be an elite team this year, and I don’t think many people expect they will be. There aren’t enough playmakers, especially as pass rushers and wide receivers. I think the offensive line will be above average, and Michigan has a few quality running backs. Whoever the quarterback will be has to make sure to minimize mistakes. The defense is pretty good from top to bottom, and I would guess they’ll be a top-25 unit this coming season. If the Wolverines can stay healthy on the offensive line and at running back, a game manager at quarterback (probably Jake Rudock) can get this team to 8 or 9 wins.

3Apr 2015
Uncategorized 13 comments

Five Things to Watch for the 2015 Spring Game

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1. How does the offensive line look?
Michigan was thought to be in pretty decent shape going into 2015 because all five starters were returning, plus a very experienced, versatile Erik Magnuson (who has played tackle, guard, and tight end). Then some funky things happened this spring. Fifth year senior Jack Miller quit football for personal reasons, and classmate Graham Glasgow violated his probation, which earned him some sort of undisclosed suspension. It’s unclear whether Glasgow will play in the spring game, not to mention a possible game suspension for the upcoming season. Now a team with two fifth-year seniors on the line could potentially have zero seniors. The team’s success hinges on the offensive line. Assuming Glasgow is available on Saturday and avoids further trouble, he should be Michigan’s starting center going forward. From left to right, the line should be Mason Cole, Magnuson, Glasgow, Kyle Kalis, and Ben Braden. However, the coaches have been experimenting a bit with Braden at left guard, Cole snapping, and Magnuson at right tackle, so other combinations could appear. Regardless, Michigan is thin on the edge but has several good defensive tackle types (Bryan Mone, Ryan Glasgow, Willie Henry, Chris Wormley) who should put stress on those linemen. This will be a stiff test to see if the offense can run the ball and/or protect the quarterback.

Hit the jump for discussion of quarterbacks, Jabrill Peppers, and more.

2. Who takes command of the offense?
Random message board chatter aside, I have heard very little positive about redshirt freshman Wilton Speight at the quarterback position. The current battle at quarterback seems to be between freshman Alex Malzone and junior Shane Morris. Malzone was the first quarterback taken in the coaches’ spring game draft, and Morris was taken a little while later. (As I mentioned in my spring game mock draft, a drop for the #2 guy isn’t extremely alarming since it would be somewhat pointless for one team to take two high draft picks at the same position.) Regardless, Malzone has earned a lot of praise for his competitiveness, which is a trait you know Jim Harbaugh loves. Neither quarterback has lit the world on fire this spring, so we shouldn’t expect either one to come out with guns blazing. This will likely be a battle of making the fewest mistakes, because this will have to be a ball control offense. Fumbles and interceptions will not be tolerated.

3. Why is there so much hype about Jabrill Peppers?
We’ve all seen the high school highlights, and maybe we’ve seen clips of him doing backflips in practice. So yes, he’s one of the best high school athletes we’ve seen come to Michigan. In fact, he’s the highest rated Michigan recruit in the Rivals/Scout era. Unfortunately, he tweaked a couple things in his leg early on in 2014 and ended up taking a medical redshirt. Last year Michigan had some players who had displayed their potential and could reasonably claim the mantle of “best player on the team” going into the season, with guys like Jake Ryan, Devin Funchess, and Devin Gardner. This year there are no such front-runners. The team is largely made up of fairly highly touted recruits who haven’t been outstanding in college. Cornerback Blake Countess was All-Big Ten in 2013. That’s about where the accolades stop. In steps Peppers once again, who is playing free safety and moves down into the slot for nickel packages. Reports abound that Peppers is intense and loud on the field, calling out defenses, getting people aligned properly, etc. It’s very possible that the redshirt freshman cornerback-turned-safety with three games of experience might be Michigan’s most outstanding player. I don’t expect that the quarterbacks will test the secondary much, but if they do, watch for Peppers to make some plays on the ball.

4. Who is playing where?
One of the really interesting things about every spring practice – especially when there’s a coaching change – is what position switches have been made. This spring numerous guys have either switched sides or are playing on both sides of the ball. Some of them are small changes, but changes nonetheless. Here’s a list of those guys:

  • Mason Cole, OT to C/OT
  • Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB to DE/LB
  • Erik Magnuson, TE to OG
  • Dennis Norfleet, WR to WR/CB
  • Brady Pallante, DT to FB
  • Jabrill Peppers, CB to S
  • Henry Poggi, DE to TE/DE
  • Ross Taylor-Douglas, RB to CB
  • Chase Winovich, LB to FB/LB
5. Who emerges as an offensive playmaker?
The Michigan offense lacks an identity. Last year it had a couple players with dynamic capabilities (Gardner, Funchess, Green), but nobody put a great season together, for various reasons. Now Funchess and Gardner are gone, the offensive line is in flux, late-season breakout Drake Johnson is still injured, speedy wide receiver Drake Harris hurt his hamstring again, and the running backs have been banged up. Realistically, the guy who might be the best with the ball in his hands is Peppers. We have seen big plays in the spring game in recent years (Michael Cox, Denard Robinson, Roy Roundtree), but will we see any this year? So far the defense has been ahead of the offense this spring, which is always expected. After all, defense is mostly about reading and reacting, while offense is about choreographed timing, technique, etc. The best bets for offensive playmaking are running back Derrick Green, running back Ty Isaac, slot receiver Dennis Norfleet, and wide receiver Brian Cole.
29Mar 2015
Uncategorized 9 comments

2015 Spring Game Draft

Jourdan Lewis

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Just for fun, I thought I would draft up teams for the spring game. I had the idea of finding someone else to draft against . . . and then time got away from me. Michigan’s coaching staff is drafting teams this coming Saturday, a week ahead of the April 4th contest between squads. So here, a day ahead of time, are the players I and me would draft.

Here are the rules:

  • Each team gets 25 players.
  • Each side of the ball must be filled out completely for both squads.
  • Players with known debilitating injuries or who are not on campus yet are not available for the draft.
  • Specialists are not available, since special teams will not be played in the spring game.
Rd. 1 for Magnus: Jourdan Lewis, CB. The hype on Jabrill Peppers is all just hypothetical for now, but Lewis had a breakout spring game last year and was Michigan’s best defensive back during the 2014 season.

Rd. 1 for Thunder: Willie Henry, DT. With the recent poor play of the offensive line, I want an interior defensive lineman to wreak havoc.

Hit the jump for the other 24 rounds of the draft.

Rd. 2 for Magnus: Graham Glasgow, OG. He’s still practicing with the team, despite his recent probation snafu, so I’ll take Michigan’s best lineman while I can.
Rd. 2 for Thunder: Kyle Kalis, OG. There aren’t many options on the line, so I’d better get a decent one now.

Rd. 3 for Magnus: Mason Cole, OT. Stock up on linemen while I can.

Rd. 3 for Thunder: Jabrill Peppers, S. There are a bunch of safeties, so that decreases his value. Plus chances are slim that Team Magnus will air it out, but he’s being hyped as perhaps the best player on the team.
Rd. 4 for Magnus: Desmond Morgan, LB. Give me a general in the middle of the defense.
Rd. 4 for Thunder: Chris Wormley, DE. Wormley has earned rave reviews this spring, if only he can keep his motor running.
Rd. 5 for Magnus: Ty Isaac, RB. I think Isaac is the best running back on the team, and we certainly can’t throw the ball very well.
Rd. 5 for Thunder: Patrick Kugler, C. Not many guys can even snap the ball.

Rd. 6 for Magnus: Erik Magnuson, OG. I’m building a pretty good line here. He is my son, after all.

Rd. 6 for Thunder: Shane Morris, QB. I might want to take a running back here, but that douche Magnus already grabbed one, so I can probably afford to wait.

Rd. 7 for Magnus: Jake Butt, TE. How did he slip this far? I know we can get him open and make some first downs.

Rd. 7 for Thunder: Ben Braden, OT. Unconfirmed rumors of an injury, so I’ll pick him until something is confirmed.

Rd. 8 for Magnus: Blake Countess, CB. I just locked down the best two corners on the team. I dare you to throw it, bitch.

Rd. 8 for Thunder: Logan Tuley-Tillman, OT. Crap. I don’t think we’ll be able to throw the ball. We’d better try to run it.

Rd. 9 for Magnus: Bryan Mone, DT. I can’t believe I haven’t picked a defensive lineman yet.

Rd. 9 for Thunder: Amara Darboh, WR. With Butt off the board, Darboh is the most proven pass catcher on the team.

Rd. 10 for Magnus: Mario Ojemudia, DE. Here comes the run on defensive linemen.

Rd. 10 for Thunder: Joe Bolden, LB. It’s time to get a captain for my defense.

Rd. 11 for Magnus: James Ross III, LB. Build up the front seven.

Rd. 11 for Thunder: Ryan Glasgow, DT. I need some guys to stop the better offensive line.

Rd. 12 for Magnus: Jarrod Wilson, S. I should probably grab a decent safety before Thunder hogs ’em all.

Rd. 12 for Thunder: Ben Gedeon, LB. Stop the run.

Rd. 13 for Magnus: Jehu Chesson, WR. I’m going to run it down their throats, and I know Chesson can block.

Rd. 13 for Thunder: Derrick Green, RB. I’d better grab a running back before Magnus starts loading up on them.

Rd. 14 for Magnus: Joe Kerridge, FB. This will help out my running game.

Rd. 14 for Thunder: Alex Malzone, QB. Yoink!

Rd. 15 for Magnus: Wilton Speight, QB. Okay, I guess Thunder is playing dirty.

Rd. 15 for Thunder: Brian Cole, WR. I got my possession guy in Darboh, so now I need a big-play guy.

Rd. 16 for Magnus: Taco Charlton, DE. I got the two starting defensive ends now, too!

Rd. 16 for Thunder: Channing Stribling, CB. Okay, I probably shouldn’t have waited this long for a corner.

Rd. 17 for Magnus: Dennis Norfleet, WR. I need a guy who can make some big plays on the outside.

Rd. 17 for Thunder: Lawrence Marshall, DE. I’m in need of a pass rush.

Rd. 18 for Magnus: Maurice Hurst Jr., DT. Stop the run, and maybe his quickness can get to Morris.

Rd. 18 for Thunder: David Dawson, OG. I need to fill out my offensive line since it’s pretty weak.

Rd. 19 for Magnus: Blake Bars, OG. Options are running thin.

Rd. 19 for Thunder: Ian Bunting, TE. Since I’m going to need to throw the ball, I could use a tight end who can stretch the field.

Rd. 20 for Magnus: Juwann Bushell-Beatty, OT. He’s basically the last offensive tackle.

Rd. 20 for Thunder: Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB. This is my last linebacker so we can at least try to stop the run.

Rd. 21 for Magnus: Mike McCray II, LB. I, too, have filled my linebacker corps.

Rd. 21 for Thunder: Dymonte Thomas, S. This is a pretty solid pick for being so late in the draft, and at a position of need.

Rd. 22 for Magnus: Delano Hill, S. Hill had some injury problems last year, but he has reportedly had a good spring.

Rd. 22 for Thunder: Brandon Watson, CB. I could feasibly pick Ross Taylor-Dougas here, but Watson’s bigger and probably better against the run.

Rd. 23 for Magnus: De’Veon Smith, RB. This is a luxury pick at this point, and he can help me stuff it down Thunder’s throat.

Rd. 23 for Thunder: Chase Winovich, FB. Well, I need to pass the ball, so the speedy former high school quarterback probably helps me out more than 276 lb. Brady Pallante.

Rd. 24 for Magnus: Ondre Pipkins, DT. I can bring in the beef if Hurst isn’t getting the job done.

Rd. 24 for Thunder: Da’Mario Jones, WR. This gives me another speedy option to throw the ball to.

Rd. 25 for Magnus: Jeremy Clark, S. If Thunder is going to throw the ball a lot, I might need a fifth defensive back sometimes.

Rd. 25 for Thunder: Ross Taylor-Douglas, CB. Hello, Mr. Irrelevant.

 Wilton Speight
RB: Ty Isaac, De’Veon Smith
FB: Joe Kerridge
WR: Jehu Chesson
WR: Dennis Norfleet
TE: Jake Butt
LT: Mason Cole
LG: Erik Magnuson
C: Graham Glasgow
RG: Blake Bars
RT: Juwann Bushell-Beatty
DE: Mario Ojemudia
DT: Bryan Mone
DT: Maurice Hurst, Jr., Ondre Pipkins
DE: Taco Charlton
LB: Desmond Morgan
LB: James Ross III
LB: Mike McCray II
CB: Jourdan Lewis
CB: Blake Countess
S: Jarrod Wilson
S: Delano Hill, Jeremy Clark

QB: Shane Morris, Alex Malzone
RB: Derrick Green
FB: Chase Winovich
WR: Amara Darboh, Da’Mario Jones
WR: Brian Cole
TE: Ian Bunting
LT: Logan Tuley-Tillman
LG: David Dawson
C: Patrick Kugler
RG: Kyle Kalis
RT: Ben Braden
DE: Chris Wormley
DT: Willie Henry
DT: Ryan Glasgow
OLB: Lawrence Marshall
LB: Joe Bolden
LB: Ben Gedeon
LB: Royce Jenkins-Stone
CB: Channing Stribling, Terry Richardson
CB: Brandon Watson
S: Jabrill Peppers
S: Dymonte Thomas

Notable undrafted free agents:
QB Brian Cleary
RB Wyatt Shallman
FB Brady Pallante
WR Freddy Canteen
WR Jaron Dukes
WR Maurice Ways
TE A.J. Williams
OG Greg Froelich
OG Dan Samuelson
DE Matt Godin
DE Henry Poggi
DE Tom Strobel
LB Allen Gant
LB Jared Wangler
CB Reon Dawson