Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Ty Isaac. It looks a little bit like De’Veon Smith might be the inside run guy, and Isaac might be the outside run guy. That is, at least until Drake Johnson returns from injury. Smith slammed it up inside 17 times for 47 yards, which is 2.76 yards/carry. Isaac wasn’t a great deal better on average (4 carries, 12 yards, 3.0 yards/carry) but he is quicker. Plus he can catch the ball, which Smith proved he could not do consistently when he embarrassingly dropped a wide open pass that hit him right in the hands. I don’t think Smith should be benched outright, but a 17-to-4 carry advantage is a little too lopsided.
Let’s see less of this guy on offense . . . A.J. Williams. He doesn’t have to play less, necessarily, but I would prefer it if he never or rarely gets targeted. He had 1 catch for 2 yards on Thursday night, and he was targeted at least twice more. There needs to be an element of surprise at times, and maybe he’s the best blocker of the non-Jake Butt tight ends. But he is also arguably the least athletic of the tight ends, and his targets should either go to wideouts or players like Ian Bunting, Khalid Hill, etc. I know the moderators at Rivals were touting Williams as a potential breakout player this year, but I’ll believe it when I see it – and I don’t expect to see it.
Let’s see more of this guy on defense . . . James Ross III. I have yet to be convinced that Michigan’s nickel safety and/or the other linebackers are better than Ross. Ross had 2 tackles and .5 tackles for loss in limited time on Thursday. I don’t think he’s a superstar, but I do think he’s pretty good at playing in space, and he’s perhaps the best hitter of the linebacker crew.
Let’s see less of this guy on defense . . . Channing Stribling. Stribling lost contain a couple times early in the game, and I don’t think his athleticism is anything special. He looks bigger and more physical this year, but I have yet to see him show the coverage ability to make a play on the ball. Through two seasons as a backup and one game as a starter, he has notched zero interceptions and zero pass breakups. I won’t declare him a total mess because he was not beaten over the top, but a guy who has been playing cornerback for two-plus seasons should have at least put a fingertip on a ball at some point in his career. Michigan has a transfer from Stanford in Wayne Lyons who has 3 interceptions and 6 pass breakups during his first three-plus years of playing time.
Play of the game . . . Jake Rudock to Jake Butt for a touchdown. Late in the third quarter, quarterback Jake Rudock was desperately looking for a score. He was so desperate that he launched a football into the midst of three red jerseys. Fortunately for him, the 6’6″, 248 lb. tight end Jake Butt rose up to reel in the pass, even though two Utes had chances to make a play on the ball with a third nearby. It turned into a 19-yard touchdown and one of Butt’s career highlights.
Player of the game . . . Jake Butt. Jim Harbaugh likes to use his tight ends, and Jake Rudock likes to use them as a security blanket, too. It’s fortunate that Michigan has a good one in Butt, who is a big target with soft hands who runs routes well. He ended the game with 8 catches for 93 yards (11.6 yards/catch) and the aforementioned touchdown. There were other players who played well for stretches (Jabrill Peppers, Chris Wormley, Amara Darboh), but nobody was as consistent as Butt from start to finish.