Thoughts on 2023 Spring Game

Thoughts on 2023 Spring Game

April 2, 2023
Benjamin Hall (image via Detroit Free Press)

Okay, it’s time to put some thoughts about the spring game on paper.

QUARTERBACK: We know what J.J. McCarthy brings to the table, and Michigan was never going to let him factor into the run game, so whatever. This comes down to thoughts on the backups. After watching Michigan have a good 1-2 punch the past two years with McCarthy and Cade McNamara, there is a big question mark at the #2 quarterback spot in 2023. I thought redshirt sophomore Davis Warren once again outplayed the competition, which comes from Alex Orji and Indiana transfer Jack Tuttle. Tuttle had a couple decent throws and showed some decent athleticism on the run, but Warren is more accurate and probably a better decision maker, despite the fact that Tuttle is a sixth-year player. Orji has decent arm strength but leaves something to be desired when it comes to his timing and accuracy; running is the best part of his game, and he’s a change-up guy. I would put him at #4 on the depth chart.

Hit the jump for more.

RUNNING BACK: The only real story here is early enrollee freshman Benjamin Hall. I’ve seen a couple different stat totals, but Hall had roughly 100 yards and 1 touchdown on about 12 carries. I don’t think he’s going to have a breakout season, considering Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards stand in the way but didn’t play in the spring game; neither did sophomore C.J. Stokes or fellow freshman Cole Cabana. The 5’11”, 235 lb. Hall showed some Hassan Haskins-like patience and toughness, and he also lacks that extra gear. I loved Hall’s patience and his ability to read blocks. I posted Hall’s senior highlights a few weeks ago, and after reviewing them, he was going to be one of my big “risers” in my finalized TTB Ratings. But now the cat’s out of the bag. He’ll probably never be a blazer, but Michigan should be able to pound the ball with him.

WIDE RECEIVER: Redshirt sophomore Peyton O’Leary snagged 6 catches for 126 yards and 1 touchdown, plus the game-winning 2-point conversion. I had good things to say about him back when he initially walked on to Michigan (LINK), and now that seems to be paying off. Craig Ross has been hyping him up this spring on the MGoBlog Roundtable on WTKA, and the other guys have been downplaying O’Leary’s contributions. It may be time to revisit that. I’ve been saying for a couple years that Michigan had a stacked receiver room, so it was going to be tough to break into the rotation. Well, now that Ronnie Bell is off to the NFL and Andrel Anthony is at Oklahoma, there may be some room for O’Leary to get some snaps. There’s still too much talent at the top (Cornelius Johnson, Roman Wilson) to expect a breakout season, though. I also liked what I saw from early enrollee freshman Fredrick Moore, who has reportedly had a good spring.

TIGHT END: The tight ends didn’t have a huge day, but I liked what I saw from Indiana transfer A.J. Barner. Matt Hibner had a really nice catch-and-run that showed off his athleticism, and some reports had indicated he was the best overall athlete on the team when considering size, strength, speed, etc. Unfortunately, the turf monster reached up and grabbed him, spoiling what would have been a long touchdown where he was outracing a few defensive backs. Redshirt freshman Marlin Klein looks noticeably bigger, but . . . he’s not ready to block in the Big Ten yet.

OFFENSIVE LINE: In some ways, it’s much easier to identify things I didn’t like on the offensive line. The spring game is such a hodge podge of players who don’t necessarily work together all the time, and frankly, they look bad every year . . . but then they win the Joe Moore Award at the end of the season! So there’s absolutely no reason to panic. Guys who looked unready (to me) included Andrew Gentry, Tristan Bounds, and Jeffrey Persi. No one in that group is expected to start this season, so that’s good. Bounds needs more physical development. The one who scares me is Persi, because he very well might have been penciled in to start until Michigan got some of those transfers in the off-season. The team was missing Zak Zinter, Myles Hinton, La’Darius Jefferson, and Drake Nugent for different reasons, and all four of those guys could potentially start in the fall, so again, I’m not going to judge the OL too harshly.

DEFENSIVE LINE: There were several guys who made flash plays, and the nice thing is that they weren’t guys who did great things in the past, like Kris Jenkins and Mason Graham. I was impressed by what I saw from Derrick Moore, Rayshaun Benny, Kenneth Grant, and Josaiah Stewart. Moore and Grant are sophomores, Stewart (2 TFLs, 1 sack) is a transfer from Coastal Carolina, and Benny is a redshirt sophomore who continues to improve. It’s going to be tough to replicate the quarterback pressure from the 2021 season when Aidan Hutchinson had 15 sacks and David Ojabo had 11, but I think Michigan is still going to have a solid two-deep where there’s not much drop-off between the first group and the second.

LINEBACKER: Honestly, I did not get a great read on the linebackers after watching just once. I can piece together pressure and coverage pretty well, but it takes some time to go back and look at reads, block shedding, etc. for linebackers. Of course, Junior Colson was out, and he’s a lock to start in the fall. I did like what I saw from Ernest Hausmann, the transfer from Nebraska.

DEFENSIVE BACK: The story of the spring has been Amorion Walker, but I’m not sold on him. He’s supposedly up to about 189 pounds at 6’4″, and he certainly has impressive speed and length. But his reaction time is questionable at this point. You can tell by watching him that he’s not processing things very quickly right now, and it’s anyone’s guess as to whether he can fix that by the fall. The Maize Team picked on Walker all day. You have to be careful with recruiting over some of these guys, but Michigan might want to keep an eye on the transfer portal after spring resolves some things at other schools. That #2 corner spot is questionable behind Will Johnson, who missed due to a minor injury. Otherwise, Kody Jones and Myles Pollard both looked to have improved physically from when we last saw them in the spring of 2022, and Ja’den McBurrows looked solid, too. I don’t think Jones and Pollard are starter-quality at this point, but they’re getting there. I think McBurrows, Walker, and perhaps a transfer portal land should be fighting it out for a starting cornerback spot, though, and Jyaire Hill is going to be a good player, too.

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