MAIZE v BLUE FINAL: Maize 31, Blue 29. test
With only four offensive starters returning this spring, and only one returnee on defense, there is obviously much work to be done before facing off with Florida’s talented Gators next fall.
QBs: I think we can all step back from the ledge a bit in knowing that the quarterback positon is in fine shape, in spite of the fact that Wilton Speight had a surprisingly tough outing in the spring game Saturday.
Facing stern pressure in the first quarter (from the first defense), and throughout the game, Wilton never had the benefit of the first offensive line as it was split. Brandon Peters had the advantage of a better OL line. Like last year early, Wilton did not seem in touch with his receivers. Wilton’s QB stock wilted some in the game, but he will fight back, and is still the best bet to be the season starter.
His two interceptions hurt. One was on a magnificent play by Viper Jordan Glasgow, who cut in front of the receiver and hustled the football 101-yards for an outstanding pick six. Beautiful nab and run as Glasgow twice evaded closing pursuit. I interviewed him at length at last year’s media day, when he was totally unknown as an M football player, and was masked by the towering shadows of his bigger lineman brothers, Graham and Ryan. He may be smaller, but Ryan is missing a front tooth courtesy of Jordan. The Glasgow family football toughness and smarts are his too, even if in a smaller package. He will compete for time at the Viper position (hybrid LB, safety, and nickel position). Jordan now sports an enormous mane that his helmet can’t hide. It was fun watching that flow behind him as he ran warp speed for six.
The other Wilton pick six, was a nifty nab by Brandon Watson.
There is no question that Brandon Peters had the better day at QB Saturday. He was 9 of 17 for 160-yards. He tossed a 55-yarder to Zach Gentry for the game’s first TD. He also scooted diagonally into the end zone on a remarkable 12-yard TD run. His strong arm was evident whenever he was at the helm.
I don’t think he can unseat Wilton yet, but the battle is going to be fierce, and it might get close. Newcomer CB Benjamin St. Juste made an outstanding interception to give Peters his worst moment of an otherwise sterling performance.
All this competition is good for the most important position group on the team. Two good QBs are a must for success and the Wolverines will have them no matter which one starts. The offense amassed 6 TDs.
The other QBs will be pushed by John O’Korn. John tossed a pretty TD pass to Tarik Black late in the game. The offense amassed 6 TDs. They constantly tested the edge.
OL: Of course it is tough to quantify the OL at this time. The number one line is no surprise. Cole, Bredeson, Kugler, Onwenu, and John Runyan, Jr. constituted the best line, the Maize line. The second will have some pieces of note to develop, like big Cesar Ruiz, and others. This position group will have many interchangeable parts, and will probably need them. But it is impossible to judge them as a unit at this time, though they seemed improved.
There were some individual key performances. A nice Bredeson block on Peters TD illustrates one of them. Cole played LT and Kugler manned the center position to start the game.
RECEIVERS: Fifteen different receivers played. The standout was Tarik Black who was active all afternoon and culminated his performance with a great TD catch near the end of the game. He is tall and a leaper. They kept going back to him. Freshman WR Nate Schoenle had two receptions totaling 58-yards.
RBs: Ty Isaac led the backs with 5 carries for 47-yards, and had a nifty 28-yard visit to the end zone. Karan Higdon had 2 TDs and a nice performance on the day. Kareem Walker looked good as he made a hard inside run breaking tackles. Walker was later dinged, left the field, but returned.
TE’s: Sean McKeon got some work, Tyrone Wheatley, Jr. made a catch. Ian Bunting was not afforded a catch. The position seemed to me to block well. As mentioned previously, TE Zach Gentry collared a 55-yard TD. The position seemed to block well.LINEBACKER DEVIN BUSH STARS: Defensive coordinator Brown indicated postgame that Devin Bush was outstanding. Dr. Blitz indicated: “He’s a mature guy. And football’s important to him. He’s from a football family. It’s so nice when you have a nice guy and he can play in two different spots. You can ask some guys to do that, and they look at you like, Are you kidding me? But he handled that really, really well.”
Khaleke Hudson can play with the best of them at safety or LB.
Lone returnee McCray is solid. Brown also said they are still looking for a 4th LB and that it may be Michael Wroblewski.
DL: The starters are solid. Gary, Hurst , and Mone can be great players this season and I think the DL will be a solid base. I interviewed Rashan Gary (was among the post-game scrum listening to him post game) and I asked him his take on the looming visit to Rome. He is totally enthusiastic, all in, and thinks it will be a great experience. It is an experience not available to most football players.
This line could approach the effectiveness of last year’s. At least Rashan Gary thinks so, and he may be right.
DBs: Benjamin St. Juste, Ambry Thomas, Brandon Watson (Int) had their moments, and gained some experience. Safety Tyree Kinnel played a good game. He led the Maize with 7 tackles, and left some bruises. He hits. Khaleke Hudson was outstanding.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A couple of drops marred the special team’s performance. Nate Johnson dropped a fair catch, probably due to the glare of the sun. KO’s looked adequate, Tice kicked the extra points, and there was a ray of sunshine as Quinn Nordin hit a 48-yarder and made it look oh so easy. A 21-yard FG won the game for the Maize. Hitting of returners was not allowed.
NOTES: The Wolverines will complete their practices in Rome. This constitutes another innovative Harbaugh first. Coach Brown indicated post game that the purpose of the Spring football game is to identify personnel. It is not necessarily a valid evaluator of the worth of a team. Coach Harbaugh was not available at the post game presser, leaving the chore to Brown and Drevno. The quarters of the game were 12 minutes long. The crowd was estimated at 50,000 plus. It was a perfect April football day. At the half, the 2017 recruits were introduced. Jake Butt received the 2016 Mackey Trophy which recognizes the best tight end in the country.
TAKEAWAY: The Wolverines seem to have more athletic players at more positions than before. That advantage is tempered by lack of experience. Can they be coached up enough to win away from home, to battle Florida successfully in their tough season opener? As the work progresses we will get a better idea.
The signing day festivities may have been missing those familiar faces of Derek Jeter and Tom Brady, due to his preparation for his 5th Super Bowl victory, but the amount of future star power that was there in attendance had the second annual Signing of the Stars event looking more star-studded than what most are expressing.
Last years event consisted of an all-around celebrity list including Ric Flair, Jim Leyland and even the popular Rap group, Migos. The university went all out for its first annual event. Jim Harbaugh wanted to do something different and amazing that no one was doing and simply just wow the new recruits, in other words to have celebration for their new future student athletes on furthering their education.
This years’ Signing of the Stars event was very much different from the previous. Harbaugh wanted to get away from those big name celebrities and put the spotlight truly on recruits and bring the community of the university together. After he was announced on to the stage by the Sklar brothers, he didn’t hold back about what could be his favorite word in the dictionary, family.
“Probably no better word in the English language.. to me, than family. ‘Cause we are tied at the hip, we are tied at the hip here at the University of Michigan. We are a family.”
It nearly took me a week just to process this event and how awesome it really was. There were so many factors that played into this event that made it simply special, entertaining, and downright hopeful for another great year of Michigan Football.
The Sklar Brother Tandem
Former Michigan Alum and masters of ceremony, Randy and Jason Sklar had everybody rolling as soon as they stepped onto the stage. Randy had the pleasure of hosting last years’ event but decided to bring his brother Jason along because he was “almost” as big as a Michigan fan as he was. Next thing you know, Jason reminisce when they slept outside Crisler Center for a Michigan vs Duke basketball game when a 2-year-old Grayson Allen decided to trip him on the way in. They even managed to get the crowd fired up with a reference of a certain Ohio referee thinking that joke came up 6 inches short. The two kept the show moving flawlessly and had everyone enjoying themselves till the very end. Hopefully, we can count on these guys being the host for years to come.
A Team Effort by the University
One of the many reasons I thought what made the event more special than last year was the element of having other coaches from other sports partake as presenters for the former alumni. From Carol Hutchins, the winningest softball coach in the NCAA history and Michigan Athletics to John Paul the head coach for the Mens Lacrosse team. In his 6th season, Paul has helped the club become new members of Division-1 Lacrosse and now is competing in the Big Ten Conference for the first time. The way that this was strategically set up was brilliant and idea of bring others coaches in for the presentation shows just how strong the Michigan community is and willing to cheer on for other athletic departments.
Back to Basics – Big Bodies
Whether it’s high school, college, or even the NFL, winning at the line of scrimmage is always a key to any football game. Nearly half of the 2017 recruits alone can be found playing on the line of scrimmage. Coach Drevno expressed how they wanted to get more athletic up front and wanted to bring in guys that can immediately compete on the offensive line and all 5 of them fits that bill. Jon Jansen expressed that he enjoys seeing the new recruits already being able to finish their blocks and doesn’t stop till the whistle is blown.
“That’s what I like to see, guys on their back and our guys on top of them.”
Caesar Ruiz, a 5-star Center out of IMG Academy had said that he had known for about two years that he was coming to Michigan after being asked about his popular commitment video and the whole process. Turned out he was just messing and was just saying that for the show purposes.
Graham Glasgow was asked about what kind of advice he could give to these young guys and his answer was perfect.
“Coach Drevno and Coach Harbaugh are always right, if you think you’re right.. you’re wrong.” He chuckled. “Just have faith in these guys and they’ll put theirs back in you.” He mentioned on a serious note.
One of the two biggest steals of the day that Michigan managed to grab was 5-star defensive tackle, Aubrey Solomon out of Georgia. He was a hard one to follow on what he was going to do. First, he committed, then de committed thanks to a miscommunication of a “thank you letter” for attending a BBQ held at the Big House in which he never attended and ultimately rubbed him the wrong way. But at the end of day, Harbaugh and company managed to solidify the defensive line for the next few years alongside with Rashan Gary. Those two together are going to be nasty to see.
The Amount of WR Depth
Detroit Lions Quarterback Jake Rudock mentioned that the offensive line creates the plays which allows the QB to hit those playmakers. We lost three huge offensive weapons in Jake Butt, Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh. But did we ever overachieve at the wide out position. We had known about Donovan Peoples-Jones, Tarik Black, and Oliver Martin before the event.However, it wasn’t until roughly an hour and a half after the show that we officially went 2-2 on stealing another Alabama recruit right from underneath their nose in Nico Collins. Collins took his first trip when Michigan had played Maryland and It’s pretty damn amazing on why Collins chose Michigan over his second choice of Georgia followed by Alabama.
“It was very amazing,” Collins said. “There were 110,000 fans or something like that. They were live for all four quarters. When I walked in, I could see myself there. Going out under the tunnel under the ‘Go Blue’ sign, I could hear the fans yelling, ‘Nico, Nico!’
“That right there really meant a lot. That showed me they really care about players (yelling Nico). I’m from all the way down south, and they knew about me. That meant a lot.”
We really do have the best fans.
Mind you we still have Grant Perry, Kekoa Crawford, Eddie Mcdoom, Drake Harris and Tyrone Wheatley Jr. I still have goosebumps in thinking what this offense could look like. Pro Style? Spread? Both? I have no idea, but it’s hurting my brain.
Another Signing of the Stars has come and gone and it’s not hard to see and understand how Jim Harbaugh continues to change the environment at Michigan and why these young kids choose Ann Arbor. Three words. Family. Education. Football.
The 96th edition of the Wolverine’s football bust was again sponsored by the University of Michigan Club of Detroit, and was held on the evening of December 12, 2016 at Livonia’s Laurel Manor.
I was not able to attend the Bust again this year, but it remains an opportunity that Michigan Fans should take annually for a number of reasons. It enables fans to put a face on the football machines you see on the field on Saturdays, and some that you don’t often get to observe that are in the background of the program, but contribute much to success.
This year we will all still remember the two defeats that deflated and eliminated the Wolverines’s Big Ten Championship and National Championship goals for the season by a slim margin. We will recall the 2016 season as a near miss with only two close losses. It was a season which produced a long awaited victory over the Spartans, and an opportunity for a prestigious Orange Bowl battle. Overall the season show cased rising Wolverines.
The Wolverines gave OSU all that they wanted. Unfortunately, those three critical and fatal Wolverine errors effected the outcome. While it is obvious the game was sprinkled with some inventive refereeing with a Buckeye flavoring, the three miscues put the game out of reach.
The officiating set-off a Harbaugh howl, but he never said it cost them the game. It was the stuff under the Wolverine’s control which sealed their fate against the Buckeyes, and cost them post season opportunities.
It was disappointing that they could not control their own post season fate, but the regular season did not end a with a pounding by the Buckeyes as did 2015. They were in the hunt all season long. The season overall was a resounding success.
The Wolverine surge is not yet at Tsunami level, but the frenzy is building. Harbaugh said at the Bust that he suspects that the going to the NFL rumors maybe designed by some competitors to dampen recruiting. They will continue, and he will continue at Michigan. He says he is not interested, thank you. That is believable.
No pundit, none, knows the answer to the when will Harbaugh leave question. Only Harbaugh knows that. For now, and the foreseeable future, he is rock solid at Michigan. Believe he is leaving only when you hear him announce it, not before.
The coaching team was, for the most part, also outstanding, and remains intact. Overall the defense, under the guidance of its newcomer mentor, Dr. Blitz, was outstanding.
The entire record of this season is not written, as Florida State stands in the way. The Wolverines and FSU will cross paths in their third confrontation in the Orange Bowl Saturday December 30. Each team now holds a one and one record in the Orange Bowl. This should be one of the better Bowl match ups.
THE 2016 AWARDS: The nomenclature of the MVP Award was changed to the Bo Schembechler Most Valuable Player Award last year, and was earned for this year by Jabrill Peppers.
The Dr. Arthur Robinson Scholarship Award was awarded to Grant Newsome.
The Hugh J. Rader Award for the Best Offensive Lineman was bestowed on Offensive Tackle Erik Magnuson.
The Richard Katcher Award for the best Defensive Lineman was awarded to both Ryan Glasgow and Chris Wormley.
The Robert P. Ufer Award for enthusiasm and love for Michigan was bestowed on Offensive Tackle Grant Newsome.
The Roger Zatkoff Award for most outstanding Linebacker was given to Ben Gedeon.
The Most Improved Player Award named QB Wilton Speight.
There is just one game left this season, but the fifteen practices preceding it will continue to benefit the Wolverines into next season, no matter the outcome.
Bring on the Seminoles, and Go Blue!
Note: As stated above, I did not attend this year’s Football Bust. The commentary is mine, but the facts pertaining to the Bust were gathered from the official M football web site.
CRAZY LIKE (OR AS) A FOX – “…seemingly foolish but in fact extremely cunning.” From “Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Volume 1.
In the aftermath of Michigan’s disappointing double overtime loss to arch rival Ohio State, Jim Harbaugh went off.
Harbaugh’s post game press conference was a master class is deflecting attention from his team’s failure secure a bid to the Big Ten Championship game and capture a place in the college football playoffs.
“I am bitterly disappointed with the officiating today,” said Harbaugh to a packed room of media.
The story out of Columbus was all about Harbaugh’s sideline theatrics and condemnation of the officials who penalized Michigan 7 times for a total of 59 yards while the Ohio State was rung up twice for a total of 6 yards.
Lost in the mix was quarterback Wilton Speight’s three turnovers which included a pick 6 to get the Buckeyes on the scoreboard after being smothered by the Michigan defense.
Nobody asked about Jourdan Lewis’ dangerous return as regulation time expired when he inexplicably cut back into a Buckeye defender instead of streaking for the sideline and possible game winning touchdown.
Harbaugh dismissed a question about what he didn’t go for two points and a win in the first overtime period.
His quarterback clearly wanted to go for the win before Harbaugh quashed the idea.
Harbaugh’s quick dismissal is puzzling– just a few weeks ago he was touting Speight as a possible Heisman candidate and gushed about he consulted with his quarterback on play calling.
Harbaugh hates hypothetical questions from the media so we’ll stick to the facts– with the game and the season on the line, Harbaugh took the ball out of Speight’s hands and kicked the extra point to extend the game ignoring conventional wisdom that visiting teams should go for the win.
With such a short field, Speight’s murky injury would not have limited Harbaugh’s play selection. Even if Harbaugh was concerned about Speight, he had other options. Michigan had been using Jabrill Peppers in a wildcat formation with varying degrees of success all season. Peppers had been hinting of special plays being held in reserve for just such an occasion. Harbaugh could have put Peppers at wideout as a distraction during the play. Tight end Jake Butt, an especially dangerous short yardage weapon, was also available.
Speight was diplomatic in his comments about his desire to go for the two point conversion.
When Harbaugh was a player he would have fumed at such a decision.
Instead rolling the dice with his offense, Harbaugh put his defense back on the field in overtime after it had been on the field for the practically the entire 4th quarter (11:07).
Nobody is asking why Michigan seems to struggle on the road under Harbaugh, continuing a trend that preceded his tenure.
Michigan is 6-3 on the road during the regular season under Harbaugh. Which appears to be a decent performance except that two of those wins from last season included near disasters against Indiana (6-7) 48-41 in double overtime and Minnesota (6-7) 29-26 with Gophers falling short on the last play of the game.
This season Michigan fell short of the college football playoffs not because of the loss to Ohio State but because it failed to beat a pedestrian Iowa team (8-4) a few weeks before– an Iowa team that lost earlier in the season to North Dakota State, 23-21.
Whine about the referees if you want but Michigan had chances to beat Ohio State during both regulation and overtime.
Harbaugh will need to coach better especially on the road for Michigan to compete for a national championship.
The results so far are discouraging.
Bad referees are occasionally part of the game. It easy to coach when you’re beating opponents 63-3, 59-3 or 78-0. A great coach distinguishes himself when the odds are stacked against him.
Michigan deserved better this season.
And it starts and ends with Coach Harbaugh– not the referees.