Monday, April 19, 2010
Michigan Football Tidbits: Spring Themes – The 2010 Spring Game
Posted at 8:00am -- 4/19/2010
Spring Themes – The 2010 Spring Game
Theme 1 - Various and Sundry and of no Great Importance
The weather was as bad as readers may have been informed. No rain, but the wind was coming in at 15-20 miles per hour and the temperature was about 50 at best. Everyone is complaining that the attendance estimate was low, looked like a 35,000 to 40,000 window. The day was mostly cloudy, and the concession stands made good money as many patrons got up and went to the new sheltered area brought about by the renovations (at least on the gate one and gate two area above the tunnel). It was worth coming and the weather was no worse than late October, early November. Row 51 had a nice windbreak and backrest (will keep that in the memory bank). Mott’s was a big winner, and the silent auction was neat to be a part of, along with getting nice gets for small donations. This was a good time to watch warm-ups, the author focused on the wideouts, kickers, and quarterbacks. One last thought, it is so nice to watch fast, crisp football without five-minute breaks. Seeing three or four plays a minute is just plain fun. Seeing players have fun is something that needs to be returned to college football, and these guys had fun.
Theme 2 - Artificial and Vanilla
Yes, indeed the scrimmage did not show much more than base plays (which is what the offense runs in a real game) or shows defensive sets and packages much beyond the base 4-3 hybrid and 3-3-5. Pressure came from the linemen only, unless the qb went into the run mode. This is common at spring practice games. But the excitement and pressure factors are increased, whether or not the setting is artificial. There is no Brandon Graham on this defense who will be going to the NFL anytime soon unless you follow NFL Tickets.
Theme 3 - Who played Whom?
Readers will likely be inundated with opinions about how good the offense and defense really were, since the scrimmage was somewhat first group, versus second group. However, there was enough movement to make a black and white conclusion about talent levels of competition. The results were in the eye of the beholder. This beholder states that quarterbacks and running backs with the first unit, going against at least half of the second unit, had a small advantage.
Theme 4 - Old Revisitations
There are still leftovers and hangovers from last year cited below.
• There still is a clear depth issue on defense, just not as bad.
• Mistakes kill this offense, and although the game was not a fumble-rama, enough mistakes were made to kill drives in real games.
• There are still some base plays that just are drive killers, pleading guilty are the lateral outside stretch play (not a jet) and the bubble package, behind the line.
• This team still does not have a dominant run game and a run of five yards is a cause of celebration. Therefore, the primary methods of scoring will be the occasional big play and improvisation.
Theme 5 - The Offense
If this offense had either a guy like Slaton, who could score on any play and strike fear and force a d-coordinator to heavily game plan (freeing up others, especially a running qb), or a bruiser like A Train Thomas, who could just move the chains, things might be better for the chances of a winning season. This group has neither of the above two scenarios. Instead, the backs are sound, but quite unspectacular; a homerun hitter is desperately needed to bring this offense into the 30-40 point a game range.
Collectively, the backs are not chopped liver, but are not prime rib either. The saving grace is that a lot of youth is in the stable and one or more may step up and surprise. The line blocking does not favor allowing backs to break steady three to five yard runs routinely. The blocking is built to spring the roadrunner to the house on the occasional breakout and not to play three yards and a cloud of dust.
All members of this stable of backs go down on contact way too easily. And no awards were given Saturday for running back blocking. There are bright spots, one being Hopkins. The verdict here is that without injury Hopkins was a real find for the Maize and Blue. He does have decent power and this should improve. He may be Michigan’s best bet to pick up a third and two (but he lays the ball on the carpet a little too much). Shaw could do damage if he has a big enough hole to eliminate picking his own hole. Cox has a little of everything, but has a little of everything to get better at, if he wants to play a big role. Some are bashing Austin White. The verdict in this corner is he could be a very solid all-purpose back and the author likes his running style, very fluid and decent decision making/vision at the line. He must get stronger and he possesses sufficient talent to be an asset to an offense.
The quarterbacks are all athletes and should all be solid contributors if needed. While athleticism is the constant, they each have areas of strength and areas to make major improvements. So here is a list of bullets.
• Tate clearly has the best fundamentals and his elbow position and other skills are well above average. While he does (and did in the scrimmage) make plays that make you laugh a little (broken plays that end up for the better) he also causes some hair ripping with plays that can kill a drive or even a game. He has enough experience that the staff should expect less of this phenomenon this year and better decision-making. He played a little hurt (left ankle it appeared) but still was pretty mobile. When he has a play break down the result is still all too frequently running from tackle to tackle thinking on the run and sometimes it works out and sometimes it does not. Tate still gives up on the downfield play way too quickly. Defensive coordinators plan for taking outside leverage and control away from Tate (and Denard as well), funneling him into a small area. He got outside ok Saturday, but the same thing happened in last year’s spring game.
• Denard- yes, he has improved, but Denard is still in need of better fundamentals. His elbow is still an inch or two too low and he flings it with his wrist at an angle of maybe 10 degrees off of center when he hurries. How much will he hurt other teams running? That depends on how well Michigan can provide other offensive threats to keep the defense out of the box and solely focusing on Denard and his running back in the read option. Last year, it was easy to contain Denard in the wildcat. If he can run both the inside read and the outside read and the veers related to the offense. He could be very dangerous. If Michigan moves the linebackers back, using the tight end and wideouts, then Denard could be very dangerous. If the offense runs almost exclusively the base read play and the short outs to the slots, then defensive coordinators can plan for Denard and he would be less effective
• Devin-Oh boy, what can you say when a freshman sees the field and is willing to stay in the pocket longer (and does a good job) than the upperclassmen? Devin got off to a rough start. Discount his errors, it was the nature of his emotions getting the best of him, in short, he just got excited and the thought processes diminished. Devin has decent fundamentals and accuracy, but what the observer likes the best is his very quick release. He throws like a dart thrower or a good baseball catcher, quick, effortless, and by the ear. Devon can run the ball, not as well as Denard, but he can run the ball. He looks to have the best instincts of the three, quarterbacks and he appears to be able to do things that are not within the realm of typical coaching. The conclusion is that to be outstanding, Devin will need high level coaching, but if he gets such coaching, look out.
• The quarterback derby is not over, and may not be over for another year, if then. There are still three contenders.
The tight ends had a good day; it truly is amazing how much better a receiver looks if someone simply throws the ball in the same zip code. The slots had a decent day, Odoms showed good burst and Gallon showed potential. Roy Roundtree showed why he is Michigan’s best receiver. The wideouts got a little action, but still not one deep fly or jet pattern in the entire scrimmage. The closest to a deep pattern was T. Robinson breaking deep to the sideline alone for a touchdown. The ball was dropped. Denard threw a standard post to Roundtree and his legs did most of the damage. At the end of the scrimmage, Stokes almost pulled down a shot to the end zone. If Devin continues to look downfield and feed the bear, he will have plenty of receiver friends on the team.
The offensive line has had much written and spoken concerning them, second only to the quarterbacks. This group is good but not great. The unit is bigger, but not big. By next year, the unit could be lingering on a typical Big Ten 300+ average. The idea of a read offense based on speed is to make blocks at the second and third levels downfield, letting the little guys take it to the house. Right now, this is not happening, it is difficult to make this happen and takes a great back and plenty of speed and experience. So, the result is no real ball-control offense, or big play offense. Someday my Prince will come is the name of this song.
Still, there are plenty of good signs to take away from Saturday. The young athletic linemen played like young athletes, good enough to impress but not good enough to dominate. With a vanilla defense, it is impossible to assess pass blocking. Make no mistake, this group is deeper and when healthy can go 8-9 deep. Everyone is talking about Lewan. He will get bigger, stronger, and better. His journey has just begun. This year Lewan will have one of the toughest jobs in football, playing left tackle as a red-shirt freshman. He will likely look very average, but that will change with each succeeding year. It is remarkable he has played so little football and is ready to take on a big job.
Lewan is not the only young gun with a good upside. This scrimmage was very valuable for demonstrating that Omameh, Schofield, and Barnum are getting closer. Big Q still has work to do.
Theme 6 - Kicking
After watching the punting and placekicking in drills this spring, one thought emerges; this is an area of need. At the Big House on Saturday, the placekickers kicked against the wind at the north end and the limit was 42 yards, and many fell short, from all the candidates. At the south end, with the wind, the limit was a couple of kicks that made it from 47, all others fell short or were way off to the side. Some of the difficulty was a result of high snaps (about on in every four), but most was distance and low trajectory. All of these guys looked decent in the scrimmage because the kicks were short, no one was rushing, and the wind was behind them. No one has come close to claiming the job; it looks like the coaches are giving Gibbons every chance to earn his scholarship.
The punting was worse and Hagerup almost is a certain winner of the punting job as soon as his suitcase hits the dorm room floor.
Written by Doc4blu
Go Blue -- Wear Maize!