A record turnout for the spring game this year. It's good to see that Coach Rod is trying to give Michigan football a much-needed facelift to bring it into the 21st century. Michigan can no longer survive among the elite programs by being a giant in the hills. The changes that Bill Martin are Coach Rod are starting to bring to the program in terms of marketability, fan involvement, facilities overhaul, etc... are extremely exciting to watch as a fan. A change in momentum is almost palpable at this point in the program, and we are on the upswing in a big way.
The spring game was a great opportunity to see our new and improved team in action. I saw the live feed online and here are a bunch of my thoughts and observations. Feel free to comment, agree or disagree. That's what this blog is for.
1) Tate: Looks comfortable in most aspects of running the offense, and has the potential to be a very good quarterback. He throws very well and accurately on the move, he can scramble well, and he has a knack for finding the open man. That being said, Tate's greenness showed particularly when he held onto the ball too long, as it is with most QB's out of high school. Look for that to be a bugaboo this year and cause many a fumble (and forehead slap). I just hope that Tate doesn't get himself killed this year a la McGuffie by holding onto the ball too long or taking an ill-fated scramble. I cringe to imagine a guy my size getting nailed full speed by college linebackers. This is why Coach Rod says he wants 2 good quarterbacks who can run his offense. Let's hope Denard's skill and work ethic are as good as Tate's.
Related: Let's hope David Cone never sees the field this season. He looks like he's dry heaving the ball every time he throws. Jack Kennedy freshman walk-on looked great against the thirds.
2) Running backs: Running back depth this year is awesome. I'm a huge Mike Shaw fan, and he showed flashes of brilliance last year. If he, Carlos Brown and Minor can all stay healthy and mix in V. Smith, we'll have a killer backfield. That is if we can muster any semblance of a good passing game.
Mike Cox performed so-so overall. He got absolutely blown up Mike Williams on one play. I don't see him panning out.
Apparently Carlos Brown is fast.
4) O-Line: The offensive line looks much improved. Reports say that the cohesion and talent this year is night and day improved from last year. Thank the lord. Mark Huyge has created some buzz in the summer practices, look for him to start sometime during the season.
5) Wide Receivers/Slots A "meh" day for wideouts. Granted we kept our playcalling very vanilla, but I hope somebody steps up. Nothing big out of Odoms or T-Rob either. I'd like to see what Gallon can do in the fall if he qualifies.
Let's hope Roy Roundtree performs just as well during the season. Good chemistry developing between him and Tate?
Nice Mathews touchdown!
6) D-Line looked ok against the offense's 2's. Obviously Mike Martin is missing, but depth is a huge concern here. Brandon Graham is an absolutely beast, and it'll be a pleasure to watch him terrorize opposing offenses this year. NFL 1st rounder for sure.
Anybody catch on the thirds Dominique Ware 5'7 245?! Like a stump in the ground!
7) Linebackers: We have linebackers? Demens looked pretty bad in his drops and only so-so in run support. Fitzgerald showed flashes of greatness, let's hope that pans out. Obi needs, NEEDS, to step up this year or else it'll be like Purdue all over again. Linebackers is a great area of concern for me and a lot of other people watching the program closely. We need to get a blue chipper in there. Urgency is at Defcon 4.
8) DB's: Obviously no Donovan Warren. Boubacar looked solid, he'll be a good player this year. Look for JT Turner to get some PT as a true freshman this year. Safety play was so-so. Brandon Smith laid OUT some poor 3rd string offensive running back.
9) New guys (other than Tate):
Vincent Smith looked pretty solid running against the Defense's 1's. I'm excited to see him get some touches this year.
Great to see Brandin Hawthorne out there, I've heard good things about his tenacity.
Emilien took a bad angle to C. Brown on the long TD run, but word is that he is our best safety by far and will start in the fall.
Lalota = redshirt.
Mike Jones got KILLED by Carlos Brown on one play, special teams or redshirt for sure.
As highly heralded as Will Campbell is, he does indeed look like he needs a lot of work on fundamentals and conditioning. He stood straight up numerous times, his pad level was high and he simply tried to outmuscle the lineman (which he is certainly capable of doing). He'll probably play this year because of lack of depth, but ideally I'd redshirt him.
10) I've heard our tight ends are the best offensive group we've got. Big, scary and fast. I'm very interested to see the wrinkles that RR installs in the fall. Not even one tight end pass in the spring game, however. Don't want to show our hand, I suppose.
Related: I'd love to see some more downfield stuff. Again, can't wait til the fall.
11) No INT's on Defense? Not even ONE?! Even when David Cone was throwing? Jeez, c'mon!
Impact Players: Look for these players to step up this year:
-Mike Martin (tied with Brandon Graham for my favorite player this year)
-J.B. Fitzgerald (looked superb on special teams last year. I'm a big fan. Hopefully he'll make something happen this year)
-Mike Shaw/Vincent Smith
-Tight ends (Webb, Koger)