Paul and I both attended the spring game (with Brian of MGoBlog – we must have missed all of you at the tailgate…), and we worked together to put together a general summary of what we saw. My camera has gone MIA temporarily, so the photos will have to wait until later.
The defense wasn’t allowed to hit him, and he made his fair share of freshman mistakes, but anyone who watched the spring game has to be somewhat relieved that there will be a significant upgrade at the quarterback position over last year. Tate is by far a better runner than either Nick Sheridan or Steven Threet, and had better throwing mechanics and accuracy than either, as well. He has a much stronger arm than Sheridan, and by the time fall rolls around, it seems he will be able to better grasp the system than Threet did last year, or at least make fewer big mistakes. Forcier threw for three touchdowns, and ran for one more. He also had a few boneheaded moments, giving up a “safety” by fumbling into the endzone (in live scrimmage, it would have been a defensive touchdown), and throwing a pass right to a wide open… Brandon Herron. Another thing I’d like to see him work on is keeping his eyes downfield when he vacates the pocket. On design rollouts, he was fine, but on packet plays, once he started scrambling, he was going to run the ball. Still, for a high school kid, he wasn’t half bad.
It’s hard to judge the offensive line when it’s #1s vs #2s and vice versa, but an immediately noticeable improvement is that there are enough offensive line to have three separate teams. Hooray depth! The #1 offensive line was (left to right) Ortmann, Schilling, Molk, Mooseman, Huyge. Schilling to LG was pretty much a done deal (at least for the spring) for the past for week, but the Huyge thing developed really quickly this week. Considering the buzz around Omameh, it seems to be a good omen that Huyge was able to beat him out. The OL looked like they were working well together, and they certainly opened holes, but it was against the #2 defense when the #1 didn’t have 2 of their 3 best D-Linemen.
Odoms didn’t play much (being a known quantity and all), but his play that stood out the most was when he let a punt bounce off his chest pads and out of bounds. Stonum really struggled for most of the day. He was playing with the #2s, some people think because of his recent legal trouble, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Hemmingway just beat him out. In his defense, Stonum has all the physical tools and made a really nice, difficult catch in the end zone. He has the ability, maybe it will just take a while for it develop. The real stars were the sophomore slots who didn’t play last year. Terrance Robinson was consistently getting to the open parts of the zone and making good catches. He also had a couple bubble screens and showed good shake. Roy Roundtree got some playing time and had a few nice catches. The quality and quantity of the slot ninjas will, hopefully, really make the offense run a bit smoother.
Plenty of different running backs got their turn. Minor started and looked how one would expect him to look. He ran strong and found the holes well, but nothing spectacular. Carlos Brown really stole the show. He broke a 50 or so yard run which featured a nice move to get by Emilien (not Vlad’s fault at all). Brown definitely looked like the fastest guy out there. Hopefully he can stay healthy. Smith had at least one big run, and looked pretty comfortable out there. One thing I’ve noticed about him is that I’ve never seen him really get hit. Granted, I’ve only seen him at practice and the Spring Game, but he seems like the kind of runner who is so shifty that he’ll never really get stood up. It was nice to see Grady have some success out there. He did his pinball routine for a touchdown and didn’t fumble the ball at all. I really hope he can get something going this year.
The good news: the offense looked much better than it did last year. The bad news: the offense looked much better than it did last year. The defense was suspect at best on this day. It could have been a particularly bad day for the Michigan defense (and they were missing several starters with injuries of varying severity – including Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, and Donovan Warren), but even the #2 offense (Coner!) was able to move the ball against the #1 defense. When your #1 defense is giving up 30-yard scrambles to David Cone, they had a bad day. For his part, Cone looked decent for a scout-team quarterback. That is to say, be very afraid if he is ever pressed into serious playing time in a game that matters. For a 6-6 non-mobile guy, you’d think he would have a rocket arm or ridiculous accuracy or something, but this was not the case. The defense has a lot of work to do in the off-season, both in terms of getting healthy and hopefully getting on track with GERG’s schemes. The spring depth is scary, especially considering the #1s couldn’t even stop Michigan’s backups on offense. I can only imagine if the #2s get pressed into playing time during the season.
This was a little more Actual Scrimmage-y than past Michigan Spring Games, but there is still a little ways to go in terms of making it truly interesting for the fans (and the Spring Game is an event that is undoubtedly for the fans, not so much the actual team). There was almost no drilling, and it was all real back-and-forth action between the offense and defense. However, the proprietary scoring system that 1) none of the fans know going in, and 2) most of the fans aren’t going to understand, is no good, and I’d much rather see a real game, played with two teams, 1s-v-1s and 2s-v-2s. The depth this spring didn’t allow for that, but hopefully in the future, that will be an option, and the Spring Game can look more like a, well, game. This, of course, will help out significantly with Atmosphere. As an aside, one thing that I think would be cool to do for next year is basically split the fans in half, and give away t-shirts to everyone, with half getting maize and half getting blue (and all of them saying “Spring Game 2010: I was there” or something equally stupid), and have distinct teams that each side is cheering for, to make it more like a home or away game for players.
I was very pleasantly surprised with fan turnout. Going in, I got the vibe that nobody really expected the attendance to even approach Rich Rod’s stated goal of 40,000. However, as I rolled up to Michigan Stadium Saturday morning, the Crisler lots were already closed (a huge mistake in judgment by the AD or whoever was in charge of parking, as probably 10% of the parking spaces were still unoccupied), and the line for the locker room tours reached out the tunnel entrance, around the North/East end of Crisler, out the main Stadium Drive entrance, and back past Crisler towards Pioneer, with the end of it nowhere in sight. I skipped said locker room tour (been there, it’s really not worth any wait, much less multiple hours), and didn’t even catch the tail end of the flag football game, which I had been planning to do. The stadium was mostly packed, since the top 40-ish rows on the East side and 25-ish rows on the West side were closed. There was still plenty of open space to stretch out in the upper levels of each end zone, though. Next year, when there isn’t construction to worry about (at least not closing seats), I think Rich Rod’s goal of 92k+ might be attainable – as long as the marketing of the event continues on its current trajectory.
Posted under Football, Spring Coverage