Notes From the 2016 Michigan Spring game
I know I normally don't write about Sports here, I generally stick to music and social justice. It is also a bit odd writing about a Spring football game when it is actually snowing here in lovely Ann Arbor Michigan.
But I do love Michigan football, and let me set things up the way that Michigan football set things up, with Bailey and Rich Rocka who wrote and performed a new Michigan hype song "Who got it better than us, nobody."
Here is a link - doesn't have an embed code, there is an interview first, the song starts at approximately 4:37
Even more odd, I am pretty conflicted about football in general right now. I have become so disgusted ith the NFL over the last two years that I stopped watching my lifetime team entirely last year (The Dallas Cowboys - did not watch one snap after they picked up Greg Hardy). And anyone who knows me knows once I pretty much only watch my team. In other words, I did not watch much pro football last season.
I am mostly conflicted and concerned because of injuries and head trauma. In particular, I want to emphasize that the problem is not only concussions (as everyone on earth seems to believe it is) but also repetitive sub-concussive impacts (nobody except Doctors seem to mention this).
That said I still love Michigan Football. This is certainly causing some cognitive dissonance, but my heart is still with the Wolverines. I have had season tickets on and off between 2003 and and now, and I love the Big House, the tailgating, the Michigan Marching Band, and of course the games.
Quarterback - Wilton Speight
So, lots of questions going into the Spring game, but I saw some really encouraging things.
The Quarterback position seemed to be the biggest question mark on everyone's mind going into the game.
In terms of reps and important reps, seemed pretty clear at this point Wilton Speight is now the guy. He looked comfortable in the offense, was getting in and out of the huddle much faster than we have in the past, and everyone on the Maize offense seemed to be in step with him as the leader.
Much more important, he consistently made good decisions, seemed to have confidence (even some swagger), and his arm looked decent.
I would say after seeing the game the depth chart looked like this right now:
2. O'Korn - looked pretty good, seemed to be way too eager to run at the first sign protection was breaking down. Had a nice 2-minute drive at the end of the game. Arm seemed a bit erratic.
3. Morris (who also played about 9 reps at TE) - Good news, no longer looks like a deer in the headlights. Bad news, still not that accurate and decision-making seemed a bit questionable still. Had much more swagger than I have ever seen him have (not sure what that means really).
4. Peters - Looked like he had really good instincts. Made an incredible set of decisions on a play where he should have been sacked in the end zone at one point. Seemed to have some real upside. Arm looked good in limited attempts. He had something about him, would not be surprised to see more down the road.
5. Malzone - Very limited sample size in the game.
Noticed this on some breakaway plays last year, when Ty Isaac gets a hole, he can make the most of it. He got the most productive and exciting work out of the running back group (broke two very nice runs in the game). However, Kareem Walker looked every bit the real deal. He only got a few attempts (in the first half he was in mostly on pass plays). But, when he got the ball in the second half (he only had a few total carries) he looked like the real deal.
We didn't see Smith at all during the game, but Isaac looked better than last year and Walker looked dangerous to me. Not sure what that means for Johnson. But competition and depth are a great thing.
We did not see any of Chesson or Darboh except in warmups (Darboh was wearing maze shoes as was Peppers).
The defensive line looks GOOD. There was a play in the first half where Wormley (who is massive) essentially through Wheatley back about three feet off the line. Mone looked strong and powerful. With some luck in terms of health (knock wood) these guys are going to be awesome (Charlton was really coming on at the end of last year too). They look like they are really motivated and working hard.
The Defense looks strong, they were getting penetration against both offenses on virtually every play all game long. At times, I ended up impressed with what the offense was getting out of the game (given how dominant the defense looked).
Butt, Bunting, and Wheatley all looked really dangerous. I kind of feel like this could be the year we really see Harbaugh using multiple TE sets (NE Patriots style) to destroy defenses.
Harbaugh Doesn't Miss a Trick
When he walked out of the tunnel you could tell everyone knew it.
He would walk up and listen in every single time either offense huddled up. He is not missing any details.
He ran across the field (he can't really run anymore - more of a run limp) to shake Coach Carr and most of the returning members of the 2000 Orange Bowl team who were here for a reunion when they were announced.
He stayed on the field at half-time for the introduction of sixteen or seventeen of the kids coming to play in the Fall (2016 recruits who did not enroll early). He shook every single one of their hands after they were announced. Oh, and Rashan Gary was the last one announced (he got a HUGE ovation).
Coach understands providing an atmosphere, Bailey and Rich Rocka started everything off, a former Michigan QB named Jack Kennedy who is now a hip-hop artist (in Little Wayne's crew maybe) performed at half-time (not very well IMHO).
I would say things look really good for next year. Certainly the best football I have seen played at a Michigan Spring Game (and I go every year). People were playing hard and competing all the way to the end (at every position).