The Michigan Wolverines football program held their annual Spring Game at The Big House on Saturday afternoon, giving the public their first official look at 2014’s team.
While mostly a practice session with a scrimmage portion at the end, the Wolverines definitely showed some positives and things that still need to be worked on.
Four months removed from a nightmarish 2013 season on offense, the overall performance and execution on that side of the ball was disappointing yesterday. The offensive line was being blown off the ball on nearly every snap and the holes that were opened up for running backs were few and far between.
Redshirt senior quarterback Devin Gardner was taking snaps with the first team and threw an interception on his first pass attempt. He looked rushed and indecisive throughout the session, throwing off his back foot often, and started to lock in on Devin Funchess, who had a few drops himself.
Speaking of Funchess, almost every time he was out there, he was lined up as a wide receiver. As one of the better athletes and playmakers on that side of the ball, don’t expect him to take many snaps as a tight end.
Sophomore Shane Morris, who many think has a shot to take the starting quarterback job from Gardner, appeared a bit more poised back there, but did not have the greatest of days, either.
Morris appears to have all of the tools to be a very good quarterback in Doug Nussmeier‘s offense in time, but he has a few mechanical flaws he needs to sure up, as well as learning to put some more touch on his passes. He has a great arm, but throws mostly darts. The young gunslinger is going to need time to develop.
Even with poor offensive line play, we were given a look at how the running backs are coming along. As far as the battle between sophomores Derrick Green and Deveon Smith, it was pretty apparent that Smith is the better back right now and appears more ready. In regards to Green, there were times where he looked lost out there, especially in pass coverage and blitz pickups, where he let defenders run straight into the backfield unimpeded.
Physically, both backs look really impressive. Green is in better shape and still should be fine in terms of playing time, but Smith showed a bit more burst and hit holes better.
Redshirt junior Justice Hayes made some nice plays in the running game, as well. He looks to be capable of being a change-of-pace back for this group. His speed is quite a contrast from guys like Smith and Green, and Nussmeier looks to have a role in mind for him.
The biggest positive to come out of the session was the performance of freshman wide receiver Freddy Canteen. He’s been hyped as a guy that’s had a fantastic spring and hasn’t been shy about saying he wants to play early and often at Michigan. He absolutely backed that up yesterday, getting behind the defense a few times and breaking some big plays. He looks ready to go for the fall.
Michigan wasn’t going to showcase their entire playbook on Saturday and I did not expect to see much, but it would have been nice to walk away more impressed with what they showed. It’s extremely apparent that this is still a work in progress and there are a lot of improvements that need to be made before the season opener.
Expect to see an offense that doesn’t take many chances this year, but the worst thing they can do is shoot themselves in the foot like we saw last year. 2014 is a new season, but it was more of the same on Saturday afternoon.
Stay tuned for our recap of the Spring Game on the defensive side of the ball later today.