Yes, yes…I know…you were all waiting with bated breath for this 2nd installment of the “takeaways” series. Actually, I kinda plan on making this a regular thing during the season, but anyways.
Let’s get right to it. Follow me through the jump to see what positives we, as Michigan fans, can take away from the 2014 Spring Game.
Surprise!!!! Nah, this isn’t a surprise. If you watched the spring game at all, you saw that Jourdan Lewis really stood out defensively, making a couple interceptions, looking bigger/stronger, and playing with a physical tenacity that we haven’t seen from cornerbacks in recent years. Yes, it’s true, Mattison has mentioned wanting his cornerbacks to play more physically, much in the same way that Michigan State’s cornerbacks play. Lewis got flagged a couple times in the spring game, but on the whole, I really like how he looked. I think, right now anyways, that he’s the “3rd corner” on the depth chart, and should see the field in nickel situations immediately. But, who knows? Maybe he keeps improving at a drastic rate and pushed Raymon Taylor right off the field.
Yes, Freddy Canteen’s performance is worthy of praise, and yes you can feel positively about him. However, as our former Fearless Leader Josh Henschke said in the Detroit Free Press this week, let’s maybe slow down the hype on him for now. I’m not saying you can’t get excited and I’m not saying that you can’t be very pleased with the job Hoke did recruiting him…all I’m saying is maybe slow down from calling him the “2nd Coming of Freshman Mario Manningham”. He’s had a ton of practice buzz, and he looked very good on Saturday, but you still need to realize that he’s a true freshman, is still small, still has to adjust to college football, et cetera et cetera. In my view, I’m focused more on how Amara Darboh is recovering from his foot injury and how Jehu Chesson is coming along as a route runner. But again, that’s just one man’s opinion.
The Running Back Position
Let’s be honest with ourselves…we could have Adrian Peterson in the backfield and it wouldn’t make a whole lot of difference unless our offensive line takes a drastic step forward. Okay, now that’s out of the way, let’s talk running backs. Derrick Green is still the most talented back on the roster, in my opinion. He’s down about 15 pounds from last season, and it shows. He looks quicker, faster, and has better bounce. DeVeon Smith looked pretty damned good too, but I just don’t see the same upside from him as I do from Green. Smith looks more like a bruiser/grinder type, who will churn out solid yardage and run some people over, but I see more of a game breaker in Green. It’s entirely possible that right at this moment, Smith has an edge on Green. But long term? Give me Derrick Green. Not to be forgotten, I thought that Justice Hayes looked good too. He’ll be a nice change-of-pace/3rd down back. While he’s smaller and faster than Green and Smith, don’t discount his abilities to run between the tackles. He’s not an every down back, no, but he’s bigger and stronger than many want to give him credit for.
I talked the other day about how I thought the defensive ends looked pretty weak on Saturday. But on the other hand, I thought the defensive tackles as a whole looked pretty good, and that’s especially great news considering Ondre Pipkins still isn’t back from an ACL injury. I was especially pleased with how early enrollee Bryan Mone looked. No, he didn’t look “explosive”, but I thought he ate space pretty well, played with good leverage, and didn’t look “lost”, which is very easy for a true freshman lineman to be. If he keeps improving over the summer and into fall camp, he could be a legitimate rotational nose tackle as soon as August. Willie Henry is just going to be a monster. He’s quick, he’s explosive, he’s smart, he’s insanely strong, and he’s still really raw. Once the technique and coaching catches up with his raw tools and ability, his upside is very, very high. I thought Ryan Glasgow played well in terms of doing his job as a one gap guy, but there’s not a huge upside with him. Maurice Hurst Jr is going to surprise a lot of people this year with how well he plays. He’s very raw as well, but he just has a knack for getting in the backfield.
Yeah. I know. I know, I do. But I think Nussmeier is doing good things with the offense, and I say this because of one main reason. The offensive line, who struggled no doubt, didn’t miss any assignment. Last year the line had no idea where they were going and who to block. This spring I didn’t count a single missed assignment, which is absolutely huge. Yeah, they got beat a few times and yeah, it didn’t look great on the whole. But trust me, it’s getting better. The simplified attack and scheme that Nuss is putting in seems to be taking a legitimate hold, and that can only mean good things.
Have any thoughts? Feel free to comment or get at me on twitter @B_Sakowski_PG.