Last night (Aug. 16), Michigan held an open practice at the Big House, where the public was given their first look at Team 135. Over 25,000 people showed up to watch the 2014 Wolverines compete against each other, where some questions were answered, some were solidified and some became even larger.
The Offensive Line and the Run Game
Heading into Saturday night, the offensive line was still a huge issue after last year’s disappointing season and they really did not show much to suggest that much of an improvement was made based on what they showed in the scrimmage. Every unit they sent out there struggled to some extent, some more than others, and there were rarely any holes opened up for the running backs.
It got a little bit better as the night went on, but positive run plays were few and far between. You have to tip your hat to Greg Mattison‘s defense though, as well. He was dialing up blitzes and bringing pressure all night. Going up against them in practice every day will benefit the offensive line.
The pass protection was actually solid. Throughout much of the night, they were doing a good job of creating a pocket for the quarterbacks to step up into.
The running backs were alright. Of the three guys battling it out, Derrick Green caught my eye the most last night. Drake Johnson and De’Veon Smith were right there, but I was impressed with how in shape Green was and how much more decisive and agile he looked regardless of lack of an opening to run to.
Wyatt Shallman played a little running back with the 3rd or 4th team. He is a powerful runner who looks like he could be used in short yardage situations.
The Nussmeier Effect and Offensive Overall Picture
It’s tough to tell at this point just how much of an effect offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has had on the offense so far, but based on what I saw from the quarterbacks, he has certainly helped out in that regard. Everyone seems to have tightened up their mechanics a bit.
All of the quarterbacks had their moments last night, but no one in particular stood out. Devin Gardner is the starter, period, but Shane Morris looked like a guy that will be ready to come in when his name is called.
If there was a star position group on offense last night, it was the wide receivers. Amara Darboh looks healthy and will be a good number-two target outside of Devin Funchess. Moe Ways is a candidate to redshirt this year, but he had a great showing, hauling in a couple of touchdown passes.
If this offense is going to be successful this year, Nussmeier is going to have to get creative with the run game because it simply was not there in practice. Defense and special teams will have to carry them until they can get this ironed out, but if they can pull it together and at least be average, this offense can do very good things with the personnel they have.
It’s hard to single out one guy in particular, but that entire defense looked incredible. Yes, it was just a scrimmage, but they were throwing crazy stunts and blitzes at the offense all night. The “11 hats to the football” mentality is fantastic and could enable this group to do big things this year.
The biggest takeaway on defense is the secondary, which is leaps and bounds better than last year. These guys are playing more physical and “in your face.” Blake Countess led the conference in interceptions last year, but was repping with the second team all night. The “starting” group was Jourdan Lewis, Raymon Taylor and Jabrill Peppers at nickel. Countess will certainly be a factor, but those three guys looked better.
Speaking of Peppers, the hype on him is legitimate. He absolutely belongs out there and will get a shot to start at one of the cornerback spots. Most of the night, they had him playing nickel, but he did line up outside a few times and even took a rep at free safety. He is a special talent.
Any other questions about what was seen at the scrimmage? Sound off in the comments below or chime in on social media!