Jim Harbaugh’s second season as Michigan’s head football coach began in Ann Arbor Saturday as the Michigan Wolverines battled the Rainbow Warriors of Hawaii. The excitement around Michigan football has not been this high in quite some time. Michigan legends Charles Woodson and Lamaar Woodley were on hand for Saturday’s contest, as well as former interim Athletic Director Jim Hackett, Major League Baseball legend Derek Jeter and, of course, the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan.
Fans either arrived to the stadium or tuned into their televisions wondering which quarterback Harbaugh would choose to lead the offense. Both Wilton Speight and John O’Korn have shown steady progress throughout fall camp according to the Michigan coaches, but Speight was the guy Harbaugh chose to lead the Wolverines onto the field.
Things started off about as bad as they could for Speight, as he dropped back on his first pass and threw it right into the arms of a Hawaii defender. Luckily, Michigan’s stellar defense would hold and the Wolverines would regain possession and not look back.
The Wolverines took a 35-0 lead into the half, and I’m pretty sure the Rainbow Warriors packed their bags and left the Big House at that point. Michigan’s success continued in the second half as they scored twice in the first five minutes to extend its lead to 49-0. Michigan would ultimately score two more times and give up a 55-yard field goal en route to a 63-3 victory.
Football in Ann Arbor looks promising with the excitement continuing to blossom. Hawaii was not a very strong opponent, but there were definitely things that Michigan did on both sides of the ball that have fans talking. A few players stood out above the rest, so let’s see who were “Harbaugh’s Heroes” this week.
The Team, The Team, The Team
But seriously…in a 60 point victory how do you not just give the entire team a game ball award? Michigan played 17 true freshmen and four different quarterbacks Saturday. That is absurd.
Chris Evans, Freshman, Running back
While driving home from the game, I asked my wife who should get a game ball this week. Her response: “That Evans guy.” So, as my wife has requested, here you go (I was actually already giving him a game ball, but don’t tell her).
The true freshman running back from Indianapolis led the rushing attack for the Wolverines. He racked up 112 yards on eight carries for two touchdowns. His longest run came at the beginning of the second half as he bust through the line and scampered 43 yards for a touchdown.
We heard a lot during camp about how this guy could be pretty good and how we need to lookout for him. Well…he backed that up. Evans showed some very patient and smart runs. What I mean by that is that he didn’t just get the ball and try to plow through holes that weren’t there (good thing because he is a fairly small back, at 5-foot-11, 200 lbs). Instead, Evans waited for the blockers to open a lane for him. He saw daylight most of the time when he waited for it. I think the Michigan rushing attack is bright with this kid in it; not to mention when you add Smith and Isaac into it.
Wilton Speight, Junior, Quarterback
One of, if not the biggest question on everyone’s mind this offseason was who the starting quarterback will be this fall. Just like last year, the Wolverine faithful had to wait until the very first play of the season to find out. Harbaugh chose to go with the 6-foot-6 quarterback from Virginia.
Speight looked ready to go as he commanded the troops to the line for the new season. He took the snap, dropped back, rolled to his right, and….threw an interception. However, the quarterback bounced back his next drive connecting on a few nice passes. He led the Wolverines down the field on an 11-play, 98 yard touchdown drive. Speight didn’t stop there as he tacked on two more pitch and catch touchdowns. His final line: 10-13, 145 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
I think Speight is the real deal. I know a lot of people like to throw around the word “pedestrian” when describing him. To me I take that as he is boring. Boring is okay. Boring will win games. Michigan needs Speight to manage the game and lead the team. They have enough play makers on offense; he just needs to be smart and get the ball to them. I’m looking forward to a BIG season for Speight this year.
Mike McCray and Ben Gedeon, Senior Linebackers
Another huge question mark for the Wolverines was the linebacker position. With the departures of Desmond Morgan, Joe Bolden and James Ross, where would the Wolverines turn?
Look no further than two seniors from Ohio. Both McCray and Gedon were superb on Saturday, accounting for 13.5 tackles, one forced fumble, and three sacks. The senior linebackers both looked ready for this upcoming season. They were commanding the defense and seemed to be in on almost every tackle. I think these two guys, along with Jabrill Peppers, could be a HUGE part in the Wolverines defense this year. We already know the defensive line is great, and the secondary is right there with them. How will the linebackers respond as the year goes on? Will they be able to recognize the run, locate it and stop it right where it’s at? Will they be able to cover the middle of the field so that no little dump pass or cross pattern turns into a big play for the opposition? We will have to wait and see, but I am fully confident in our linebacker corps.