Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.comI will try to have some more comprehensive thoughts once I can download a torrent of the game, but the spring game left a few impressions that I should probably write down.
- Gardner. All the talk after the spring game focused on Devin Gardner's, shall we say, less that encouraging performance. After last year's spring game, I said...
Devin, who has the size, still has little or no technique. Watching him fling a 40-yard pass from his off foot was the most Pryor-Armpunt thing I've ever seen him do. Unless the new staff can drastically improve his fundamentals, Gardner won't ever see significant playing time at Michigan, and that's disappointing....which is basically a carbon copy of what I'll say this year. Gardner's throwing motion is still unsustainable, which causes his accuracy to be inconsistent. He's not even reading the defenses particularly well. That interception: you can't make that throw. Gardner has done nothing to change my stance on his prospects: he will never see significant time at QB unless there's an injury. Next year, it's the Shane Morris Show.
- Wide receiver. Holy smokes, Michigan desperately needs these. While most people are centering their concern on the offensive and defensive lines (and rightfully so, about which more later), wide receiver is nearly as barren as the linemen depth chart. If this game doesn't turn up the volume on the Gardner-to-WR chatter, nothing will. I didn't take note of everyone out there (did Roundtree even play in the game?), but regardless, Michigan has no one to catch passes that will threaten opposing defenses.
- Offensive line. The first team offensive line looked fine, barring the two fumbled snaps, which are probably 50% on the quarterback, but beyond them, yikes. There is nothing there. If I can recall correctly, redshirt junior Erik Gunderson played a lot of right tackle in the game and reprised Mark Huyge's role in Spartans in the Backfield. Defensive linemen were routinely getting past the second unit, largely unabated. Pray for health because if not, this team is sunk.
- Defensive line. Adequate. Totally adequate. Craig Roh looked good as the strongside end. Will Campbell was completely average. Otherwise, there was nothing particularly impressive or concerning about the defensive line. It won't be as good as last year, but it won't be a major liability this year (there's almost no way this prediction doesn't come back to bite me in the ass).
- Secondary. The secondary looked pretty good actually. Greg Mattison seemed comfortable putting most of the secondary in man coverage throughout the spring game. Caveats about competition aside, the coverage down the field looked really solid, which will open things up for Mattison in the blitzing game.
- Edge issues. The defense still showed some problems maintain edge responsibilities, which ugh, but fine. I'd like to see those things ironed out by now, but last year, the coaches recognize and addressed those issues quickly.
- Bellomy. Russell Bellomy came in as the nominal #2 quarterback. Despite my desire to see Gardner move to wide receiver, I'm not sure I want Bellomy as Denard's backup. He showed good pocket presence and some ability to make plays, but he has a high school arm and only decent accuracy. He's not a quality backup yet.
- Running backs. Thomas Rawls wins the annual Spring Game award for Most Impressive Player Likely to Spend the Season on the Bench. Rawls is a power runner that showed good vision and an ability to get upfield. This year still belongs to Fitz Toussaint, though. Rawls will be a good option when Toussaint needs a breather, but he doesn't offer much that Fitz doesn't already bring to the table. The biggest concern with Rawls isn't even about his play: I'm worried the coaches will try and revive the I-formation running game behind Rawls' shoulder pads. As we saw once again in the spring game, this team is ill-equipped to run from the I formation.
In other running back news, Vincent Smith is still a better blocker than you. Hoorah for consistent third-down backs.
That's about all I can remember from a single viewing of the game. I don't know if I'm going to picture page anything from the game or not, but I might. Frankly, I don't remember seeing anything that was particularly noteworthy schematically, but if something caught your eye, let me know and I'll take a look. If other thoughts pop up throughout subsequent viewings, I'll try and bring them up.