SPRING GAME SUMMARY 2002
The defense was certainly superior
today, and is certainly ahead of the offense in terms of talent,
experience and game savvy. I only stayed until about 2:25 p.m.,
but I did observe the whole conditioning practices prior to the
Quarterback: The people that continue
to support John Navarre in spite of his lackluster performances
must really "get a life." He looked less than mediocre
today. His weight reduction has paid no dividends that I saw today.
He can throw a nice pass (when he is not rushed), but he continues
to show he cannot drive the team "at will" or when necessary.
He doesn't raise his level or adjust to defensive schemes all
that well, and a quarterback needs to raise his level to beat
good defenses and win games.
On the bright side, Spencer Brinton
showed that he can throw a nice pass although some of his short
passes looked pretty lame at times. He showed he can lead the
team offensively, and raise his level to respond to defensive
schemes. He led the offense better than Navarre in the drives
I observed, and he did it against a better defense and without
better offensive players on his unit. He also threw an ugly pick
straight to Hobson on a short pass. We should be better at this
position, but I'm still hoping Matt Gutierrez will get a shot
in the Summer and Fall practices rather than redshirt. I'm also
guessing that Gonzalez will go back to wide receiver because he
is a better athlete than a quarterback.
Running Backs: David Underwood does
look like a solid big tailback and Kelly Baraka does add a dimension
of quickness and speed that we didn't have last year. These two
coupled with Perry and Askew will help us be solid in these positions.
I'm beginning to think that Perry would be a lot better if he
only weighed 215 or 220; he is simply not as fast and mobile at
235. Sanderson and Moundros also look pretty good at times; it
looks like when Sanderson matures and gets in better condition,
he could be a solid fullback: blocking, running and catching.
It's awful hard though when you weigh 280 lbs. Brackins is still
working only as an H-Back or blocker and doesn't see any running
plays or short passes. Dudley played, but didn't particularly
impress much. Last Spring, Tim Bracken looked solid (hard to bring
down and breaks tackles regularly) so although he didn't dress
today, it is hoped that he'll add more toughness to our running
game. We should be improved here, but we're not where we'd like
Tight Ends: Joppru looks like the
best of the bunch, but nobody particularly stood out. Fisher looks
like the #2, but Mingery is also very athletic. Dubuc did play,
but didn't play as much. David Spytek didn't look very impressive,
and hobbled off once. This position will probably not be quite
as strong as last year. We not have as good of receiving or blocking
at this position as last year. We really need to develop some
people here, and Tyler Ecker's return in 2003 will also really
help assuming he'll get back into shape quickly.
Offensive Line: There were some
bright spots here. They did a good job overall on pass protection,
and did open some holes from time to time on a good, solid and
experienced defensive line. Pape will definitely start somewhere.
Stenavich, Morgan or Solomon could start at the other tackle.
Pearson does seem to have the inside track to start at center
with Christopfel as backup. I'm sure Petruziello will start at
one guard even though he missed Spring practice so this leaves
Baas the probable starter at the other guard. Lentz will probably
back up Petruziello at right guard while Denay, if healthy, will
probably back up Baas; otherwise, Morgan will probably be the
utility linemen backup up tackle (if not starting), guard and
center. Ealey and Simelis will probably back up Left Tackle although
Simelis couldn't participate in Spring drills.
You'd like to believe that we'll
have a better offensive line than last year, but we did lose a
solid center in Anderson and a solid guard in Goodwin. We really
don't look like we'll be able to rush the ball for 200 yards against
anyone yet other than maybe Western Michigan.
Offense Overall: I'm worried. I
thought we'd be developing an awesome offensive line and running
game, but it looks like this will take more time. I don't see
us beginning the season with 200+ yard rushing days against Washington
or Notre Dame, but we better have a solid rushing attack by the
time Michigan State rolls into Ann Arbor. I don't think we have
a deep threat like Marquis Walker or David Terrell either. Our
receivers will be good, but I don't see anyone being a game breaker
type except possibly Braylon Edwards. Our most dangerous offensive
weapons appear to be: 1)B.J. Askew on the screen pass 2)Braylon
Edwards in the open field 3)Calvin Bell or Ron Bellamy on the
End Around or Reverse and 4)Ron Bellamy on the criss-cross to
get him into the open field. You can bet that other defensive
coaches already are preparing for our lackluster offense. I didn't
see any "bomb" passes thrown while I was there. Hopefully,
Avant or Breaston will help right away. If we win games, we'll
be winning close defensive games until this offense matures. I
wouldn't be surprised to see many freshman get a chance for playing
time on offense. This may include: Gutierrez, Hood, Rembert, Avant,
Breaston, Tabb, Murphy and Kolodziej. Our special teams may also
have to be depended upon to put points on the board or at least
help us establish an edge in field position.
Defensive Line: We are definitely
solid here! Orr starts at one end-RLB or Rush End with Woods as
the backup. Rumishek starts at the Anchor End with Stevens again
backing up; both are solid anchors. Lazarus and Heuer will both
start at the tackle positions backed up by Bowman, Ofili and Massey.
Watson could see playing time depending upon defensive scheme,
but especially in clogging up the middle in running situations.
Linebackers: We are very solid here!
Diggs and Hobson are big, mobile and big hitters; both should
start. Kauffman, Reid, Manning and McClintock will also see plenty
of action. Casseus, Spytek and Sarantos will also see some playing
time, but not as much as the others. We can bring in a lot of
different blitz packages with such experienced, tough and quick
linebackers. We will also be good on both run and pass support.
The only senior will be Hobson so this group will excel for at
least two to three years especially when one considers that we
are adding some more solid players who'll probably redshirt with
Van Alstyne, Harris, Thompson and Paul Sarantos (and hopefully
Defensive Backs: I was really looking
forward to seeing Shazor play, and he did o.k.; however I don't
think he'll beat out June. I see June and Curry at the safeties
backed up by Drake, Shazor and Shaw. Actually, Shaw looked very
good; he'd start on many other teams. At the corners, Jackson
is solid, but surprisingly I thought Brandon Williams looked very
good today. Markus Curry and Williams will probably compete for
the starter at the other corner with backups LeSueur, Combs and
whichever freshman impresses the most in the Fall drills: McCoy,
Cooper or Barringer. Shazor has the thinnest calves I've ever
seen for someone who is 6'5" and 200 lbs.; someone needs
to introduce him to the Calf Raise machine.
Defense Overall: We'll definitely
have our best defense in three years; it will be solid. Our line
is solid, our linebackers are solid and our backs are solid; we
even have great depth. Our defense will keep us in game, and hopefully
force a lot of turnovers. Our most vulnerable spots for offenses
to exploit are in the short and medium passing routes especially
with spread offenses, but I think with our plethora of quick linebackers,
the return of the Curry brothers and Marlin Jackson, we should
create a lot of turnovers while offenses try to exploit us. We
will be solid on the pass rush and solid against the run. We should
be one of the premier Big Ten and national defenses (Top 3 in
the Big Ten and Top 10 nationally).
Kicking Game: The punting looks
like Mingery is a little more consistent, and he boomed some big
punts in the scrimmage and in practice prior to the scrimmage.
Findley looks like he can be good, but he seems to lack consistency
especially when he is in a game situation with a crowd. There
were no kickoffs, but the extra points and field goals seem to
favor Nienberg over Brabbs. Nienberg looks very consistent from
inside 40 yards; he makes most of his kicks look effortless. Brabbs
may be better in kickoffs according to rumor though so both may
see action; he barely makes many of his kicks (just inside the
posts). We should have another solid year in punt rushing and
blocking because we have a lot of the same personnel. Both Curry's
should excel in punt returns, and Baraka looks like he can contribute
on kickoffs and punts. McCoy, Breaston and Jackson could also
contribute unless they'd (McCoy and Breaston) like to redshirt.
Bellamy continues to show signs of fumblitis in practice situations.
It looks like Mingery will be our holder rather than Navarre;
this will open up potential fake field goals because Mingery can
throw and catch.
Final Evaluation and Summary: I
am an eternal optimist especially when it comes to Michigan football,
and I'd like to say we'll go 12-0 and play for the national title.
However, I think our chance to be a championship team rests with
a maturing offense developing new players and offensive schemes.
We must be patient and hopeful. I see us having the most difficulty
with Washington, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Illinois. Michigan
State, Penn State and Wisconsin will be no picnic either. Luckily,
only 5 of our 12 games are on the road: Notre Dame, Ohio State,
Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota. Our toughest road games will be
the first three mentioned; our toughest home games should be Washington,
Michigan State and Penn State. I think our defense can help us
win most of these in hard-fought low scoring affairs, but our
immature offense will be hard-pressed to come from behind or win
close games especially on the road. I'm looking more realistically
at 9-3, and I hope I'm wrong.