In The Books: Week One

“In the books” will be my weekly piece on all of the CFB action that I caught over the past week (Not just Michigan). Normally I would like to publish this earlier in the week but we can all thank Ohio for that not happening this week. I am going to start things off with national tid-bits then finishing up with the Wolverines.

– I had the privilege of attending a game in South Bend for the first time this past weekend, and while its no Ann Arbor I was pleasantly surprised. I wore burnt orange all day (As a kid the Longhorns were my second favorite team and my buddy I went with is from Austin) and only one single person ran their mouth to me. Incredibly respectful environment, beautiful campus.

– I dont think there needs to be anything said about the Texas offense, as it was absolutely abysmal and in the news all week. Notre Dame looks like a legit playoff contender, as they dominated up front on both sides of the ball. Malike Zaire showed the nation while Everett Golson transferred, and their skill players on offense are exceptional. Jaylon Smith might be the best defender in the country, and DE Sheldon Day is very underrated. For the Longhorns, Malik Jefferson might not only be a freshman all american, but a legit all american. Kid is a stud.

– Ohio State will not be tested until November when they play MSU and U of M back to back, and even then, I think they showed monday night that the only team that can beat them is themselves.

– SMU quarterback Matt Davis is a very under the radar stud. He kept the Mustangs to within a score of Baylor at halftime.

Now for the Wolverines!!

Offnese: I absolutely loved the formations and game plan that Drevno, Fisch and Harbaugh came up with for the Utes. The power run formations used throughout the night were exactly what I saw at spring practice a few months back. I was very surprised to see Ross Taylor-Douglass take the field before Derrick Green, as it seems he will be the third down back. Receiver wise, how awesome was it to finally see Drake Harris on the field!? I dont believe he was targeted but he was the fourth receiver on the field. No Moe Ways or Da’mario Jones to my knowledge. Grant Perry started the game and came off the field sparingly. Chesson and Darboh have stepped up in a big way and were open all night. Brian Cole played on most special teams and logged a few snaps on offense, even getting the ball on a screen on third down in the red zone in the first half. It goes without saying that Jake Butt is a stud, and his week one performance is a great start to what I predict will be an All American season. The Oline was hot and cold, doing some things very well and some things not so well. Run Blocking needs to be more consistent, but we need to remember that Utah is one of the top three defenses we will see this season. I was disappointed to see Rudock get the start, but I was even more disappointed to see him throw three picks after everyone touted his as a starter due to his effectiveness of keeping the ball out of the defenses hands. Those three interceptions completely changed the game and it cannot happen again.

Defense: The front four played exceptionally well all night, taking care of Deovante Booker inside the tackles and flushing QB Travis Wilson out of the pocket routinely. With that being said, I thought the linebackers struggled all night. Most of Wilson’s runs could/should have been stopped by the backers. A position unit that was thought to be the strength of the Defense in the pre season, needs to step up for week two. Jabrill Peppers played lights out most of the night, dominating in the run game from the slot corner spot. And while he never had the chance to run one back, he is also returning kicks which is a surprise to no one. Overall the Defense played well, being on the field more than they should have been with the offense turning it over three times.

Overall, the differences between the Hoke and Harbaugh regimes could not be more apparent. This team fought until the very end and were physical from the start. The little things hurt the Wolverines all night, and all week we have heard the team address their own issues. Good things are on the horizon folks, and I think we’ll see some major improvements from week one to two. Go Blue.

@bleedbluecoacht

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CoachT’s Predictions: @ Utah

The time for talk and speculation is ALMOST over folks. Kickoff is just over twenty-four hours, and wheels are down in Salt Lake City. Unfortunately, I have my own game to coach tomorrow night and will be watching the game on tape delay. Here are just a few of my predictions for tomorrow night.

1. The offense will not throw more than twenty times.
– Harbaugh will look to establish the run early and often, and we’ll probably see him force the issue if necessary. The only way the Wolverines throw more than twnety time is if they are down in the fourth quarter.

2. No back will carry the ball more than ten times.
– De’veon Smith is listed as the starter and will see the first few carries of the night, but after that I expect to see Derrick Green, Ty Isaac and potentially Karan Higdon in certain packages and personal groupings throughout the night.

3. The offensive line will only give up one sack.
– I believe this retooled offensive line under Tim Drevno will shore up ALL of the faults we saw under Brady Hoke and Darrell Funk.

Defense

1. Jabrill Peppers had eight total tackles, two TFL and one pass defended.
– I anticipate the defense will be in either a 4-2-5 or 3-3-5 alignment most of the night to defend Utah’s spread offense, which will put Jabrill all over the field. On the line of scrimmage, twelve yards off ball and in the nickel corner slot.

2. The defense gives up only one play of 40+ yards
– This defense is incredibly athletic and fast and will rally to the ball on everything underneath or outside. However, this is a new scheme for these players and it would be silly to think there wont be at least one coverage breakdown.

3. Three sacks between the D-Line and line backers.
– The new scheme will be an advantage here, as Durkin will be able to dial up some blitzes in zone and man coverage that the Utes have never seen before.

Final Prediction: Michigan-28 Utah-24

I firmly believe the defense will hold the Utes to under four scores (the fourth obviously being a field goal) and if that happens, all the Offense has to do is match or overtake by a few points to be in the game at the start of the fourth quarter. Kyle Wittingham himself has said he doesn’t know what to expect from the Wolverines, and if they can capitalize early in the first half, the only way the Utes will catch up is if their staff can make effective half time adjustments.

@bleedbluecoacht

Coach T’s Take: Starting XI- Utah

 

We are almost there!! In less than two weeks this will no longer be speculation but straight facts. We all know that no one outside of Jimmy and Timmy have an idea of what the starting offense will look like at Utah next month, but here is my best guess at what the starting eleven will look like. I am going to base these predictions off of what I saw at spring practice in March and my own evaluations of the talent on the roster more so than the murmurs and rumors coming out of the submarine. As an added bonus, I am going to give the two deep depth chart a shot as well. Here goes nothing!

 

QB

  1. Shane Morris- I’ve been saying that Sugar Shane will be the Wolverines starting quarterback since last december. After seeing his performance at spring practice and in the spring game, I became more confident in my prediction. Morris simply has more talent and ability than Rudock, and there has been a largely publicized precedent for this situation under Harbaugh already. RE: Colin Kaepernick starting over Alex Smith. Smith got the job done and won games, but Kaep made plays and took the 49ers to the super bowl. Morris is an exceptional athlete and is a surprising runner. Couple that with his NFL level arm strength, and you have a starting QB.

2. Jake Rudock- Jake will be one of the most experience back ups in the country and will provide invaluable mentoring to Morris throughout the season.

FB

  1. Joe Kerridge- Should be a captain as one of the most veteran players on the team.

2. Sione Houma

 

HB

  1. Wyatt Shallman- Not quite a fullback, not quite a tailback and not quite a tight end. Shallman can do a little bit of everything and is a good enough athlete that it will be hard to keep him off the field. If not here then I see a switch to defense in line for Wyatt

2. Khalid Hill

 

RB

  1. Derrick Green- DG is a monster. While he has some flaws to his game, he has busted his butt coming back from injury and looked pretty good before he got hurt last season. I have faith that he’ll seperate himself from the pack.

2. Every and anyone else- Michigan will have at LEAST two backs with 500+ yards this season, with the potential to be 750+ with two or three other guys earning meaningful carries. De’veon Smith is a stud but is a limited athlete. Ty Isaac is a freak athlete but hasn’t done much since getting to Ann Arbor. Drake Johnson is all heart and one of my favorite players on the team. Karan Higdon is a dark horse and would have to pass all of the aforementioned backs ahead of him on the depth chart to avoid a red shirt.

 

TE

  1. Jake Butt- Enough said here. I believe Butt has All American potential this season and could be the Wolverines leading receiver.

2. Ian Bunting- Bunting’s body has responded wonderfully to U of M’s strength and conditioning program and he now has the body of an NFL tight end. I expect good things from him this season.

 

LT

  1. Mason Cole- This kid is an animal that will end up on a few post season accolade lists this year.

2. Logan Tuley-Tillman

LG

  1. Blake Bars- I thought Bars was the sixth lineman while observing spring practice. I have heard nothing but praise from Drevno thus far and I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes away a starting spot from “Incumbent” Erik Magnuson, who was a jack of all trades and a master of none for the Hoke staff.

2. Dave Dawson

C

  1. Graham Glasgow- As long as he can keep his nose clean, Glasgow will be the anchor of this line from start to finish.

2. Patrick Kugler

RG

  1. Kyle Kalis- Another mainstay on the oline and no surprise here.

2. Erik Magnuson

 

RT

  1. Ben Braden- A Freak athlete, I really don’t see Drevno uprooting Braden from his spot on what will now be the blind side with Morris under center.

2. Juwann Bushell-Beatty

 

X

  1. Drake Harris- IF healthy, Drake will be a breath of fresh air for the Wolverines. Finally a play maker that can do it all. Again, IF healthy.

2. Amara Darboh

 

Z

  1. Brian Cole II- Cole is a stud athlete that I have been watching film on since his sophomore year of high school, growing up less than thirty minutes north of me on I-75. Cole was swimming with the offense in the spring but there is no question that he is physically ready. Cole and Harris could be a special tandem for a long time.

2. Jehu Chesson II

 

Slot

  1. Freddy Canteen- Rumors of Freddy playing corner at practice are hard for me to fathom. I have to stick to what I saw in the spring and pencil Canteen into the slot spot with Norfleet gone.

2. Grant Perry

Get at me on twitter for any clarification or anymore questions. Thanks for the read and as always, GO BLUE!!!

 

@BleedBlueCoachT

 

 

 

In the film room: 2016 Commit Erik Swenson

Name: Erik Swenson
Class: 2016
Position: Offensive Tackle
Height: 6’7
Weight: 285
Offer Sheet: (5) Michigan, Illinois, Northwestern, Notre Dame and Ohio State
Ranking: 4 Star
Commit Date: 11/25/13

This is the first BBR evaluation for the class of 2016. I will be using a new and improved grading scale. Out of 100 points possible, I will be grading offensive lineman on their Pass protection and run blocking (broken down into their technique and footwork). I will also be grading their build, Athleticism and their “It” factor. Which for Offensive lineman will be nastiness, and finishing their blocks.
90+ = Elite. Day one starter without question
80+ = Highly polished player, likely to have early Play time
70+ = Needs a few touch ups to their game before college ready
60+ = Redshirt likely
Player Comparison: Joe Staley (San Francisco 49ers)

Erik Swenson was the first 2016 prospect to commit to the Wolverines as a sophomore in 2013. Even back then, almost two years ago, Swenson looked the part of an elite offensive line prospect. Wearing #77 and playing left tackle, I had visions of Jake Long and Taylor Lewan from the first time I watched his film. Swenson hails from Downers Grove, Illinois and is the second ranked prospect in the state. A large and physically imposing player, Swenson dominates every defender in his path.

Pass Protection-
Technique: 15/20 Footwork: 15/20 Overall: 30/40
After watching just one play of pass pro, you can tell just low long and hard he was worked on his craft. Swenson’s first step is quick and short, and his feet are never off the ground too long. His hands are constantly in motion, whether he is engaged or not. Once he is back in his kick step and a defender reaches him, Swenson is quick to deliver a blow, although it is not a great one. Often times a defender will try to beat him up field with speed, and Swenson will simply engage the defender and continue to run him up field and away from the play. His kick step is much smoother and more fluid than his post step, which will be a something for him to work on at the next level. His center of gravity is not great during pass pro, although Im sure it is tough for a 6’7 kid to stay low. His pad level never hinders him however, as he is just more physical than anyone that lines up against him.

Run Blocking-
Technique: 13/20 Footwork: 18/20 Overall: 31/40
Swenson can be somewhat enigmatic here. On one play, Swenson will drive his man thirty yards down field and end up on top of him like Michael Oher in the Blind side. On the next play, Swenson will simply stand up and use his big frame to shield the defender against a play to his side. Swenson’s biggest strength (aside from his size) is his ability to get to the second level. Watching film, I actually picked up on their blocking scheme for what I believe are their Iso plays. Swenson will get an inside release on the man lined up across from him, and go get a line backer, leaving his man for the full back to pick up (Iso plays are generally blocked the opposite way). Swenson’s pad level,base and hand placement are all top notch. Swenson preys on smaller linebackers, racking up pancake after pancake block. When engaged, Swenson will either punish the man he is blocking, or show a bit of laziness and use his size and size only to win the battle.

Athleticism: 7/10
Swenson is exceptionally athletic for his height and weight. While he is not spectacularly fast or mobile, he is certainly above average. He showcases his mobility on screen plays, where he releases and blocks a DB in open space. Swenson also routinely blocks smaller and quicker linebackers in open space.

“It”: 4/5
Swenson feeds off of mauling everyone he faces. Where he loses a point here is the occasional play off. According to his film, he averages seventeen pancakes a game, and that I believe. Once he gets his hands on you, Its over.

Build: 5/5
Swenson is all of 6’7 and 285, and not even out of high school yet. You cannot ask for much more out of a tackle.

Overall: 77/100
Swenson does a lot of things very well and only a small handful of things poorly. The strengths of his game are his ability to get to the second level, and to finish blocks, which he is often in great position for due to his great footwork. Swenson’s weaknesses are the occasional play he takes off, his center of gravity during pass pro and his post step. Swenson has an entire year to polish these areas of his game, and I have no doubt that he’ll do so. With all of the offensive line talent that the Wolverines currently have on their roster in addition to the talent being brought in, there are no playing time guarantees’. At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Swenson redshirted and primed to take the field as a RS freshman or sophomore. While not elite, Swenson is most definitely an above average high school lineman, and with a little polishing of his game, we can expect big things from Swenson.

@BleedBlueCoachT

The Definitive Guide To Michigan Spring Practice.

Yesterday I attended practice inside Al Glick field house. It was all business from start to finish. Harbaugh himself did not coach any single position, but instead moved from station to station throughout the day. The only time he worked with the quarterbacks exclusively was while they warmed up their arms. The players stretched individually before practice, then walked through plays on both side of the ball. The Wolverines conditioned periodically throughout practice, and took a few five-minute breaks at the “Fuel Station” on the sideline where there was Gatorade and snacks. Harbaugh was constantly coaching and teaching, from the back up full back to starting quarterback. Only one time did he raise his voice and yell out of frustration. The coaching staff as a whole is a slightly different story; all of them with the exception of Greg Mattison are very intense and adamant. Time Drevno is a hell of an offensive line coach, very demanding and seems to be a great teacher. Following this will be a list of players that were absent or did not participate in practice, and following that will be the depth chart that I saw with yesterdays players.

Players that did not participate:
-Mario Ojemudia: MIA
– Da’Mario Jones: MIA
– Sione Houma: MIA
– Noah Furbush: MIA
– Chris Fox: MIA
– Drake Harris: Limited participation.
– Dave Dawson: Fully dressed, no participation however.
– Terry Richardson: Fully dressed, no participation however.
– Ondre Pipkens: Limited Participation.
– Ty Isaac: Limited Participation, undisclosed reason.
– Jabrill Peppers: Had his wisdom teeth removed earlier in the week.
– Taco Charlton: Wore shirt & T-Shirt at practice. Undiclosed reason.
– Dan Samullsen: Came up lame during conditions. Upper leg.
– Drake Johnson: Recovering from a torn ACL
– Graham Glasgow: Suspended
– Khalid Hill: Recovering from a torn ACL
– Matt Godin: Suspected lower body injury.

-Things that stood out to me:
– Shane Morris was the first player out of the locker room and on the field.
– Ty Isaac is a MONSTER. Dude looks like a tight end.
– Three players saw reps at center today (Cole, Kugler, Bars) and all three had poor snaps all afternoon. Jim Harbaugh was taking a large interest in that position all day.
– Juwann Bushell Beatty & Lawrence Marshall & Ian Bunting have made the biggest freshman to sophomore leap physically. JBB and Bunting are growing into what appears to be NFL frames, and Marshall looks like a fully grown man, and is absolutely jacked.
– Chase Winovich has moved to tight end, and his athleticism suits him well at the position.
– Henry Poggi & Tom Stroebel split time all afternoon at Defensive Line and Tight End/H-Back.
– Brian Cole is the real deal, already physically ready for the D1 game.
– The defense came out In a traditional 3-4, and only moved to a four man front for a Nickel package that was similar to a 4-2-5
– Dennis Norfleet is one of the unquestioned upper classmen leaders of this team. He has the respect of all of his team mates and is an exceptional leader by example on the field.

Quarterbacks:
1. Shane Morris, Jr-
. Shane Morris ran with the 1’s all afternoon. In warm ups and seven on seven drills, Morris was dropping dimes, and I cannot recall a single ball of his hitting the ground. It was readily apparent that he has the best command of the offense of all QB’s, At this point it appears it is Morris’s job to lose.
2. Alex Malzone, Fr
Alex got all of the 2’s reps, and a small portion of the 1’s as well. He looks very comfortable with the offense, and is playing better than expected at this point.
3. Wilton Speight, RFr
Speight struggled with accuracuy all afternoon, and got very few reps with the starters. Appears to be outside looking in at this point and was underwhelming all day long.
4. Garrett Moores, RFr
Moores is the only other QB to receive team reps today, albeit with the back ups.

Running Backs:
1. De’Veon Smith, Jr-
De’veon ran only with the 1’s during the team portion of practice. Expect him to tote the rock this season in some form.
2. Derrick Green, Jr
Green appears to be in great shape, and is speed has improved. If only he would keep his feet going. One of the few backs to get team reps with starters.
3. Antonio Whitfield, Jr
Suprisingly, Whitfield got a number of carries behind the 1st Oline, and not all of them were out of shotgun. I’d be surprised if he saw the ball much during the regular season, but today showed the coaches trust him.
4. Wyatt Shallman, Jr-
Shallman is definitely now playing tail back. He ran with the 1’s in seven on seven, both catching the ball and in pass pro. However he received few if any 1st team carries in team.

Fullback:
1. Joe Kerridge, RSr
Kerridge will undoubtedly be Michigan’s starting full back in 2015.
2. Brady Pallante, So
Pallante moved to tight end from Defensive Tackle, and the move has paid off. Brady moves well and saw a few 1st team goal line reps.

Slot Receiver:
1. Dennis Norfleet, Sr
Norfleet had a good a practice as anyone. He looks very comfortable under Harbaugh, and his route running and plays after the catch were great today. He stood out as a leader of the receiving core in a big way today.
2. Brian Cole, Fr
Cole is physically ready for the game, however is a freshman swimming right now. I’ll be shocked if he isn’t a part of the offense come week one, and becomes a monster on special teams.
3. Bo Dever, Sr
Dever played sparingly last season, and with Norfleet stepping up, it appears that will be the case this year also.

X Receiver:
1. Amara Darboh, Sr
Darboh did nothing specactular all day, but he had a good command of the offense and saw a lot of 1st team reps.
2. JaRon Dukes, Jr
Dukes had himself a great practice. He stood out among receivers all day, and saw some 1st team reps. He’ll be apart of the offense this season.
3. Maurice Ways, So
Ways passes the eye test with ease. He caught a few jump balls and stood out during seven on seven. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him catch a few this season.

Z Receiver:
1. Jehu Chesson, Sr
Chesson ran with the 1’s all day. Like Darboh, he wasn’t spectacular, but he seemed the most comfortable in the offense.
2. Freddy Canteen, So
Canteen split 1st & 2nd team reps all day, and looked comfortable under Harbaugh. Expect him to find this end zone this year.
3. Jack Wangler, RSo
Wangler played well in seven on seven, but underwhelmed during the team session.

Tight End:
1. Jake Butt, Jr
Butt did everything for the offense in what will be a complicated TE role. Performed well.
2. AJ Williams, Sr
AJ has always been an inline tight end, and that will not change under Harbaugh. He’s basically an extra offensive lineman.
3. Ian Bunting, RFr
Bunting has filled his frame and is a full grown man on the field. He performed well physically but did not seem to have a good handle on the offense.
Of Note: Henry Poggi, Chase Winovich and Tom Stroelbel all repped at tight end and H-Back. I wouldn’t exactly rank them on this list but it is of note. Stroebel strictly played on the LOS, and always blocked. Poggi and Winovich were used more as H-Backs. Thye both blocked and received.

Left Tackle:
1. Logan Tulley-Tillman, RSo
LTT got more than half of the reps at left tackle and performed well. I could definitely see him starting there week one.
2. Mason Cole, So
Cole is currently repping at Center for the 1st team. However, if Tillman is not up to the challenge at Left Tackle, Cole will step in and succeed.

Left Guard:
1. Eric Magnuson, Sr
Magnuson has the left guard spot all but locked up.
2. Blake Bars, Sr

Center:
1. Mason Cole, Fr
2. Patrick Kugler, RSo
Kugler got half of the first team reps, and played well other than his poor snaps.
3. Blake Bars, Sr
Bars was the go-to when both Kugler and Cole struggled with his snaps.

Right Guard:
1. Kyle Kalis, RJr
Kalis is finally living up to his billing out of High School.
2. Greg Froelich, Jr
Froelich got a decent amount of the 2nd team right guard reps
Right Tackle:

1. Ben Braden, RJr
Braden is a true mauler, once he gets his hands on you; youre toast. Braden will start here week one.
2. Juwann Bushell-Beatty, RFr
JBB impressed me today, both with his size and play.

Offensive Recap: If they played tomorrow, Morris would start at QB. The running backs will be by committee all season unless someone separates themselves from the pack. Early on I think we’ll see the more experienced guys at receiver (Darboh, Chesson) but as the season progresses we’ll see more Canteen, Ways & Cole. Dennis Norfleet will be properly utilized under Drevno, and you can expect to see the ball in his hands. Butt is an all conference tight end at worst, and will be one of our leading receivers. Ian Bunting looks great after putting on some weight, and as the season moves along we’ll see more and more of him. As far as the Oline goes, it all hinges on if LTT can play left tackle. If he can, the line will look like this :LTT, Magnuson, Cole, Kalis, Braden. If LTT cannot get the job done, Cole will move back outside and Pat Kugler will start at center. The offense ran a LOT of pistol, using multiple full backs and tight ends in the back field. Not much one-back under center, but there was a lot of one-back out of shotgun. Of the players already on the roster that did not participate, I expect Khalid Hill, Ty Isaac, Sione Houma, Dave Dawson, Drake Johnson, Drake Harris and Graham Glasgow could all play a role this upcoming season. Of the incoming freshman that could make an impact, There is Grant Perry, Zack Gentry, Karan Higdon, Grant Newsome, Tyrone Wheatley Jr and Jon Runyan Jr.

Defensive Groups (3-4 Look)
LDE:
1. Willie Henry, RJr
2. Henry Poggi, Jr
– Both players did well in pass rushing drills and more than held their own during team. Henry appeared in shape and Poggi is playing well enough that he wont fully transition to offense.

NT:
1. Ryan Glasgow, RJr
2. Bryan Mone, So
– Glasgow had a better command of the new off man front, while Mone is physically better. Expect to see a lot of Mone in the 3-4 look.

RDE:
1. Chris Wormley, RSr
2. Maurice Hurst, RSo
– Wormley played very well from the 5 technique and displayed quickness I didn’t know he had. Hurst used his leverage and explosiveness to make plays in the backfield during team.

ROLB:
1. James Ross, Sr
2. Allen Gant, Sr
– Neither Ross nor Gant rushed the passer much from this spot, but both were decent in pass coverage and run support.

MLB:
1. Joe Bolden, Jr
2. Desmond Morgan, RSr
3. Ben Gedeon, Jr
4. Mike McCray, RSo
– Bolden is becoming a leader of this defense physically. Him and Morgan did a decent job of getting off blocks in the new 3-4 look. Gedeon and McCray both have the size to play inside and fight off bigger Linemen than them.

LOLB:
1. Royce Jenkins-Stone, Sr
2. Lawrence Marshall, RFr
– RJS and Marshall both rushed the passer a lot from the spot, and both did well. However I think they both stand to lose playing time with Charlton and Ojemudia healthy.

CB:
1. Jourdan Lewis, Jr
2. Blake Countess, RSr
3. Channing Stribling, Jr
4. Reon Dawson, RSo
5. Ross Taylor-Douglass, RSo
– When the defense had three corners on the field, Stibling went outside and Countess played in the slot. Dawson was underwhelming all day and it was apparent that RTD is still transitioning back to the corner position.

SS:
1. Delano Hill, Jr
2. Dymonte Thomas, Jr
– Hill played well all day, even playing in the box as a line backer in some looks. Thomas did not get many team reps but he made the most of them when he did, registering a few pass break ups.

FS:
1. Jarrod Wilson, RSr
2. Jeremy Clark, RJr
– With Peppers out, Wilson was the quarterback of the secondary. He got most of the team reps, while Clark did nothing of note.

Defensive Recap: All we saw as a base defense on Saturday was the 3-4. While I don’t think that will be our base defense all season, it will definitely be in the mix a lot. Durkin’s defense blitzed all day, from the line backer position as well as the corner position. For most of the day the DB’s were in press-man coverage. Channing Stribling, Jourdan Lewis, Dymonte Thomas and Delano Hill all impressed and had interceptions against the 2’s and 3’s. At one point, Delano Hill (Filling in for Peppers) was up in the box, playing some sort of Monster backer. It was clear that the defense’s biggest priority was just getting lined up properly and knowing their assignment, which they did well for most of the day. I would have to say that the DLine is pretty set with those six rotational players, and the same goes for the linebackers. I don’t think there will be any surprises at those spots this season. The only mystery in the secondary; but its not a matter of who will play, but where those guys will play. Incoming freshman who could contribute are Tyree Kinnel, Shelton Johnson, Keith Washington and Reuben Jones.
Based off of what I saw yesterday, I’d say the four guys with the best shot at being Captains are: Dennis Norfleet, Joe Bolden, Jake Butt, Jarrod Wilson.

For any questions regarding my observations or projections going forward in the season, please tweet me @BleedBlueCoachT

In The Film Room: 2015 Quarterback Zach Gentry

Name: Zach Gentry
Class: 2015
Position: Quarterback
Height: 6’7
Weight: 230
Gentry hails from Albuquerque, NM and is a 24/7 composite four star recruit. Rated the number eight pro style quarterback for 2015, the one time Texas commit also held offers from Maryland, Louisville and most impressively, Alabama. There are only five recruits rated two stars or above in the state of New Mexico, so needless to say Gentry did not face elite competition at the high school level. Gentry committed to the Longhorns back in may of 2014, but once Harbaugh was hired, he made Gentry a top priority and got him on campus for an OV on Janurary 23rd. On Janurary 24th, Zach flipped from Texas and Committed to U of M giving the Wolverines their second quarterback of the class.

Style Of Passer: Pro
Body: A
Gentry has the rare but coveted monster build for a QB standing at over 6’6 yet slight at 230 pounds. At his height, Gentry will be able to scan the field with ease and have every throwing lane at his disposal. His frame could add some weight if the coaching staff sees fit, as he could pack on some lower body muscle. He is not quite as thick as Wilton Speight, who is similar in size.
Arm Strength: A-
There isn’t a spot on the field that Gentry cannot reach with his 12 gauge of an arm. In high school, his team lived by the motto of GGD (Gotta go deep) and its hard to blame them with a quarterback the caliber of Gentry. He throws the deep ball phenomenally, weather he needs touch to fit it into a tight space or put some heat on it to hit a guy in stride, Gentry will get it there. Something that Gentry does lack, is Zip. There is not a large sample size of three step throws (Slant, Out, Hitch) but it stands out to me that he needs work in this area. Gentry will get it there fast but not necessarily quick if that makes sense. An example of someone who has a cannon arm but also great Zip is Aaron Rodgers, he is the poster child for having it all, and at this point Gentry does not have the Zip.
Accuracy: B+
Gentry did not have the luxury of throwing to D1 caliber receivers throughout his career like Alex Malzone did, but his tape will clearly show him making his pass catchers better players, which is something all great Qb’s do. Gentry’s height gives him an advantage with putting the ball where he wants it on second and third level routes. He can put the ball where only his guy can get it, especially on fade and go routes. We don’t see much back shoulder throws here but honestly it’s a rarity in high school. Gentry can throw a goal line fade as well as anyone and as I mentioned before his deep ball is great. Gentry has great touch, but almost to a fault. Every few throws you will see him putting too much touch when its not needed, which will cause his receiver to either stop their route or slow down to catch the ball. So occasionally Gentry will under throw his guy but its due to too much touch, not arm strength. On the small amount of underneath throws we see from Gentry, he often places them too high, most likely due to his 6’7 frame. There Is definitely room for improvement here.
Mobility/Pocket Presence: A-
Gentry’s mobility and athleticism are elite, especially considering his size. His stride is so long, and it doesn’t take him long to get up to speed. His running ability is to the point where I would consider him a dual threat QB, as he most certainly was in high school. Weather it was the read option, a sprint out or an improvisation, Gentry looked like Kaepernick in the playoffs against the Packers versus opposing defenses. Where Gentry will get marked down however, is his pocket presence, as he has very little. Gentry has happy feet, and is almost comparable to Johnny Manziel for the fact that if a defender even flashes, He’ll scramble out of the pocket. Its hard to blame the kid, he made so many plays with his feet in high school with his legs. Great pocket passers need to step up into the pocket, with their eyes downfield looking for an open receiver, and Gentry does not do that to this point, however I see no reason Jimmy wont have him coached up on this in no time.
Mechanics: B-
Gentry’s motion is long and slow. Even on short, quick throws that require zip (he has none) it takes longer for the ball to come out than you would like. The biggest no-no I see from Gentry is he throws off his back foot far too often. His film shows a wide range of throws; short, intermediate, deep, sprint out, play action and 3 step, and you can see him throwing off his back foot on every type of throw. Gentry does a decent job of keeping the ball close to his body, and away from defenders and another thing Gentry does a good job of is bringing his feet along and squaring his shoulders up to make an accurate throw, its some of the best Ive seen in a prospect.
Decision Making/Football IQ: B
This is the hardest skills set to grade, especially without multiple game films. Zach Gentry would not be a top 10 quarterback in the 2015 class without having decent decision making skills, however from what I can ascertain, his knowledge of the game is average. This will hurt his overall grade and that may be too bad but you will only see good things on a highlight tape, a highly regarded football mind recently said “A kids highlight tape is the ten best plays of his career” and while Gentry’s highlight tape is impressive, it will not reflect his IQ to what it could be.

Overall: B+
Gentry’s combination of frame and athleticism is so rare at the quarterback position; guys like him usually transition to a tight end of defensive end at the next level. What is preventing this from happening to Zach is his elite arm. With average mechanics and already good footwork, Gentry will only get better once he is on campus. Gentry is at a huge disadvantage not being early enrolled, as Alex Malzone will have fifteen practices under his belt before Gentry even moves into his dorm. I feel that Gentry is the least ready of the Qb’s that will be on the roster in 2015, but he may have the most potential and upside. Expect a redshirt for this young man, but do not count him out making some noise during the 2016 spring practice session. While not his first official commit at U of M, This was a huge flip for Harbaugh & Co. Plucking a kid out of the southwest that was already committed to an elite program was a show of things to come from Jim.

@BleedBlueCoachT

In The Film Room: 2015 SS Tyree Kinnel

Name: Tyree Kinnel

Class: 2015

Position: S

Height: 6’0

Weight: 205

 

Kinnel is a 24/7 composite four star safety from Dayton, OH that has been committed to the Wolverines since Augus 2014. Kinnel has held stead fast in his commitment through the rough months that were the 2014 season and the firing of Brady Hoke. Kinnel was being looked at by the likes of Tennessee, Notre Dame and Ohio State, and drew offers from four other schools (MSU, Arkansas, Kentucky, Notre Dame). Kinnel is a throw back, not coming off the field on defense and playing all special teams in high school. I see him fitting in just fine in Coach Durkin’s system, and after extensively watching his tape I could not be happier he has stuck with his commitment.

 

Projected Position: Strong Safety

Body: A-

Kinnel is a stout six-foot nothing. You would like to see just another inch or two of height here for a defensive back that will be asked to play closer to the line of scrimmage, but he will not be marked down too much for not having it. Already at 205 pounds, he has the size to bang with lineman and full backs at the second level and I am sure he will only continue to grow once he gets on campus and works with SC coach Tolbert.

 

Technique/Foot Work: B

Here is where you’ll find Kinnel’s lowest grade. By no means is his athleticism sub par, it is simply not spectacular. Kinnel has decent back pedal speed, although his form is a little tall for my liking. He can get out of his back pedal quickly to break on a route or fill an alley, but there certainly are players out there that can do it more impressively. Kinnel would benefit from an entire off-season in Ann Arbor, but unfortunately we will not see him until the fall.

 

Athleticism/Speed: A-

Kinnel has been clocked as fast as 4.40 in the forty, and it shows on film. Being a gunner on punt and kickoff, Kinnel blazes past blockers to make a big play for his team. He is athletic enough to avoid blocks weather its at the point of attack or in the open field. This kid can get anywhere he needs to on the field, usually unblocked. Vision is not something usually talked about with defensive players, but Kinnel has it. He takes the least obstructed route to the ball carrier in his pursuit and its fun to watch. Once he sees his opening to the ball, he’s like a predator taking down a wounded animal.

Run Support: A

Kinnel’s tape shows him playing against mostly “Air Force” style option teams, which is an amazing experience for a safety to learn to play the run. Kinnel is fantastic in run support, he is physical enough to come up in the box and take on lineman and is fast enough to beat the running back to the alley. His acceleration allows him to slow play the first two options (Fullback, Quarterback) then backdoor the running back after he receives the pitch. Kinnel’s tackling form is phenomenal as well, overall he plays the run as well as I’ve seen a high school safety.

 

Pass Coverage: B+

While Kinnel did not have a lot of opportunities to play the pass, he made of the most of the ones he had. It is difficult to be disciplined when playing an option team, but Kinnel does a fine job reading his keys and getting to his coverage area. He plays smart, after reading his keys and picking up his receiver, he will follow the quarterback’s eyes, which will often lead to him getting an interception. Kinnel has great ball skills as well, going up and high pointing the ball over receivers who are often taller than him.

Overall: B+

Kinnel is the most ready of the Michigan commits at this point. His technique is very fundamentally sound, and I’m sure it will only get better once coach Zordich and Jackson get a hold of him. A true Midwest kid, he wont shy away from anyone once fall camps rolls around. If the coaches like him enough and he can grasp the scheme right away, Kinnel could see playing time early on. I would be surprised to see him red shirted, as he could be a force on special teams from the get go. Not being early enrolled is definitely a negative however, if he were to be on campus already I would put money on him getting some early PT on defense. I loved watching this kids tape and I am sure I will love watching him in Ann Arbor for years to come.

@BleedBlueCoachT

In The Film Room: 2015 ATH Brian Cole

Name: Brian Cole

Class: 2015

Position: ATH

Height: 6’2

Weight: 200

 

Brian Cole is in Ann Arbor as you read this, as an early enrollee who is rooming with Alex Malzone. Cole comes to us by the way of Saginaw Heritage High School. If you were to look up the term “Jack of all trades” in the dictionary, you will find Cole’s name next to it. Cole did it all for Heritage, playing primarily running back and free safety but he also moonlighted at receiver, quarterback and punter. I had the privilege of watching coaches tape on Cole this season, and at times he looks like a man amongst boys. Cole has played a high level of competition at Heritage, which plays in the tough and competitive Saginaw Valley League. Brian Cole is a 24/7 composite four-star, and is ranked as the number four ATH in the class of 2015. Cole held eight other offers that included Ohio State, Tennessee and MSU. He has been firmly committed since July of 2014. Cole is a true athlete and can legitimately play wherever he likes at the next level.

(Highlights courtesy of Scout/Hudl)

Projected Position: Safety/Wide Receiver

Body: A+

Cole is a physical specimen. At 6’2 and 200lbs. Cole would have above average size to play the safety position at Michigan. If he were to play receiver, he would be somewhat of a tweener. Not quite the big 6’5 Mike Evans type but also not a small slot possession receiver. Wherever Cole chooses to line up at Michigan, he will be able to hold his own.

Speed/Acceleration: A

The fastest players on the field rarely look fast. You can’t see their effort, and by effort I mean arms pumping and knees chugging along. Cole looks like he’s on ice skates when he runs. He has a reported 40 time of 4.33, which I do not doubt. A long strider, Cole pulls away from defenders with ease. If he is even with a defender, he may as well be gone because there are not many people who can match his stride length and speed. His acceleration is very good for a player with such a long gait. He can start and stop on a dime, and it all looks effortless for him.

Athleticism: A

Cole can do it all. His range defensively is ridiculous; Cole can make it from A to B without breaking a sweat which makes it hard to scheme against him. On offense, Cole will beat you to the edge then beat you to the end zone. He will occasionally use his vision and acceleration to reverse field and take it to the house. Cole is also not afraid to hurdle a low tackling defender also, showing off his 32” vertical in the process. There isn’t a place on the field Cole cannot get to faster than you, and there isn’t a play I wouldn’t trust him to make with the ball in his hands.

Run Support: C-

Where to begin..Cole’s run support from the safety position is poor to say the least. On defense, Cole is lazy. He does not read his keys what so ever, and does not react to the play in front of him. After watching an entire game of defensive film on him, I can only conclude three possibilities for why his play is poor: A. Cole is lazy B. He is a product of poor coaching C. Cole is disinterested in playing defense. As I mentioned earlier, he does not read his keys. He does not fill any run alleys, nor come up into the box to help. If the play doesn’t get past the first or second level, Cole will barely move from his safety spot. Instead of coming up for support, Cole will wait and try to shoot a gap to make a tackle down field, often times attempting to line up a big hit he occasionally whiffs on. If Cole sees the opportunity to make a big play, he will take it. Routine tackles or doing what is normally asked of his position does not interest Cole. He has all the ability in the world, its just he is simply choosing not to do it or he hasn’t been taught how.

Pass Coverage: C+

Since Cole does not read his keys, it is difficult for him to execute his pass coverage responsibilities. He will bounce on his heels while backfield peeking, which is a worst-case offense for defensive backs. If Cole sees someone running a route past him, then he takes off in pursuit. There is little contact here, as Cole is such a great athlete he does not struggle to keep up with any receiver and he has no need to bump and run or hold at all. Having elite foot speed and quickness cannot be taught, and Cole has those attributes locked up. Cole completely relies on his athleticism in the defensive backfield and uses little to no technique. There will be a big learning curve at the next level for him on this side of the ball.

Overall: B

Brian Cole is a very exceptional athlete that has spent his last few off seasons training with Saginaw Heritage’s own, former Purdue and NFL stand out Stu Schweigert. Cole has great play making ability on offense that can stretch the field vertically. Cole Is very versatile and can line up at any position. His combination of ball skills and athleticism means defenses will have to know where he is lined up at all times. Coach Harbaugh has told John Kelly that the staff will not force him into any position his freshman year, and I expect it will be the same for Cole. If Cole were to go the defensive route, he could end up or free safety or corner where his athleticism would shine. Cole displays very little football IQ on the defensive side, and I would be surprised if he chooses to play there as a freshman. I believe that Cole could be a standout on special teams from the get go. Being a gunner on punt and kickoffs or returning kicks. Being enrolled early will give him a leg up in earning some playing time on whatever side of the ball he chooses. While Cole’s defensive grades were poor and ultimately brought down his overall grade, his potential is sky high and I expect him to do great things for the Maize and Blue. It is very important to recruit well in your own back yard, especially when there are gems like Cole there for the taking.

@BleedBlueCoachT

In The Film Room: Grading 2015 Michigan Commit Alex Malzone

Name: Alex Malzone

Class: 2015

Position: Quarterback

Height: 6’1

Weight: 203

Malzone is a 24/7 composite four star, In-state commit from the great Birmingham Brother Rice program. Malzone won 39 straight games as a starter, including back to back state championships. He has been committed to the Wolverines since May of 2014. He had held offers from nine other schools, most of which were from the MAC. Malzone has been the glue of the Wolverines 15′ class since last may, holding steadfast during the firing of Brady Hoke saying he “Gave his word to a school, not to a coach”. I first saw Malzone play as a sophomore, and from his first snap he has impressed. During his senior season he threw for over 2,900 yards with thirty-eight touchdowns to only five interceptions. Malzone is an early enrollee and will room with Saginaw Heritage’s Brian Cole this winter.

 

Style of Passer: Pro

Body: B-

Even though we live in an era where the “small” quarterback can be successful you’d still be more comfortable having your guy be in the 6’3-6’6 range. Not everyone can be Drew Brees or Russell Wilson, so only time will tell if Malzone can be another in the line of recently successful smaller quarterbacks. While Malzone is not exactly lacking size,  The fact of the matter is, he could he taller and larger. You’d like to see him add some lower body muscle and reduce his risk of injury once he gets into the weight room in Ann Arbor this winter.

Arm Strength: B+

Malzone’s arm is slightly above average. He can drive the ball down the field with ease, thanks in part to his good footwork. He can put more than enough zip on the ball to complete the three step passes like slants or quick outs. Something Malzone is especially good at is timing routes like come backs or sidelines whether it’s down the field or just a few yards, he has the arm to get it there. Malzone always had a very talented supporting cast at Brother Rice, one that included Division one receivers Corey Laccanaria (Ball State) and Grant Perry (Northwestern) that at times helped him out when forcing the ball into coverage, but nonetheless he has the arm to get it in there.

Accuracy: A

This is Malzone’s strong suit, as he is a very efficient passer. He has a 66.8% career completion percentage over his three years seeing time under center, with only fourteen interceptions in over 600 career pass attempts. He has great touch on sideline throws as well as the back shoulder. Any actions/roll-outs/sprint-outs are money, as are his play fakes. But what impresses me the most is Malzone’s ability to find the open man and either hit him in stride or put the ball where no one else can get it. His touch is great, weather its a corner or flag route to the sideline or a deep slant down the field. He does have the tendency to force throws, but he had the talent at receiver to help him out in high school. At Michigan, he’ll have the talent at receiver, but the big difference will be the talent he will be going against on defense. Some of the throws he landed at Brother Rice will be going the other way at Michigan.

Mobility/Pocket Presence: B+

While Malzone will never be confused for a dual-threat quarterback, he can definitely move. He will always look to throw the ball first but when the play is completely broken down, Malzone will skirt off and has the ability to make one or two defenders miss. He is great throwing the ball when out of the pocket, weather by design of a play action or a roll out or extending the play. He keeps his eyes downfield and finds the open man with ease. Malzone’s athletic ability will also keep him out of the arms of defenders in the pocket. He is well trained, and will keep his shoulders square and eyes down the field while evading pressure.

Mechanics: B-

While Malzone’s delivery was sufficient in high school, it will need work at the next level. His delivery motion is somewhat long, and while the ball does not come out slow, he leaves  it extended away from his body for defenders to knock away. Malzone throws it like a baseball. To put it simply, his throwing motion needs to be shorter, and more compact. A few months with Michigan’s expected new offensive coordinator Tim Drevno and I expect Malzone will improve in this area by leaps and bounds. One thing Malzone does exceptionally well,  is I have yet to see him make a throw off his back foot, which is a huge no no for a quarterback and you tend to see often with younger QB’s. He steps into his throws with confidence, with square shoulders and great weight transfer. His throwing motion is the only thing bringing his grade down here, otherwise his mechanics are fantastic.

Decision Making/Football IQ: B

This is where Malzone is a little enigmatic. He will more often than not find the open receiver when extending the play out of the pocket, and he often makes the right reads of the defense in the short passing game. Where Malzone fails however is forcing the ball into not only double, but sometimes triple coverage. As I stated earlier he has been helped out his whole career by Division one caliber receivers. The more it worked for Malzone, the more he seemed to force the ball into coverage as his season went on. And while it may not seem like an issue, what with his 66.8 career completion percentage and only 14 career interceptions, a continuation of these decisions will cost him at the next level. It May just be a case of trusting his arm and receivers too much, but only time will tell.

Overall: B

This grade is a little harsh, but there are a few things Malzone will need to work on to be successful for the Wolverines. There is nothing he can do about his small stature, so he will simply have to prove that his height is not an issue at the next level. I do not think Malzone has an NFL type arm, but that does not mean he doesn’t have what it takes to succeed in college. His accuracy is everything you ask for in a quarterback, as his throws are on the money. Yes, he may force throws too often but when he does the ball is usually placed where only the receiver can get it. His mobility and athleticism for a pocket passer is a huge plus if your an offense that will run bootlegs and sprint outs, which all pro style offenses will feature. If the play breaks down and he has no throwing options, he is more than capable to take off and pick up a short first down but probably not much more. With improvements in his throwing motion and sometimes inconsistent decision making, Malzone will flourish into a starting caliber quarterback in Ann Arbor.

@BleedBlueCoachT

In The Film Room: 2015 ATH John Kelly

Name: John Kelly Jr

Class of 2015

Position: ATH

Height: 5’10

Weight: 195

Kelly is a local kid, coming out of Oak Park High School just north of Detroit. Kelly is a Three-Star Athlete according to 24/7 composite rankings. Kelly is very sought after, holding eleven offers. Five of those offers are B1G schools (Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Maryland and MSU). Other offers include MAC schools as well as Tennessee. Kelly is being pursued hard by Sparty, and up until the hire of Jim Harbaugh by Michigan, many presumed he would eventually end up there. Kelly’s interest in the wolverines has grown greatly since the hire of Harbaugh, with multiple 24/7 crystal ball flips from the Spartans to the Wolverines. A week ago, Kelly’s top three was Michigan, MSU and Minnesota. Kelly is still showing interest in those three schools and plans on taking an official visit to them as well as Tennessee before NSD in February.  it seems that Michigan is the clear leader going forward. I will cover Kelly as an offensive weapon, as he is a very versatile athlete with the potential to play more than one position. I’ve seen Kelly play in person his junior season and without even knowing who he was, he stood out to me. Kelly is being recruited by Roy Manning and Fred Jackson from Michigan. While Kelly is being recruited as an Athlete I  project him to stay on the offensive side of the ball, and that is why I will only grade him as I see him, and that is as an offensive weapon.

 

Type of back: Pure Speed

Body: A

At 5’10, 195 pounds Kelly is built very solid for a speed back. Lets put it this way: If you were to create an offensive play maker on a video game, he would look like Kelly. Solid enough to tote the rock between the tackles, tough enough to take a big hit and small enough to elude defenders. Kelly will not seek contact but is not afraid to lower his shoulder to finish a run.

Speed: A+

Kelly has been clocked at 4.38 in the 40, and I believe it. Kelly is exceptionally fast on film and in person. Playing against top tier competition in the Detroit area, Kelly routinely BURNS his opponents. Kelly is fast to the hole and even faster to the end zone. Once he breaks contain or get past the third level he is nearly impossible to catch, even if the defense has a great angle. Kelly has track speed to put it simply.

Vision/Patience: B-

Kelly’s vision is somewhat enigmatic. In the open field, his vision is superb. Weather its returning kicks or outside runs, Kelly will find a seam and turn on the jets. But as far as between the tackle runs go, Kelly struggles to find the hole, and instead of showing patience for something to develop, Kelly will often rely on his speed by changing direction and bouncing runs to the outside where they were never intended to go. Patience is not as key with speed guys as it is for the power backs, but between the tackles vision is certainly something Kelly will need to work on if he is going to play running back at the next level. Kelly is a very decisive runner and wastes no time or movements on the field.

Pass Protection: C

Very little sample size to work from, Kelly is a relatively physical back but if he was in the game for Oak Park, he is most likely getting the ball. Pass pro is often the most difficult thing for young backs to pick up at the next level, and i predict that will hold true for Kelly. There will be much work to do in order for him to be an every down back.

Athleticism: A

Kelly is everything you would want in an athlete. His runs look effortless, and his speed is phenomenal. His foot speed is great, both vertically and horizontally. Kelly does not spend much time running east/west, but he wastes no time when he does. Kelly had the footwork to play defensive back against some of the top receivers in the state, and while I believe he is too good of a play maker to keep the ball out of his hands, he absolutely has the athletic ability to develop into a shut down corner at the next level.

Hands: B

Kelly played in all three phases of the game for Oak Park. Starting at DB, tail back as well as returning kicks. His hands are soft to say the least, and his ball protections is well enough to trust him with that many touches per game. Weather Kelly has the hands to make a transition to slot receiver, that remains to be seen.

Overall: A-

Kelly is a very underrated recruit in my eyes, I see him as at least a four star prospect. He is a threat to score every time he touches the ball from anywhere on the field. His track like speed makes him an absolute weapon that you can line up at any position on the field and just get the ball in his hands. Although not the same size or build, I would project Kelly in a similar role of what Dennis Norfleet does for Michigan, at the very least. With a little bit of work, Kelly could make the move to receiver at the next level. Even though I project him to play on the offensive side of the ball,  His athleticism is well above average which will allow him to play where ever he and his coaches see fit. Kelly is a must get for the Maize and Blue for 2015, and I believe he could play as a freshman on any if not all special teams units, and could potentially see time on either side of the ball, assuming coach Harbaugh will open up all positions to competition. It is surprising to me that Kelly is considered only the ninth best player in the state. Kelly is a Detroit kid, and plays as such with a scrappy, tough, no quit attitude. He would be a great fit in Ann Arbor and I think we could see him putting on a Maize & Blue cap come signing day, when he plans on making his decision.

@BleedBlueCoachT