Ann Arbor, Mi. There was a palpable optimism at Schembechler Hall Tuesday evening as Michigan’s coordinators and competitors for the starting quarterback job addressed the media. Defensive coordinator Don Brown, who spoke to the media first, highlighted what he views as a successful spring thus far.
Speaking about his new system, Brown was quick to note Michigan’s defense is starting anew for a third consecutive year. However, despite the challenges a change in defense poses to a team, Brown praised his players for picking it up quickly.
“We’ve come a long way. We are obviously 14 practices in, starting from scratch, really in essence for the third year in a row,” said Brown. “So the challenges were there, but obviously, and hat’s off to our guys, they approached it (learning the system) in a positive manner.”
Another thing Brown noted was the importance of the SAM linebacker in his blitz-heavy defense. The SAM linebacker in Brown’s defense needs to have the ability to pressure the line of scrimmage on blitzes, fill holes to stop run plays, and drop back into coverage.
Jabrill Peppers, who played mostly safety last season, will fill that position for the Wolverines. Brown said at this point Peppers is practicing about 70% of the time at the SAM linebacker spot while still taking about 30% of reps with the defensive backs.
While the SAM is crucial in Brown’s defense, Michigan has options in case of an injury to Peppers. Noah Furbush is someone Brown said is capable of playing in that SAM spot, though Brown acknowledged he would have to adjust his entire defense to compensate for a less athletic SAM.
On the offensive end, offensive coordinator Tim Drevno spoke to the media about his offensive line and the quarterback competition. In terms of his line, Drevno spoke of the comfort level of having the majority of his offensive line returning.
While most of the line is returning, the center position is one the Wolverines need to fill following the departure of senior Graham Glasgow. Tackle Mason Cole has taken reps at center this spring, and Drevno discussed Cole’s ability to play the position after playing tackle for the Wolverines last season. .
“You really want to get the top five guys, and we’re still evaluating if that’s the best position for him,” said Drevno. “He’s done a very nice job this spring, and that’s a hard thing to do, to stand with the ball in your hand and have a 300-pound guy breathing down your neck, and you have to snap it. And he’s really handled it beautifully, he’s done a nice job with it.”
Drevno also expressed that he believes Sophomore Grant Newsome is ready to step in and start for the Wolverines if need be. However, like almost everything in Jim Harbaugh’s program, everyone will have the same opportunity to earn their spot on the field, even true freshmen, come fall camp.
On the topic of competition, Drevno addressed Michigan’s quarterback competition between Wilton Speight, John O’Korn, and Shane Morris. The one thing Drevno and each quarterback made clear is that the competition is open, and no one has separated himself yet.
Wilton Speight acknowledged the different level of competition in this year’s camp compared to last year’s. “This is more wide open, and I think they kind of had the mindset last year that it was going to be Rudock,” said Speight. “That’s just how transfers work. But this year it’s anyone’s job.”
Houston transfer John O’Korn, the presumed favorite to win the job, noted how he enjoys Michigan’s system and how he feels at home in Ann Arbor. In speaking about Michigan’s pro-style system, O’Korn said, “I think the system fits me much better and allows me to be the best player I can be, and I just feel a lot more at home here.”
The third candidate, Shane Morris, expressed confidence in his chances to win the job following his redshirt junior season. In talking about himself compared to Speight and O’Korn, Morris noted his advantages. “I feel like I have all the abilities, I understand the game of football, I have a stronger arm, and I’m making smarter decisions,” Morris noted. “And, you know, those things can separate me from the other quarterbacks.”
Yet, as Tim Drevno and head coach Jim Harbaugh have said all spring, there is no rush to name a starting quarterback, and there is still no front-runner. And until a quarterback steps up and clearly separates himself, there is no reason to expect Michigan’s staff to name a starting quarterback.
— Michigan Football (@umichfootball) March 30, 2016