Tomorrow night Michigan will have its second Spring Game under Coach Jim Harbaugh. The game will be played at 6pm and will air on Big Ten Network. Looking forward to the game, here are five things to keep an eye out when watching tomorrow.
Michigan’s starting quarterback job remains open, and the battle between Houston transfer John O’Korn, Shane Morris, and Wilton Speight has been close so far. Harbaugh cited last Saturday in Detroit that each of his quarterbacks was making “one big mistake a day.” Tomorrow, look for the differences in the three candidates and how effectively they are able to run the offense without turning the ball over.
Can the presumed favorite for the job, John O’Korn, use his athleticism to move the pocket and keep plays alive?
Shane Morris has the strongest arm, but has struggled with accuracy at times. Can Morris finally pair his strong arm with the accuracy and touch it takes to win in the Big Ten?
Wilton Speight showed his ability in leading Michigan to a win at Minnesota when Jake Rudock was injured, but he showed little other than short passes. Is he able to make the difficult passes required of a starting quarterback? Look for answers to these questions tomorrow.
2. Early Enrollees
Of Jim Harbaugh’s 2016 class, six of them are currently on campus taking classes and practicing with the team. Look out for Amir Mitchell, who is competing for the third wide receiver spot, to use his speed and athletism to make plays. Also keep an eye out for running backs Kingston Davis and the Kareem Walker and their ability to find holes against a stiff run defense. Lastly, linebacker Devin Bush Jr. has a chance to contribute immediately following the departures of James Ross and Joe Bolden. Will he be able to hold his own in coverage and against Michigan’s big running backs like Ty Issac?
3. Michigan’s New Defense
Michigan has its third new defensive coordinator in three seasons, and this year Don Brown has been tabbed with the job. Keep your eye out for the blitz with Brown’s defense and the perpetual changing pressures Brown loves to bring. Brown blitzes almost 80% of the time, with pressure coming from all over the field. Also keep an eye on Michigan’s defensive line minus Willie Henry, who departed the NFL, but with Bryan Mone. Mone, a sophomore, was injured last season. However, Harbaugh said this morning on the Michigan Insider that he ranked Mone 3rd overall out of his 125 players last season before his ankle injury. Keep an eye out for how he and the rest of Michigan’s defense plays in their new, aggressive system.
4. The Offensive Line
Last season Michigan’s offensive line made major strides that opened up holes in the run game for Michigan’s running backs and gave Jake Rudock ample time to throw. This season Michigan loses Center Graham Glasgow but returns four other starters. Offensive Coordinator Tim Drevno expressed optimism about the potential of this line on Tuesday, and he noted the development of sophomore Grant Newsome as a major reason why. Look out for the play of Newsome and also where Mason Cole, who played tackle last year, is on the field. Cole has taken reps at center and is a candidate to move their full-time with Newsome shifting to the vacated tackle spot. Lastly, keep an eye on how Michigan’s line holds up against the constant pressure they will be facing from Don Brown’s blitzing defense.
5. Jabrill Peppers
Don Brown’s defense features the SAM linebacker, a player who needs to be able to pressure the line of scrimmage on blitzes, fill holes to stop run plays, and drop back into coverage. This year Brown’s SAM linebacker will be Jabrill Peppers, who is Michigan’s most dynamic athlete. Look out for how Peppers is used in his new position and also if he makes an appearance on offense. On Tuesday Drevno said Peppers has been working exclusively with the defense thus far this spring, but he was an asset on offense last year for the Wolverines, and it would not be a surprise to see him there again this season.