Michigan Football's Top 10 Things to Watch: Part One of Two (Posted Mar. 13)
Top 10 things to watch during Spring Practice
1) Quarterback play
Undoubtedly, all eyes will be on Tate Forcier. Sure, Forcier will be impressive in drills, since he has such good fundamentals and release, but we want to see if he is able—and willing—to spread the ball around in scrimmage situations.
A year ago, we were uneasy with the fact that, in scrimmages, the only pass Michigan seemed able to complete was coach Rich Rodriguez's version of the "check-down" pass (the swing pass).
We want to see Forcier throw the ball over the middle and use the tight end, to complete quick slant passes, and throw the ball long with touch, but most importantly, we just want to see him show the confidence to attempt those passes.
Remember, during practices Coach Rod stands right next to the quarterbacks, so it is going to take a very confident quarterback to be able to perform while have a "West Virginia Warbler" chirping in his ear. With all the advice he will be getting, and being so young and inexperienced at the college level, it's going to take some true grit to perform well in his first public venue as a Wolverine.
2) Wide Receivers
There is a reason why Michigan seems to be going after so many wide receivers. The confidence level with this group is lower than a midget's toupee.
Someone needs to step up become the go-to guy this year. Talent-wise, that guy should be Darryl Stonum, but it remains to be seen if he has matured enough to fulfill this role. Greg Matthews is the senior, but abilities limit his versatility. Junior Hemingway is healthy, and although at times in the past he struggled in practice, at least he has shown flashes of great potential in games.
And of course, any wide receiver who performs effective blocks will be the apple of Coach Rod's eye.
This group will be under pressure this spring. A year ago, the quarterback play was this group's acknowledged excuse, but truth be known, this is a group that the coaches were very disappointed with, not only in their blocking, but also in their route running.
3) Obi Ezeh and the Hybrid position
Probably the biggest question for this defense is, where will Obi Ezeh end up? Physically, Ezeh looks great, and he is obviously one of the best football players on the team. He is now a junior, and it is time for him to establish some consistency.
Coach Jay Hopson likes him in the middle, mainly because he likes his best player to play in the middle, but coach Greg Robinson has already told Ezeh he will also be used on the outside this spring. Will this eventually become our "Hybrid player?" It's not out of the question: We think Ezeh seems to be most effective when he is rushing the quarterback, not in pass coverage.
Note: For the past two years, we've felt that Ezeh's position would be determined not by Ezeh himself, but by the play of others on the team. If Michigan can find a better option in the middle, we have no doubt Ezeh would be moved, but going into spring, someone is going to have to step up.
4) Defensive Line
Keep an eye on two players in particular: Adam Patterson and Renaldo Sagesse. Those two will be the difference between Michigan having huge defensive line problems (and therefore forced into more of a 3-4 scheme) or having a very good, and deep, defensive line.
Patterson is healthy, and he says he wants to play. He is going to be used in spring both at defensive end and defensive tackle. He, once again, has had a very good offseason (during agility drills, Patterson's performance is consistently one of best of the defensive linemen.)
Sagesse—maybe, just maybe—will show the athleticism that has been his reputation. He is way ahead of where he was a year ago.
Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, and Brandon Graham have all had very good offseasons and will be our top three defensive linemen going into the spring. We caution people to give Big Will Campbell some time to develop. He has some major issues with fundamentals that coach Bruce Tall and staff are addressing.
Look at Big Will to be a part-time contributor in 2009, and hopefully Sagesse will be good enough so that we won't have to rely on Big Will to be a top player. Remember, he is only a freshman whose only competition to date has been PSL players.
Part Two will deal with sleepers, the offensive line, Brandon Smith, T-Rob, cornerback, and coaching.
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Written by ErocWolverine and MaizeMan
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