Michigan Spring Game: The Good, the Bad, and the Iffy
Michigan Football fans have been anticipating the public spring practice at Michigan Stadium ever since the New Year began and Steven Threet decided to transfer in January.
After Nick Sheriden got injured in the early practice sessions, the pressure has been placed squarely on the shoulders of Tate Forcier, the true freshman quarterback out of San Diego, Calif.
After the ineptitude of Threet, Sheriden, and the whole offensive line in last year's 3-9 campaign (the first losing season at Michigan since 1967), fans were wondering how much the team had improved.
Prior to the game, Coach Rich Rodriguez said that some of the defensive starters would not be getting much playing time throughout the game. He mentioned a few names such as Brandon Graham, last year's All-Big Ten Defensive End.
On top of that, he mentioned that he wanted some of the younger players to get some reps in public in front of a big crowd.
With the stadium being about half-full with about 50,000 fans, those freshmen got a mere taste of what Michigan Stadium is going to be like come September.
Tate Forcier: He was elusive, he made almost all the right reads and almost every time he got the offense down the field, they scored; he controlled the clock.
Honestly, there wasn't a whole lot of things that he did wrong, aside from get tackled for a safety in a drill where the offense was backed up against the goal line and he got stopped in the end zone trying to bring it out.
He did manage to make up for it the next time he ran that drill, he threw for a first down and Carlos Brown did the rest by breaking for an 82-yard touchdown run on the next play.
Tate also threw a very pretty 45-yard TD pass to Roy Roundtree over the middle, which proved two things: one was that Tate can throw long, and the other was that Roundtree can be a solid receiver this season.
The Offensive Line: Say what you want about Threet and Sheriden's performance last year, they go no help from the men up front.
Earlier today, they were overpowering the defense and creating holes for Vincent Smith, Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor to get through, and they also enabled the zone read to be run to perfection.
Matchups: The first team defense never matched up with the first team defense. The second team offense looked very shaky and inconsistent under David Cone against the first team defense which included Obi Ezeh and Boubacar Cissoko.
Likewise, the second team defense didn't do a good job stopping Tate Forcier and the first team offense. If Michigan wants to be competitive next season, they might want their best players practicing against each other more.
Injured Players: While the loss of Nick Sheriden is something that many fans will welcome, there were other injuries that fans are not going to be happy about. Cornerback Donovan Warren didn't play and was on crutches, didn't even dress, he seemed to be really hurt.
Last year's All Big Ten Freshman Defensive Tackle Mike Martin didn't play, he didn't seem to be hurt, but he didn't play.
I was hoping to see him play, because he was amazing at getting into the backfield from the nose position. I hope he plays well this next season.
Two point conversions: They did a drill simulating an overtime situation in which the offense was down by eight and had to get a touchdown and a two point conversion.
Most of the time they got the touchdown, but the only time they got the two points was when Tate rolled out on a waggle, couldn't find anybody open, dodged a few tacklers and dove into the endzone, which made Rich Rod really mad because he called a pass on that play.
Contact with Quarterbacks: I understand the idea behind not having anybody touch the quarterback in practice, you need a quarterback to run your offense, throw the ball and handle the ball every down, and if he gets hurt in practice you need someone to replace him.
Now here's why I disagree with that, in order to simulate a game experience in practice you need to make it as close to the real thing as possible.
Not having Tate take contact in practice might be detrimental to his progress going into games with full contact. On top of that, it might be a measure of how he can handle it.
Play calling: A lot of Michigan fans were excited about the hiring of Rich Rodriguez and his implementation of the spread offense.
After this past season's fiasco a lot of people have either started calling for his immediate resignation or said that the players he had this past season weren't suited for the system.
Now that he seems to have players that are suited for that system, he's calling the plays he wants called.
The thing that interests me is that the Michigan offense under Rich Rod seems not too different from that of Bo Schembechler, only instead of the draw play off-tackle it's to be the zone read off-tackle.
This seems to be not what Michigan fans were expecting out of this bold new offense that he was brought in to implement. I'm also sure that if he becomes successful doing this, he will be criticized for being boring in spite of winning.
After seeing the Michigan spring game, I am happy to report that the Wolverines will be better next season then they were in 2008. How much better is anybody's guess.
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