2007 Final Spring Practice Recap

By · Monday, April 16, 2007 · 12:15 AM |  Share | 2 Comments 

The final spring practice of 2007 was held at Michigan Stadium on Saturday and gave the fans their first look at what to expect next fall. Well, that was the original intent at least. Instead, we got a look at a few players that will contribute, a couple of fresh new faces, and more walk-ons than I knew existed. Despite watching a scrimmage that was filled with players that will never make it onto the field in a real game situation, it was still pretty entertaining.

I arrived at the stadium just after the gates opened and found a good seat rather easily. Attendance would turn out to be pretty low this year as I’d say around 5000 people were there. That unusually low number can be attributed to the weather, which ended up being much colder than I expected. Either way, I was ready for the drills to begin to get a look at the actual team.

I had a seat in the front row of the corner of the endzone where members of the backfield were doing their drills. With that, I was able to see the running backs and fullbacks up close to get a full look at how each player was doing. The first thing that caught my eye though wasn’t a player in uniform but rather Mike Hart and Kevin Grady. Grady was on crutches as he is supposed to have surgery today to repair his torn ACL. Hart had minor surgery before spring ball that left him unable to participate, but he was right in on the action and appeared to be having a good time.

As far as the actual backs participating were concerned, most were non-scholarship players. The standout was Brandon Minor, who will be the backup to Mike Hart come next season. He really was limited to a few drills and sat the rest of the day out to be on the safe side. Since the running back position has become so thin depth-wise, there really is no point to take any chances. The walk-ons got to show off their stuff and the one I noticed was wrestler-turned football player Mike Milano. He has impressed coaches despite his lack of size, but appeared to have tweaked his leg or foot and really didn’t get many reps, so I couldn’t tell you much about him.

Moving on to the fullback position, it was definitely interesting to get a look at a couple potential starters. True freshman and early-enrolee Vince Helmuth played a lot throughout the day and really looked good considering he should be in high school right now. Another surprise was Mark Moundros, who has done more than impress Lloyd Carr. Moundros is currently a walk-on, but Carr said in his press conference on Saturday that Moundros has done so well in the spring that he earned a scholarship for the fall. From the looks of it, Helmuth and Moundros will contend for the starting fullback job with a couple of others.

Once the actual scrimmage got started, the entertaining part of the day began. Things started out from the shorter part of the field with Chad Henne leading the offense. There was a scoring system of some sort implemented to give it some meaning, but it was based on doing different things that really didn’t mean anything. For those of you keeping track, the defense ended up winning 42-41 in a nail-biter. Getting back to the actual play, Henne started things off with Vince Helmuth in the backfield. Helmuth got a number of carries overall, but don’t expect to see that in the fall. Fullbacks don’t run the ball usually in Michigan’s offense, but due to a lack of bodies, someone had to receive Henne’s hand-offs.

Since we really couldn’t tell much from the running game, I’ll talk a little bit about the passing game. Henne looked good and really only played a few possessions early on before allowing the backups to get in. The receiver position was very thin just as the running back position. Greg Mathews and LaTerryal Savoy were the main two receivers since Mario Manningham was out with an injury and Adrian Arrington is still in the doghouse. Mathews showed a lot of potential and made a great catch in the endzone for a touchdown from Chad Henne. I don’t want to sound too critical at this point, but Manningham and Arrington currently are much better long-range targets. Mathews seemed to always be a few steps behind the long balls thrown and may not have the speed to be a threat down the field.

At the tight end position, it was more of the same. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a case of a few players being injured as Mike Massey was the only one to my knowledge that didn’t play. Let’s just say, losing Carson Butler was huge. The TE position doesn’t look particularly good and I would say at this point, it is definitely a weak point. There were a couple of decent plays from the tight ends, but also a few drops.

Shifting over to the defensive side, it was similar to the offense in the sense that there were many walk-ons playing. The defensive line performed well and I’d say the linebackers as well. The LB’s won’t be as strong as last season, which is obvious when two NFL-caliber starters depart, but I see a lot of potential. From the guys that played, which excludes Shawn Crable as he sat out just to be safe, there was a lot of depth shown. I think we’ll be able to manage at that position.

One of the defense’s main weak points last season was the secondary. That could really be called one of the main reasons Michigan lost to Ohio State and USC. Opposing quarterbacks just torched the cornerbacks, and that looks like it could happen again in 2007. From what I personally saw, the CB’s still don’t look that sharp. Morgan Trent actually looked back at a few passes but still had to resort to blatant pass interference on a couple of occasions to break up a pass. Johnny Sears also seemed to struggle a bit. Doug Dutch was another one out there that didn’t play too well, but he is still adjusting to changing to that position from wide receiver, so I’ll cut him some slack.

With Garrett Rivas graduating, Michigan will have to find a new kicker. Coach Carr says it is an open competition at this point, and I can see why. There are three or so kickers that got to attempt many field goals during the scrimmage. From what I remember, Bryan Wright has a decent leg, but is missing the accuracy portion. K.C. Lopata was the better of the two, but we still have a ways to go. I really would like to apologize to Rivas at this point. I trashed him for four years as he missed field goals in such a horrendous way, but he actually was dependable most of the time. That is something that probably won’t be said this season.

Now that the offense, defense, and kicking review is out of the way, let’s talk about some random things. First, we’ll start with Ryan Mallett. Mallett came in to the scrimmage to a huge ovation from the crowd and looked great considering he is an early-enrolee. He just looks like he is ready to go out on the field and play. I’d even say he’s much farther ahead than Chad Henne was his true freshman year, and Henne took us to Rose Bowl, so hopefully it’s a sign of good things to come. As far as the arm or cannon that Ryan Mallett has, it is true. We didn’t get to see him completely bomb any passes down the field, but he went deep on a few occasions and threw the ball pretty far with ease. My favorite moment from Mallett was when he scrambled away from the defense and ran down the field. He was touched by a defender, which is supposed to end the play, but Mallett decided that it was a stiff arm and continued to run down the field for a touchdown. It wasn’t called that as the play was actually done when he was touched, but the crowd got a kick out of it.

On the sidelines there were many familiar faces in attendance. Five or six seniors that were on last year’s team and have now moved on to preparing for the NFL were in attendance, which included Steve Breaston, Rondell Biggs, David Harris, Steve Breaston, and others that I cannot remember at this point. Adrian Arrington wasn’t there from what I saw and I didn’t personally see Carlos Brown either. I’ve seen some say he was there but didn’t participate. Don’t begin to think that he is now transferring though, Coach Carr confirmed in his presser that Brown would be playing running back in the fall. Jason Forcier on the other hand was not at the game, leading me to believe the rumors of him transferring to Stanford are in fact true.

Probably the most interesting person to be on the field was actor Verne Troyer, who is better known as “Mini-Me” from the Austin Powers movies. Troyer apparently is a life-long Michigan fan and was in attendance. He took pictures with fans and players and created a buzz throughout the stadium as no one probably was expecting him to be there. Troyer grew up in Michigan and reportedly addressed the team in a meeting before practice.

Football will start up again in the summer as preparations will begin for the 2007 season. Hopefully by that time most of the injured players can get back out onto the field as this spring was one of the worst that I can remember as far as injuries or other issues goes. Either way, the 2007 season is already shaping up to be an interesting one filled with a ton of storylines.

If there’s any questions you guys have then feel free to leave them in the comments section. I’m sure there’s stuff I left out as it is just from memory, so if you are wondering about anything don’t hesitate to ask and I’ll try to provide an answer.

2 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    How did Austin Panter look compared to the rest of the linebackers and does he look field ready as of now?

  2. Sean says:

    He looked good considering he is still adjusting to Division I football. I’d say he’s improved greatly during the spring. Probably on the two-deep on the depth chart.

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