Going into this year’s spring game, my opinion on the rumblings about how Denard Robinson was legitimately challenging Tate Forcier for the starting quarterback job was that it was nothing more than coach speak intended to push Forcier. Based on what happened in the spring game, though, those rumblings are not only accurate in saying that there is a quarterback competition, but Robinson actually looked better than Forcier on Saturday.
Granted, just like any spring game you have to remember not to generalize what you saw too much since it was simply one scrimmage/practice and it’s possible that Forcier had an off day and Robinson was just on his game. On top of that, there were many players out with injuries and the first-string offense didn’t line up against the first-string defense, so it’s tough to get a great read on how telling this brief look at the team really was. Even with that said, the spring game does provide a small look at how the team is performing, so although there are caveats with any football-related findings from the event, it is interesting to look back on what we saw.
The obvious focus for the offense starts at the quarterback position. Based solely on the spring game, Denard Robinson looked like he should start over Tate Forcier and Devin Gardner looked like he should redshirt his freshman season. Like I have said, this was merely a brief look at the team, but just how much Robinson has improved since last season is quite amazing. His passes were crisper and didn’t seem to wobble down the field. His patience in the pocket was much better, as he didn’t take off at the first sign of a lack of open targets. Also, his speed and moves were just as great as ever. Of course, the defense could only down him two-hand touch style, but Robinson still was running circles around defenders on some plays.
Forcier didn’t necessarily look bad or anything, but it was tough to look good compared to how well Robinson played. Even so, there were indications that Forcier has not improved on some things, such as taking better care of the ball. Just like last year, Forcier held the ball out there with one hand when he was scrambling around in the pocket. That was an issue last year that really hurt Michigan against Illinois and Ohio State, and in that regard it doesn’t seem like Forcier has learned to protect the ball. Other than that there really isn’t much to say about how Forcier played in my mind. Like I said, he didn’t play that bad; he just didn’t do a lot to impress me compared to Robinson.
The same can’t be said for Devin Gardner, who made his Big House debut on Saturday. Although Gardner showed flashes of potential on some plays with great passes and exceptional running ability, overall he struggled. His first snap of the day was a fumble, and his passing wasn’t all that impressive outside of a couple select plays. Perhaps more concerning than his throwing motion, which is definitely raw and needs work, was that Gardner’s struggles with reading the coverage nearly led to quite a few interceptions.
My guess is Gardner simply had an off day and had some nerves since it was his first game in Michigan Stadium, but right now it seems like he would be better off redshirting in 2010. All along the hope has really been for Forcier and Robinson to handle the quarterback duties in 2010 to allow Gardner to take a year to develop, and unless Gardner rapidly improves during the summer, that still seems like the best-case scenario for Michigan.
Moving on to running back, I was very impressed with how deep this position looked, and that was without Vincent Smith. Players like Mike Cox, Fitzgerald Toussaint, and true freshman Stephen Hopkins really looked good, especially Hopkins. He was running defenders over all day long and seems like a very powerful runner. Add Michael Shaw and Smith into the equation and the running back position should be very deep this fall. (Austin White played as well on Saturday, but I think he will probably be redshirted this season.)
Slot receiver is another position that looks very deep. Roy Roundtree picked up where he left off at the end of last season and put on a show on Saturday, scoring a 97-yard touchdown on a pass from Denard Robinson. In general he was the top receiver on Saturday, making plays as a slot receiver and downfield as well. With Martavious Odoms back for another year, Jeremy Gallon and Terrence Robinson ready to get on the field, and Kelvin Grady returning from another stint with the basketball team, slot receiver is really looking solid.
At outside receiver, we got our first look at true freshmen Ricardo Miller, Jeremy Jackson, and Jerald Robinson on Saturday. We also got to watch Je’Ron Stokes catch a touchdown pass from Tate Forcier. Darryl Stonum didn’t do anything too noteworthy and Junior Hemingway was out with an injury. Although the wide receiver position as a whole is pretty deep, I hope one of these freshmen becomes a downfield threat, because Michigan had a tough time completing long passes on Saturday outside of the TD to Roundtree, who simply got wide open in the middle of the field. Hemingway and Stonum both can be pretty good deep threats, but that’s it at outside WR right now.
There was nothing too noteworthy to take away from tight ends Kevin Koger, Martell Webb, and Brandon Moore. Koger had one drop if I remember correctly, but other than that there wasn’t anything too noticeable. Koger and Webb struggled with drops in the latter part of last season, but early on Koger was very good. If he can play like he did in September of 2009 there should be no doubt about who is the starter at this position.
I didn’t pay a ton of attention to the offensive line, but a lot of younger players were getting reps with the first couple of units. Part of that was because David Molk and Elliott Mealer were both out with injuries, but it seems like Michigan should have a pretty good two-deep at offensive line this year.
Just as the general theme with the offense was solid depth, the general theme with the defense was a lack of depth. That is nothing new, and it’s already obvious that how Michigan performs as a team in 2010 will greatly depend on if the defense is once again a liability or not. I don’t see the defense being a strength with so many question marks surrounding it, but the key is to not be a liability either.
On Saturday I really didn’t watch the defense too closely (partly because spring games like Michigan’s aren’t designed to favor the defense), but Ryan Van Bergen stood out to me, as he seemed to be putting pressure on the quarterback throughout the day. I’m sure Mike Martin and Troy Woolfolk would have stood out if they had played, but injuries kept them out.
Let’s hope Will Hagerup is ready to be the starting punter from the second he gets on campus, because Tate Forcier was the best punter on Saturday. He punted the ball once on a fourth down where he backed up out of the shotgun, and that one punt went much farther than any of the ones during the punting drill earlier in the day. The actual kickers and punters could barely keep the ball in between the sidelines, and even when they did, the punts were very short. Jeremy Gallon only got one real chance to catch a punt as a result, and unsurprisingly he dropped it. It looks like some things haven’t changed in that regard.
The kicking competition is definitely wide open, but that is because a few kickers played quite well on Saturday. I don’t see Michigan making a ton of long-range field goals in 2010 just based on the distances kicked from on Saturday, but thankfully every kick wasn’t shank like with the punters. Some walk-ons, a person from the soccer team, and Brendan Gibbons will compete for the starting job at kicker.
Other notes from Saturday
- The alumni flag football game was once again very entertaining. Desmond Howard and LaMarr Woodley were two of the coaches, and Woodley was pretty funny, complaining about calls to the refs all game long. John Navarre, Jermaine Gonzalez, Pierre Woods, and Jimmy King (yes, basketball’s Jimmy King played and even caught a touchdown) were just some of players involved. Despite not playing a snap, Vada Murray, the captain of one of the teams, was named the MVP of the game, a well deserved honor considering he has been fighting cancer for the last few years. (Phil Brabbs was supposed to be one of the captains as well, but I don’t think he was there.)
- I just love how it was 82 degrees and sunny on Thursday and on Saturday it was cold, cloudy, and windy and it even snowed a little bit in the morning. There was still a pretty good crowd despite the chilly weather (the estimate was 35,000 people, although I thought that was a little low), with both sidelines filling up by the time the actual spring game got started.
- I personally didn’t have a big problem with the PNC banners that were hanging in each corner of the field. Yes, it was advertising in Michigan Stadium, but it was for a good cause. I can understand why people would be against it, but to the douchebag that felt the need to boo every time something about PNC was mentioned, get over it.
- The fundraiser for Mott Children’s Hospital went very well and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, but did anyone else feel like the interviews with families were a little tacky? I realize the importance of keeping Mott on people’s minds, but it was awkward more than anything and seemed to hold up the game itself at times.
- Along those same lines, why was it necessary for Frank Beckmann and Jim Brandstatter to announce the game over the PA system like it was a radio broadcast? Last year we simply watched the game and then had interviews with players every so often. That was much better than having to listen to Beckmann and Brandstatter announce every play, which was not only unnecessary, but I bet it was also really uncomfortable for the players who had to listen to the announcers talk about them while they were trying to play football.
- It’s definitely a good thing Michigan Stadium is getting new FieldTurf before next season, because the new piece of the Block M that replaced what was cut out by vandals was noticeably brighter. As it turns out, part of that is because the new turf will be “Duraspine,” which is a “brighter and higher quality version of field turf.”
- It was weird going into the stadium and not seeing the old press box. The area where the old press box used to be was blocked off, as construction of the new seatbacks is still ongoing.
- The new speaker system sort of seemed like an improvement, but I think it would have been a good idea to install speakers in both scoreboards for a surround sound type of effect. That would have also been a good idea in order to be consistent, because the very top of the north scoreboard where the speakers are housed is now covered with a banner that is sort of see through, whereas the south scoreboard is unchanged.
- There were a lot of football recruits at the game, including Demetrius Hart, who was getting a lot of love from the fans that noticed him.
- Some members of the basketball team were also at the game with a few recruits, including Isaiah Sykes.
- Top 10 plays from the spring game (YouTube)
- Rich Rodriguez press conference part 1 (YouTube)
- Rich Rodriguez press conference part 2 (YouTube)
- Denard Robinson interview (YouTube)
- Roy Roundtree interview (YouTube)
- Obi Ezeh interview (YouTube)
- Highlights of the alumni game (AnnArbor.com)
- MVictors (alumni game)
- UMGoBlue (alumni game)
- AnnArbor.com (alumni game)
- UMGoBlue (spring game)
- AnnArbor.com (spring game)
- Michigan Daily (spring game)
- Detroit News (spring game)
- Maize and Blue Nation (includes a look at where one set of the “Michigan Stadium” letters from the old press box went)
The tentative rosters are out for the second annual alumni flag football game, which will get underway at 11 a.m. on Saturday, preceding the spring game. This year’s coaches are Desmond Howard and LaMarr Woodley, and the captains are Vada Murray and Phil Brabbs, which is just great to see. Both Vada and Phil are fighting cancer, so you can bet they will get a big ovation during introductions tomorrow. James Hall is back as the guest referee for the second straight year, and the full roster for each team can be seen below.
Coach — Desmond Howard (1989-91), WR
Captain — Vada Murray (1987-90), DB
Ron Bellamy (1999-02), WR
Tom Brigstock (1962-65), HB
Gasper Calandrino (1978), DB
Jim Conley (1961-64), E
Zia Combs (2000-02), DB/WR
B.J. Dickey (1977-81), QB
Don Dufek (1972-75), DB
Chris Floyd (1994-97), TB/FB
Jermaine Gonzales (2000-04), WR
Livetius Johnson (1988-91), RB
Rich Leach (1975-78), QB
Triando Markray (1982-84), WR
Ben Mast (1997-01), OL
Chris Matsos (2002-04), WR
Zoltan Mesko (2006-09), P
Anthony Mitchell (1985-88), DB
Ohene Opong-Owusu (2007-09), LB
Darren Petterson (1995-98), WR
Marcus Ray (1995-98), S
LaTerryal Savoy (2006-09), WR
Lasker Smith (1992), DB
Phil Webb (1983-87), TB
Josh Williams (1995-99), DT
Chuck Winters (1992-96), S
Pierre Woods (2002-05), DE
Coach — LaMarr Woodley (2003-06), DE
Captain — Phil Brabbs (2000-03), K
Tony Blackenship (1989-93), S
Alijah Bradley (2003-06), RB
Jason Carr (1991-95), QB
Will Carr (1993-96), DT
Bob Cernak (1984-87), QB/TE
Bill Dufek (1974-77), OL
Dan Jokisch (1987-90), WR/TE
Brian Lafer (2001-03), WR
Andy Mignery (1999-03), QB/TE/P
John Navarre (1999-03), QB
Troy Nienberg (2001-04), K
B.J. Opong-Owusu (2003-06), S
Tom Parkhill (1962-65), E
Marc Ramirez (1986-89), OL
Aaron Richards (1998-01), WR
Todd Richards (1992-95), WR
Jim Sinclair (1988), FB
Walter Smith (1990-94), WR
Dorian Taylor (1992), LB
Michael Taylor (1985-89), QB
Anthony Thomas (1997-00), TB
John Thompson (2004-08), LB
Dwayne Ware (1988-92), WR/DB
Gerald White (1983-86), TB/FB
- The NCAA is now sniffing around the West Virginia football program to investigate if there were any rules violations during Rich Rodriguez’s time with the school. West Virginia seems very confident that no rules regarding practice time were broken, so let’s hope everything is in order and the NCAA doesn’t find anything that will further damage Rodriguez’s already tarnished reputation.
- Tate Forcier sprained his ankle on Tuesday, and although he was apparently walking around with crutches and in a boot on Wednesday, he is supposed to practice today.
- The weather forecast for Saturday’s spring game is now 51 degrees, a 10% chance of rain, and cloudy skies. It’s too bad today’s 82-degree weather didn’t wait for a couple days.
- Mark Moundros is going to play linebacker and fullback in 2010.
- You can find a rundown of Tuesday’s press conference with Rich Rodriguez on mgoblog and MVictors.
- Dhani Jones is not a fan of Rodriguez.
- WolverineHistorian uploaded a two-part look at the 1997 Michigan-Michigan State game.
- Everything is bigger in Texas, including high school football stadiums.
- Louie Caporusso and Carl Hagelin want to lead Michigan to a national championship next season.
- Derek Jeter told George Steinbrenner to lose his Ohio State ring when he delivered The Boss his 2009 World Series championship ring.
- A Michigan baseball recruit threw a no-hitter on Tuesday.
- Assistant coaches Jerry Dunn and John Mahoney have left the basketball program. Jeff Meyer, who replaced Dunn as an assistant during the middle of the 2009-10 season, is now permanently an assistant coach.
- The ESPNU 100 for the 2010 basketball recruiting class has been updated. Evan Smotrycz is ranked 85th and Tim Hardaway Jr. is ranked 94th.
- Observations from a couple people who watched Saturday’s football scrimmage were gathered and posted on mgoblog.
- The early forecast for the spring game is a high of 55 degrees and a 30% chance of rain.
- Michigan football players participated in Relay for Life this past weekend.
- The Michigan lacrosse team’s 49-game winning streak was snapped by Colorado on Friday. Michigan rebounded on Sunday by knocking off #2 Colorado State.
- Jordan Taylor pitched a perfect game in the softball team’s 9-0 win over Minnesota on Saturday.
- In case you were wondering, Boston College beat Wisconsin 5-0 to win the national championship in hockey at Ford Field on Saturday. Thanks to a great start to the third period, BC went from leading 1-0 to being up by 4 goals fairly quickly. In a desperate attempt to get back in the game, Wisconsin pulled its goalie with lots of time left, resulting in another BC goal with around four and a half minutes to play.
- A poster on mgoblog put together an early preview of NCAA Football 11.
- PNC Bank is the “presenting sponsor” of the spring game and will specifically sponsor the locker room tours (6:30-8 p.m. on Friday and 7-9:30 a.m. on Saturday) and “Kick for Cash” promotion. Part of the sponsorship money from PNC will go towards the “Michigan football interactive play area at the new C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.”
- TomVH has a list of who is visiting for the spring game.
- Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson are apparently pretty even right now at quarterback.
- Kelvin Grady and Terrence Robinson are getting some time at running back.
- Will Heininger has a torn ACL and could miss the entire 2010 season.
- Vladimir Emilien and Jared Van Slyke might return from knee injuries next week.
- Check out mgoblog for a full recap of Tuesday’s practice and press conferences.
- The Michigan Daily profiled Zoltan Mesko.
- The same restrictions implemented at the Ann Arbor Golf & Outing Club last year for football tailgates will not be changed for the 2010 season. Lame.
- Red Berenson did a Q&A with AnnArbor.com.
- The semifinals of the Frozen Four are going to be played at Ford Field later today. I will probably tune in for a bit just to see what the setup looks like, but I’m still way too bitter over Michigan not being there because of a BS call to watch for more than a minute or two.
- After the new basketball practice facility is built and infrastructure work is done on Crisler Arena, Dave Brandon wants to completely renovate Crisler to make it a “modern arena.” Sounds good to me.
- The Sporting Blog remixed this year’s One Shining Moment video with Luther Vandross’ version of the song, and it just makes the whole thing a million times better.
- Evan Turner and five Kentucky players have declared for the NBA Draft.
- Michigan’s spring game will be streamed live on BigTenNetwork.com and broadcast on the Big Ten Network at 8 p.m. later that day.
- The football team’s first scrimmage of the spring was held on this past Saturday.
- WolverineHistorian uploaded a two-part look at the 2002 Michigan-Michigan State game (49-3).
- The Block M in Michigan Stadium was apparently vandalized. The good thing is this FieldTurf is going to be replaced before next season anyways, so Michigan will just have to get it fixed for the spring game.
- Swimmer Tyler Clary won another national championship in the 400-yard individual medley. It was his second straight title in that event.
- Michigan is going to retire Barry Larkin’s No. 16 jersey before Michigan’s game against Ohio State on May 1.
- Michigan won with ease yet again in the WNIT, defeating Syracuse 78-52 on Saturday. Michigan will now play Miami (Florida) in the semifinals of the WNIT at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Crisler Arena.
- UM Hoops scouted 2011 basketball commit Carlton Brundidge and 2010 recruit Isaiah Sykes.
- Iowa hired Siena’s Fran McCaffery to replace Todd Lickliter as its basketball coach.
- Steve Lavin is reportedly going to be St. John’s next head basketball coach. I enjoy listening to Lavin announce Big Ten games for ESPN, so I kind of hope he doesn’t take the job for that reason.
- Michigan has been using the 3-3-5 defense quite a bit this spring.
- Due to injuries (the ones listed below are just some of them) and an overall lack of depth, this year’s spring game won’t really be like an actual game, though the hope is to do that in the future.
- Safeties Vladimir Emilien and Jared Van Slyke will miss at least a few weeks with knee injuries.
- Je’Ron Stokes likely will be out one more week with an ankle injury.
- Anthony LaLota is dealing with an elbow injury.
- Denard Robinson hasn’t practiced at a position other than quarterback yet this spring.
- Mike Hart was at practice on Tuesday.
- With Michigan losing its starting kicker and punter to graduation, the staff is essentially auditioning replacements (for kicker, at least; no punters are currently on the roster) this spring.
- Rich Rodriguez has once again been sued for another real estate-related project, this time in Alabama. Back before last season he was named in a similar lawsuit for a real estate project in Virginia.
- Admission for the spring game, like usual, is free, but this year Michigan and C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital are partnering for the following promotion:
Fans can make a donation of choice to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital upon entering the gates of Michigan Stadium. Donations are accepted at any level but fans will receive giveaways for donating at the following four levels:
- $5 donation receives an “All in for Michigan Towel”
- $20 donation receives a spring game “All in for Michigan, All in for Mott” T-shirt
- $250 donation receives four passes to a pre-season scrimmage
- $500 donation receives 2 pre-game sideline passes (does not include game tickets) to ONE of the following four games: Bowling Green, Massachusetts, Iowa or Illinois (limited number of passes per game)
To encourage fans to participate in the fundraiser, the Beam Family of Brighton, Mich., will match dollar-for-dollar every donation that is made to Mott at the gates during the spring game.
- King Arthur Abraham, a boxer from Germany who is fighting Flint-native Andre Dirrell at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday, is a Michigan football fan.
“Everybody in Germany knows the University of Michigan,” said Abraham, making his first visit to Detroit. “It is big and famous. Yes, I know a little, too, about the football team. I like American football. If there are Michigan State fans at my bout, would they please remember, I fight Andre, not them.”
Considering Dirrell, Abraham’s opponent, said today that he’d like to see Michigan State win the national championship in basketball, I think it’s safe to say I’ll be rooting for Abraham to win the fight.
- Associate basketball coach Jerry Dunn is a candidate for the head coaching job at UNC-Wilmington.
- Michigan’s women’s basketball team will play Northwestern at Crisler Arena on Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the third round of the WNIT.
- The spring game is going to start at 1 p.m. on April 17. Gates to Michigan Stadium will open at 10 a.m., and the festivities will get started at 11 with the alumni flag football game.
- Michigan takes on Iowa in the Big Ten tournament today at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN2. The winner will face Ohio State tomorrow at noon.
- Michigan is officially going to play in the 2010 Legends Classic, a tournament held right after Thanksgiving in Atlantic City. This is the tournament that Michigan State played in last year, and Michigan will be joined in Atlantic City on November 26 and 27 by Syracuse, Georgia Tech, and UTEP.
- Injuries are hampering Michigan’s scout team.
- The CBI is not an option this year, but apparently it may be in the future. Let’s hope it doesn’t ever come to that, though.
- Basketball recruit Jon Horford was finally offered by Michigan.
- Forbes ranked Ann Arbor No. 1 on a list of the best college sports towns.
- The Daily caught up with Charlie White and Meryl Davis to talk about their time in Vancouver during the Olympics.
- Jim Mandich is battling cancer.
- Justin Feagin was sentenced on Tuesday and is now playing football at Texas Southern.
- Notre Dame would prefer to remain independent for football, but it realizes that it may be forced to make changes in the future if conferences start expanding.