The public’s first chance to see Jim Harbaugh coach Michigan football came Saturday in Ann Arbor, where the Wolverines held the first Big Ten spring game of 2015. It was about as exciting as the 7-0 final score would reveal, but there were a few things worth seeing…
- Regarding the quarterback battle, there was a clear winner (and it wasn’t ‘default’), for better or for worse. Though still looking perfectly imperfect, Shane Morris was much more impressive than Alex Malzone. This is the way it should be, of course, considering Morris has a two-year head start on Malzone and came as a more highly regarded recruit.
- Morris was inconsistent, but he did flash that powerful arm on a few occasions. Malzone can’t be expected to have a great grasp on the offense considering he could be preparing for his high school prom, but he didn’t come close to passing the look test. Slow release, not much arm strength.
- As a whole, Michigan’s receivers (the ones left over) did not look much different than they have in recent seasons. The QBs were hurt by drops, and there still seems to be a dearth of playmakers. The possible exception would be Jaron Dukes, who caught the only touchdown pass of the day. Of course the 6-4, 204-pounder from Columbus beat 5-7, 168-pound Dennis Norfleet for his touchdown. Norfleet was picked on throughout the afternoon, looking every bit the part of a player who has spend most (all?) of his time on offense and returning kicks up to this point in his career.
- On the bright side for Michigan: The new, more aggressive approach in the secondary had to be pretty strong because few players not being guarded by Norfleet seemed to have much success getting open. This, like a lot of things, is one of those double-edged swords in a spring game. Is it more an indication of the strength of the DBs or the lack of ability in the receiver room? Probably a little bit of both, but I’m leaning more toward the WRs because the DBs have had some issues themselves when they were playing people in different-colored jerseys.
- After giving up a long run by De’Veon Smith on the first play of the afternoon, the defense pretty much dominated no matter which unit was on the field. This did not come as much of a surprise because offensive lines often struggle in spring games that feature split squads (due to lack of numbers and lack of familiarity playing with each other).
- Also Michigan’s got a good chance to have a pretty good front seven. Linebackers Joe Bolden, Desmond Morgan and Ben Gedeon have played in the past and shown some good things, and a number of those defensive linemen can say the same thing. Guys who flashed up front were Willie Henry, Maurice Hurst Jr. and Lawrence Marshall. The 6-2, 311-pound Henry could be a real star, and the 281-pound Hurst seemed to be in the backfield on every play.
- Schemewise, it was pretty much what was expected. The offense was mostly under center. They ran power, counters and a lot of zone running plays. A handful of bubble screens were shut down, and they featured a lot of hitches, fades and slants.
- Defensively it was a 4-3 as expected with the back seven really playing downhill. Of course they looked a lot like a teem that pretty much knows everything the offense is doing.
- Wunderkind Jabrill Peppers had a tackle for loss on a play he wasn’t blocked, and sophomore cornerback Brandon Watson showed up by breaking up a deep pass that was then intercepted Jarrod Wilson. Watson also triggered nicely on a slant he was able to break up.