Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spring Practice Thoughts and Rumors - Defense

Cameron Gordon has impressed the coaches again this spring
If you missed yesterday's discussion of the offense, here it is.  And now for the defense:

Defensive end: As we know by now, Craig Roh has switched to strongside end.  He has done fairly well at the position, but he'll need to spend the next several months eating a ton and bulking up.  The coaches want him in the low 280s and right now he's about 270.  Insiders say Frank Clark looks like the starter at weakside end for the upcoming season.  Brennen Beyer, who switched from SAM linebacker this offseason, also has reportedly fared well but looks to be a step behind Clark at the position.  Beyer's a thicker, run-stopping sort and Clark will have to work on that aspect of his game.  Nathan Brink is the presumed backup at the 5-tech position but has been limited due to his late-season broken leg.  Keith Heitzman is also in the mix, which would be great for depth at the position.  I would not be surprised to see one or two of the freshman defensive ends get some action, such as Matt Godin at 5-tech and Mario Ojemudia on the weakside, although Heitzman's emergence might preclude Godin from having to burn a redshirt.

Defensive tackle: The first team defensive tackles appear to be Will Campbell at nose tackle and Jibreel Black at the 3-tech.  Campbell looks fit and is being more consistent with his technique, but the coaches continue to work on that aspect.  Black needs to add weight, but he's more athletic than most 3-techs (especially compared to Will Heininger), so he adds a different dimension.  Richard Ash appears to be the backup nose tackle.  Meanwhile, Ken Wilkins has supposedly taken a leap forward this spring.  He was mired on the bench last season and there were a lot of questions swirling about him, but it seems the light has gone on.  He could be the #2 defensive tackle going into the season.  Chris Rock has also earned a tiny bit of buzz and has put on a significant amount of weight to play the 3-tech.

Linebacker: I don't mean to overstate things, but the competition between Jake Ryan and Cam Gordon appears to be neck-and-neck for the SAM position.  The coaches really like Gordon's athleticism, and he's done a good job in pass coverage, which makes sense because he's a converted safety.  Ryan has continued to progress after having a solid redshirt freshman season.  There was a huge dropoff last season between Ryan and Beyer, but that won't be the case this year (if Cam Gordon can stay healthy).  At the MIKE spot, Kenny Demens hasn't necessarily taken the forward steps that the coaches want.  He has been hampered by a thumb injury, and the #1 middle linebacker in his absence has been freshman Joe Bolden.  Mike Jones is buried at the #3 spot.  The best linebacker this spring has been Desmond Morgan, according to several accounts.  He's put on a decent amount of weight after playing at 225 last season, and insiders suggest he's probably close to 240 now.  The backup to Morgan at WILL has been Antonio Poole, who redshirted last season.

Cornerback: Blake Countess has one cornerback position locked down.  At the boundary corner position, Terrence Talbott has stepped up to challenge J.T. Floyd.  Insiders say that Floyd's "benching" is partly due to him underperforming and partly due to rewarding Talbott for hard work in the offseason.  It might be unlikely that Talbott takes a job from a fifth year senior, but the possibility exists.  He's made his move not by being a great coverage guy but by supporting the run and turning into a very good tackler.  Those are the top three corners right there.  Raymon Taylor continues to earn buzz as perhaps the secondary's best athlete, but he's still not ready mentally and physically.  Courtney Avery is the nickel corner, where he did a great job last season and doesn't seem to getting challenged this spring.

Safety: The starters here are pretty clear with Thomas Gordon at free safety and Jordan Kovacs at strong.  Freshman Jarrod Wilson has picked things up quickly, and he might be the #2 free safety.  Marvin Robinson has returned to the practice field this spring after disappearing last year with some legal issues.  Despite his absence, Robinson appears to have taken another step forward and should be the heir apparent to Kovacs. A couple backup safeties have been absent from practices so far this spring: Tamani Carter and Josh Furman.  I would have to assume that they will be buried a little bit if/when they return.  These coaches do not like guys who miss practice.

25 comments:

  1. Flying Death MachineApril 4, 2012 at 7:48 AM

    This is a little bit OT, and sorry if you already read the linked article. I was reading the cornerback part of your entry and looked up one of your past entries where Mattison was quoted as saying you'd "better have a war daddy" at field corner if you're going to put eight in the box. After doing a search, I learned that the term "war daddy" is football jargon.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2005/02/whos_your_war_daddy.html

    Isn't it a bit ironic that Mattison would use the word war daddy on the field corner instead of the boundary, given that the boundary would have to stick his head in the run game a lot more?

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    1. I haven't read the article you linked above (but thanks for the link), but I do know Mattison used that terminology. Field corners generally have more area to cover, they have to make plays in space, and they don't have a SAM linebacker out there to help them stop the run. I think you put your most physically gifted cornerback at field corner, but he obviously has to tackle too...so I can see the reasoning behind it.

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  2. First of all....i love this blog. Keep up the excellent work. Now....just curious...what is the latest news on Demar Dorsey? Any chance he can come back to play at Michigan? Last I heard he was playing at GRCC but I'm thinking that his 2 years would be up by now. I also thought I read where he would love to come back and play at Michigan.

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    1. Thanks, Anonymous.

      Dorsey has said that he would be interested in playing for Michigan, but as far as I know, the coaches have not really approached him about transferring to Michigan. I think there was enough bad publicity with him in the first place, and I sort of doubt whether Dave Brandon and Brady Hoke want to revisit that situation.

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    2. GRCC shutdown their football program at the end of last season. Last was heard he headed back home to Florida and was contemplating his options. Wouldn't be surprised to see the old coach offer this kid so that he can prove some doubters wrong about taking this chance.

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    3. I hope he winds up with RR at UA - no problem taking JUCOs there and it makes a great story

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    4. Thank you for the reply. Go BLUE!!!!

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  3. Great feature - thanks Thunder/Magnus. Getting the buzz from practice is priceless.

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  4. Glad to hear that Marvin Robinson is stepping up. He was an absolute manchild in high school, I'm glad to see we'll get at least a year or two out of him.

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  5. I don't know what it is, but when you're supposed to be "the guy," kids step up.

    I remember when I was in track in high school. When I was a sophomore, I ran a 11.6 100m, behind a group of 4 very talented seniors who were all low 11's, one high 10. When they left the next year my first meet I ran an 11.1 and only got better on my way to all-state. Something about knowing you're "the guy" makes you that much better.

    Now, coaching high school track, I tell these kids that story, and make sure they know departing seniors always leave big shoes to fill, and kids need to step up in them. Not unlike Hoke, who preaches leadership and accountability.

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  6. Magnus,

    Great write-up. I'm curious about where you project Chris Wormley to end up on the D-line when Fall comes around. I saw that you mentioned Matt Godin at the 5 if he doesn't red-shirt. Do you suppose Wormley will also be a contender there, or at the 3? If one goes to the 5, is it likely the other will move to the 3 or vice versa? Is it likely they'll both red-shirt to allow some space to clear up ahead of them? I know it's all speculation since the kids haven't even made it to campus yet, but I'm interested in what you think.

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  7. Why can't Cam play the WILL. I know he was not athletic enough for safety but it seems he would be for that position. Thoughts?

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  8. Wow, this is a pretty optimistic post. Don't be going soft on us, Magnus.

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  9. Interesting post. Some speculation from my side...

    DE: Since Roh is graduating, one of the incoming FR need to play at SDE. That sets up competition for 2013. I have read that the coaches like Beyer, but I don't see him as a potential playmaker either, but more of a Roh type. Clark seems to have more upside in that respect.

    LB: Tons of UM fans have low expectations for Morgan because he does not have ideal measurables/speed. The assumption is that the incoming '12 guys will pass him up. But the guy played very well last year for someone with scant experience. Mattison had him pegged as the eventual starter a week into fall camp. I think Morgan and and Bolden both have the "knack" and will be very good.

    OLB: The coaches may have a hot potato here. They really like Gordon's potential, but he is playing behind Ryan, who will be all-conference material as early as this season. Hopefully, they are able to keep Gordon happy and work him in without having to take Ryan off the field. If Clark stumbles, that may free up some PT for Gordon on passing downs as an edge rusher/blizter.

    S: I will be utterly shocked if MRob is in line to replace Kovacs. Maybe this is one of those spring hype things? He does not move well in space and I cannot imagine that is correctable. And the coaches made no effort to work him in last year despite limited depth. One of the '11 or '12 guys has to pass him up.

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    1. I don't think M fans have low expectations for Morgan. In fact, the reaction to the spring footage so far has been overwhelmingly positive in his favor.

      Moving well in space is definitely correctable to a point, depending on how hard the athlete is willing to work. Getting in position and playing smarter helps this as well. In addition, Robinson DID spend some time at safety during UTL and another game or two before his legal troubles.

      I'm unsure how you form your opinion on anything. You've mentioned several unnamed "sources," but I don't know what that means, if anything.

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    2. It seems to me that a majority of fans are expecting Morgan to either move to MLB due to lack of speed or stay at Will and get passed relatively quickly by one of the 2012 studs. I have read about Morgan's physical limitations in countless write-ups and comments ("limited" against running QB's, not an expected starter for 2012, etc.). Maybe that general opinion has changed a bit since Morgan's "insider" stock has risen this spring. My point is that the kid performed unusually well last season given the circumstances and he will be very difficult for the new guys to beat out, physical limitations or not.

      Regarding MRob, I think he is on the list of "perpetually over-hyped" players whom UM fans hold out false hope for (DG at QB is another). He moves more like a LB based on what I have seen with my own eyes and I am not the only person who has stated this opinion - heard similar comments from practice observers on other sites over the last two years. I expect UM should have better options at SS after Kovacs leaves, either one of the younger guys or T Gordon. Just my opinion. You do not have to agree.

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  10. Don't forget my personal special teams POY last year Delonte Hollowell, who has been rumored to be in the mix for backup cornerback along with Raymon Taylor.

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  12. Any news/rumors on Quinton Washington? Is he still at nose?

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  13. I agree with the above on Beyer. I hope the kid can continue to add weight and compete for an SDE spot, because I just get the feeling he's going to struggle to beat out more athletic guys like Clark, Ojemudia, and Charlton at WDE over the course of his career. Then again he's 45lbs away from where they want Roh to be this year based on the spring roster (225 vs 270)...

    I'll bump a previous question too. If Demens continues to struggle, is there any way we see Ryan, Morgan, and Gordon out on the field at the same time? Or would the coaches prefer to play Bolden if he continues to show promise, due to SLB being so different from the others?

    Also, the alleged emergence of Terrence Talbott can arguably make CB the deepest position on the roster. *Knock on wood*, but wow how different is that?

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  14. @ AnOnymous 7:16 am

    I have heard that the coaches want Wormley at 3-tech. I believe he would be better at the 5 and he's going to need to add a lot of bulk if he's going to play the 3.

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  15. @ Anonymous 7:50 am

    Cam Gordon is more of an attacker than a read-and-react type of player. He's also a little tall and lanky to play WILL. He's just not a good fit for the position.

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  16. @ Painter Smurf 10:29 am

    Marvin Robinson doesn't do great in space...but neither does Kovacs. But the coaches have mostly done a good job of covering up Kovacs' deficiencies. And Robinson had legal issues last season. That's why the coaches didn't work him in.

    The only other oPtion for next year would be to play Thomas Gordon at SS and plug in Wilson at FS. Furman sure isn't getting the job.

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  17. @ GregGoBlue

    I do not believe Hollowell is in any serious contention to play cornerback next year unless there are a couple injuries.

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  18. @ anonymous 3:34 pm

    Quinton Washington is playing more 3-tech and there hasn't been much buzz about him.

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