If you attend Saturday’s Spring Game, it might be a good idea to bring a roster.
The “game” at Michigan Stadium (April 5, 2 pm) will actually be more like a 50-minute controlled scrimmage, but the competition will be fierce. Upwards of 38 sophomores and 30 freshmen will join the remaining upperclassmen and that’s not counting the nine freshmen enrolling this fall.
“Our depth is so much better ,” Coach Brady Hoke said Thursday (April 3). “Is a lot of it young? Yes, but it’s good, quality depth.”
Not only has the depth helped just about every position, it’s also allowed Coach Hoke to move a few players to new positions.
Probably the most notable position switch is Jake Ryan moving to MIKE from SAM.
Ryan, who’s never been afraid off mixing it up inside, will have an opportunity to find the football on most of the plays. Moving Ryan to MIKE, allowed Hoke to move James Ross to SAM, where he can take advantage of his quickness.
After posting 88 tackles in 2012, Ryan tore his ACL at last year’s spring practice. He made an early return to play the second half of 2013, but wasn’t nearly productive. The combination of him often lining up in pass coverage and the possibility that he lost a step from surgery, brought his tackles to less than four per game. The season before he averaged nearly seven.
Spring Game matchups
When TE Jake Butt suffered a similar injury during winter conditioning in February, Hoke was able to take Keith Heitzman from his defensive line position and move him to tight end. In addition…”Ross Douglas moved to running back, we thought we could get a little more depth there,” Hoke said. “He was a 2,000-yard rusher in high school and he showed us some things during the fall, we thought we’d do that.”
Depth on both sides of the ball not only creates competition, it will provide a few interesting match-ups Saturday. The battle between the center and nose tackle should be intriguing since there will be several suitors across the line from each other.
Battle at center
Michigan’s weakest links have been both lines of scrimmage during the past few years. Since David Molk departed after the 2011 season, the Wolverines have been looking for a center. Last year, Jack Miller and Graham Glasgow shared the duties, and this year Patrick Kugler is now part of the mix. Across the line, Ondre Pipkins was penciled into the nose tackle position, but it’s questionable when he will be available this fall, since he’s still recovering from knee surgery. Look for Ryan Glasgow, Maurice Hurst and early enrollee Brian Mone to get reps.
Another concern is who can cover 6-5, 230 lb. wide receiver Devin Funchess? Will it be 6-2 Channing Stribling, who only gives up three inches in height but 54 pounds in bulk or Blake Countess, Jourdan Lewis and Ramon Taylor are all 5-10, and also give up 40-50 pounds? Funchess had a breakout year in 2013 with 47 receptions, but could have broke 50 if he didn’t drop a few easy ones.
Possibly the best match-up going is between Hoke and Ohio State assistant Ed Warinner. The Ohio mentor started the dialogue with some smack at a Buckeye fundraiser. First are two cracks via Columbus reporter Marcus Hartman, then the rebuttal by Coach Hoke.
Ed Warinner via Marcus Hartman: “If you’re worried about Wolverine fans, just move to Pasadena. You’ll never have to deal with ‘em.”
Then it was Hoke’s turn (via Detroit Free Press):
“Obviously there’s enough people that keep you informed of what’s going on,” Hoke said. “The one thing around here is we try and always stay in between the lines. That’s important with how you handle your program.”
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Joel Greer