Saturday, April 13, 2013
Offense gives away little in spring game
By Michael Rothstein
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The first real look at Michigan's kind of new return to its pro style run-the-ball roots on offense went about as expected Saturday during its controlled scrimmage.
Michigan didn’t give much away. It rotated fairly liberally. And any potential wrinkles or research put together by offensive coordinator Al Borges will remain a public secret until the fall.
The Wolverines’ scrimmage, which was going to be deemed controlled at the start, had more of a feel of a situational practice. No official, public statistics were taken. There was no score kept.
Almost everything Michigan ran was pretty rudimentary when it comes to its offensive plan.
“We ran most of our base, our main plays,” offensive lineman Michael Schofield said. “That was pretty nice to do that.”
Junior running back Thomas Rawls was able to score a touchdown in Saturday's spring game.
Doing more than the base will be paramount for Michigan this fall though. Staying fairly “vanilla,” as quarterback Devin Gardner called it, isn’t surprising considering Michigan usually doesn’t let much information or footage slip out about any of its practices. Other than five games from last season, not much is known about exactly what Borges and Michigan will do this fall and how they will use the dual-threat quarterback Gardner. It gives the Wolverines still a hint of mystery when it comes to their offense.
Gardner looked good in what he was asked to do, connecting on long passes to sophomore Amara Darboh and Devin Funchess and hitting shorter routes as well. The redshirt junior, though, was never an offensive concern.
Instead, it was everything around him entering the spring. Some things may have been answered from the one scrimmage. Michigan should be able to fill Roy Roundtree’s absence at receiver with either Darboh, Jehu Chesson or Jeremy Jackson.
Darboh especially stood out, earning the theoretical start with the first-team offense and making the over-the-shoulder catch on the first play from scrimmage.
“He can do everything well,” Gardner said. “He can shake guys in the short range game and he can go deep.”
Other than receiver, Jack Miller should settle in well at center -- the one of the three open interior spots on the offensive line that appears to be close to decided. And Michigan will be fine with its tight ends with Funchess, sophomore A.J. Williams and freshman Jake Butt all catching passes throughout the day.
Running back and the two guard spots, all of which are important when it comes to running a pro style offense, are still question marks. Gardner, though, seems unconcerned.
By fall, it appears he feels comfortable with what Michigan will have there and there were small sparks. Guards Kyle Kalis, Graham Glasgow and Ben Braden all had moments of showing their future potential, but were also blown by at other times by Michigan’s defensive line.
After what Gardner has seen this spring, he feels comfortable thinking Michigan will have a chance to make a run at the Big Ten title.
“I feel like we worked hard to get to that point. I feel like we’re right there,” Gardner said. “Last year we had a few faults where it just escaped us. The way we’ve been working this winter and this spring, I feel like that’s not going to be an issue.
“When we need that big play, we’ll get that big play. When we need that extra yard, we’re going to get it.”
That wasn’t necessary Saturday on a day where Michigan didn’t do much, but when its first team was on the field, it moved the ball, which could set the Wolverines up for success in the fall.