Monday, April 15, 2013
Five takeaways from U-M spring practice
By Michael Rothstein
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan’s spring practice has ended and now the long wait for the Wolverines begin.
Michigan has a little over four months until its first game of the 2013 season against Central Michigan, and while the Wolverines still have some issues to deal with between now and then -- backup quarterback and running back among them -- some things stood out from the final, and only public, scrimmage of the spring.
Here are five strong takeaways from the last spring practice that Michigan can look at with comfort or concern heading into the offseason.
Tackle Taylor Lewan and the left side of Michigan's line stood out in the final spring scrimmage.
1.Michigan will be better than expected on the offensive line. The talent level was evident even before Saturday’s open practice, and there was never a concern they wouldn’t be good. And yes, there were points on Saturday where Michigan’s defensive linemen blew right by their offensive counterparts, especially the guards. But the core group of six linemen -- tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, center Jack Miller and guards Kyle Kalis, Ben Braden and Graham Glasgow -- all had moments of looking like a cohesive unit by the fall. The left-side combination of Lewan and Braden specifically stood out, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Michigan run a lot toward its left side this season. Considering Michigan ran a fairly base offense ,and defenses are usually ahead of offenses in spring games, this is a good sign for the Wolverines entering this fall.
2.Fitzgerald Toussaint, Derrick Green or Deveon Smith will be the starter in the fall. Michigan’s running back group was OK, but not overly impressive Saturday -- echoing what coaches have said all spring when no one separated himself. Justice Hayes got the start and had a couple of decent runs, but was also crushed in the backfield a lot. Thomas Rawls scored a 14-yard touchdown on a run to the left side and again showed flashes of his potential, but he didn't look much different from last year’s spring game. Dennis Norfleet has potential, but his size is still a concern for being an every-down back. All this means is the initial thought that Michigan’s starter will come from the backs either returning or coming in during the summer remains the likely scenario.
3.Michigan needs to find a backup quarterback. I’ll say this based off one practice -- and one practice only -- but unless Michigan finds a star running back from point No. 2, it will need either Shane Morris to come in more ready than expected or U-M will need to find an experienced backup on the transfer or junior college market. Brian Cleary and Alex Swieca showed potential of being good quarterbacks and serviceable backups down the road -- Swieca, actually, more than Cleary -- but the Wolverines could have major issues if Devin Gardner were to be injured during a game. On a team where there is still a lack of experienced depth or depth in general at many spots, nowhere is this more evident than at quarterback.
4.Desmond Morgan will be fine at middle linebacker. The junior practiced solely in the middle all spring and appeared to keep his instincts and ability to move quickly toward the ball during the spring practice. As he said later, playing in the middle is more natural to him and something he had done throughout the majority of his career prior to Michigan, so it was just a readjustment period. While he doesn’t have elite size for a middle linebacker, the pass coverage situation, where he’ll go up against tight ends and running backs instead of slot receivers, is also a better fit. Moving Morgan inside also allows for James Ross III, who looked like a potential difference-maker at the weakside linebacker, to be on the field more.
5.Taco Charlton will play in the NFL. Obviously this is bold and a lot can happen over the next three to four years, but Charlton looked like he fit in well with the rest of Michigan’s defensive linemen despite having been on campus for only a few months. He likely won’t beat out Frank Clark to win the starting job at rush end, but he will get snaps as a freshman. His size/strength/speed combination makes him already someone who looks like a future pro -- and a standout on the line -- sooner rather than later. He’ll have some struggles early on in the fall, but it would not be surprising to see him push for major time by the middle of this coming season.