5 things Tom Dienhart learned at Michigan football practice
The eighth stop on our annual summer trek across the Big Ten brought us to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where we watched the Wolverines practice Wednesday morning.
Before we turn our attention to Penn State, which we will watch Friday in University Park, Pennsylvania, here are five things I learned at Michigan practice:
1. Jake Rudock figures to win the quarterback spot. The Iowa senior transfer is the one signal-caller who gives Michigan the best chance to win out of the gate. And, that’s an important consideration for a Wolverines squad that faces one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation: at Utah; Oregon State; UNLV; BYU. Rudock threw the ball well today and worked with the top units along with junior lefty Shane Morris. Rudock is a savvy vet with lots of starting experience. Redshirt freshman Wilton Speight and true freshmen Alex Malzone and Zach Gentry don’t figure to be ready. All practiced today, along with Houston transfer John O’Korn. Gentry is impressive at 6-7, 230 pounds. Reminds me physically of Ryan Mallett. You all remember him.
2. The offensive line will be better. A weakness for too long, the Wolverine front finally looks primed for success. And, that’s good news for an offense that has uncertainly at the skill positions. On this breezy Wednesday, the first unit lined up like this: sophomore Mason Cole at left tackle; senior Ben Braden at left guard; senior Graham Glasgow at center; senior Kyle Kalis at right guard; senior Erik Magnuson at right tackle. Mason may be the best of the bunch. Glasgow is the leader. The second unit had junior Logan Tuley-Tillman at left tackle; junior David Dawson at left guard; junior Patrick Kugler at center; sophomore Juwann Bushell-Beatty at right guard; senior Blake Bars at right tackle.
3. A pass rusher is needed. Who will bring the heat from the edge? Senior Mario Ojemudia could be the guy after making 3.5 sacks in 2014. He was moving well today. Fellow senior end Chris Wormley has moved from tackle to end; he’s more of an anchor. Junior Taco Charlton flashes and passes the eyeball test. One front lined up thusly today: Wormley at end; senior Ryan Glasgow at tackle; senior Willie Henry at tackle; Ojemudia at end. The other unit combo was Charlton at end; senior Tom Strobel; junior Maurice Hurst; senior Royce Jenkins-Stone, listed as a LB on the roster.
4. The secondary could be good. Junior corner Jourdan Lewis is a returning starter. Senior free safety Jarrod Wilson is smooth. The exciting guy is redshirt freshman strong safety Jabrill Peppers, who played sparingly last year before taking a redshirt because of injury. He could be special. Peppers’ athletic ability is apparent, as he is building on a strong spring. But, please, stop with the comparisons to Charles Woodson. Stanford grad transfer Wayne Lyons could be a proverbial “cut-above.” The top unit today was Lewis and Clark on the edges with Peppers and Wilson at safety. The other unit had junior Channing Stribling and freshman Tyree Kinnel on the corners with junior Dymonte Thomas and Lyons at safety.
5. The running back slot is interesting. This could be the year junior Derrick Green finally fulfills his hype as the “nation’s top prep running back.” The 230-pound Green was out of shape as a freshman when he visited and was inconsistent as a sophomore. He looks good this year. Junior USC transfer Ty Isaac is another physical back who towers at 6-3, 240. Junior De’Veon Smith is the best-looking of the bunch. He has a bit of a burst. Senior Drake Johnson also ran well along with junior Ross Taylor-Douglas. Are there any real difference-makers? Any blazers? Any go-the-distance guys? This team aches for a stud back.
|About Tom Dienhart||BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|