Much of the buzz emanating from Schembechler Hall this spring had been about the exploits of a fast and physical defense, but Saturday in front of about 20,000 die-hard fans the Michigan offense held its own.
Despite the cool temperature and gusty winds, it was just another day at the office for Devin Gardner. The redshirt junior signal caller looked extremely comfortable completing 11/16 142 yards and a touchdown. He rarely forced the ball and on only one occasion did he lock onto to his primary target and lead to the defender breaking up the play.
Gardner's best pass of the day was a beautiful over the shoulder throw the freshman Amara Darboh during the first offensive series. He also had a number of move-the-chains type throws, a few of which were hauled in by senior wideout Jeremy Jackson in heavy traffic.
"Jeremy Jackson has had his best spring since we've been here," Brady Hoke said afterward. "When you look at Jehu (Chesson) and Amara (Darboh), I think both of those guys have really come along. They are both very talented and can do a lot of different things. Joe Reynolds keeps pushing everybody. Joe is a guy who can play a lot of positions and that's a real positive for us."
"As a whole, we really progressed strongly," senior wideout, Drew Dileo added. "A lot of the young guys, as you saw today, are getting a lot of reps. Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh both had really strong springs. There wasn't really anyone who didn't do well. As a group, we all did well."
|Devin Funchess skies for pass
USA TODAY Sports
Finishing a close second for Gardner's best pass of the day was a strike down the seam to sophomore tight end, Devin Funchess. Gardner stood in the pocket with a blitzing James Ross bearing down on him and delivered a high hard pass that Funchess skied to haul in for one of the biggest plays of the scrimmage.
Gardner's only touchdown toss was a 12-yard pass to freshman tight end Jake Butt.
At the tailback position the player of the day was junior, Thomas Rawls. The Flint, Michigan native has been working on improving his vision since he arrived in Ann Arbor two years ago. Saturday it appeared as if he has made strides. He finished the day with six carries for 32 yards. His longest run was a 15-yard counter where showed a nice burst to the corner before turning up field and powering through a few defenders near the goal line for the score. While that run generated the most excitement from his teammates, his coaches were likely more enthused by his shorter between the tackle runs. On almost every one he showed improved vision… reading his blocks well and finding daylight through traffic.
Redshirt freshman Drake Johnson also had a few nice runs on the day. He refused to go down to arm tackles and on his longest run of the day, a ten yard sweep, he showed his penchant for picking up yards after contact.
Dennis Norfleet showed why he should get a few offensive touches in every game. One of his best plays came when senior linebacker Cam Gordon blasted up field right in Norfleet's path. With a burst of speed the cat-quick sophomore ran through an arm tackle and turned up field or seven yards.
Up front was where the most intriguing battles took place. The first string unit appeared to most often be comprised of Taylor Lewan at left tackle, Ben Braden at left guard, Jack Miller at center, Michael Schofield at right tackle, and Graham Glasgow and Kyle Kalis alternating at right guard. Both Glasgow and Kalis showed well in one on one drills prior to the scrimmage, each stoning his opponents at times, but during live action the Wolverines seem to fair better when Kalis was in the lineup. Other positives notes up front were the size improvements of Kyle Bosch and Erik Magnuson, and the health of Chris Bryant. Bosch's growth was particularly noticeable, as he has added 20 pounds of muscle and registered a pancake in the second half of the scrimmage. Also worthy of mention is Chris Bryant's recovery. The massive guard moved around with no limitation and seems to be regaining the aggressive edge he began showing before the knee injury sidelined him last year.
"We moved and established the line of scrimmage today, and I think that is one thing that we haven't seen in a while," Taylor Lewan said. "I think that just shows how hard these guys have worked in the offseason. But what we do in the summer and do in fall camp is really going to define us as an offensive line."