1. Freshman WR Freddy Canteen: At the slot or as an outside receiving weapon, Canteen was the go to man for Michigan's quarterbacks Saturday including senior Devin Gardner. Quick off the line and smooth in his routes, Canteen was able to create separation and find holes in the defense throughout the afternoon. After a miscommunication on Gardner's first interception to start the scrimmage, Canteen made up for it with a post over the middle catching it between Wolverine defenders before picking up extra yardage before being taken down. Later, out of the slot, Canteen was left wide open on a crossing pattern, making the reception and running up the left sideline inside the 10-yard line. Canteen would've had yet another big play after beating junior cornerback Blake Countess on a go route down the left sideline but the ball was underthrown and ultimately broken up. Not known for his blocking at this point, Canteen held his own against Michigan's defensive backs as offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier looked to get the run game going. The biggest asset Canteen provides to the Michigan offense is his speed, able to get up field in a hurry for yards after the catch. Overall, this was a very impressive debut for Canteen.
2. Sophomore CB Jourdan Lewis: Already having a strong spring Jourdan Lewis made his presence felt in front of thousands of fans Saturday, actually picking off senior quarterback Devin Gardner on the first official play of the spring scrimmage. Reading Gardner's eyes Lewis was in man coverage on Freddy Canteen as Gardner waited too long to deliver the football on a corner route. Toward the end of the scrimmage Lewis got the best of sophomore quarterback Shane Morris. It appeared Morris was looking for his wide receiver to turn inside on a curl route and Lewis took advantage, jumping the route and turning it up field for a nice return. Lewis' blemishes of the day came in the form of near back to back pass interference calls, one of which Lewis believes didn't need to be called. Beyond that, Lewis hung tough in press and zone coverage, handling the big body of Devin Funchess as well as the quickness of Canteen on the outside. Perhaps most impressive about Lewis' performance was his physical play on the edge. Known for being more of a cover corner, Lewis wasn't afraid to stick his head in when ball carriers came his way. Despite veterans ahead of him at the position, Lewis' spring could vault him into a starting spot heading into the fall.
3. Sophomore RB De'Veon Smith: Physically looking to be the ideal candidate for Michigan's starting running back job, Smith didn't have many big gainers but showed a great combination of size and speed out of the backfield as the Wolverines' continued to work at the run game. Smith was routinely met with defenders in the backfield but did a nice job of evading them with quick footwork and vision, able to bounce to the edge on a few occasions for some of Michigan's biggest rushing gains of the day. While Justice Hayes could be Michigan's third down back by the time fall camp arrives, Smith needed to display some hands out of the backfield and did so on a few occasions Saturday. Pass protection was a key issue in Michigan's 2013 season and while still a work in progress, Smith stood in and took on defenders pretty well in limited passing opportunities. The biggest thing though, Smith was given the rock several times throughout the nearly hour long scrimmage, proving he's capable of handling a possible workhorse load as the leading back this fall.
Newkirk's Top Three Standouts
1. Sophomore CB Jourdan Lewis: Lewis was my top performer of the day. He had two interceptions. He was in on many plays on defense. He just looked comfortable on the field and has likely emerged as one of the starter corners heading into fall camp. However, his day wasn't perfect, he had two pass interference called on him due to his aggressive nature. But this was spring practice, and Lewis definitely looks like the cover corner that they have lacked these past seasons.
2. Fifth-year senior MLB Jake Ryan: He was able to get into the middle of the action on a consistent basis. His knack for blowing up a play was evident when he destroyed U-M lineman and buried Derrick Green to the ground. Also, he still has the ability to go sideline to sideline with his athleticism. Ryan missed on some plays, but he should adjust well and continue to grow at MLB as he gets more comfortable with the position. Moreover, the rush defense was excellent and should be a strength of the U-M defense next fall.
3. Senior RB Justice Hayes: Hayes was the most consistent running back on the day. He tripped himself onnce a nice 8-10 yard run, or he would have went the distance for a score. He seems to be the change of pace back behind Green and Smith, and is the best pass blocker of three. Hayes also seems to be the better pass catcher, too. His strong spring should help his cause for playing time as heads into fall camp.
Bogie's Other Notables
Center Pat Kugler: Kugler looks much bigger than he was last fall and held his own at center playing with the second and third teams. The first life Michigan seemed to show in the run game came on a drive with Kugler at center, often in the right spot and able to drive defenders back more times than not. Kugler has great balance in his pass protection and good awareness at a position where being smart is paramount.
Defensive tackle Henry Poggi: Poggi added some necessary weight this off-season, enough for him to make a positive impact on Michigan's defensive line Saturday. A smart, instinct filled player, Poggi did a nice job of diagnosing plays and slipping into the backfield to be in position to make a play. On a couple of occasions Poggi was standing behind the offensive line waiting for the running back to retrieve the handoff, standing him up enough to allow other Wolverines to gang tackle.
Defensive tackle Bryan Mone: One of the most physically gifted players on the field, Mone uses his size to his advantage and was able to simply out muscle Michigan's offensive line at times. Along with a big, wide frame, Mone used good pad level and a quick burst to be in the mix in the middle of plays several times.
Defensive back Brandon Watson: The role for true freshman Brandon Watson Saturday was clear, playing a boat load out of the nickel spot, blitzing off the edge and spending tons of time in the backfield. Greg Mattison has been looking for a defensive back big enough to blitz and fast enough to drop into coverage, and Watson might just be that guy.
Sophomore safety Delano Hill: The former Cass Tech standout was working with the first-team defense for most of the day. The secondary as whole looked great, only giving up a few big plays. Hill stood his own on the backside of defense. And he looks like he can take that starting safety spot.
Redshirt freshman DT Maurice Hurst Jr.: Hurst Jr. split the A-gap a couple times causing havoc in the backfield. If he can develop along with the aforementioned Mone, then Wolverine coaching staff can have the defensive line they have always coveted since coming to Ann Arbor.
Senior DE Frank Clark: Easily the most athletic defensive lineman on Michigan's defensive front, Clark was able to make a couple plays in the backfield today. He caught Gardner on a backside roll-out easily destroying his offensive tackle for the sack.