There was a buzz in the air inside Schembechler Hall yesterday. Jim Harbaugh called it the start of the New Year. It was a mood befitting his first spring practice as Michigan’s head football coach. Big Ten Network analyst and former Michigan All-American safety Marcus Ray was on hand getting background for upcoming BTN programming, and took note of a team that isn’t short on talent.
“The cupboard is not bare. I think that’s what has everybody excited,” said Ray. “They’ve got a lot of guys fighting for reps. I saw some stuff on offense where they’re going to line up in a pro formations sometimes and just run the ball or play-action. Then they have multiple formations… a little shotgun… some of the stuff you see other schools run. They’re just trying to figure it out, but the one thing I do know is they’re going to be in shape because they did a lot of running. I was teasing Jabrill Peppers about it. He said, ‘ boy, we’re going to be in shape Big Bro.’ I said, ‘ yeah, I don’t know if you’re going to win a game, you’re definitely going to be in shape.’ (Laughter). So he and I had some fun with that yesterday.”
One of the primary objectives Harbaugh promised to begin working on immediately was cultivating an extremely competitive environment. There were signs of that prioritization in the very first practice.
“Everything is set up for competition,” said Ray. “They would have conditioning right in the middle of practice.”
“At the end of practice, at the beginning of practice, and in the middle there was some kind of conditioning competition where guys were running and competing… where guys are getting in shape and they’re also getting tougher, stronger, and faster. It was good to see that everything that was built into the practice had competition written all over it.”
When it came highlighting top performers, Ray indicated that there were a number that stood out, but cautioned reading too much into any observations (good or bad). It was, after all, the first practice of a new regime and it was unpadded.
Rays Performance Notes
“I thought Jourdan Lewis looked real good once again. I told him that I don’t want him to be grabbing and holding. Why play great coverage and then and then get a flag when you didn’t even need to grab the guy. He is just aggressive, young and feisty.”
“I thought Drake Harris… I thought he looked pretty good. I saw him catching some balls and running routes. He didn’t get much action last year when he first came because of his injuries and things but to just get a chance to see him lay… I was impressed with Drake."
“I thought Wilton Speight looked excellent. I didn’t see every rep he took, but when he threw the ball he got my attention. His ball placement was excellent. He seems like he can see over the line well, and he had command of that offense.”
“(Maurice Ways) looked pretty good too.”
" Ojemudia played some techniques that I think he would have missed last year… Ojemudia made a couple of plays guarding the perimeter and playing his technique. He stood out."
“Last but not least I was impressed with Jabrill just being able to make the adjustment on day one to safety at the college level. He was communicating, he was fired up, and was trying to get the guys around him lined up. I heard him with my own ears making checks trying to be the quarterback of the defense and really taking his run support serious. Wherever he needed to be on the field he was getting there in a hurry. Pads or no ads, that’s how you train yourself, so I think that’s going to be an upgrade. Looks like he was at the free safety.”
“I thought the receivers got the best out of seven-on-seven and one-on-one, but I think when they went to the team stuff I think the defense had their way. It was competitive and those kids seems like they were embracing the change.”
For more info Michigan’ first practice of the spring check out our premium message board where Scout.com network analysts Allen Trieu and Bill Greene chimed in with intel they’ve gathered: Couple More Practice Notes -- Practice nuggets. Not a premium member? Sign up here.
To listen to Ray’s breakdown in its entirety press play below.