It’s a new world inside the Glick Fieldhouse this spring, but there were a few things familiar in week one. One of the more notable similarities came in the trenches on offense.
“It was the same groupings on the offensive line, where you had Braden at right tackle, Kalis at right guard, Miller at center, Magnuson at left guard and Mason Cole at left tackle,” Marcus Ray said recapping the first padded practice. “I think it makes sense to start it off that way just because they played together the most and even though you got new coaches and a new scheme, you still want guys that feel comfortable playing with each other in unison. When it comes down to picking the starting lineup at the end of spring or going into training camp, you have to evaluate everybody. I think on offense, it is easier to get five guys up front who are used to playing with one another even if it is new terminology and new blocking schemes. On the defense, when they go from more of a 4-3 with four down linemen to three down linemen, now that was a little bit different, but you still saw some of the main guys that would be in there with Taco and Godin and just guys that…Ojemudia now is more of an outside backer than he was a defensive end. Taco and those guys, now instead of always playing in a five technique, sometimes they’re going to be a three, where they are between a guard and a tackle. They’ll also be a four, head up over the tackle. The biggest thing was the defensive line is extremely deep, there are a lot of bodies, but there are only like three spots at a time. I think right now there are too many emcees and not enough mics, so every rep is going to be very important. The defense was mix and match because of the new scheme, but the offensive line, you still need five guys that have played, so that is why that group was the same starting off.”
Competition along the offensive and defensive lines didn’t kick into high gear until the first padded practice on the 27th, but throwing and catching has been fairly gauge-worthy from the moment they hit the Wolverines hit the practice field.
“With these young receivers, I don’t think any of them have stepped up and emerged as the guy-guy,” said Ray. “The same thing that has not happened at the quarterback position either, but it is so early. That quarterback before you have a go to guy, you have to have a guy under center that you know is going to have that job. Every quarterback has a favorite target. All of these young quarterbacks who are rotating, they are just trying to show that they can play, trying to show Harbaugh and all these guys, ‘I can run your offense (and) take care of the football.’ Once you get a favorite target and once you get into trouble that’s who you are going to look for. Chad Henne did the same thing with Braylon. Every Michigan quarterback had a favorite wide receiver. As far as on the perimeter, I think Drake (Harris) is still learning. He’s made some plays. He does have a nice skillset. I think he needs to gain some weight and get a little stronger so that he can block. As far as just playing wide receiver, I think he is going to be a guy that plays, more than what other people may think. I think Freddy Canteen probably has the most pop. Pop means explosion off the line, confidence, swag in his routes. Norfleet is kind of like in that I don’t know how he fits into that offense just yet, but I’ve seen him out there a few times. He’s not a real receiver, he’s more of a bubble, screen and reverse guy. I think Drake has shown some improvement from the time he has gotten there and had all the injuries. Darboh looks strong and fast. I don’t know how much speed they truly have on the perimeter. I don’t know if Chesson is going to be their vertical guy. Is it going to be Canteen? Drake looked like more of a possession receiver. Jourdan Lewis has gotten so much credit. He was giving guys like Drake and Mo Ways and Jaron Dukes problems just getting off the line. Blake has been around. As a defensive back, you end up figuring out body language of wide receivers. I think these young receivers, they’re there, but they just have to figure out who is who and what is what at the X position, that is the split end, the Z is your flanker. Sometimes there might only be one or two wide receivers out there at a time, because this offense probably is going to be built around toughness and strength, but we’ll see flexibility to go to a spread and open up the playbook a little bit more.”
The quarterback race could get even more interesting if the transfer rumors involving Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock turn out to be true. Time will tell on that. For now all that can be said for sure is he would be a valuable addition to the Wolverines’ QB Stable.
“First of all, Jake Rudock is a very capable quarterback,” said Ray. He would be a fifth year guy, so he’s played a lot of football. I’m not going to say he’s won a lot of games, but he put Iowa in a position to be successful on offense. His whole game was predicated on Iowa being able to run the ball and having a great offensive line or also relying on the defense to create turnovers to get him as many opportunities as possible. I don’t think Jake Rudock is a 40-50 (times) slinging it, airing it out all over the place, spread quarterback. He’s a pro style quarterback that can move the chains. He is smart enough to know where to go with the football. Iowa’s problem was that they couldn’t run the ball the same as Iowa used to. Those guys really couldn’t get 200-300 yard ground game to protect Rudock from having to win the game. They always found themselves in third and long and it is hard for any quarterback to move the chains and be efficient. Rudock is a kid that will probably get drafted. He definitely can play the position. I would say if he could throw the ball anywhere from 22-27 times a game, behind an offensive line and a system at Michigan that runs the ball 45 times a game and that gives you about 70 plays that you’re still a running team, but you throw it just enough to loosen up the defense, play action and move the football and protect a lead. He was in competition with C.J. Beathard I believe. Beathard outplayed him in some games, but then Rudock got his starting job back. There was always quarterback controversy out at Iowa. From what I know, I think Rudock can play. I think when he loses his confidence he forces the ball into double coverage or he tries to throw it away and it gets picked off sometimes. Other times he holds the ball too long. Understand if he were to come to Michigan and get a full training camp, getting a fifth year senior with a lot of Big Ten experience is going to be easier for Jim Harbaugh and his staff to coach up versus a freshman with no experience… no Big Ten games under his belt. When you take a guy who has played in almost 40 something Big Ten games and he understands the position, now when Harbaugh molds this guy, there are some things you don’t have to worry about like confidence, playing on the road, going to other stadiums… not just the conference but nonconference and knowing how to win. The whole key for Rudock is can Michigan run the ball? Is Derrick Green, De’Veon Smith, Ty Isaac going to be able to run behind the offensive line and get into second and four, third and one, and keep Rudock or whoever the quarterback is out of third and eight, out of the old traditional third and 11, second and 12 like Devin Gardner was the last few years.”
To listen to the interview in its entirety press play below.