Once the pads went on Bryan Mone quickly showed why there was so much disappointment over his absence last year. The 6-4, 320 lb. defensive tackle showed flashes of dominance in the middle. He was rarely blocked one-on-one, and managed to still be effective against the double team. Twice in the early portion of 11-on-11 action he engaged Ben Braden, tossed the 322 lb. offensive lineman to the side with relative ease, and then got in on the play in the backfield. On another play he split Braden and Mason Cole with great off-snap quickness and nailed Ty Isaac in the backfield. Mone looks lighter than his listed weight, looks every bit as strong, and appears to be in the best shape of his life. His line-mate Chris Wormley said Mone has a chance to be special. That is not hyperbole.
After Mone the most impressive performer defensively was Maurice Hurst Jr.. He was a flat out menace to the offensive line that is working in new parts. There isn’t a quicker lineman on the team. On one play Erik Magnuson was supposed to block down on Hurst from his tackle spot to give the quarterback some space on a bootleg. Hurst was already through the gap as Magnuson got out of his stance and blew up the play. Hurst made life even harder for Patrick Kugler when he subbed for Cole. There was the time when he blew right by the former Under Armour All American center as the ball was snapped. Then there was the time where a twist up front caused some miscommunication along the interior of the line that allowed Hurst to come totally free. And just to prove that it wasn’t only about quickness, there was a play where he stoned Kyle Kalis at the point of attack, got off the block, and met DeVeon Smith in the hole. The pairing of Mone and Hurst could be a real force for the Maize & Blue.
Chase Winovich had himself a day at defensive end. We’d said all week that he was a bigger, stronger version of his former self. Grant Newsome definitely learned that Friday. Winovich won their one on one match-up, and was one of the best edge rushers on the day. On one play he literally flattened Newsome with a bull rush to get into the backfield. That he held up so well at the point was a pleasant surprise. Now, that doesn’t mean he will be able to do so on an every down basis. Fortunately he won’t have to since the Wolverines will rotate guy in pretty liberally at the position. It should also be noted that he is still learning the position. On more than one occasion he gave up his outside shoulder and lost contain. But that will be remedied by repetitions. Winovich has physical tools that can’t be taught, and he at times reminded us of Jake Ryan.
Channing Stribling was given the game ball by Jim Harbaugh after practice #4 and with good reason. Like Morris on offense, Stribling’s increased comfort level is obvious. His route recognition led to numerous plays including two interceptions. His first pick came while covering Drake Harris and seemed to run the pattern better than his offensive counterpart before jumping it and intercepting the ball. He nearly picked off another pass… a deep out to Harris… where he also seem to run that route better than Harris also before knocking it away. His second interception occurred when the Sean McKeon beat Noah Furbush down the seam and Stribling slid over the top to help, skied for the ball, and picked it off. Darboh was his Achilles heel, but we think that will be the case for a number of defensive backs this year.
We saw glimpses of why Don Brown and Jim Harbaugh expressed excitement over Mike McCray's showing. Early in 11-on-11 action he met Ty Isaac in the hole and would have brought him down for no gain. A few plays later he showed nice feel in coverage and would have de-cleated Jack Wangler on a crossing pattern. His best play came later on in the practice when he timed a blitz perfectly and tagged Kareem Walker in the backfield. The question again with him is durability. One padded practice down, 11 more to go.
The biggest hitter in Michigan’s first padded practice was freshman linebacker Devin Bush Jr. That’s not generally a noted distinction in a session where ball carriers are down by contact, but the talented youngster left no doubt as to whether his intended targets would have been down in an actual game. His practice career is off to a strong start.