The Michigan Insider highlights some of the standout performances on offense during Michigan's spring practice at Ford Field.

After a practice visit Saturday to the Wolverines’ special session in Detroit The Michigan Insider looks back at the performances turned in by the quarterbacks, Tyrone Wheatley Jr., Ty Isaac, Amara Darboh, and more.

Sam Webb’s Take

Quarterbacks – The order of signal callers was consistent with what we’d heard it was for the last couple of weeks. Wilton Speight, then John O'Korn, then Shane Morris.  After practice Harbaugh mentioned those three has clearly separated themselves from others at the position, but that they had not yet separated from one another.  In Speight’s case he seemed to throw with good accuracy on his underneath routes but overshot some deep ball s. O’Korn again showed impressive deep-ball touch. He delivered one of the prettiest balls of the day… a beautiful fade to Amara Darboh from 45 yards out. On the other hand one of his throws to the flat resulted in a pick six.  With Morris it’s a matter of throwing with consistent touch.  His best ball was also to Darboh… an out-cut that he throws with perfect timing… before Darboh came out of his break and on the money.  But just as Harbaugh said, no one really distinguished himself.  The passing game was totally shut down by the defense at times. That said, if there was one characteristic that stood out, it was O’Korn’s scrambling ability.  And since the pressure surrendered by the second string line was quite frequent he had a chance to really put his legs on display.  He seemed to be running for his life at times.  Don’t expect a firm hierarchy at this position coming out of the spring.

Offensive line – This unit is clearly ahead of where it was three weeks ago. That was evident in the run game where they opened numerous holes for the backs.  There wasn’t nearly as much pressure in the quarterbacks face as we saw down in Florida.  They did a better job of handling blitz action and twist action up front.  They did give up some edge pressure though. There was still a significant gap between the blocking/protection offered by the first and second string lines. Quarterbacks behind the second string line saw much more pressure.

Tyrone Wheatley Jr. – Saturday we saw all of the athletic tools that made Wheatley Jr. one of the most widely regarded tight end recruits in the country.  His weight is reportedly down over 15 pounds, but he still checks in in the mid-270s.  That’s good enough to still give him the distinction of being the Wolverines’ biggest player.  That makes him a reliable target on the pivot routes and shallow crosses that Michigan consistently runs with its tight ends because he can play through contact. We saw that three weeks ago and we saw it again Saturday.  What we didn’t see three weeks ago was the nimbleness to go down the field.  However we did Saturday.  On a post route Wheatley fought through contact from Devin Bush Jr. who was running with him and grabbing him at the same time.  Brandon Peters threw a rope down the middle of the field that Wheatley reached out to grab with his only free arm, snagged the ball with his right hand, and raced to the endzone 70 yards.  It was the play of the day for a youngster that had a really good day overall.

Zach Gentry – That this kid is the rawest of the Wolverines’ tight ends shows what an embarrassment of riches Michigan has at the position. He is both the tallest and the fastest of Michigan’s tight ends. The big question about him coming out of week one was how will h handle the physical side of the position. We saw signs of growth there.  His best play came on a drag route that he refused to give up on when John O’Korn was flushed. O’Korn delivered the football as Gentry approached the sideline and Michigan’s big pass catcher went low to haul it in while walling off a defender for a first down.

Ty Isaac – A really encouraging day by the former five star tailback.  He ran with great vision inside, and when he did choose to bounce plays outside he showed a nice burst to the edge. He went out with ones Saturday, which signals his coaches have noticed improved play on his part. His teammates made mention of some changes they’ve noticed this spring.  The most obvious is his weight loss.  It has made him both quicker and faster.  The other has been his ability to play through bumps and bruises. One recent practice saw him take a number of big shots… one in which he spent some extra time on the turf.  When there was an attempt to sub him out, he refused.  The word Kyle Kalis used to describe his beleaguered teammate mentality was “hungry.” 

Drake Johnson – His speed appears all the way back. He was definitely the most successful of the backs at getting the corner.  He was pigeon holed as the back taking outside runs exclusively.  His best run of the day came on a play up the middle during which the interior line cause a pile up at the line of scrimmage. Johnson hurled the fray and was off to the races.

Amara Darboh – This kid gets open short, he gets open deep, and h does it against every corner on the team. Whether the play is successful comes down to the quarterback putting the ball on him and not throwing him into getting obliterated like he would’ve on a slant on slant pass the QB tried to squeeze between two defenders.  Darboh looks like he is ready to contend for All Big Ten honors.

Grant Perry – There were times last year where his route running wasn’t as precise as we’d come to know it to be in high school.  That precision has been back this spring.  His routes were much crisper and he is one of the surer handed receivers.  We also saw him get deep beating Jabrill Peppers on a post for a 40-plus yard touchdown.

Josh Newkirk’s Take

John O’Korn – O’Korn showed some good signs today at quarterback. He make the nice intermediate and long passes when needed. He connected on a long touchdown pass to Amara Darboh in the corner of the end zone. He threw one interception when Tyree Kinnel stepped in front of his pass and took it for six. He had to run from the pocket a few times, showing good mobility. He’ll have to sure up his mistakes, but overall a solid form O’Korn.

Shane Morris - Shane had solid day. He made nice rollout to Jack Wangler, showing off mobility and accuracy. He hit his intermediate and short passes. He struggled a little bit in accuracy. He’ll be in the QB conversation till the end.

Wilton Speight - On one rep Speight looks the part. He makes the throw and you see why he could be the starter down the road. Then on the next throw he shows inaccuracy leaving you scratching your head. He still hit his short throws. He struggled throwing the deep fade all day. He just needs to be more consistent. 

Ty Isaac -At 6-foot-3, 230-pounds, Isaac looks leaner and played like it today. He had a couple runs that would’ve gone for touchdowns. He just looks more focused on the field. It should earn him more carries this fall. Having a solid spring game will help. 

De’Veon Smith - #4 did his normal style of runs. He runs hard, hits the hole, nothing fancy. But that’s who he is. Also, he seemed a little limited due to injury. Still a solid day for Smith.

Tyrone Wheatley Jr.  – He stands at 6-foot-6, 280-pounds and looks like a mountain on the football field. He’s massive yet moves quite well for his size. That was evident with his one handed catch that he took 70 yards for the score. Only a redshirt freshman, it looks like Wheatley Jr. will see the field this year with plays like the ones he made Saturday.

Zach Gentry – Gentry is adjusting quite nicely as a tight end. He’s rough around the edges, but showed flashes today and was noticeable on the field. He should continue to improve this spring. But once he’s polished up, he should become another weapon in Harbaugh’s tight end stable.


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