Michigan had its youth on display during its spring game on Saturday.
That same youth will likely have to be relied upon to contribute this season to fill holes vacated by the departing seniors from last season. Luckily for the Wolverines, the program added a solid crop of talented early enrollee freshmen into that fold that were able to participate in their first Big House experience.
After the spring game, defensive coordinator Don Brown praised his early enrollee defensive backs, arguably the position hit the hardest with departing players. Two players stood out in particular, with one absence that made Brown particularly disappointed about, showing a grimace talking about what could've been.
"As I mentioned J'Marick [Woods] didn't go today which I wish you could've seen him as he's really showing some things," Brown said. "I thought Jaylen Kelly-Powell jumped in there and did some things. We've fooled around with him a little bit at nickel and strong safety, I thought he certainly handled himself well today and did a good job with it. Ben St. Juste, really solid for three quarters. I think he struggled with the fade balls at the end, a lot of times that's focus and concentration from a young guy. You're grinding, grinding and just the mental fatigue of competing at a high, high level kind of gets to you. Very confident as to where he will end up, he's 6-foot-3, he's long, athletic and fast. Ambry Thomas is everything I thought he would be, he just learns and gets better every day. He's not perfect."
For these young freshmen, most of them should be preparing for their senior proms and not preparing to dissect college-level game tape. Either way, Brown realizes the amount of information he is piling onto this group.
With that, he feels that his group is acquitting themselves nicely even if it does appear to be overwhelming at times.
"We're asking a lot of these young guys," Brown said. "I mean, those are young, young guys. [We're asking them] to compete in first and second tiers and they've all handled it really, really well. Ben Mason, who's been playing at the WILL position, if you looked at their eyeballs they'd be watering because they're swimming. It's not an easy deal transitioning but we've seen real physical surges from him. I think he's got a real chance to be a real tough guys between the tackles and he runs real well for a big guy.
"[Donovan] Jeter, a real interesting guy. Corey Malone-Hatcher, he's been banged up. I thought Jeter played very well in a limited role, you just never know how that's going to go in your first time but he really exceeded expectations of mine today."