Webblog: West Practice Notes (Day 2)

GoBlueWolverine caught the red-eye from Pasadena to San Antonio and checks in with a report. Ryan Mallett's arm continues to draw rave reviews, Michael Williams is better than advertised, plus performance notes on Donovan Warren and Matt Romine.

Much of the early talk out of the West Practices has been centered around the arm future Michigan signal caller Ryan Mallett… and with good reason. Wolverine fans have long been aware of the 6-6 230-pounder’s canon, but many here are getting a chance to see him reel off fireballs for the first time… and many have been left in a state of disbelief. However, a few of his defensive teammates aren’t quite so taken with the heat he’s dishing out. During skeleton drills this morning USC linebacker commit Chris Gallipo went to break one of Mallet’s passes, but soon regretted the decision after drawing back his hand in intense pain. “Ouch Ryan, stop throwing those Rockets,” shouted Gallipo. (Maybe Ryan was dishing out a little payback for the drubbing his future squad suffered at the hands of the Trojans?). At any rate, on the technical side of things, when dropping straight back to pass Mallett can deliver the ball wherever he wants, and can even do it with touch. The part of his game that didn’t shine quite as brightly, though, was his ability to throw on the run. On a few of the sprint outs he delivered the ball too low for the receiver to catch the ball. That was one of the aspects of his game that we saw him really working on with Scot Loeffler at camp a few years back. We’ll continue to observe him this week to see if it was just an off day..

When it comes to who will be starting behind center for the West on Saturday, it doesn’t look like that decision has been settled upon yet (we’ll check with the coaches tonight), but it appears likely that Jimmy Clausen will get the nod. Clausen was pretty sharp and looked to be the better of the two at throwing on the move. However, the physical advantages that Mallett has are obvious and the kid is just a natural born leader. It shows both on the field and on the sidelines. Again… we’ll keep an eye on the competition and inquire about where things stand at this point.

Moving to the defensive side of the ball, with all the talk I heard about Michael Williams being more of a hitter than a cover guy, I expected so see him look a little less polished during drills. He showed goods hips, consistently showing the ability to come out of his back-pedal fluidly and run with receivers from both his safety and corner positions. He also displayed an outstanding break on the ball. If he wasn’t getting his hand on the ball, he was at least making the quarterback think twice about throwing in his vicinity (he caused Mallett to pull the ball down and run on one occasion). Williams appears to be one of those players that can react really well with the ball in the air. It’ll be interesting to see if he can keep it up. He and former Michigan recruit Marshall Jones (who was another kid that looked good) make up a formidable safety duo than can cover a lot of ground.

Donovan Warren showed all of the quickness and speed that you want in a frontline corner. The element that is missing right now is strength. Bigger more physical receivers give him problems when he attempts to jam off the line of scrimmage. His worst play of the day came when playing bump & run against a big physical kid that was able to muscle off of the line and get deep for the TD. That, however, is an issue that will be easily corrected when Warren gets into a college strength and conditioning program. The things you can’t teach…speed, quickness, instincts…Warren has. His best play came when he broke off of his receiver (whom he was covering man-to man coverage) after quickly recognizing the quarterback was going to flat. He came up and delivered the perfect what was probably the best hit of the session…so it is clear that he is willing to be physical.

Matt Romine’s pass protection looks to be improving every snap. The coaches have singled him out as a youngster that is showing a lot of progress in that phase of the game, and that’s tough to do when you have to square off with Everson Griffen every time out (WOW is that kid good!) Anyway, back to Romine… the talk is that the Wolverines are pretty much an after thought compared to the front-running Sooners and Irish. We’ll check in with the young man himself to see if that is indeed true.

Stay tuned to GoBlueWolverine for interviews with recruits and coaches this evening…and throughout the week for more practice features, video, audio, and more.

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