Wolverine fans got their first glimpse of Ryan Mallett and many enjoyed the youngster's energy on the field. After throwing warm-ups with current starter Chad Henne, Mallett got an ovation from the crowd as he took the field as a second-teamer during the scrimmage portion of practice. The 6-6 Texas gunslinger showed off his respectable mobility on a few rollouts and one occasion drew even more cheers and laughs from the crowd when he kept running for the touchdown long after the whistle was blown. As far as throwing the ball, Mallett looked deep early and often. He barely overthrew wide receiver Greg Mathews by just a few feet each time. Mallett was able to connect on a 20+ yard strike to end zone later though, and overall was solid in his first public Wolverine performance.
Chad Henne had a good day as well. It was obvious that working with a depleted core of receivers threw off some of the timing, but most of the fourth year starter's throws were on target.
David Cone doesn’t have the bullet arm that Henne or Mallett possess, but he played within himself and showed nice touch. Walk-on Nick Sheridan displayed pretty impressive arm strength and ability for a non-scholarship player, but it is unlikely he will factor into the mix. Overall, a good day for the quarterbacks given the lack of bodies at wide receiver.
With Mike Hart rehabbing from surgery and Kevin Grady likely out for the season, Brandon Minor was limited Saturday. There wasn’t much of a read here today. Freshman Vince Helmuth, who was an early enroller, did see a good amount of carries though. Helmuth was hampered by a lack of run blocking ahead of him, but was able to break a few good runs, including a 20+ yarder. The good news for Michigan fans is that he is getting bigger and looks to be back around his old weight.
The surprise of the spring without a doubt is walk-on Mark Moundros. Moundros played well enough to warrant consideration in the backfield rotation. His toughness and versatility drew praise from coaches and players when they met with the press.
With only two scholarship players at this position for the practice, there wasn’t a lot to look at. Greg Mathews and Laterryal Savoy were the main men for the majority of the spring, and there is no doubt the reps will only help their game. Mathews will be expected to take on a good load of playing time this year, while Savoy may see the field more if he is able to hold off some of the freshman coming in at the position.
Mathews ran quite a few deep routes on the day and was able to connect on one for a touchdown. That being said, I don’t think you will see Mathews used in this role too much once Mario Manningham returns. It is clear that Mathews' strength is in the mid-range passing game. He has drawn comparisons to Jason Avant, a sentiment that was echoed by offensive coordinator Mike Debord.
Savoy was rather quiet on the day but did show some toughness when asked to block.
It was a rather disappointing day for the tight end position. In drills and in the scrimmage, there were a lot of dropped passes and no one really emerged as a solid performer. Chris McLaurin did show nice acceleration out of his cuts and was the best route runner, but needs to work on finishing plays. Andre Criswell provided blocking but lacked explosion of his cuts. He ran rounded routes and wasn’t able to hang on to many passes thrown his way. Overall, there is plenty of work to do here. The good news is Mike Massey will be back at some point and will hopefully give this position some stability.
Oddly enough, this position has made it through spring with the least amount of injuries. Making sure that statement stayed true, senior offensive tackle Jake Long was limited so as to not only keep him healthy, but give the backup tackles some reps. Cory Zirbel saw time at left tackle while Mark Ortmann competed at right tackle. This is a flip-flop of positions for these two. Steve Schilling as saw time at right tackle.
Schilling was solid on the day, but was just cleared for full contact two weeks ago and is still regaining strength and adjusting to the speed of the game.
Overall, it was tough to gauge where the offensive line is in terms of run blocking since a number of players being held out. The offensive did struggle at times with pass protection, but this should improve with time due to the amount of experience needed in the zone blocking protections.