So this took a little longer to compile than I wanted, but this week was busy (shocker I know).
Okay, yes, it’s only Appalachian State, but still. After being completely unable to run the football last year, the fact that they could run down the field without getting tackled in the backfield every time was awesome. Yes, most of their rushing yards were on about 5 big runs, but that’s what you need, game-breaking runs.
But more on that later.
I have to say, I was absolutely thrilled/jacked up/ecstatic/hype to see Devin Funchess wearing #1. He looked freaking GOOD in that uniform. Hard to believe that jersey has been out of the rotation since 2004. He lived up to the billing early too. I declared him to be “The Funchise” back on September 9th, 2012 (surely not the only one either) but with the #1 jersey on and this catch, it was sealed.
That was Calvin Johnson-esque. No joke.
I also highly recommend reading this from on the plays targeting Funchess.
The play calling from Doug Nussmeier was fantastic. There was actual rhyme and reason to the plays that were being called and there certainly was not a repetitiveness that made you wonder what the hell they were watching. Yes, it was only App State, but Nussmeier knows exactly what he is doing.
I truly have to keep reminding myself not to overreact to week 1. It’s tough not to be encouraged/excited after what was seen.
Devin Gardner made some absolutely fantastic reads passing the football and his accuracy was much-improved. There were times he wasn’t quite set for his passes, but his strong-arm helped him get away with it. You don’t go 13/14 for 173 yards and 3 touchdowns by accident, even against App State. He had good pocket presence and made good reads down the field. My only hope is that he doesn’t have his eyes glued to Funchess too much. It would be nice to get some other receivers in the mix so that teams don’t just double Funchess all game.
Shane Morris wasn’t great in the few reps that he got. He showed that he still has quite a bit of room to grow, but it looks like his ceiling is extremely high. The interception was a pretty badly thrown ball that was late, but after the way he played in the bowl game, I won’t hold this outing against him.
Derrick Green looked like a five-star, that’s for sure. It’s safe to say that his weight issues were the problem last year (other than the offensive line). He also looked much more decisive as a runner and didn’t hesitate when he found a hole. If he was a bit faster he would have had two or three touchdowns no problem. Even still, 15 carries for 170 yards and 1 touchdown is impressive. De’Veon Smith also looked like a major asset and talk about no hesitation running the football…he’s a true downhill, one-cut back. He also showed great explosiveness once he hit the hole and had no trouble getting to the second-level. Like Green though, it’s too bad he’s not a bit faster. That being said, if they can both be like Mike Hart, it won’t matter how fast they are. He ripped off 115 yards on 8 carries with two touchdowns for a 14.4 yard per carry average, which is a sight for sore eyes.
I was a senior in high school the last time they had two running backs rush for over 100 in the same game. That is absurd and sad.
I don’t even really need to say anything, but he looked like freaking Calvin Johnson out there. He’s a freak. A total mismatch and he’s going to cause major problems for defenses this year. Seeing him in the #1 just makes me smile.
Jeehu Chesson continued to show that he is invaluable as a blocker and on special teams. He may only get one or two catches a game, but his contributions are the ones that won’t show up on the box score…at least not next to his name. It was good to see Amara Darboh back on the field and record a catch after his brutal foot injury last year. I’m hoping that we will see more of him and that he will emerge as teams try to double cover Devin Funchess. Another thing that was pleasing to see was Dennis Norfleet being utilized. Getting him the ball in space cannot be emphasized enough. His speed is a beautiful thing and it will inject life into the offense.
The tight ends had a solid game. Didn’t really notice them other than Heitzman, which is fine by me. Khalid Hill was solid blocking as the H-back and without Jake Butt, the tight end unit is very one-dimensional. So long as they keep opening up massive holes for Green and Smith, things well be good.
The offensive line is still an enigma and probably will be the entire year. In all honesty I thought that Mason Cole looked pretty good except for when he looked like a true freshman on the sack. He held his own and it’s easy to see why he’s starting, but he’s not nearly strong enough yet. Based on the offensive line alignment with Cole, Erik Magnuson, Jack Miller/Graham Glasgow, Kyle Kalis, Ben Braden…there is going to be a lot of running to the right. If you noticed, all of the big runs that Michigan busted out were to the right side. Cole isn’t strong enough yet to get push in the run game, so hopefully his pass blocking will keep being up to snuff to protect Gardner.
I thought that Magnuson had a solid game and Jack Miller was certainly better than I expected. The right side of the offensive line wasn’t great and aside from helping break off a few runs, left much to be desired. They’re big and they’re road graders, but they’re inconsistent. Joey Burzynski started but didn’t last too long and one of the first plays after Kyle Kalis was in for him, he got beat badly. There’s a reason that Mason Cole won the starting left tackle job and a reason that the first team offensive line played the entire game. They need work and while they played decently, against tougher teams they could struggle.
Defensively, I was pleased, despite not forcing a turnover. The most shocking thing for me was that Bryan Mone’s redshirt was burned early on, but I guess they decided that they wanted to build depth and get guys experience rather than worry about the distant future. You can also play something like 21-23 snaps before a redshirt is burned, so it’s possible he didn’t play more than that yet.
I thought the defensive line looked like the team’s strength. Frank Clark played really well except for one of the plays he lined up at the MIKE backer spot to blitz and App State’s runningback blew past everyone. The other guys that really stood out to me were Willie Henry, Ryan Glasgow, Ondre Pipkins, Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton. Willie Henry is just a massive person and has some fantastic strength. I didn’t know what to expect with Glasgow going in, but he turned out to be a very solid interior lineman. Pipkins was eased back into the rotation and he did well with the reps he had. Wormley and Taco looked extremely explosive and Taco’s sack was just absolutely sheer force. He bull rushed the guard and dominated him. I expect to see the defensive line as a strength every week, especially considering the depth that they have.
The linebackers were a bit more of an issue. Joe Bolden and Jake Ryan had some issues and looked a bit rusty, and Hoke even acknowledged in a press conference this week that both guys told him they know they have to be better. Ryan had a few missed assignments, which isn’t too surprising since it was his first outing as the MIKE backer. I thought Desmond Morgan played well, but it looks like he might be out a while because there are rumors he has a broken arm and is in a sling. If Morgan isn’t healthy, I fully expect James Ross to step into his spot. Ross was solid, not flashy, which is fine by me. I don’t remember Ben Gedeon contributing a ton on defense, but any time you return a blocked punt for a touchdown you’re going to get noticed. He looked like he’s an extremely athletic linebacker and will probably contribute in a larger role than expected.
The secondary was very solid and showed their depth throughout the game. Unfortunately Jabrill Peppers tweaked his ankle early after he got cut block blitzing the quarterback. I’m guessing this will be the type of ankle sprain that bothers him until the bye week. In his short time, he looked very good in coverage and is definitely a solid tackler. It’s only too bad his debut was limited to a half. I don’t expect him to be returning any more points any time soon.
Blake Countess looked solid wearing the #2 jersey and had some good tackles throughout. Raymon Taylor didn’t appear to have any passes even thrown his way, which is another huge development. Taylor is far better than people give him credit for and he’s going to be solid throughout the year.
Jourdan Lewis and Delonte Hollowell platooned to replace Jabrill Peppers and both were solid. Lewis looked very good in coverage and Hollowell did a good job jumping up and making tackles. Safety-wise Jeremy Clark and Jarrod Wilson looked good. They didn’t do anything spectacular, but they weren’t bad, which is good enough for me.
I’m optimistic going into South Bend. Everett Golson is a helluva player, but Notre Dame lost some key Seniors and the five players they have suspended are no slouch. It’s imperative that Michigan win this weekend, I want it more than anything. I think if the defense can contain Golson’s big play ability and can establish some sort of a run game, they will be able to take it to the Fighting Irish.
Offensive box score via ESPN:
Important tweets from the week:
(Get used to starters on special teams…sigh)