Maize n' Brew Preview 2014: Post-Spring Game Roundtable

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

In the aftermath of the 2014 spring game (or whatever that was), some of the Maize n' Brew staff took a few moments to reflect and answer some general questions in a roundtable.

Last week, we did a roundtable where we talked about our fears, hopes, and expectations for the upcoming spring game. Now that the spring game has come and gone, this is the obvious follow-up roundtable.

If you didn't get a chance to see the spring game, you can do so here.

Anyway, onto the roundtable discussion...

Talk about your initial impression. Generally, how are you feeling after this game? How much has your confidence in Michigan football risen or fallen since viewing it? How does it impact your expectations for the season?

Zach: I want to say that it hasn't changed my expectations, but I'd be a lying liar-face if I did. The offensive line looked really bad, and while there are plenty of caveats and excuses to throw out, bad is bad is bad and until I see otherwise I have my expectations set to doom. Yes, shame me for predicting 10 wins just four months ago.

Peter Putzel: We shouldn't judge too much based on what we saw on Saturday. My confidence is right where it's been for a while--low. However, I have high expectations because it just can't get any worse than it was last year, right? Anything less than nine wins will be a disaster.

Hollywood Hokester: Expectations are about the same. Defense looks to take a step up, offense looks to become more consistent. I think I saw evidence of both of those things on Saturday. If the OL can maintain at the point of attack, it can get the offense in much more manageable situations, and as the QBs and WR learn the rhythm and timing of the offense (and they will be repping it a ton on their own over the summer), you'll really start to see that improvement.

Joshua Henschke: We all know that Michigan's way of conducting a spring game is different from other schools. With this scrimmage/practice session, it doesn't really impact me or sway me to believe anything about this team upcoming. It is such a small sample size in the grand scheme of things. There's a long way to go until August, and there are still people that need to get to campus who could make a difference on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. I will avoid further judgement until the games really matter.

Adam Biggers: I feel confident that Michigan has enough talent to win nine games. Solely judging Michigan by Saturday's "game" wouldn't be wise. However, the O-line was spotty at best. That's being really nice. Also, I liked Willie Henry. I thought the rest of the D-line played well.

Big House Jack: Well, like everyone else I had concerns about the offense, and after viewing the spring game it's not like those concerns were alleviated. Michigan was playing short-handed (on the offensive line, especially), and so in that regard we couldn't get a full picture. This team has a long way to go, but I still fully expect them to make an appearance in the Big Ten championship game. They have a new offensive coordinator and plenty of motivation; nothing is stopping them.

So, we got to see the offensive line. Talk about that. How are you feeling about them? Do we have any reason to hope for a decent offense now that you've seen an all-too-brief glimpse of the line?

Zach Travis: I did a post Wednesday on the line and the crux of it was "they're bad, but hope isn't entirely lost." Michigan obviously has a ton of youth issues, which isn't always the worst thing in the world because young players tend to grow into better players while older guys that aren't good just stay bad. I liked that there didn't seem to be the same level of horrible blocking busts (probably attributable to a simplified scheme). I didn't like that nobody got any push at all and that this unit seems to have as much grasp on pass blocking schemes as I do translating ancient texts from Sumerian to Greek.

Of course this is the spring game so who knows what happens between now and the end of August.

Peter Putzel: I actually feel pretty good about the offensive line relative to 2013, but only as long as the offense is run from under center. It seemed to me that the line did a much better job blocking when the QB was under center rather than running a play out of the gun.

Hollywood Hokester: To the untrained eye, or in a vacuum, the OL looked pretty bad. But you really can't take it in a vacuum. I can tell you that the OL is slowly but surely getting better. If you grade out the OL and compare the grades to last year (which is something I anticipate doing at some point this off season), you'll note that there were far fewer busts and 0 scores, the "kill" plays that Borges talked about. They still need to start winning assignments, but as of now, at least they are getting into assignments.

Joshua Henschke: One word: Yikes.

They were beaten pretty badly on some plays by Frank Clark and Willie Henry. Also, Bryan Mone and Maurice Hurst were able to make an impact on this offensive line as well. Does this mean the offensive line is bad or the defensive line has vastly improved? Maybe a little bit of both. I will wait to see what happens against Appalachian State before I start to worry about the offensive line. However, it wasn't a good start.

Adam Biggers: If the running backs can get out of the backfield quick enough to dodge the swarm, Michigan should be okay behind the line. De'Veon Smith and Derrick Green can take contact, so yards-after-contact (YAC) shouldn't be a huge issue. Well, we hope--right?!

I'm waiting to see Erik Magnuson at full health. Logan Tuley-Tillman, Ben Braden, Jack Miller--everyone needs more reps.

Big House Jack: The offensive line wasn't great, but were we really expecting them to make leaps and bounds from being terrible to world-beating within the span of a mere six weeks? Come on, guys. Of course, I too was watching the offensive line with heavy scrutiny, but one player that stood out to me (in a positive way) who everyone seems to have overlooked was Patrick Kugler, No. 57. He was playing center and appeared to be doing a decent job, at least individually.

Talk about the offense as a whole. Has your confidence in Nussmeier risen or fallen after viewing this?

Zach Travis: I'm not going to cast judgment yet. I do like that the offense seems to have a bit more of an identity and consistently tries to do a lot of the same things. Part of this is the spring game dumbing down of the offense that always comes with a first year coordinator. Part of it is trimming the fat from Al Borges's playbook.

Peter Putzel: I wasn't overly impressed with the QB performance, but I'm sure that will come along as the practices move along. The running game doesn't look as though it's going to be a between the tackles type of game, but an outside game. Justice Hayes and De'Veon Smith both had a good day, so the running game may actually be able to average more than 2 yards per game, which would be nice.

Hollywood Hokester: It takes time to learn the rhythm and timing of an offense, and when you are trying to learn that while looking at moving parts on defense, it's going to look ugly. Pass pro didn't help much. I really don't think there is much to see here.

Joshua Henschke: I don't think my confidence in Nussmeier has risen or fallen. It's such a small sample size and the offense was incredibly vanilla, so we didn't really see a whole heck of a lot. Especially considering the offense has a long way to go to be game ready. This is another topic where I will save judgement until the games count. But, one has to believe that the offense will be in much better shape in the long run.

Big House Jack: We seem to have a decent amount of weapons at wide receiver. We have a experienced quarterback who needs to cut down on his mistakes, but he still hasn't lost any of his ability. I saw this as a "one step forward, one step back" kind of thing. The things that we're doing well are tempered by the things we struggle to do well, and at this point it's hard to see tangible improvement. I don't think we're getting worse, however, and that's a plus in my book.

Well, on a more positive note, the defense seemed to win the day. How are you feeling about that side of the ball?

Zach Travis: It didn't get humiliated by the offense, so I'll take it.

More specifically, I like seeing the DL dominate the OL because that means I don't have to panic over an entirely different position group. I think Michigan's corners are going to have themselves quite a year, and as long as Michigan can find a safety to play next to Jarrod Wilson, the secondary should be the strongest it has been in a long, long time. Linebackers? Did any even get blocked in the spring game? I'm being serious, I didn't see linemen getting to the second level at all. Until I see these guys take on blocks in their new roles on defense I'm not saying anything.

Peter Putzel: The defense was the most impressive. I'm sure it's because they've seen the offense a ton, so have gotten used to some formations, etc., but they still did a damn good job out there and will probably be what gives Michigan the chance to win games in 2014.

Hollywood Hokester: Linebackers are still learning their new positions. That may be the deepest position group, and possibly even the best position group come Fall, but they also look to have the most to learn as far as comfort and confidence ahead of them.

Joshua Henschke: It's hard not to be impressed with the defense. They were physical, aggressive and flew to the ball. It basically rendered the offense useless. I think we will see a much better defense this season, a small mindset change of being more physical will make a lot of difference.

Adam Biggers: This secondary will be good with or without Jabrill Peppers, who may want to play LT and QB.

Big House Jack: What else can I say that others haven't? The defense just looked better. I don't think anyone can view the limited action of the spring game and conclude anything about the defense that isn't overwhelmed with positives. Strong defensive line that actually got penetration, linebackers that didn't have to do much because the line was doing most of it, and a secondary that was making plays. That's a bona fide defense any way you cut it.

Last time you mentioned a thing that you'd like to see. How did the spring game satisfy or fail to satisfy you in the regard?

Zach Travis: It was boring, the offense was vanilla and didn't look all that great, and the defense controlled things throughout. So in other words, it was pretty much what I envisioned. The hope was for more OL competence, but no one got injured or spontaneously combusted, so that's a good thing, right? ...Right?

Peter Putzel: I was very dissatisfied with Devin Gardner's play out there on Saturday; I really wanted to see him command and impress during something that is relatively meaningless, and that just didn't happen. That's not to say that I think there is going to be a QB battle, or that he isn't the best option, but I'd put a bunch of money on the fact that Nuss is going to have Gardner on a shorter leash than Borges did.

Hollywood Hokester: I actually like watching drills, so in that regard I'm an outlier. That said, the BTN coverage was awful. We watched drills but weren't at good viewing angles to see anything. They didn't let you listen in. They cut away far too often to meaningless stuff. And then when there were plays they still did it. I admit it wasn't the most exciting spring practice ever, but BTN really botched the coverage big time.

Joshua Henschke: With not seeing much from the tight ends, I will say I was very impressed with the defensive backs, Jourdan Lewis in particular. The very first play of the game was an interception that he jumped in front of. Even though they were burned on some occasions by Canteen, I was impressed with how physical they were and the youth seemed to be more confident in the defense.

Big House Jack: Well, I wanted to see a cohesive game-plan from Doug Nussmeier, but that might have been asking too much for where Michigan is as a team. Right now Hoke and the staff are focused on getting the basics down, and hopefully the players will be farther along when fall camp starts. I also kind of wanted to see some better runs from Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith, but that didn't really happen either. Hopefully that was due to a near-elite defensive line that we seem to have. We'll get a lot more answers during the game against Appalachian State.

Have thought about the spring game? Agree or disagree with something we said? Share your opinion and let us know in the comments!

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