God bless the Ann Arbor News. For a newspaper, they always seem to write what's on a blogger's mind. For instance, today's write up on the position battles that are ongoing during camp was something I was starting to wonder about myself.
Down to the details:
Concern 1 - Alex Mitchell is hurt. No one knows how bad, but it's bad enough that he'll miss at least one game and possibly two. The implications of this are kind of disconcerting. For all the talk of Michigan being loaded at the line, Mitchell's injury does bring up the possibility of a depth problem. Junior Jeremy Ciulla was slated as Mitchell's backup, but he missed a week of camp with an undisclosed injury. Sophomore Tim McAvoy was slated behind either Kraus or Mitchell as backup 2 or 3, but I haven't heard squat about him during the preseason. This leaves true freshman David Molk, the #3 Center in last year's recruiting class according to Scout. The News has Molk at 6-5 280. Um. No. Molk is 6'1" 280, and unless he grew exponentially over the summer there's no way that's correct. Makes you wonder....
I always wondered how they got that big...
Molk was reputed to be one of the strongest human beings at any of the recruit combines. The knock on him was his height, 6'1" reported, but maybe a little shorter than that. If he was 6'2" or 6'3" he'd of been a 5 star recruit rather than 4. According to Jake Long, OMG...
The Scout photos of this guy are scary. No neck. None. I'm convinced his ears could bench 220. Molk was also reputed to be a fairly bright guy and is apparently picking up the offense fairly quickly. Even so I'm worried. I'm not a fan of starting true freshmen at the line. I discount teams that do because, invariably, the freshmen get overpowered or get worn down or screw up a critical assignment that gets someone killed. I'm sure Molk's going to be fine, but man, the line is not a position you want fresh meat hanging around.
Case in point is Notre Dame uber tackle Sam Young. Young was the top lineman in his class. He started as a freshman at Notre Dame on a squad with high hopes. While he performed admirably, he got beat a fair amount. The natural response is, if he's the best, you've gotta play him. I agree. However, if you're starting freshmen it means you're not as deep as you'd like, or good God, the kid's good. Mitchell's injury, if it turns out to be worse than a two game absence, could be a big deal down the line or it could mean Michigan is better off. I really have no idea. No matter what, if we're starting a freshman because he's the best player available, we're going to take a fair amount of lumps along the way.
Assuming Mitchell's out for an extended period of time, it will affect the blocking schemes to ensure teams don't overload the freshman. Boren will be on double team duty with Molk more than the offense would like, while Schilling (RT), Kraus (LG), and Long (LT) single up their blocks on passing downs.
If Molk is the weight room freak everyone says he is, and has the footwork everyone's been raving about, things should be fine until Mitchell returns. In the long run, Mitchell's absence, though disconcerting early on, could be a blessing. His injury will allow Ciulla, McAvoy and Molk plenty of reps with the first team offense. They'll get to know the system better and learn from better players around them. Further, it's not like Mitchell was channeling David Bass last year. He got beat, and beat bad in a couple of games and is still developing as a full time starter and blocker. If it turns out that Michigan truly has a freshman or sophomore ready to take over at guard next to (sophomore all-star) Justin Boren, then the team actually got deeper as a result of the injury. Of course this is all conjecture until kickoff.
Linebacker Battle Down to 2
The middle linebacker position battle is apparently down to Obi Ezeh and John Thompson. Austin Painter appears to have faded into the JUCO background. If I had a preference, the insanely physically gifted Ezeh would win the job with Thompson's brains surgically implanted in his head. I'm not implying the Ezeh is dumb or Thompson's a super genius, I'm just looking at this quote:
It's pretty clear that Thompson has a leg up on Ezeh in understanding the defense. It's also pretty clear that Ezeh's a genetic freak who came to Michigan as a RB at 210 and is now listed at 243 at LB. Carr and Szabo rave about his potential at LB, but you've gotta have a guy at middle linebacker who knows the system. My money's on Thompson taking the position to begin the season, but Ezeh will see plenty of playing time as the primary backup.
On the outsides, man-bear-pig Shawn Crable and Chris Graham looked set in stone, but Jonas Mouton will get a look if Graham falters.
So When is Warren Starting?
Dunno. Johnny Sears apparently has either looked pretty good this fall or nothing bad has been said. Sears was a fairly touted recruit out of high school, so maybe he's finally gotten his legs under him. Morgan Trent will start as Corner 1, but it's anyone's guess whether Warren will step right in at Corner 2. Carr has been guarded in discussing Warren:
Okay. Deciphering the Lloydese, "He's talented but he got a buttload to learn before I stick him out there." A name that appeared in the News' column that surprised me was Brandon Harrison. Harrison's had a good fall as well, but unless your name is Cissoko, being 5'8" is a little bit of a problem. My memories of Harrison involve him being overmatched by OSU's taller slot/spread receivers last year. If the battle for the last corner position is down to Sears and Warren, I wouldn't expect to see Harrison on the field unless there's an injury to one of them.
Other Things of Interest
Comcast continues to prove that they are a bunch of d-bags.