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MnB Roundtable Returns for Spring With Enthusiasm

Jim Harbaugh will hold his first spring football game on Saturday. MnB's crew sits down to discuss what to expect heading into summer ball.

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MnB's writers have analyzed each position group to lift the veil on what Coach Harbaugh's depth chart might look like heading into the summer and beyond. Drew began with a preview of Michigan's ever-growing platoon of quarterbacks, and Anthony followed with some thoughts on which guy Harbaugh may settle on for the starter.

Nick covers all the position changes that have occurred to this point, a helpful list for when everyone forgets where Jabrill Peppers is on the field.

Michigan is in great shape with running back depth, and Ricky looks at the group of guys angling for playing time. He also wrote a profile of newcomer Ty Isaac, the dark-horse for the starting job.

Jim Harbaugh's offensive scheme is built on tight end play, and Peter provides some insight on one of Michigan's reload positions. And as Anthony writes, don't be surprised if either Ian Bunting or Moe Ways emerge as big threats at tight end and wide receiver, respectively.

The group everyone hopes and prays is better this year, the offensive line, has more depth, as Nick writes, but it's unclear who will fill each spot on the line. Shash makes some guesses, and the most important person in the mix may end up being Michigan's new offensive line coach instead of one player. New MnB member Trevor Woods follows with a peek at the linebacker corps, DJ Durkin's defensive anchors.

The best defensive unit may end up being the secondary -- finally -- and Drew hops aboard the Jabrill Peppers Hype Train. Up front, John arrives with some analysis of Greg Mattison's defensive line that brings back Taco Charlton and Willie Henry as veterans.

Near and dear to my heart, the special teams are where everyone is clamoring for some improvement. Nick covers who might return kicks (Dennis Norfleet), punts (Peppers), and the biggest unknown: kicker and punter.

Finally, Drew and Josh carried out a mock spring player draft, and Nick gives his analysis of Harbaugh's position changes. Check to see how MnB's draft compared to Harbaugh's actual spring lineups.

The Roundtable

KB: What's everyone most excited for tomorrow? I'll be in the stadium, and it really feels like everyone is flocking to Ann Arbor for this thing. The Michigan Daily has a guess that the game may surpass Hash Bash in popularity at last!

Peter: I'm just looking forward to seeing Harbaugh on the sideline. I"m not expecting all sorts of bells and whistles right away, obviously. Harbaugh is the easy and correct answer. He's who and what we all want to see.

Nick: I second wanting to see Harbaugh on the sidelines, in the block M hat a la Bo. Aside from that, I'm looking forward to seeing happy and excited fans. Also, hearing the band play, since there's been some recent chatter about how Hackett plans to reshape the gameday experience. Obviously this isn't the same as a game in September, but I'm hoping to see some signs of movement in the right direction. This should be a pretty cool event to be at. I'm jealous of those that can attend.

Anthony: The thing I'm looking forward to the most is probably just being in the Big House. Real football is still 5 months or so away, but any time you get to be in that place is pretty cool. This is the first time for the world to see the results of the work this team has put in so far under Harbaugh, so that's a huge draw and I think we'll see that reflected in attendance numbers.

KB: what's the likelihood they have JH enter the stadium on a giant wolverine with fog machines and a block M cape draped around his shoulders?

Peter: Uh, 1,000%? Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if he flies into the stadium and lands like a frickin' superhero.

KB: It all makes sense now. The Jet Pack Man they had last season was really just a ruse to test the equipment for when they need Harbaugh to use the thing.

Peter: Harbaugh needs no jetpack!

KB: I'm intrigued by the concept this staff has brought in with drafting the players for tomorrow. They obviously did it in no discernible order, but I will be anxious to see what they gleam from seeing these two groups on the field, and if they adjust their potential starters or even make notes for position changes.

Peter: So, who was the last person taken? Probably the gimpy nerd, right? In all seriousness, I haven't paid a whole lot of attention to the draft or some of the other things leading up to the game. I read about the draft, and it seemed like a really cool idea. If I had to guess, I'd say that we'll get at least one surprise out of it, meaning that a player we didn't expect will separate himself from the others.

Anthony: The draft is a great idea, especially when you are trying to cultivate an atmosphere of perpetual competition. I'm not sure what other schools do the draft-style spring game, but I know John Bonamego is doing that at Central Michigan now, too. I just think it's cool for everyone involved and that it will be extremely beneficial.

Zoob: I haven't seen the exact draft order but I recall seeing a breakdown of the teams and I was pleasantly surprised. First, I saw the team with Green at RB, I think that's the Maize squad, and as the roster kept coming together, I kept thinking this is the Varsity squad. But then I saw the other team and with the best TE on that team, Jake Butt, and others, it's pretty close on both squads.

I'll stick with the squad that has Jabrill Peppers on it though as the choice team I would want, especially Durkin as the coach of that team. I am excited to see Harbaugh smack some players on their helmets, a la Kaepernick, and maybe smash Jabrill Peppers on the shoulder pad a little bit. I am a bit disappointed with the injured guys on the team. I have been a long time fan of Taco Charlton and Andre Pipkins and wished they would be suited up. I won't be able to make it down to Ann Arbor but I have set my DVR to record BTN so I can break down the film in my own X's and O's session.

Nick: Assuming we never know the exact draft order (which we probably won't), the whole thing is just fun. And that's just what the program needs right now. There hasn't been much fun since Denard, and that brand of fun was inconsistent and/or came at a price. The draft and the game tomorrow are getting people excited, and I think that's more important than whether or not the Maize team outperforms the Blue team, etc.

KB: Punting drills and excessive clapping are no more, Nick! One of the best things to look forward to will be the level of involvement JH takes, because it will be somewhere between completely outrageous and a nuclear level of enthusiasm.

Peter: You're right about the enthusiasm (I can't say that word or read it without thinking of DeNiro in The Untouchables, "Enthusiasms")--anyway, Hoke was enthusiastic in the hands only. It's going to be great seeing someone out there with passion. I mean, Carr could get worked up from time to time, but he was still a little on the subdued side. Moeller could get fired up, too, but Harbaugh is going to be the one coach who may actually be able to get the entire stadium going. And that's going to be great to see. Michigan Stadium has always been such a dud from a crowd perspective, that this may be the one thing that gets everyone to actually get off their asses.

Nick: Harbaugh's going to bring a level of energy to Michigan Stadium that's never been seen before. I'm hoping fans start to dress as Harbaugh to games. It'd be fun, and I'll probably throw on some khakis with my block M hat come gameday. The khakis already happened when his hiring was announced, but I'll be looking for sharpies around the neck, blue collar shirts underneath the top layer, and so on.

I think I may have been the only person to ever dress up in some way to honor - is honor the right word? - Hoke (I wore a Hulk Hogan Hulkamania mask and a "Hokemania" shirt to the games I attended), but I think our new, non-excessive clapping coach deserves that sort of recognition more. And Kevin, unfortunately, the clapping will never die as long as this is hosted...

KB: Poor guy will never be able to escape that.

KB: Everyone will be watching the quarterbacks tomorrow, and two of them aren't even on campus yet. Are we going to get a clearer picture at all?

I don't know what to make of Rudock, but I'm one to err on the side of restraint. Harbaugh clearly has need of him, but to anoint him the de facto starter is unfair to the level of talent on the roster at this position. At the very least it gives this staff a guy who needs a bit less coaching than the others and can step into a niche role when they call upon him.

Anthony: One of the questions I have for this game tomorrow is if Jake Rudock is going to come in this fall expected to be the "savior" or just another piece to the battle. It sounds like it has been an up-and-down spring for the current guys on the roster, so it will be interesting to see how Shane Morris, Alex Malzone and Wilton Speight fare on Saturday.

Nick: Hopefully tomorrow shows us enough that we don't need to worry about Rudock being the "savior," which would be the more comforting answer to your question Anthony. But even if tomorrow is horrible for the QBs, there's still a solid amount of time until the start of the season. And I'm glad that our worst-case scenario seems to be Rudock.

Peter: To be honest, I'm not exactly worried a whole lot about what happens with the QB position on Saturday. As most everyone knows, I have a hard time saying anything good about anything that comes out of the state of Iowa, but Rudock could be a good thing just from a game management standpoint.

All we need to see is someone who won't fall back 15 yards, throw directly into the hands of a defender, and someone who can actually teach the guys who will be coming next. That being said, we definitely need to something from one of the younger guys just to get an idea of what may be coming down in the future.

KB: Which of the QBs are you pegging to make a splash tomorrow? When I wrote a small profile of Wilton Speight last summer, he seemed to have a huge amount of potential. And he's not even as huge as Zach Gentry. I'm excited to see what he can do after redshirting last year.

Nick: To build off that question Kevin, if a QB does make a splash tomorrow, is that enough of a sign to feel comfortable moving forward? Last year, Canteen would be a good example of someone who looked good now but did nothing during the season.

KB: This is true. Tate Forcier dazzled in his first spring game and we know how that regular season turned out.

Peter: I'm with Nick. It'll be great to see someone really perform out there, but I don't think we should overreact to what we see in a spring game...even if it is kinda what we're supposed to do, I guess. Even if someone does look really good, I don't think that person will necessarily be the starter. BUT, I am looking forward to seeing how Speight does.

Nick: Due to what he's been through, I'm hoping Morris shines tomorrow, even if he doesn't end up starting come Utah. It'd be nice to see him in the Big House, upright, and hitting passes for an extended period of time. And looking ahead, I think it's going to be interesting once the season starts to see how Harbaugh handles poor quarterback play by the starter. Everyone knows what happened to Alex Smith in San Francisco, and I doubt Harbaugh will hesitate to do the same in Ann Arbor, especially with all these arms he has now.

KB: One thing we can rest easy about now, is never suffering from a lack of QB development for as long as this staff is running the show.

Peter: I'd like to ask a question based on something Nick said--what about the game day experience once the season starts? What do you think is the biggest change that needs to be made on game days?
Nick: For me, more band, less piped-in music. I love the band, and they are more than capable of keeping fans pumped for the game. We can listen to Top 40 during tailgates or afterwards when celebrating a victory. But I can't bring the band with me once I leave the Big House.

KB: Hey at least they shelved the Pop Evil song that shall not be named. Progress!

Nick: Baby steps! (as Bob Wiley played by Bill Murray once said).

Peter: Guys, I'd just like to say--it's a Friday night; I'm married with three kids, so I have an excuse to be home hanging out on the internet. What's your excuse?! Thanks for changing that, Kevin!

Nick: I'm a grad student without much to do, other than work, I guess. Plan to be up early tomorrow, so that leads to a quiet Friday night. (not as good of an excuse as kids, however)

KB: Things are moving in the right direction with Hackett in charge. The next project has to be a new apparel contract, with input from Harbaugh and the students. Ask anyone what the biggest part of gameday is, and it's how that product is being presented on television. Notice I didn't say "brand" there and still completed a sentence?

Peter: As long as we don't see 124 different combos in the uniforms...or any more Adidas. Shirts and skins would be better than Adidas.

(Editor's Note: Jim Hackett met with a group of students on campus this week and touched on several of these points. Read The Michigan Daily's report on the meeting here).

Nick: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Patch up what you can from the Brandon-era, simplify everything (because Adidas sucks, in my opinion), and then stop changing things. Michigan should never need to be like Oregon.

KB: I know a lot of people appreciated the legends jerseys, but I was glad to read they ditched those earlier this week. As Nick says, keep it simple.

KB: Also, while we were sitting here, Harbaugh got a commitment from four star 2016 QB Brandon Peters.

Peter: Helmet stickers, though!! Yay! I'm going to love seeing those come back; I've missed them.

Nick: I'll be honest. I never knew that Bo used helmet stickers, and I grew up hating them since Ohio uses them. They always seemed obnoxious to me. So should I love that they are returning to Michigan, Peter? I'm conflicted.

Peter: Yes, you should love them. Well, I guess it's a taste thing, and I shouldn't tell you what to love. All I can say is that the stickers looked awesome when I was growing up, and I was very disappointed that they went away. Oh, and they ARE obnoxious, but they look great when they are on a Michigan helmet.

KB: OK. How many people are going to pack into the stadium tomorrow?

Nick: 100,001?

Peter: 22,000. Unfortunately, I don't think it's going to be a huge crowd when compared to Ohio State or an SEC school, but it'll certainly be larger than we've seen the past few years.

Nick: I think it's gonna be about double that Peter. Closer to a sold out Tigers game, in the 40,000-range. Admission is free, school is still in session (so there should be a fair amount of students I hope), and it's Harbaugh's first "game."

Peter: I hope you're right, believe me.

KB: I say it'll dip a bit lower than that. Only because I'm staring at a weather forecast and it doesn't look like it'll break 50 degrees until later in the day. But no rain so I hope people flock to the stadium.

And lastly, taking a cue from the MnB Facebook page -- we asked people what they are most excited to see. Responses included: "hot chicks," "MENTAL TOUGHNESS," "Peppers & Wheatley," "OL and running game," "Khaki out," "the game!" and "All of it."
In a few words, what are each of you excited for?

Peter: I'm good with "hot chicks", but let's tell my wife I said,, I'll stick with "hot chicks".

KB: Enthusiasm

Nick: Saturday Footbaugh...and no punting.

KB: I'd say that'll do it guys. Exciting day tomorrow, and Go Blue!

Peter: Yep, b'bye, fellas. See you tomorrow.

Anthony: Sorry guys. I planned on doing more but then a goshdarn commitment dropped!

Who's got it better than us? Noooobody!