Harbaugh's notable comment on Monday was that Rudock is the clear-cut starter, and Shane Morris will likely be red shirted. Talk about what you think that means for where Morris is and how Harbaugh wants his quarterbacks to develop the rest of the way.
Zach: That Rudock is the clear cut starter and the staff would like to redshirt Morris. This isn't anything new. Harbaugh has said so much in pretty much every comment in the past month. It is becoming the Harbaughspeak equivalent of "Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead".
Of course, those questions aren't going away, or at least it doesn't look like it. Rudock still looks iffy at times in the offense, and it is clear that there are still some issues with quarterback and receiver being on the same page at all times. As is always the case, the backup quarterback is the most popular guy on campus when the starter is struggling. Further, I would say that the staff working to preserve Shane's redshirt is a great thing for his future prospects, and a reaffirmation that there is still the potential we see the Shane Morris everyone expected when he was a recruit. But the future is not now. Rudock still has a ways to go before he gets benched, and that distance got even greater once the staff decided to try and redshirt Shane.
Shash: Zach, I love the Franco comment and agree with everything you've said. I really don't want to sound like a broken record but we're all nuts as a fanbase and it's never as simple as benching the guy we think is sucking for the next man up. I had noticed before the season that the feeling was - people wanted Shane to win the job - because that would mean he's surpassed a veteran with plenty of Big Ten experience and a steady hand. But Rudock won the job. I don't think Harbaugh will just stick to something for the hell of it - he'll put in the guy who gives them the best chance to win. And if he says that's Rudock, then it's Rudock, and we all need to chill out. Easier said than done.
Nick B: Listen, this team is learning how to fight, and that includes the quarterbacks. Shane Morris is definitely a fighter - nobody who watched that Minnesota game would argue with that - but he needs to take that toughness and apply it to preparation and learning and leading his teammates. Being a quarterback takes a lot more than a good arm, or this would be shotput.
I think Harbaugh wants his guys to eat and drink and breathe the game of football. I think he wants his Wolverines to be better prepared and more mature than whoever they line up against any given week. The quarterbacks, obviously, are a big part of that. If Morris can lead by example and be the right kind of football player from Sunday to Friday, then Harbaugh will be happy.
Ricky: I think Harbaugh's comments show that he is adamant about squeezing every year of eligibility out of Morris. If he's not ready to start, there's no reason letting him fizzle away holding a playbook (although that could happen next year). This is just my opinion, but Morris might need a lot of retooling from Harbaugh; Brady Hoke's staff was notorious for failing to develop players, and he could be one of them.
As far as development, I don't think Harbaugh's comments take away from the competition between players. Knowing him, competition is likely alive and well, and as a fan, you'd hope that Morris is even hungrier to prove his worth.
Kevin: I agree, Ricky. It likely doesn't mean that he won't have them compete against one another, because that wouldn't make either guy better. Before the season, we all thought Rudock would be the starter, so who is surprised by this? If Morris isn't ready, use him as the backup next year when O'Korn and Gentry are there to challenge him further. It's too important of a position in this system to not start the guy that gives the team the best chance at winning -- which is what Harbaugh is wired to do. And think of it this way: Starting next year, it gives Harbaugh a deep bench of quarterbacks who will all have 1-2 years of practice experience instead of having to spend an offseason to reshape a guy coming from a different system (Rudock) or improper coaching (Morris).
Fish: Some fans see this move by Harbaugh as another sign of Morris being a bust. However, i'm not one of them. I believe this move shows, once again, how poorly Morris was developed by the previous staff. He clearly has the physical tools but is still lacking a great quarterback coach.
Hmmmm, I wonder where he'll get that?
If he is able to redshirt, that will give Harbaugh another 2 years to work with him and try to bring out the potential that every analyst saw in high school. Worst case scenario, he either transfers out on his own or graduates from Michigan and is a solid veteran backup throughout his career.
Drew: Unless Jake Rudock is injured or self-destructs, he will remain Michigan's starter for the 2015 season. As for Shane Morris, he is Michigan's No. 2 quarterback. Plain and simple. If Rudock was forced to miss time in a competitive game, it will be Morris that enters, not Wilton Speight. But Jim Harbaugh hopes that such a situation does not arise. He wants to redshirt Morris, which is something that should have happened when he was a freshman in 2013 -- not taking a quarterback in the 2012 class is one of Brady Hoke's many mistakes during his tenure at Michigan. Morris was a high-four-star recruit for many reasons -- mostly because he had a rocket for a left arm -- but he was more of a project than Michigan fans wanted to admit. He wasn't a quarterback that posted even above-average numbers in high school. Where he wowed scouts was at camps and in 7-on-7s. Morris needed proper coaching to better understand how to read coverages, and we know that wasn't going to happen with Hoke & Co. But that could happen under Harbaugh, and giving Morris an extra year to learn may be huge for his development.
Ty Isaac did very well in space and as a north-and-south runner. Argue for either moving Isaac up to the number one spot or using a platoon system with Smith and Johnson.
Shash: Nope. Isaac is not the starter. Liked what I saw from him. But he isn't a full-on power back. He's the prototypical third-down back and can be a good change of pace guy. I am still aboard the DeVeon Smith train and will be for the foreseeable future. You want a guy who can get you six yards by falling forward. Was worried about some of his runs vs UNLV but he's the best chance they have at POWER. If this means he's 1a to 1b/1c, then great. I always want more running backs.
Nick B: Ty, De'Veon, and Drake all bring something different, but I think De'Veon has been effective enough to justify his portion of the carries. Also, he's given Michigan a tremendous amount of effort and toughness, and that sets a good example for everybody else (including Ty and Derrick). At this point, why shut down the competition? Let everybody get their chances to make an impact.
Ricky: Isaac, Smith and Johnson all possess traits that make them unique, so I'm for a platoon system. We haven't seen it yet, but I believe the backs will eventually compliment each other. Smith is the bruiser that can wear down a defense (hi, Oregon State), and Johnson and Isaac can take advantage of that with their vision and quickness.
Fish: Honestly, I believe all four running backs, including Derrick Green, should continue to see playing time. Michigan has averaged over 38 carries per game. There isn't a Chris Perry in the stable so there are more than enough carries to go around. Smith (15-20 carries) has been the workhorse to start the game and wear down the defense, Isaac (5-10 touches) has that size, agility and pass catching ability needed for big plays, Johnson (5-10 carries) is a track star and Green (3-5 carries) has been solid as a late game grinder.
Drew: In a few weeks, Michigan will rely on two running backs. One will be De'Veon Smith and his bruising style. The other will be either Ty Isaac or Drake Johnson. I just don't think there will be enough carries to go around for three backs if Michigan wants any of them to get into a rhythm. Isaac is coming off his best collegiate game (8 car., 114 yards, TD), while Johnson still is trying to shake off the rust after tearing his ACL for the second time. Harbaugh will give Johnson a chance to prove himself against BYU and Maryland, but I think he wants to commit to two running backs thereafter if he can.
Defensively, several guys played spectacularly. Pick one of them and explain what has you excited about that guy.
Zach: Channing Stribling. Boundary corner was one of the biggest questions on the defense coming into the year, and Michigan's ability to find someone that can play press coverage was always going to dictate to a certain extent what this defense was going to be able to do scheme wise. Last year the coaches had to ditch the press because they only had one press corner (Lewis). Stribling, if you remember, was an almost no name recruit that earned a camp offer and followed that up with a ridiculously productive senior season. He is long (6'2), athletic, and now we have a few games of evidence that he can cover. Against UNLV he looked very comfortable, picking off a pass early and playing some impressive coverage on vertical routes. Couple this with Jeremy Clark's progression at the corner spot after the position switch, and Michigan suddenly has a couple options opposite Jourdan Lewis. Given the fact that most of the wide receivers in the Big Ten this year are butt (not Butt), that bodes well for a Michigan defense that doesn't have an elite pass rusher but can get good pressure if given enough time.
Shash: Strib strib strib strib and also clark clark clark clark. Strib's most encouraging play was undercutting an in/slant route because to me, that means he knew what to expect from that opposing player in that position at that point in the game. It's film study coupled with the athleticism and the confidence to make that play. It's what you need when you're going to be targeted a lot, because you'd be a fool to throw at Jourdan Lewis.
Nick B: I'll go in a different direction and say Matt Godin. The guy is a workhorse inside who's able to take on double-teams regularly. He's also an anonymous cog who doesn't get much recognition. Still, it's exciting to watch him play.
Ricky: I was impressed with Jourdan Lewis. A week after suffering a concussion, he comes back and locks down UNLV's receiving corps. Dare I say his area is a no-fly zone?
Fish: Most have gone the defensive back route and I'll join them. Instead of talking about Stribling and Lewis' game, I'll go with Jeremy Clark. The long, rangy senior had a great interception vs UNLV and may be coming into his own after switching from safety to corner this offseason. If he has "figured it out", his size could be a real weapon for Durkin's defense.
Kevin: Clark and Stribling made the interceptions, but I've noticed James Ross III is sneaky good at his linebacking position. Through the first three games, at times we've seen Joe Bolden whiff on tackles or be out of position. I haven't noticed that with Ross. He had four tackles against the Rebels, bringing his season total to nine, so I'm excited to see what he can do. BYU might be planning to account for Bolden, but perhaps Ross will make his presence known.
Drew: Channing Stribling and Jeremy Clark make sense because their performances prompted optimism that Michigan doesn't have a weak link at boundary corner. But, like Nick, I'm going with Matt Godin. No discussed him before the season, and, yet, he's yanking snaps away from Willie Henry due to his impressive play. Not only has he stood up well to double teams, he has demonstrated an ability to rush the passer from the inside, which is something that Michigan desperately needs. No, Godin hasn't tallied a sack and has only 0.5 tackles for loss. However, he's opening space for everyone else.
Also, since no one has mentioned him, former walk-on Ryan Glasgow has been a stud.
BYU has experienced receivers, some veteran defensive players, and Tanner Mangum hurling hail mary balls to win games. (1) Which of those will give Michigan the most trouble and (2) can the Wolverines save face against the state of Utah?
Kevin: The offensive line will get a test against a 3-4 pass rush, as it appears their nose tackle, Travis Tuiloma, will be ready to go after having a knee injury in week one. Utah had an aggressive front four, and Michigan held up, so I'm interested to see if they can do it again against a similar defense. BYU will score, and put up some yards (likely more than Michigan depending on how the pass coverage holds up), but it's a winnable game for sure. As long as the Michigan secondary plays tight coverage to overcome the size discrepancy, they have a chance to win.
Zach: Honestly, I think Michigan is going to have issues in both areas. Michigan's down field coverage has been good so far this year, and even though I just praised Stribling and Clark I'm not going to ignore the fact that this is an offense that will test the coverage deep. What's more, this should be the first big test we have for safety coverage down the field. Michigan will give up a big play in the passing game. Limiting that to one or two is going to make a huge difference. On the other side, I still don't think Michigan's offense is good enough to consistently impose its will. There will be stops and starts. What there can't be is too many turnovers. If Michigan wins the turnover battle and limits big pass plays, it can get to 1-1 vs. the state of Utah.
Shash: People are making a huge deal about the Hail Marys that BYU's put up - but they're missing the biggest point here. They cheated.
Let me explain. BYU was founded by Brigham Young, a gentleman who moved like-minded people of faith west to start a new life for themselves after (seriously) a war. It was legal to kill Mormons in self-defense a while back in Missouri, I think. How nuts is that? (Pop quiz - who used "executive order 44" first - an insane Missouri governor against the Mormons or Emperor Palpatine against the Jedi? Depends on what "A long, long time ago in a galaxy far far away" means.)
Fast-forward 150 years. So now everyone's hunky-dory in Utah and things are going great, right? Wrong. BYU's now starting to exact revenge, and it looks like their first target is Catholicism - throwing Hail Marys is just the beginning. Sure, it's great on SportsCenter and whatever, but then before you know it you're going to see them signing a deal with Under Armour to have pre-blessed rosaries all over their uniforms,, their sideline headsets are going to go straight to the confessional booths, penalties by away teams are going to be punished by yards AND Our Fathers, and you're going to hear reports of locker room strife - players are going to start feeling guilty for things that clearly aren't their fault. It's like that movie Contagion.
And if we - the leaders and best - don't stop them, nothing will. Yes, I know the Pope is coming to America to quell the uprising. But it won't be enough.
I've got my eye on you, Tanner. I know what you're trying to do. Let's hope we slap some sanctions on them faster than you can say "Tehran".
Nick B: I am very concerned with their wide receivers. I think BYU will be able to force our defense into some tough choices, and there will be some well-defended plays where they still get a catch. We haven't seen a group like this yet, and we might not for the rest of the year.
Peter: I'm just hopping onto the roundtable, not for a table dance (although that certainly would be horrifying, as I'm pale enough to glow in the dark--not a great asset to have for dancing purposes, but I'm the guy to follow if there's an evacuation during a power outage)--no, I'm here just to say that Shash won the roundtable and we can all go home. Well done, Shash.
Ricky: I think Michigan will struggle in both facets. Its pass defense is susceptible over the past few years, and other than lack of turnovers as a unit, is the one thing I think is keeping it from being an elite group. The talent is there for the Wolverines to overcome it, but I need to see before I believe.
Facing an experienced defense shouldn't be a problem for an experienced starter like Rudock, but with him underperforming to start the season, you are just never sure. I think Harbaugh hasn't revealed his card offensively the past two weeks, so we'll see if this is the case Saturday.
Fish: I'll go with the veteran receivers since the defenses biggest issue has been the linebackers in space. BYU will likely try to take advantage of this since their rushing offense is 111th in the nation. Luckily, Michigan can always go to the five or even six defensive backs to take care of this. That is why I believe the Wolverines will save face and pull out a win in a close, low scoring game (though I predicted they'd lose this game in the preseason).
Drew: Michigan's biggest focus will be to limit BYU's big plays through the air. Tanner Mangum is one-dimensional compared to the injured Taysom Hill, but Mangum has a cannon for an arm and three talented receivers to whom to throw. I think Michigan's biggest concern will be how Jabrill Peppers, whose coverage technique still needs work, handles the shifty Mitchell Juergens -- BYU's leading receiver -- in the slot. However, the good news for Michigan is that its defense was one of the best at suppressing an offense's explosiveness last year, and, even though Michigan's secondary has yet to be tested in 2015, I think that will be the case again this season. The defense will hold up.
On the other side of the ball, I know Kevin said that BYU nose tackle Travis Tuiloma will be ready to go, but I actually don't believe that is accurate. Tuiloma still is questionable. If he doesn't play, BYU's run defense suffers greatly -- the Cougars allowed almost 300 yards on the ground to UCLA last week -- and I think Michigan's backs will capitalize.
Plus, Michigan will be well-rested at home after two relative cupcakes, while BYU could be drained and lethargic kicking off at 10:00 a.m. MT after three straight emotional roller-coasters. This and BYU's injury report give U-M the edge. Michigan 21, BYU 17.
What's on the college football watchlist for a slightly-underwhelming week four?
Kevin: For entertainment, I'll watch Oklahoma State-Texas just to see Texas continue their self-immolation into a joke of a football program. Otherwise, for a quality football game, Tennessee-Florida is always a bonkers SEC rivalry now that they're both semi-good again!
Shash: I think Southern's got a real chance at #8 Georgia. They've gotta be exhausted after blowing the doors off the Fighting Spurriers last week. But the Pac-12 schedule is pretty solid. Utah-Oregon and UCLA-Arizona will both be entertaining, but I might just go outside instead. It's bonfire season. To me, everything revolves around Michigan - if they lose, I'm not watching anything else that day. If they win, I'll sit on my ass until I can't anymore. And I can sit on my ass for a long time.
Nick B: The correct answer is Oregon-Utah, but I'll go in a different direction and say Ohio State-Western Michigan. Not because I think OSU will lose, but I'm fascinated by their climb back up the mountain.
Peter: Okay, one more. All of you are wrong, wrong, wrong. The correct answer is Rutgers/Kansas. It'll answer the age-old question of what happens when an irresistible tire fire meets the immovable dumpster fire. And will anyone in New Jersey even be able to tell the difference?
Drew: Watching Rutgers-Kansas is the real reason why Max Cohen put a power drill to his head.
Ricky: These noon games are nice because you can get home from Michigan Stadium and turn on a nice evening game. I'll probably watch Texas A&M-Arkansas (boy, won't that be fun), Utah-Oregon or UCLA-Arizona.
Fish: There aren't many "must watch" games this week though I'll definitely be watching the Utah-Oregon game. Though Travis Wilson may not play for the Utes, this is game will be a nice piece of trash talk for Michigan and Michigan State fans before the mid-October matchup.
Bonus! How much longer will we have to wait until Jabrill Peppers does Jabrill Peppers things and scores a touchdown, or does the curse of Dennis Norfleet continue unabated?
Shash: Do NOT let Hallett answer this question.
Drew: Hey! [shuffles away sadly]
Nick B: First, Jabrill Peppers, your return to the end zone was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement, so I must do nothin'. And secondly, you must be a pure punt returner for the Punt Returner's Code to apply, and you're not. And thirdly, the Code is more what you'd call ‘guidelines' than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Curse of Dennis Norfleet, Mister Peppers.
Ricky: I had a friend in the press box whose eyes would light up every time Norfleet corralled a punt, so I know where Kevin is coming from. I think it's only a matter of time for Peppers. But, man, he sure makes signaling for a fair catch cool.
Kevin: I spent the entirety of the Hoke era waiting, along with every other Michigan fan, for Norfleet to return a kick. Once he finally did it, a penalty erased the points. I gotta believe Peppers is going to do it this year. We've already seen the special teams units excel at both blocking and coverage (woo John Baxter!), now we just need Jabrill to put rockets on his shoes and break one.
Fish: 3rd quarter vs BYU. Boom. Also, I agree with Shash. #StopDrewHallett