Ohio State's Spring Game: Winners, Losers
There were a couple moments where I was watching Ohio State's spring game and had to shake my head. This team is fast. Torrance Gibson and Austin Mack looked like rookies at times, but they were also able to out-run Ohio State's DBs with ease. And Ohio State has some fast DBs.
Anyway, here are some more takeaways.
Winner: Mike Weber, RB
Buckeye fans have grown tired hearing the hype for Weber's teammate Bri'onte Dunn, who is entering his redshirt junior year with 287 career rushing yards (on 6.0 yards a carry, it's worth pointing out). From what little I've seen of Dunn, I've been impressed. I had been expecting him to finally win the starting role to replace Ezekiel Elliott.
Not so fast, I suppose. From Cleveland.com:
Though Weber is still technically in a position battle with senior Brio'nte Dunn, the redshirt freshman took control of the battle when he rushed the ball eight times for 38 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game. And Weber was running behind the line that didn't have veterans Pat Elflein or Billy Price.
Dunn, who still has a lot to prove before he's worthy of getting a ton of carries as a senior, didn't dress in the spring game because of a minor injury.
Running back is one of the many positions on this team trying to replace an NFL-bound veteran. And, like many of those other positions, it seems primed to reload. I can't help but be impressed.
Loser: J.T. Barrett, QB
Barrett was, and remains, the biggest bright spot on this offense. After taking over the team in 2014 en route to a dominant regular season, Barrett's career looked like it would be compared to some of the greats. But a 3,772-yard redshirt freshman season gave way to a 1,674-yard redshirt sophomore season, and this spring he was slowed by early enrollee receivers and a shaky offensive line.
Barrett played the entire first half and completed 13 of 22 passes for 102 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Now, a lot of those incompletions came on dropped passes and poorly executed routes, but this is still something that drags Barrett down. Nobody is questioning Barrett's potential to dominate, but potential doesn't mean very much if the pieces around him aren't working well. The inexperience and lack of depth will be tackled in the summer, but it could crop up again in the fall.
Most of Ohio State's front-seven is getting overhauled; linebackers Darron Lee and Joshua Perry are gone, and so are defensive linemen Joey Bosa, Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt. Their replacements are young, but impressive - very strong and naturally aggressive for their age.
But at the end of the day, the years do matter. Last year's linebackers weighed in at 252, 240, and 228 - this year's likely starters (Raekwon McMillan, Donte Booker and Chris Worley) are 240, 233 and 225. The starting front four should be stout, led by an emerging star in Dre'Mont Jones .... but Michigan will be able to stretch that depth and challenge the Buckeyes to be ready to play five or six defensive linemen. The pass rushers have some depth, but the tackles don't - especially now that Donovan Munger is retiring for medical reasons.
Most of the Big Ten will have a hard time handling a faster, athletic front seven like this one. Most of the Big Ten will have a hard time with the speed of those receivers, assuming they start to catch the deep bombs Barrett is throwing to them. But Michigan, with its Harbaugh-led ground game and physical press man coverage, has a perfect recipe in place to handle those things. Meanwhile, Ohio State did not look like it'd be ready for Michigan's tight ends (Raekwon McMillan? Gareon Conley?) or the small army of 225-pound runners.
Loser: Isaiah Prince, RT
Let's recap the offensive line for a moment. Michigan fans will be delighted to hear that Ohio State has a strangely similar situation to Michigan along the offensive line, with depth issues and a lot of youth behind a mostly veteran starting five. A true freshman, Michigan native Michael Jordan, is primed to take a starting spot at left guard (though he'll be competing with Demetrius Knox, who is very good in his own right). Two veterans will be at center and right guard (Pat Elflein, Billy Price). Jamarco Jones was just named the starting left tackle, and right tackle has so far been manned by Isaiah Prince, a true sophomore.
However, Prince didn't play well enough, in my opinion, to feel optimistic that he can hold off this summer's junior college transfer, Malcolm Pridgeon. Pridgeon is a physical guy who will make a dent against a lot of Big Ten defensive ends. The right side of that line, with Elflein, Price and Pridgeon, will be a behemoth to handle.
So, thanks in part to a transfer, Ohio State's starting five is in good shape. They have one very good back-up (Knox) and some four-star sophomores and freshmen who need to be developed. Prince will have a few more opportunities down the road to grab hold of a starting spot, but this was a big opportunity that he missed.
Hitting the Links Loves My Boo
That's enough to pay for a lot of satellite camps, Delany. A million satellite camps, spread out over the month of June - anyway, food for thought. In the meantime, here are some more concrete winners and losers from this imminent deal.
Very clever idea here. Hopefully something breaks Michigan's way with Marvin Wilson, who was the only guy in this class I've seen that I would describe as "Rashan Gary-like."
Michigan is about to put a lot of great defensive linemen into the NFL, and that starts this year with Willie Henry and Mario.
This is a tough blow for a fan base that was starting to anticipate and even expect a commitment from the five-star defensive end.
Obvious, simple good thing to do.
Dre Brown had been quoted regarding his last injury, "The toughest part is the mental barrier. I'm still not 100 percent confident. From June to December, every day we were just working to get our knees better. There's some maturity that comes with it. You're devastated for two months. Then you think, 'If I don't do something about it (to properly rehabilitate), this could happen again.' " Good luck, Dre. We're pulling for you.
This comes on the heels of another big commitment for Rutgers, Bo Melton. I've been very critical of Ash so far, but his recruiting success this week earns a genuine tip of the hat for doing what he needed to do. Actually - make it about 25 tips.
Ahh, the off-season.
Ahhhhhh, the off-season.
Who am I to disagree with a former NFL coach. I'll also be shocked if Hackenberg isn't taken in the first round of the draft this year.
You know, I like Hackenberg to win a couple of these battles. He's just too good.
Brees is obviously so valuable to that program, but it's hard to see much progress in 2016.
Finally, we'll close on something a little off-topic today:
Sounds like Eastern Michigan football might be getting cut or dropped to FCS/DII https://t.co/uE5LZlY1Bq— Jared (@JaredUTSA) April 20, 2016
A winning football team would do wonders for the city of Ypsilanti, which is kind of the (poorer) sister city to Ann Arbor and ends up being shunted aside for the most part. But unfortunately, the best thing EMU has going for them is that they have Lion King - a 6'4", 205-pound defensive lineman. (Big surprise: they were dead-last in Division I in run defense last year, at more than 315 yards allowed per game.) With no end in sight, a move to D-II might open up some wins, at least.
(Though, part of that is not entirely true - Eastern's campus, though a lot smaller, has some spots that are just as gorgeous as UM's. Seriously.)