Hello! Most of us are probably feeling a bit better about quarterback after John O’Korn’s performance this last week against Purdue, but that position has also gotten a lion’s share of the attention. Here’s the rest of the picture going through the bye week.
No. 6: How good (and consistent) is the special teams unit?
As has been the case over the last couple years, Michigan only has a few serious concerns to bear in mind. The ones that are this far down the list are more background - interesting background, but still not an “oh no, we’re Rutgers” type of crisis.
For special teams, the Jim Harbaugh era started off strong with John Baxter (remember him?) then continued that success under Chris Partridge and Jay Harbaugh last year. This year, though, they had to replace a lot of familiar faces with some high-profile Jim Harbaugh recruits.
The results on that experiment have been very solid. Some early bumps notwithstanding, the returners have been explosive (thanks, Donovan!) and Quinn Nordin has been as solid as a rock. Brad Robbins stepped out of the shadows against Purdue and punted 7 times for a 40.6 average (not bad), so this is a group that might yet make a mistake thanks to all their youth, but is doing a pretty good job so far.
No. 5: How’s the defensive line depth, anyway?
I’m more concerned about defensive end than defensive tackle here, since the drop off from Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich is not too bad when you’re looking at Carlo Kemp but then gets worrisome after that. At defensive tackle, Michigan has been relying on Michael Dwumfour and Aubrey Solomon to spell the starters - but across the board, it’s been a lot of snaps for the starters and not too much for the back-ups. Hopefully that changes as the season goes on.
No. 4: How’s the secondary doing?
Is the secondary doing fine? Yes, yes they are. They’re 8th in the country in passing yards allowed, and they’re fifth in passing efficiency defense.
But this group is still young, there have been occasional lapses by the corners, and most of all, there’s paper-thin depth back there. So any potential injury would be harmful for Michigan’s chances. There’s Jordan Glasgow backing up Metellus and Kinnel at safety, and David Long and Brandon Watson fighting for a starting role at corner behind Lavert Hill, who’s been great. So maybe it’s not exactly paper-thin depth .... but it is enough to stress.
No. 3: The pass-catchers and their route-running
I brought this up after Florida, but Michigan’s route-running has been a slight concern. That’s to be expected, of course, with such a young group, but it does help explain a lack of efficiency in the pass game. It’s also forced Michigan’s offense (finally, against Purdue, when John O’Korn got in the game) to focus on the tight ends more. They’re matchup problems regardless of how well they run their routes.
Still, expect continued looks for Grant Perry and Sean McKeon (and Nate Schoenle!), who seem to be more advanced at route-running than some of their counterparts even if they lack some of the athleticism.
No. 2: How productive is the quarterback position?
One of the reasons why I (and other Speight supporters) liked Speight was that he was an old head on a young offense - getting guys in the right positions, making the right decisions (??), etc. That becomes less important as the season wears on, and it’s also something the coaches can manage on the sidelines if O’Korn (or Peters) proves to be a better play-maker. Young receivers will get good at what they do, and it’s ultimately about just getting them the ball.
We’ll see if O’Korn starts out of the bye, but I think it’s inevitable he gets that look. And even if he’s not a world-beater, at least he’ll get the offense moving forward.
No. 1: Ahh, the offensive line, my old friend...
If John O’Korn hadn’t salvaged the Purdue game, this may not have been number one. But now we get back to a familiar place - fretting about the O-Line.
I could talk about the concerns with pass protection - that’s been a problem. I could also talk about getting push at the line of scrimmage - that’s been a bit of a problem, too. But all I can ask is - will this ever end? Like, ever? This is like a time warp with Doctor Strange or something, and I’d like it to stop. How do you make a good O-Line! We have two great O-Line coaches, for Dormammu’s sake! C’mon!