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Staff Roundtable: Lingering questions can be answered against Cincinnati

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Photo credit: Chris Cook, MGoBlog

Ed: Hey, gents. There was certainly a lot we learned from the Wolverines in Dallas, but not every question was answered completely in the win. On the offensive side of the ball, what questions are still lingering?

Micah: The question to me would just be the quarterback, and as a whole finishing the deal. I'm not saying bench Speight, I just would like to see improvement from last week, hopefully, along with more accuracy. Also for the offense as a whole, being able to finish drives is important.

Will: Outside of the concerns to Speight, I wonder whether Isaac can step up as the lead back and if the offensive line is set to emerge as a force.

Dan: The biggest question is whether Wilton Speight gets over the yips or whatever you want to call his accuracy issues. I think this situation is a lot more complicated than it looks on the surface. Taking the actual throws away, it is clear that Speight can read a defense significantly better than any other QB on the roster, and I’d argue better than 99% of college football. He really has a grasp on this offense and throwing out of pro sets.

Florida v Michigan Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Now whether he can hit those throws is another issue and with about a 14-game sample size at this point, it’s somewhat frustrating that we don’t know. Speight made a handful of tremendous throws, including the TD to Black that traveled about 60 yards in the air, but he missed some wide open opportunities to put the game away. Optimistically, it’s obviously good that the WRs got open and he even found those opportunities, but he needs to him them.

Colman: Speight, Speight, Speight... and right tackle. The receivers had a couple drops which didn’t help the cause but I think we can agree that 11-of-25 isn’t great. That said, Speight is still the guy. The ball he missed to a wide open Crawford was a play that he read the defense pre-snap and audibled to, and I don’t think O’Korn or anyone else has that ability. He has proven he is better than what he showed on Saturday and I’ll say this is more of an aberration than what to expect. I think we should also give him credit for mentally staying in the game and having a much better second half.

Nolan Ulizio struggled against Florida’s athletic DEs, it’s that simple. I’m no O-line expert but it looked like he was responsible for at least 2 sacks and several other hurries. They were very successful running left and it was clear that this was purposeful. Every opponent saw that and will try to take advantage of the right side of our line. This spot has to get better and luckily Michigan has a few games coming up that will be good tune ups.

Jared: Not even an opinion question, it is Speight. I was expecting him to take a huge leap this season—that looked like a regression to me. Anytime you want to step up and take that job, Brandon Peters, by all means feel free.

After that I think the pass catchers left a little to be desired outside of Tarik Black and Sean McKeon (out of nowhere). Kekoa Crawford looks like he could eventually be solid, but he was at fault for pick-six number one.

Ty Wheatley and Ian Bunting were nowhere to be found after many picked them to have breakout seasons. Grant Perry is a moron, and his added pass catching production isn’t worth it to me. How are you going to spin the ball (TWICE) like three days after crawling out of Harbaugh’s dog house?

Florida v Michigan Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Alex: To echo the above, Speight and Nolan Ulizio. The skill players will continue to step up as the season progresses but Speight needs to be upright with time to deliver them the ball. The offensive line wasn’t horrible but Ulizio was slow and far from aggressive on the right side. He kept getting caught off guard by the speed rush and wasn’t dropping fast enough to fight it off. Coach Drevno will definitely be in his ear as he continues to work on his technique and assimilate to the pace of the game at this level.

Ed: So, how about for the defense? They looked very, very good, but inexperience still leaves question marks. What will you be watching from this unit in the next few weeks?

Micah: I think they looked solid. I don't have many questions for them, other than pass defense. No I didn't think the pass defense was poor, it just still makes me nervous. And with small injuries to Watson and Long, that makes me nervous but hopefully they'll be ready to go. Also I'm looking for some freshmen being able to play more.

Will: I want to see if they will stay hungry, even against lesser opponents. With Don Brown at the helm, I expect they will. The schedule softens for a few weeks, ample time for this young defense (and offense for that matter) to work out the remaining kinks and find the consistency they’ll need in Big 10 play.

Dan: The corners. Nothing I saw from them calmed my concerns going into the year. Safety play was solid and the front seven was everything they were billed to be and more, but the corner position has to be a real concern! Florida’s WRs were able to get separation and make some plays down field, and they’re not a unit known for consistently doing that.

NCAA Football: Florida at Michigan Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Colman: The defense looked great and the only question I have is the same one as before this game: Can the corners hold up against a good passing team? Florida was certainly not that. We won’t see one for several games—Lagow to Simmie Cobbs comes to mind as a potential problem—so they’ll have time to continue to adjust to the college game.

Watson had a nice PBU on a long pass and Hill looked pretty good overall despite being beat a couple times. However, Long and Watson both got dinged up which is a continuation of minor injuries dating back to fall according to the coaches. This is worrying. St. Juste got in the game as well which tells me the coaches know they may have to see what they have with guys we thought might not play.

Bottom line is that the front seven are really, really fast and a very talented bunch. Coming in FL thought this was their best OL in years—Michigan obliterated it and gave their QBs little time to throw, which I can see happening quite a bit this year.

Jared: The defense looked amazing against Florida, but the Florida offense is about as inept as a non-2011 Al Borges offense, maybe moreso. We will not face many offenses that are that challenged all season.

Colman brought up a good example that I was keeping in mind of Simmie Cobbs and Richard Lagow. That is a pretty solid quarterback/wide receiver duo that will challenge this secondary.

I wrote at length about my concerns in the secondary and what might happen if we lost one of the Hill-Long-Watson trio. That looks like a real possibility, even though they all should be able to go against Cincinnati by the sound of it.

Our secondary is still young and untested. If we start losing guys back there...well, we had better hope Ambry Thomas and St Juste are ready for the bright lights because we are painfully thin.

Alex: Once again, couldn’t agree more with the above. Overall, the defense showed up in a big way on a big stage Week 1. With that being said, Florida’s offense wasn’t even the 5th best offense they’ll see this year. The secondary needs to grow up fast and support what looks to be a dominant front seven.

With Cincinnati, Air Force and Purdue up next, those young corners will have an opportunity to acclimate to the speed of the game and will need to grow up fast as the meat of the Big 10 schedule follows.

Ed: Michigan’s schedule seemed to have gotten a little tougher overnight, based on some pretty promising performances from several teams in the opening weekend (though we all already knew how strong the Big Ten can be). How do you see this Michigan team continuing to develop over the next several weeks?

Micah: I think Michigan still should be undefeated when they head to Happy Valley. I do think the IU game will be tough, the week before PSU, but I still think the offense will improve a lot in these next couple weeks and the defense will still be playing good ball. I think Michigan will be undefeated going into Penn State week.

Will: The passing game has to start clicking if they want to compete for the conference title and a playoff berth. “In Harbaugh we trust” is our maxim when it comes to quarterback tutelage, but I really didn’t expect to be this concerned about quarterback this fall. And should Speight find his mojo, it will be fun to see which receivers in that wildly talented group emerge as his go-to guys.

NCAA Football: Florida at Michigan Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Dan: The next real test is Indiana before going into Happy Valley with a potential 7-0 record. If Michigan can dominate Florida in the trenches and even show a speed advantage, most of the Wolverines’ schedule should not give them problems.

Obviously you’d like to see the passing game click so the 10-point lead going into halftime looks more like a 17-point or 20-point advantage, giving you that extra cushion. If Speight can hit on 2-3 more of those intermediate-to-long routes in every game, this offense will be harder to stop, and the defense is likely going to continue to be ferocious.

Colman: Indiana and Maryland certainly stand out as teams that I think are better than what I thought they’d be going in, but I haven’t changed my opinion (yet) as to potential losses on the schedule. Michigan should still beat both those teams. Penn State, Wisconsin and OSU remain the question marks on the schedule to me, which is really the same as it was a week ago.

Michigan has some kinks to work out that we’ve covered: Speight needs to play better, the RT situation needs to improve and the corners need work. These are fixable things and Michigan has the talent and coaching to improve them. Over the next few weeks we will see tweaks to all of these and more. There are two non-conference games and Purdue to get ready for some real tests, Harbaugh and Co will have them as prepared as possible going into MSU.

Jared: The Indiana game could get tricky for the reasons listed above, and Purdue looked improved on offense for sure. I still think Penn State at night is the real test, and Speight needs to get his act together by then or we are going to be in a lot of trouble.

If we are forced to get into any sort of shootout with anyone, I am going to be incredibly concerned. You can’t throw interceptions in the Harbaugh offense and expect to win. I just continue to be underwhelmed by Wilton Speight and question his ability to win us a big game when called upon. I would be happy to be proven wrong on that one though.

Alex: The next three weeks in particular are a great opportunity for the offensive line to gel and the defensive secondary to acclimate to the speed of the game and the system that Coach Brown has put in. Michigan has a very high ceiling and I truly see a championship season from this team. Yes, they are young but they are as talented as they come.

On the road at Penn State and Wisconsin remain my big two tests but they have six weeks before Happy Valley to get all of their nerves out and really be running at full strength on both sides of the ball. If Speight can step up and be the leader he’s capable of being and the defense continues to build on their Florida performance, we could be looking at a very special season similar to 1997.

Buckle up, it’s going to be a fun ride!