The slogan for this year so far for Michigan Football from yours truly has been “it does not become a concern until it becomes a trend.” Eight quarters of football is enough to have some trends emerge.
After a pair of sloppy wins over Middle Tennessee State and Army, here’s a stock report heading into the bye week.
Stock down: QB Shea Patterson
Nobody seems to be able to answer whether or not Patterson is hurt or what is going on with him, but he has not passed the eyeball test through the first two games of the year. He has not been horrible as social media pundits would suggest, but he is not playing the type of football we thought he would be capable of in the new offense (more on Josh Gattis later).
Patterson’s throws do not seem to have the same amount of zip on them as they did last year and receivers have had to adjust to the football with throws not being placed where they need to be. His turnover issues have also been a major issue. He is still the most gifted pure passer on the roster and might be the biggest beneficiary of a bye week, but this is not championship-level quarterback play.
Stock up: RB Zach Charbonnet
Charbonnet has absolutely lived up to the hype through his first two games of his college career with 190 yards rushing between both contests and three touchdowns, all of which came in the win over Army in Week 2.
His yards per carry average did not pop off the page in the game over Army (3.3), but the offensive line did him no favors and he did a great job of getting something out of a lot of runs that may have otherwise yielded nothing. Add in the fact that the Wolverines gave him 33 carries in the second week of the season and it’s clear that he is far and away the best back on the roster at this stage in the game.
Stock down: Offensive line
The offensive line has not had Jon Runyan Jr. for the first two games of the season, but oddly enough that has not been their biggest issue. Ryan Hayes has, for the most part, played really well in relief and his fellow redshirt freshman tackle, Jalen Mayfield, has been solid as well.
The oddest thing of all is that the interior of Michigan’s offensive line (Ben Bredeson, Cesar Ruiz and Michael Onwenu) have struggled and have just been okay, at best. This is supposed to be the strength of the football team led by three upperclassman All-Big Ten performers and regardless of if they have some new responsibilities in the new offense, they simply have to be better. Pass protection has been solid, but inconsistent, and they are not moving enough bodies early on, which is a concern given that they have not played any fronts with a ton of size or athleticism.
Stock up: DE Aidan Hutchinson
Hutchinson nearly single-handedly willed the Michigan defense to victory on Saturday with a handful of key plays down the stretch in overtime to make sure Army couldn’t win the football game and pull off the upset. He’s a sophomore that is only going to get better and is already one of the tone setters on the defense. He has not even scratched the surface on his best football yet and has been extremely impressive after an offseason filled with a fair amount of hype.
Stock down: Interior defensive line
This group is kind of an incomplete right now because the depth has been tested and we have not seen them at full strength, but the defensive tackles are not getting a ton of push and this group looks thin right now. Perhaps down the stretch we might see Chris Hinton and Mazi Smith, but they obviously are not ready right now. Carlo Kemp has been ok, at best, and Ben Mason is a converted fullback that might be more of a rotational piece than he is a starter.
Stock up: Secondary
The secondary was labeled as arguably the biggest question mark about this football team coming into the season and it has developed early on into one of its strengths. Lavert Hill is Lavert Hill and is an All-American-caliber of player, but Vincent Gray and Ambry Thomas have played well at cornerback, as well. The safeties, Josh Metellus and Brad Hawkins, have been as advertised as well.
Stock down: The new offense
Michigan’s new offense has an identity crisis. Sometimes it wants to be modern. Sometimes it wants to revert back to the ways of old and ram into the line of scrimmage with its running game. To put a positive spin on it, it at least looks like they want to try and do multiple things based on what the defense gives them. The biggest problem right now might be that they can’t block it right or hold onto the football
Josh Gattis’ playcalling was solid in Week 1 with some mistakes here and there. Week 2 was about the same, but instead of going away from the run when it didn’t work, they kept after it. We’ve seen this offense through two weeks move the football really well when the ball comes out quick on slants and some of the other RPO throws, and even Patterson has gotten into a rhythm at times, but never sustained. Maybe they can get a lift when Donovan Peoples-Jones returns, but Tarik Black, Nico Collins and Charbonnet need to get the football more and the quarterback just needs to make plays. It might just be as simple as that.
Stock down: Coaching
Through two weeks, this team has had lapses in concentration and silly mistakes in both games. Lack of adequate preparedness has been a staple of the Jim Harbaugh era in a lot of critical moments and it nearly cost them a win on Saturday. Right now, it’s hard to find a big-game win on the schedule with efforts like what we’ve witnesses so far this season and if Harbaugh and his staff are going to kill narratives about themselves this year, they’re going to have to coach like they’ve never coached before and this team has to improve in a hurry. Cupcake season is over.