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Trick or Trend: Michigan’s secondary hapless, running backs halted

Almost every position group struggled Saturday, but will their troubles continue?

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The hope is that everything from this Halloween was one bad trick and that the Michigan Wolverines will be able to quickly dust themselves off and get back at it. Sadly, the issues seen on the field last weekend were nothing new, and while Michigan State deserves credit for exploiting them, it was clear that the fan base got a little too excited after Week 1’s victory.

There is plenty of blame to go around after this disappointing loss, but there are two areas in particular that I believe deserve a deeper look. A lot of wind has been taken out of Michigan’s sails, but there is still plenty left to play for this season...if the team can make some big adjustments.

Is there any hope left for the secondary?

Last season there were some early concerns at cornerback heading into the year after Ambry Thomas dealt with colitis during the offseason. As a result, Vincent Gray looked set to play opposite Lavert Hill and made a decent debut in the season opener, causing many fans to breath a sigh of relief. This turned out to be fool’s gold, however, as it did not take long for Thomas to assert himself as the second corner, while Gray mostly looked like a redshirt freshman over the course of 2019.

Unfortunately, history seems to have repeated itself. This year’s Week 1 cornerback darling was Gemon Green, who was absolutely torched all game long against State. The presumptive top corner Gray was also terrible, showing that he has not improved much from his challenges last season. The Spartans were able to do basically anything they wanted in the air, and every non-Daxton Hill defender was pretty useless in pass coverage.

It is hard to call this anything other than a TREND. Maybe Gray and/or Green improve with a little more experience. Maybe one of the many younger players takes the job and runs with it (probably not Jalen Perry based on Saturday). To expect a drastic turnaround, though, is wishful thinking and impossible to reconcile to what was seen against State. This comes down to Don Brown as much as it does the players, and do not count on big changes coming from his scheme.

Where did the running backs go?

Last week I praised Joe Milton’s ability to impact the game with his feet and claimed that this would be a trend going forward. I did not expect — nor hope for — him to be the leading rusher on Saturday, as his 59 non-sack rushing yards were an indication of how the game did not work out as the Wolverines had hoped.

While the running back quartet did reach the end zone three times against the Spartans, it is hard to come away from the game feeling too impressed. Overall, the group carried the ball 19 times for 84 yards with a long of just seven yards. This is the exact opposite of the performance put up against the Gophers, and while the State defensive line is typically one of its strongest units, the Wolverines are too talented to put together a performance like this.

Therefore, I see this more as a TRICK. Even on an off day, Hassan Haskins ran for 7.0 yards a carry and Blake Corum showed why he has the potential to be something special. It is likely that the offensive line will show improvement with experience, and if Milton can be a little better in the passing game it will open up more opportunities for the running backs. Still, Zach Charbonnet can never end another game with under 10 yards on the ground; that is nowhere near where someone of his caliber should be.