5 Takeaways from the 2016 Michigan Spring Game

The 2016 Michigan football spring game was pretty entertaining, even without a handful of the top players not playing or playing sparingly. Several younger players stepped up and made an impact in a hard fought, nail biting battle that saw the Maize team win 14-13 on a 2pt conversion stop with zero time remaining on the clock.

Here are my five biggest takeaways from the spring game:

1. The Wolverine Quarterback Battle is Far from Over

John O’Korn took the first snap for the Blue team, while Wilton Speight took the first snap for the Maize team. Shane Morris, Brandon Peters and Alex Malzone also contributed, but it was Morris’ double duty shift that really surprised the crowd.

Morris spent some time as a slot receiver, and even threw a touchdown on a double pass. Despite this grade-A performance, this is not a sign of things to come for Morris; he stepped in for the Wolverines, who were low on receiver numbers until the freshman arrive in August. Morris was the easiest to move there because he knows the plays and shares pass catching ability- albeit a slightly lesser level.

O’Korn showed some bursts of noticeable speed, using his pace to pick up a few first downs throughout the evening. He finished 6-for-14, passing for 93 yards and one rushing touchdown. Speight is now 2-0 as the Michigan starting quarterback (even if this one doesn’t really count). He also threw some sharp balls on the day and looked more comfortable with the offense than the others.  The race is real.

2. This Don Brown Defense is AGGRESSIVE!

Michigan’s new defensive coordinator kept things very ‘vanilla’ on Friday because he didn’t want to show his hand too early.  Keeping his cards close to his vest, he still sent plenty of pressure throughout a large portion of the game.

Several plays were made in the backfield, and all of the quarterbacks felt the pressure numerous times under shaky mock offensive lines.  

The defense was burned a few times, but it’s important to keep in mind that both Maize & Blue teams were littered with walk-ons to fill out the rosters- and they played significantly.

3. The Freshman Don’t Look like Freshman

In the few short months that the 7 early enrollees have been on campus, one thing is for sure: they’ve clearly spent massive amounts of time in the weight room.  

Although they didn’t really stand out in the play making department, the newest additions blended right in with the rest of the team. The most impressive roster-add could be Ahmir Mitchell. Vying for the third receiver position, Mitchell looked the part and blocked well on several run plays. Standing 6-foot-3 and weighing over 200 pounds, he has the chance to steal some serious playing time this season.

4.The Wide Receiver Position will be a Strength for Years to Come

Six fresh faces will roam the sidelines at the Big House this fall, but don’t forget about the faces that have already began their career in the Maize & Blue. With Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson returning to their respective top spots, every receiving job on depth chart is up for grabs.  

Grant Perry picked up where he left off in the bowl game, running crisp routes and making several catches throughout the night. He looked like Speights’ favorite and most reliable receiver. The ghost of a healthy Drake Harris made an appearance as well, making a few dazzling catches that made him the all-state wide receiver that we have been waiting to see for 3 years in Ann Arbor.  

Expect there to be a battle all season long for the pass catchers that have worked hard this spring and the rookies that want to take their jobs on arrival.

5. The ‘Family Values’ must be back

Back in 2008, Offensive Lineman Justin Boren transferred to the school down south, stating Michigan lacked “family values,” upon Rich Rodriguez’s hire at the university. I think it’s safe to say, that Jim Harbaugh has restored that missing piece.

Not only was the 2000 Orange Bowl team in attendance along with Lloyd Carr, but the freshman that have yet to enroll were also announced during halftime to loud cheers and applause to get acquainted with the Big House fan base.  Harbaugh was also seen taking pictures with several recruits and fans who may be looking to lace up some spikes for him someday.

Harbaugh is a Michigan man through and through, and he wants it to be like it once was. That’s means creating an atmosphere where alumni return and simply being around the players pushes them to want to have their own children grow up and wear the winged helmet. Somewhere along the lines Michigan lost that. The time is now to restore it.

The team really looked like a group of brothers playing for one another. That’s what you want to see out of a team getting ready to go to battle together. 

What stood out the most to you? Let us know if the comment section below!

Photo Credit: Ann Arbor Melanie Maxwell | The Ann Arbor News

Emmitt Jenkins