Today is the next day in the list of \”days Michigan fans couldn\’t wait to see\”, as spring practice is here and everyone can finally see what Jim Harbaugh looks like on the field in the Block M hat and whistle. However, he\’s not the only thing to keep and eye on between now and April 4th.
Here are my five things to watch throughout the 2015 spring practices:
1. Harbaugh and the coaching staff
– Everyone will be drooling as Jim Harbaugh is first seen barking out instructions in his loose fitted khakis, maize and blue mock turtle neck, whistle and hat in Schembechler Hall. That\’s for sure.
He\’s the biggest college football coaching hire in years and the man every Michigan fan has wanted since 2011. But he\’s not the only coach to watch. I\’ll have my eyes on the elite coaching staff he assembled and how they\’re received by the players and how they coach.
Eight of the coaches on the staff have NFL experience, including five of them that coached in the league last year. That\’s why I expect the practices to be run much differently than in years past. Add in the need to quickly implement their style of play and practicing, I expect the intensity to be at full tilt on day one.
2. Shane Morris
– While Harbaugh is obviously making sure there\’s an in-depth quarterback competition through summer camp, every one will have their eye on former top recruit and the most experienced* QB on the roster, Shane Morris.
After becoming more known for his part in #ConcussionGate than anything else, Morris has been seen by some as a bust. Now, I don\’t believe that to be the case at all. He has all the physical tools, including a very strong arm and nice athleticism. But it\’s the mental aspect that everyone will watch. Is he making poor decisions? Does he still have happy feet?
He has two years of eligibility remaining to learn and develop under Harbaugh and prove his high school recruiting ranking. And with the raw talent already there, I don\’t believe there\’s a coach in the country that would be better for that job.
To get a glimpse at how things are going, look out for mentions of his on the field performance and how Harbaugh talks about him and the types of reps he\’s getting.
3. Top talent that has yet to be properly developed
– One of Hoke\’s biggest issues was the inability to develop the top recruiting talent he landed in his tenure. From Ondre Pipkins to Dymonte Thomas, there are too many highly skilled players that have yet to do much more than flash for a couple plays in their career. But if there was one staff to believe in to get the most out of each player, it\’s this one.
Other top recruits that I believe will dramatically improve with the new coaches and style of play includes:
- DE Tom Strobel
- DE Henry Poggi
- RB Wyatt Shallman
- LB Royce Jenkins-Stone
4. Recruiting visitors
– Most of the recruits that the staff has offered and targeted are waiting to see what Harbaugh\’s Wolverines will look like on the field before really starting to feel Michigan. So, expect multiple top 2016 and 2017 recruits to visit Schembechler Hall in the next couple weeks. And I wouldn\’t be surprised to see the commitments start to pick up once they hit campus and see the coaching in person.
A couple top names to look out for:
- QB KJ Costello
- QB Brandon Peters
- Every in-state target
- WR Donnie Corley
- WR Desmond Fitzpatrick
- OG/NT Michael Onwenu
- RB Matt Falcon
- DE Khalid Kareem
- OT Michael Jordan
- S Demetric Vance
- RB Elijah Holyfield
- RB Robert Washington
- OL Ben Bredeson
- WR Austin Mack
- DE Auston Robertson
5. The energy and passion from the players
– The coaching staff\’s energy and intense practices are something to watch but even more so may be the way the players take it all in. A big problem with the program under Hoke was the lack of mental toughness and inconsistent play. Some even blamed it on the respect between the players and the coaching staff.
But one thing is for certain, that definitely will not be a problem between the players and the new staff.
Harbaugh commands respect from every player he\’s ever coached but at the same time is a true players coach. That is why I expect most of the players to get on board quickly. However, there are always some players that don\’t like the coaching styles and decisions which means transfers are a real possibility.