ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The final score in a spring game doesn’t matter. The final film does.
The film from the Michigan spring game last Saturday showed the team has plenty of promise. It also showed there is plenty to work on before the regular season kicks off Sept. 2 against Florida at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“This is a day about individual evaluation,” defensive coordinator Don Brown said after the game. “Guys are playing out of sorts, with different units and spots and all that, but it’s about your performance individually and just seeing where you take it from that standpoint.”
Michigan closed out the Ann Arbor portion of its spring practice schedule on Tuesday with another 4-hour session. Its final 3 practices, including a scrimmage, are scheduled to take place next week when the team travels to Rome for a trip that will combine educational activities with football.
Tuesday was also the last chance for media to speak with team members before the trip.
So, how did the film of the spring game look?
“Definitely a lot of areas of improvement, but I’m happy with our overall effort and performance,” senior linebacker Noah Furbush said. “Playing fast and having fun is the biggest part of the spring game. It’s getting out there, playing hard and having fun in front of all those people, and getting the overall experience.”
Furbush did his best to get noticed in the game, with 4 tackles, 1 sack, a fumble recovery and a broken-up pass on a late third-down play to force a punt.
Michigan will be inexperienced in comparison to last season. The Wolverines will count on underclassmen, including several freshmen, to step into immediate and extensive playing time in positions previously manned by seniors.
“I think this time will be the hardest on them,” secondary coach Mike Zordich said. “We’re going to do everything we did with those (seniors). We have to; we play man (coverage). We need to make all the same calls, all the same adjustments with the young guys we did with the old guys because that’s what we do. We’re not going to stray from what we do. We’re going to find the guys that can handle it.”
The Maize and Blue teams were split by a draft process, with the exception of the offensive and defensive lines. Those position groups played for both teams, giving plenty of snaps for those vying for starting and top reserve jobs. The defensive line lost all 4 starters from last season, while the offensive line must replace 3 starters.
The combined offenses ran for 260 net yards and 3 touchdowns (excluding quarterback totals) but the defenses came up with 3 interceptions, a fumble recovery and 5 sacks. The defenses also held the quarterbacks to a sub-50 percent completion percentage (23 of 51). You take the good with the not-so-good on both sides of the ball.
Michigan hasn’t issued an official depth chart, but the first 2 units played together most of the game, beginning with Mason Cole at left tackle, Ben Bredeson at left guard, Patrick Kugler at center, Michael Onwenu at right guard and Jon Runyan at right tackle. Cole started all 13 games last season at center but started the previous 25 games at left tackle. Bredeson started the final 8 games of his freshman season last year at left guard.
“I thought we moved the ball pretty well, and we put points on the board,” Bredeson said. “Collectively, as a unit, I thought we played a lot better. We made progress from the practices before.”
The defensive line first unit consisted of Mo Hurst and Bryan Mone playing inside at tackles, and ends Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich. Those 4 have been the unofficial starters all spring, but whether or not there is quality depth heading into the regular season is still a question.
“I think we’re good right now, but I think we’re still trying to help pull up some of the younger guys and make them better players,” said Hurst, a fifth-year senior who, although he didn’t start a game, had 34 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss last season. Hurst also had 4.5 sacks.
“I think Carlo (Kemp) had a really good day. We got to see him make a lot of big plays on the defense, and he played with good technique. I’m really excited to see him get into the mix this year.”