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April 16, 2007 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2007-04-16

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?ORP S 0 y p AY


6B - Monday, April 16, 2007

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

What to expect when fall arrives

Daily Sports Editors
As the spring practice session
officially came to an end last Sat-
urday, a few things became appar-
ent. First, it really wasn't much of a
spring game. Spring usually makes
people think of flowers, not winter
Second, you're pretty hungry for
some football. More people filled
the bleachers at Michigan Stadium
than at a typical basketball game
(we're not counting the no-shows
at Crisler).
And third, you probably didn't
recognize a few players on the field.
With a lot of people sitting out,
you may be confused with how the
lineup should come to form when
the seasonbegins a little more than
four months from now.
As always - Daily Sports has
your back with its post-spring prac-
tice position breakdown.
Chad Henne was one of the few
experienced Wolverines to see
extensive action this spring. The
three-year starter took more than a
handful of snaps for the Wolverine
fans who made their way to Michi-
gan Stadium on Saturday. Though
Henne was probably one of the few
familiar jerseys the fans could pick
out this weekend, more eyes were
fixated on Henne's predecessor,
freshman Ryan Mallett. Mallett,
a five-star recruit who enrolled a
semester early to experience win-
ter conditioning and spring prac-
tice, showed off a live arm for those
watching Michigan's final practice.
His teammates, including his men-
tor Henne, all raved about his rapid
development as a signal caller. His
toughest transition will likely be
adjusting from a shotgun-centered
offense in high school to one where
he directly takes every snap at
David Cone should settle in as the
team's third-string quarterback.
Running back/fullback:
The focal point of the Michigan
ground game, junior Mike Hart,
watched this year's spring practice
from the sideline. He underwent a
self-proclaimed "clean-up" of his
left shoulder in the offseason, a
procedure he said wasn't necessary
but convenient. Both Hart and his
coaching staff expect the Heisman
candidate to return at 100 percent
next fall.
After running back Kevin
Grady tore his ACL a week ago,
backup Brandon Minor was left
as the lone healthy running back
on the roster. He saw a lot of snaps
over the offseason and kept up the
momentum he started last year
with a solid freshman season.
Carlos Brown, who joined the
team last season as a highly touted
recruit, will be back on the run-
ning back depth chart next fall
after an interesting spring. Brown
requested to switch to cornerback
at the end of his freshman cam-
paign, but with Grady's injury,
decided to jump back to his natu-
ral position for the 2007 season.
The fullback position is wide
open after Obi Oluigbo's gradua-
tion. Atrio ofyoung players -early
enrollee Vince Helmuth, walk-on
Mark Moundros and linebacker-
turned-fullback Quintin Patilla
- have all improved significantly
from the beginning of the spring,
Hart said.

The twobiggest fixtures of Mich-
igan's receiving game last season
- wideouts Mario Manningham
andAdrianArrington - alsohad an
extended Spring Break, soto speak.
Manningham sat out the 15 spring
practices for precautionary reasons
(knee) and Arrington's recent legal
struggles have put his return to the
team in the fall up in the air.
With those two key cogs miss-
ing the spring-practice sessions,
it opened up the door for younger
players to get significant reps. Greg
Mathews, who saw time as a true
freshman last season, along with
redshirt freshman LaTerryal Savoy,
have been the biggest beneficiaries
of the extra snaps. Following Sat-
urday's practice, Hart, Henne and
offensive coordinator Mike DeBord
all sang the praises of Mathews,
who is playing at a much faster
speed than he did last year, DeBord
Manningham expects to be back
and 100 percent in the fall, but Carr
has stayed mum on Arrington's
future with the team.
Three incoming wide receivers
- Junior Hemingway, Toney Clem-
ons and Zion Babb - could all pos-
sibly see time as true freshman next
The tight end spot is the most
makeshift of all positions for the
Wolverines. Projected starter Mike
Massey missed the spring with an
injury, so tight end converts Chris
McLaurin and Andre Criswell saw
the most time this spring. Two
recruits, Steve Watson and Martell
Webb, could both compete for an
active role on the team next season,
DeBord said.
Offensive line:
The left side of the offensive
line is set in stone. All-American
tackle Jake Long, who Hart called
"the best tackle in the nation hands
down" on Saturday, and guard
Adam Kraus both saw limited or no
action this spring, but they expect
to establish Michigan's left side as
one of the nation's best.
Carr suggested freshman Justin
Boren had made strides at solidify-
ing himself as the team's center. Fol-
lowing Saturday's practice, Henne
told reporters he felt comfortable
being under Boren, too.
The real question is how the
right side of the line will look.
Junior Alex Mitchell was a jour-
neyman of sorts last year, filling
in where he could on a line that at
times had injury problems. Though
he saw some time at tackle last sea-

son, he could be the bestbet at right
guard forJ2007. Steve Schilling, who
joined the team lastseason as one of
the most highly touted recruits in
recent years but redshirted after
battling mono and various injuries,
could compete for the starting right
tackle job if he enters his redshirt
freshman season at 100 percent.
The strongest opposition to him
would likely be from redshirt soph-
omore Mark Ortmann, who many
feel really improved himself this
spring. Redshirt freshman Perry
Dorrestein, who has also battled
injury problems, could also be a fac-
Defensive line:
After losing standouts LaMarr
Woodley and Alan Branch to the
NFL, there might be no unit on the
teamlosingmorethanthe defensive
line. Woodley received the Rotary
Lombardi Award, given annually to
the nation's best lineman. He also
won the Ted Hendricks Award for
being the nation's best defensive
end and was named Big Ten Defen-
sive Player of the Year. While he
wasn't as highly decorated in col-
lege, Branch is a likely top-15 pick in
the upcomingNFL Draft.
But the unit does retain two key
contributors in defensive tackle
Terrence Taylor and defensive
end Tim Jamison. Both received
extended playing time last year, as
Taylor started next to Branch and
Jamison rotated in consistently
with Woodley and Rondell Biggs.
Taylor tallied 23 tackles (five for
loss) and one sack. But he missed
the entire spring with a hamstring
Jamison added 13 tackles and
five sacks last season, and will
look to fill some of the leadership
void left by Woodley and Branch.
Junior Will Johnson should replace
Branch at the tackle spot. John-
son saw some playing time last
year, recording seven tackles and
a sack, and received the Frederick
Matthaei Award for his work dur-
ing recent spring drills. The other
defensive end spot couldbe filledby
sophomore Brandon Graham. Gra-
ham played in 11 games last season,
and has impressed defensive coor-
dinator Ron English with his ability
this spring.
This unit lost leading tackler
David Harris and outside linebacker
Prescott Burgess, but retains fifth-
year senior Shawn Crable and junior
Chris Graham, who should start at

Freshman Ryan Mallett saw a lot of action in Saturday's scrimmage at the Big House.






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