3 Things I'm Hearing Coming Out Of Michigan Football's Fall Camp
Take these inside takes however you want to.
A) My source ranked his interest at the quarterback position at an all-time high. "I've been around this program 30+ years and I can count on one hand the number of times that I felt as good about the top two guys as I do right now.
"Michigan has played two quarterbacks out of necessity before, obviously, but rarely because it gave the offense diversity and a weapon to utilize. If they carry practices over to games (which doesn't always happen once the lights go on), it's going to cause defense's a lot of problems. I've seen other teams use two QBs, but let's be honest, it always seems sort of gimmicky. This isn't that. I think it's something that could take college football by storm."
That said, he doesn't think there isn't a real role for redshirt freshman Joe Milton. Not yet anyway.
"What that means for his future, I don't know. I think it's far too early to say, but I'm sure if this two-headed monster thing works, it's going to be a strong selling point used to keep him."
Just to be clear too, redshirt sophomore Dylan McCaffrey is not expected to split snaps with senior Shea Patterson, who has been, according to numerous reports, "lights out" this preseason. Simply that he adds a unique set of skills that could be used periodically through the game.
"To some degree, I think this is the evolution of a Wildcat quarterback, where teams were using a great athlete to give the defense a different look. But that guy could barely ever throw the ball.
"Don't get me wrong, Dylan is not Denard Robinson when it comes to explosion and top-end speed, but if you had Shea Patterson and Denard Robinson on the same team, what would you do with Denard? You wouldn't have him holding a clipboard the entire game."
B) My source would be "shocked" if senior Tru Wilson was not the opening-day starter at tailback. In his estimation, he'd put the current depth chart at RB like this:
R-Fr. Ben VanSumeren
Fr. Zach Charbonnet
R-Fr. Christian Turner
R-Fr. Hassan Haskins
He also said not to freak out about that order.
"I don't think it's a reflection of potential carries in the first two weeks. I think it's more about who the coaches trust at the moment if say a key situation developed: small lead, late in the game, they need someone they can absolutely depend on to carry the ball securely, drive forward, block, etc.
"I wouldn't be surprised if this season unfolded a bit like 2004 when it took three games for Mike Hart to emerge as the top runner on the team. I mean, when is the last time you had three running backs that could all be the guy that have never toted the rock before in a single game?
"Tru has been the most consistent of the bunch, and they feel he can be really solid - this is a staff that doesn't sleep on walk-ons like the general public - but everyone that earns it in practice is going to get a chance to show what he can do in a game."
C) There are two big injuries we have been monitoring, that of junior cornerback Ambry Thomas and junior wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones. Defensive coordinator Don Brown said a week ago that Thomas has not been a full active participant in practice while offensive coordinator Josh Gattis has said Peoples-Jones is practicing, but is also taking some time here and there to rest. That's just the way it's going to go this year, our source believes.
"I raised an eyebrow this summer when I heard the comments that Donovan was 100% healthy because from what I understand of his groin injury, it's not something that would be possible without a significant amount of time off. What I was told is that he could go hard, but he would also need to take periods of rest. Like, I don't expect there to be a single week this season where he practices every day.
"From what I can tell the plan is this - get Donovan about 40 snaps per game where he can make the most impact. I don't think he'll return punts. The explosion needed and change of direction is too much. But he can still be a deep threat, he can be really good on crossing routes, they like him in the red zone. He'll be good, but anyone expecting him to have a breakout year as a No. 1 ... it's not going to be this year."
The good news is that junior Nico Collins, sophomore Ronnie Bell, freshman Mike Sainristil and junior Tarik Black have all been strong and consistent performers this fall.
"I'm dreaming a little bit here, but damn, I wish Donovan was 100% because I think the fight between him and Nico to emerge as the go-to guy would have been really, really fun. Tarik is pushing, Ronnie Bell ... everybody loves this kid ... and obviously Sainristil is going to be an impact freshman."
On Thomas, our source thinks the Wisconsin game, in Week 4, after a bye, is the most realistic return date at this point for Thomas but cautions "I wouldn't expect him to step into that game and take over the starting job and be a David Long-type. For one thing, he'll be two games behind the game reps of [redshirt freshman] Vincent Gray and he doesn't have a lot of playing experience from the past two years to fall back on.
"I didn't think his ceiling was Long-esque before the illness. Might be more the ceiling of someone like Jeremy Clark. If we get to October and he's breaking into the starting lineup, I'd think that is a bad sign of where things are at the position."
Coming in a future installment, comments on the defensive backfield, linebackers and defensive line.