Hi folks! This is the first installment of a new weekly column that will be featured on the isportsweb Michigan Football page. Each week I’ll be tackling some of the news and rumors surrounding the program. If any of you have any ideas or questions on things you would like to be included in a future column, please feel free to email me and let me know! Without further ado, let’s get to it.
So now that the winter semester at the University of Michigan has begun, all of the early enrollees are officially on campus. Brady Hoke has to be thrilled to have so many young, talented players arrive in time for spring ball. Let’s briefly discuss each player and see what kind of potential impact he might have next season.
Freddy Canteen: Wide Receiver. 6-0, 170. Eastern Christian Academy (MD)
Freddy Canteen is a very polished route runner with above average hands. He played for a powerhouse team that took on some of the top talent in the country every week, so he may be able to adjust to the speed of the college game faster than normal. The lack of experience by returning receivers allows Canteen to potentially make an impact as a true freshman.
Brandon Watson: Defensive Back. 6-1, 190. Eastern Christian Academy (MD)
Watson played on the same team as Canteen in high school, so you know that he has seen some of the best prep players in the nation. Watson has good size and speed for the position, and coming in early will give him extra time to develop. However, with the amount of depth that Michigan will be fielding in the secondary next season, it is hard to imagine Watson seeing time barring injury. Unless he can find a role on special teams, I think we can safely assume that he will be redshirting next fall.
Mason Cole: Offensive Line. 6-4, 260. East Lake High School (FL)
The one thing that is evident when watching Mason Cole on film is how well he moves for a person of his size. Cole has a good frame that he will continue to fill out as he spends time under strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman. While he has the potential to be a very good football player in the future, it is rare that a true freshman offensive lineman doesn’t redshirt.
Michael Ferns: Linebacker. 6-3, 235. St. Clairsville High School (OH)
Ferns is a large, athletic linebacker coming out of Ohio. He is still rehabbing a shoulder injury he suffered during his senior season, but he should be good to go by the time spring ball starts. Besides the skills that he uses on the playing field, Ferns has also been recruiting his tail off trying to get other talented players to join the 2014 recruiting class. So regardless of how his career at Michigan plays out, I think all Wolverine fans should be glad Ferns committed!
Drake Harris: Wide Receiver. 6-3 175 Grand Rapids Christian High School (MI)
Harris might be the most well-known early enrollee due to him being a hometown kid, as well as the fact that he was previously committed to Michigan State. Harris is a tall receiver, which is what Brady Hoke prefers, and he has elite ball skills. However, anyone who is expecting Harris to make an immediate impact next season should readjust their expectations.
I was able to make it to a Grand Rapids Christian game this past season, and while Harris did not play, I was able to see him up close. He is currently very lanky, and in order to get on the field I would think that he needs to bulk up quite a bit. I’m not saying he can’t do this between now and the fall, but it might be too much to expect. We will all find out together, of course.
Bryan Mone: Defensive Tackle. 6-4 316. Highland High School (UT).
Out of all the early enrollees, I believe that Mone has the best chance of making an early impact next season. By all accounts, Mone is a stud. He has great size, and has solid technique to go with it. Not to mention the fact that the defensive line will be relatively inexperienced next season.
Wilton Speight: Quarterback. 6-6 225. Collegiate School (VA).
It’s almost a certainty that Speight will be redshirting next season as he will be the fourth quarterback on scholarship. That being said, Speight is a tall, athletic quarterback with an above average arm. He put that on display in the Under Armour All-American Game. Having this spring, as well as next season to gain experience under the tutelage of new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier will hopefully prepare Wilton for a QB battle with Shane Morris heading into the 2015 season.
Speaking of new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, there has been a lot of speculation going around that Nick Saban pushed Nussmeier away to make room for Lane Kiffin. Eli Gold, the voice of Alabama football, said on radio recently that this is completely false. In addition to Gold’s comments, what does logic say? Alabama averaged over 450 yards and 38 points per game last season. Is that the kind of offensive production that gets a coordinator nudged out the door? And to be quite honest, does this question even matter? Nussmeier is without question an upgrade that breathes new life into this program.
There has also been a lot of questions surrounding the commitment of 2015 RB Damien Harris. It has been reported that Doug Nussmeier will be visiting Harris when he goes out on his first recruiting trip as a Michigan coach. Hopefully this will alleviate any concerns that Harris may be having about where this program is going. One potential concern is the relationship that Al Borges had with Harris’s coach. We will all find out together how this story unfolds.
The last rumor I want to touch on is the one about additional coaching changes, in particular running backs coach Fred Jackson. I have been reading a lot of speculation about coach Jackson and whether or not he will be retiring before next season. However, it does not appear at this time that there will be any additional changes made to the coaching staff. This could always change, of course, and if any developments should arise we here at isportsweb will keep you posted.
Part of this weekly article will also touch on a specific position group for next season’s team. This week I’ll talk about the quarterbacks. With the hiring of Doug Nussmeier, some people have speculated that this will cause a huge QB battle to take place between Devin Gardner and Shane Morris.
No. Just, no.
Devin Gardner played his most recent game on one leg and shredded the defense of his arch rival in the process. And now we have people wanting him to be moved back to receiver. Luckily, I don’t think the coaches are having similar thoughts. Michigan has a dynamic play maker in Gardner that should only get better with Nussmeier working with him. Shane Morris will certainly push Gardner in the offseason, and I think both quarterbacks will benefit from the competition. That being said, there is no way Gardner is not the starting quarterback next season, barring injury.
To me, the Gardner or Morris question isn’t even relevant, and instead what should be talked about is whether or not Morris should be redshirted. Hear me out on this one. With Gardner starting, and Russell Bellomy now being 100% healthy, Michigan now has some depth at the quarterback position. If Bellomy can show that he is solid enough to spell Gardner should he get dinged up for a play or two, then it is feasible that Morris could redshirt. If Gardner gets hurt for an extended period of time, Morris could always have that redshirt burned, obviously. Redshirting Morris would give him 3 years of eligibility heading into the 2015 season. To me, this would be an ideal situation for Michigan football.
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