It was both a good and bad day for the Michigan football team, depending on how one would look at things.
On one hand, the Wolverines won. On the other hand, the Wolverines also lost. Such is the result of Michigan’s annual spring game. Saturday’s game was certainly more exciting than those of past years, featuring a late comeback from one team before a well-executed drive by the Maize team gave it a 31-29 victory.
Here are five things we learned from Saturday:
1. Wilton Speight’s backups are pretty talented
The quarterback competition seems fairly decided in redshirt junior Wilton Speight’s favor. After all, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh went on the record on April 10 in saying Speight is the starter. But on Saturday, it was Speight’s presumed backups who dazzled.
Aside from one key mistake — an ill-advised throw that resulted in a pick-six — redshirt freshman Brandon Peters was outstanding. He displayed poise in the pocket while also showing off a cannon for an arm. He even led the Maize team on the game-winning drive, which included a deep bomb to redshirt freshman wide receiver Nate Schoenle. Peters finished 9-of-17 for 160 yards passing with one touchdown and one interception, and even scrambled for a 12-yard touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Fifth-year senior John O’Korn was impressive as well, although much of his success didn’t come until late. O’Korn, who started against Indiana last season when Speight was hurt, ran three times for 42 yards while completing three passes for 60 yards and a touchdown.
2. The Glasgow family name is in good hands
Graham is already in the NFL, and Ryan will be soon. Meanwhile, Jordan — the youngest of the three Glasgow brothers — continues to carve out a role for himself in Ann Arbor. Glasgow earned a reputation as being a special teams dynamo last year, and appears poised for a breakout season this year. He has been practicing mostly at the VIPER position vacated by Jabrill Peppers. In the spring game, however, he was exceptional at safety, flashing excellent ball skills throughout the day while coming up with the biggest play of the game, a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown after picking off Speight in the endzone.
3. The kids might be alright
Youth has been a common theme for Michigan this offseason, as the Wolverines seek to replace over a dozen graduated starters from both sides of the ball.
Key among those are the receiver and tight end spots. The trio of Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson and Jake Butt graduated and is off to the NFL, while sophomore wide receiver Grant Perry — who would be one of the most experienced returning players — remains in limbo while he faces four criminal charges and an impending court case.
On Saturday, though, several key youngsters stood out at each position. At receiver, early enrollee Tarik Black impressed the most, snagging several balls down the sideline, including an 11-yard touchdown reception from O’Korn. At tight end, meanwhile, Zach Gentry and Nick Eubanks played well. Gentry, converted to the position from quarterback, scored the first touchdown of the game, catching a pass up the seam before making a safety miss and taking it to the house for a 55-yard score. His counterpart Eubanks looked smooth as well, making two catches and nearly hauling in a deep ball down the sideline that popped loose from his grasp at the last second.
4. No Kenny, no problem?
Michigan graduated kicker and punter (there’s a recurring theme here) Kenny Allen after last year. Allen was adept at both of his jobs, knocking in 37 field goals at an 82-percent clip over two seasons while averaging 43.3 yards on 54 punts last year.
But like at other positions, there may not be too much of a drop-off from Allen’s replacements. Quinn Nordin, formerly the No. 1 rated kicker out of high school, knocked in a 48-yard field goal that would have been good from 50-plus, and Kyle Seychel kicked the game-winning field goal (even after an attempted icing) to give the Maize team steak for dinner. Will Hart handled punting duties for both sides, kicking it eight total times for an average of 39.5 yards per punt.
5. The defense still looks good
The Wolverines have said it many times over through the offseason: they expect there to be little drop-off between last year’s defense — No. 1 in the nation — and this year’s unit. Game action against real opponents will tell whether that is the case, but for now, this year’s defense does indeed look pretty good. The defensive line and blitzing linebackers created problems in pass protection, beating the offensive line for five total sacks. Meanwhile, there were three total interceptions — two of which went the other way for touchdowns — made on presumed starter Speight and Peters. Players such as sophomores Khaleke Hudson and Devin Bush Jr. laid the wood, and defensive coordinator Don Brown was as aggressive as ever with his play-calling. There will be some struggles along the way as this youthful unit continues to develop and gain experience — after all, the offense did record several big plays on the day. But the ceiling for the defense remains as high as ever.