The Wolverine

September 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 14 of 83

SEPTEMBER 2016 THE WOLVERINE 15   INSIDE MICHIGAN ATHLETICS The Wolverines Are Solidly In By John Borton Michigan finished No. 12 in the nation last season, coming off a five-win season in 2014. It's no stretch at all to think the Wolverines make the jump to the top 10. Yes, they've got to replace the quarterback. Jim Harbaugh did that last year, and it worked out okay. He's managed to put strong QBs on the field wher- ever he's been, and the winner of the U-M job this fall couldn't have it much better, in terms of backing. There's the veteran offensive line, talented, experi- enced wide receivers, perhaps the best tight end in the country and a deep stable of running backs. If that's not enough, more often than not, three touch- downs will be good enough to win most games, given the defense the Wolverines figure to trot onto the field. The schedule gets nasty in the second half of the season. Even on that point, though, Harbaugh's crew will have played half a year before facing invasions of East Lansing, Iowa City and Columbus. The Wolverines come into this year with more talent, more confident senior leadership and more belief in what they've been given for success than any crew for nearly a decade. Could they hit the rocks? Sure. They're more likely to hit Columbus with a shot at the Big Ten championship game, and maybe more. U-M Is Not Quite That Good By Brandon Brown Michigan has a lot working in its favor right now. Jim Har- baugh is the most recognizable coach in college football, the offensive line has 105 combined starts heading into 2016, the defensive line has a chance to be one of the nation's best, and recruiting is at an all-time high after a switch to the Jordan brand and momentum from last year. That being said, Michigan still isn't quite among the nation's elite. The biggest question mark heading into 2016 is at the quarterback position, and that is a serious problem in today's col- lege football. Given that neither redshirt junior transfer John O'Korn or redshirt sophomore Wilton Speight has taken the reins, the most important position on the field is in flux. Couple that with an offensive line that is experienced but still a little disappointing and a lack of playmakers in the backfield, and U-M's offense could struggle to score at times. The defense will be stout and Harbaugh will outcoach most, but without exceptional quarterback play and a con- sistently reliable run game, Michigan isn't quite on par with the Alabamas, Clemsons and Oklahomas of the world — not yet. POINT ❙ COUNTERPOINT IS MICHIGAN FOOTBALL A LEGIT TOP-FIVE TEAM? Michigan linebackers/special teams coach Chris Partridge was promoted to his current position in the offsea- son, and now faces the task of getting his group up to par with the defensive backs and line. He talks about that and more here: The Wolverine: What was the thought pro- cess behind moving re d s h i r t s o p h o m o re Jabrill Peppers from the secondary to line- backer? Partridge: "He's physi- cal enough to play that position, as well as ath- letic and fast enough to cover in man and do so many things. It just makes our defense more dynamic overall. "He's 205 or 210 pounds and defi- nitely tough enough. That was part of my input, when Coach [Harbaugh] came in … I said, 'He's extremely physical, tough, hard nosed. I have no qualms and don't think he'll have any negatives in being able to do that.'" The Wolverine: How confident are y o u t h a t f r e s h m a n Devin Bush will be able to contribute after en- rolling early? Partridge: "Extremely confident. He had a tre- mendous spring, but he came in as projected — as a freshman, kind of wide-eyed. Three or four of the first practices he was feeling his way out. From then on, he graded better every sin- gle practice and peaked at the end. "He put on some good weight and got faster this summer. He's fully expected to contribute." The Wolverine: You're a former New Jersey coach, and now there's a pipe- line from that state to Michigan with guys like Peppers, freshman defen- sive end Rashan Gary and others. How much pride do you take in that? Partridge: "We decide what guys that fit into the Michigan mold, and we go after and get them. New Jersey is obviously in my heart. I was born and raised there. I think it's phenom- enal football. " To be able to get these guys to Michigan, of course, I'm proud of it … but just like I'm proud of any guy I recruit. When we get the kids we want to the university, it's great." The Wolverine: What's it been like working with new defensive coordina- tor Don Brown? Par tridge: "Incredible. I learned something new every day from Coach Brown and Coach [Jim] Harbaugh. For my career, I learn two new things ev- ery single day from those two. "They are veterans, and Coach Brown is just phenomenal. His defense is his defense. It's 30 years of coming up with the best way to do things. It's awesome." — Chris Balas Partridge was named the 2016 National Recruiter of the Year by PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN Sitting Down With Michigan Linebackers/Special Teams Coach Chris Partridge QB WILTON SPEIGHT

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - September 2016