Michigan Football: Final Winners and Losers from Spring Ball
Some are earlier, and some are later.
But, at varying levels, regardless of structure, they're all important.
Another season of spring football games has drawn to a conclusion in the Big Ten, and Michigan has had nearly a month to think about what it did right and what it did wrong during its April workout.
The same applies to key players such as Devin Gardner, Derrick Green, Willie Henry and, among others, those in the secondary.
But everyone needs work before fall hits Team 135. The Wolverines are miles away from being a finished product.
This slideshow will examine the winners and losers from spring. Some players and coaches came out on top, while others walked away with something to prove.
Winner: Willie Henry
Think back to April 5 and you'll remember a dominant Willie Henry who was the star of the D-line. Really, he was one of the better performers from the day's "game."
Henry bullied his way into the backfield with ease. The 6'2," 297-pound redshirt sophomore pressured the quarterback and even disrupted a handoff. Everywhere, he was. Everywhere.
As an obvious winner of spring football, he'll be expected to raise his level this fall. It's repetitive and getting tiresome to utter, but I'll say it anyway: The Wolverines have the talent. Again: The Wolverines have the talent.
Henry is of said talent.
Touch The Banner discusses spring with the big tackle.
Touch the Banner: Video: Willie Henry, Chris Wormley talk spring pra... http://t.co/pdKcUdDbBI— TouchTheBanner (@TouchTheBanner) April 3, 2014
Hoke's sung Henry's praises several times so far this spring.
Hoke notes Freddy Canteen as a big surprise this spring, development of Ryan Glasgow/Willie Henry/Bryan Mone also— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) April 14, 2014
Loser: O-Line Remains Under Construction
Why did Henry have such a great day?
He didn't face much opposition; that's why. Of course, that made him look better. But at the same time, he made his teammates, specifically those on the O-line, appear overwhelmed and uneasy.
Underclassmen such as Logan Tuley-Tillman saw reps. Erik Magnuson, a redshirt sophomore who could easily fill in at left tackle, didn't participate due to lingering issues associated with his shoulder injury. However, look for him this fall.
Michigan's front didn't do itself any favors by limping along during the spring game. Given the past, the poor performance only stoked the fire. Today, worries—not questions—surround the line. At one time, it appeared as if the Wolverines would land Chad Lindsay, an Alabama transfer OL who chose Ohio State rather than teaming up with his former OC, Doug Nussmeier.
Ammo for Change
In 2013, Michigan's O-line was frequently the butt of jokes.
ICYMI: Michigan's O-line would be better off w/ inanimate objects protecting Devin Gardner. COLUMN! http://t.co/2PndCwnNaS— LostLettermen.com (@LostLettermen) November 11, 2013
The Spartans sacked Gardner six times with three coming consecutively.
Michigan O-line withers under weight of Michigan State's crushing defense: Michigan lost, 29-6, at Michigan St... http://t.co/fbFVSVp8iw— DetroitNewsMSU (@detnewsMSU) November 3, 2013
The guys at SB Nation's Maize 'n Brew grew sick and tired of seeing green and white in Michigan's backfield.
It's too bad Michigan doesn't have a solid offensive line. This might actually be a game.— Maize n Brew (@MaizenBrew) November 2, 2013
Winner: Freddy Canteen Is Emerging at WR
Note: The first play is a long ball to Canteen.
"Freddy Footwork"—or Freddy Canteen, whichever you prefer.
Remember the name. This freshman is ready for quality reps.
The early enrollee will certainly benefit from having a positive experience during the spring game. He caught a couple of long balls and sped down the field like a seasoned vet.
Add in 110,000 or so fans, and he's good to go on game day. There's no learning curve here.
Canteen's performance remains one of the most talked about stories from the offseason.
Michigan freshman Freddy Canteen ends spring how he began it, with heaps of praise http://t.co/8oSnvVmf8X— Wolverines News (@WolverinesMLive) April 7, 2014
Michigan fans knew about Canteen, but the Big Ten has also taken notice.
WR Freddy Canteen creating a buzz this spring at Michigan. Players, coaches very impressed with early enrollee. Getting run with the ones.— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) March 31, 2014
Loser: Devin Gardner Wasn't at His Best
Note: Sorry for the repeat. But this spring game footage is pretty good and shows the good and bad from just about everyone worth mentioning. Notice Gardner's panic pass at 3:20. There were a few of those.
There's no doubting Devin Gardner's potential. At 6'4" and 218 pounds, the redshirt senior quarterback has the skills to lead the Wolverines. He's always had the skills. But he hasn't always shown them.
After taking a beating from Michigan State, Gardner was ridiculed for his lack of poise in the pocket and poor decision-making abilities. And really, that was the story after more than a few games. Unfortunately, the argument held water. The complaints were warranted.
Gardner just didn't play well. But again, he's much better than the guy who was sacked 34 times in 2013. His arm has 3,000-yard, 25-touchdown potential. Despite the turbulent 7-6 season that was, he completed 60 percent of his passes and 21 touchdowns.
But he also threw 11 picks. On the bright side, he curbed that problem and became steadier as the year progressed. He wasn't half-bad against Ohio State, either. Showing great commitment to his teammates, he played on a bum foot during the late stretch and often shouldered blame for the team's mistakes.
There are mixed messages coming out of Ann Arbor. Is Gardner really in a race with Shane Morris? Could the sophomore southpaw overthrow the veteran?
If so, that's bad news for Gardner.
Only Hoke and Nussmeier know for sure.
Winners: Running Backs Looked Decent
Justice Hayes is looking for a starting role in the backfield. Agile and quick, he looked good April 5.
But sophomore running backs Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith stand in his way.
Hayes, for years, has been looking for a real shot. He's shown a lot of promise and is a valuable offensive resource. However, again, sophomores Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith stand in his way. They make up the one-two punch that the Wolverines need in order to succeed in the Big Ten and ultimately in the playoffs.
Having too many is better than not having enough. Expect an improved running attack due to experience and Nussmeier's new—but somewhat familiar—pro-style approach.
Hoke: impressed with Derrick green and the conditioning and progress he's made this spring— Mark Snyder (@Mark__Snyder) April 3, 2014
Other Winners and Losers
Keep in mind that all of this is based upon spring practice. Things will surely change with the wind.
True frosh and early enrollee Wilton Speight looked decent during spring activities. He definitely has a pro-style cannon. With maturation, he should develop into the next guy at Michigan.
Shane Morris showed off his wheels (again) and made a few nice throws. He deserves consideration.
The secondary was impressive. Jourdan Lewis and Jarrod Wilson held their own.
As a whole, Team 135 doesn't look ready to win a Big Ten title. But it's spring. As mentioned earlier, things change from day to day.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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