Freshman defensive back Jabrill Peppers, pictured with coach Brady Hoke, looked ready to move into Michigan's starting lineup during Saturday's scrimmage. (Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News)
Ann Arbor — The positive from Michigan’s scrimmage at Michigan Stadium Saturday night? The get-after-it defense.
The not-so-positive? The lack of an offensive line push and, overall, the run game.
Michigan has two weeks until its season opener against Appalachian State on Aug. 30 and clearly has much to work on, particularly offensively.
“There were some negative plays in there we still need to clean up,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said after the public scrimmage. “Some of it is up front, and I really think today, we have to have better vision in the back(field).”
Interestingly, two of the highlights Saturday night were freshmen — defensive back Jabrill Peppers, who looks ready to move into the starting lineup, and offensive tackle Mason Cole.
As Hoke has been saying most of camp, Cole appears to be the starter at left tackle. With Kyle Kalis on the sideline with a back injury — he is expected to return to practice on Monday — Graham Glasgow started at right guard. Glasgow was hobbled with an apparent injury to his right ankle that got heavily taped and held him out of a good portion of the scrimmage.
“He didn’t have one penalty, one hold,” Hoke said, when asked to evaluate Cole’s performance. “He lines up against a pretty good guy when Frank (Clark is) on that side, a guy who can get off the ball and torture you a little bit. (Cole’s) very consistent. To be honest with you, I think sometimes that’s the least of my worries.”
The running back rotation keeps spinning and that, perhaps, has made things problematic in terms of consistency. The backs did not break a big run in the scrimmage.
A week ago, Hoke said Drake Johnson and De’Veon Smith were, as he described, the 1 and 1-A backs with Derrick Green right behind.
But Green, who had a strong showing in a mid-week scrimmage, was the first back out there.
“Going into (the scrimmage), Derrick was 1, (and) 1-A was obviously De’Veon,” Hoke said. “Drake could help us a bunch. Justice (Hayes) caught the ball today out of the backfield well. They all have their positives.”
The Wolverines’ aggressive, blitz-heavy defense, though, clearly had the edge. And that kind of active nature, Hoke said, also puts added pressure on the offensive line.
“The other night we ran the ball pretty well, (but) you can’t play well one Saturday and not as well the next,” Hoke said.
“That’s another lesson with consistency there, but the defense I thought, and to be honest with you, they should (be ahead). There are more veterans there, guys with game experience. Defense always, to some degree, is a little ahead of the offense, but we need to catch up offensively pretty fast.”
Senior quarterback Devin Gardner earned some praise from Hoke for playing consistently and limiting bad plays.
“He was very efficient with what he was trying to get done,” Hoke said. “He played solid. Did he play great? Good enough? Probably not. I’d say the same thing for backup Shane (Morris).”
As far as Peppers and how quickly he will make significant contributions, if the scrimmage was a legitimate indication, he will be in there soon and often. Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison have eased him into the defense, working him in initially at nickel, but he appears poised for a starting corner spot.
“The evidence for making decisions is on the film,” Hoke said. “It’s evidence-based decision based on film, based on production. He’s playing very well. He’ll have learned some things today in man coverage he saw. So, again, we’re competing and he’s doing a nice job.”
As far as injuries, running back Ty Isaac, the transfer from USC who is awaiting word from the NCAA regarding his hardship waiver, did not play because of a stinger. He is expected to return Monday. Receiver Jehu Chesson had to have his right hand taped late in the scrimmage.
Hoke said he would like to solidify the starting lineup by Wednesday or Thursday, which is when the Wolverines will start focusing on Appalachian State.
“I’d be lying if I wasn’t concerned about all of our football team, and that’s just being a coach,” Hoke said. “Do we need to improve still? There’s no question about it.”