Michigan: Five things we learned from the Peach Bowl

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Donovan Peoples-Jones (9) of the Michigan Wolverines is congratulated by his teammates Nico Collins and Nick Eubanks after scoring a first-quarter touchdown reception against the Florida Gators.

What we leaned from Michigan's loss to Florida in the Peach Bowl on Saturday:

Got receivers, use 'em

Michigan has a talent-rich group of skill players and that’s at receiver. Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins, Tarik Black all look like they have NFL potential and they’ve got Ronnie Bell and Oliver Martin. Does Michigan use them enough? No. When Michigan uses them, is it creative enough? Not for the most part. All we ever hear from the players is what a “freak” athlete Peoples-Jones is and how Collins doesn’t drop a pass in practice. It’s time to see more of that “freak” ability and to let Collins make more big-time catches. And Black and his rotten luck — a broken foot the last two years — is, from all accounts, back to form. There’s a quarterback in Shea Patterson who can be a playmaker and can deliver to these receivers, but Michigan’s offense isn’t opened up enough to allow this to be a reality on a consistent basis. The Wolverines have stockpiled really good receivers and the time is now for the offense to be a bit more razzle dazzle and take advantage of these talents.

More:UM players, coaches: 10-3 not good enough, 'not here'

Broken record, but time for an OC

Maybe you’ve read this here before but Michigan needs an honest-to-goodness offensive coordinator. No more ambiguity and enough of this “collaborative process” explanation. Of course an offensive game plan is a collaborative process during the week, but on game day one person should be in the box calling plays and the head coach needs to trust that process while knowing he has the veto card available at all times. Something has to change here. Sure, if you like to see balanced numbers on the stat sheet, Michigan’s offense has provided that, but how many times have coaches said, “Stats don’t tell the whole story?” With that in mind, balanced numbers don’t mean a balanced offense. There were too many points left out there. Look at the last three games — Indiana, Ohio State and Florida. Michigan was in the red zone 15 times and scored 14 times but eight times on field goals. For the season, Michigan scored 50 times in 57-red zone visits and had 16 field goals, so the field goals have been coming in the last three games.

Getting a consistent run game

There’s no doubt Michigan missed Karan Higdon and his 1,178 yards in the Peach Bowl. If you were looking for a sneak peek for next year, you got an idea what the running backs will be like — sort of. Chris Evans will be the most experienced as a senior, but everyone talked about Christian Turner and his bowl practices, and he does look like someone who can make a difference. It will be interesting to see how quickly incoming freshman Zach Charbonnet acclimates. He has a nice resume and physically looks the part. Let’s face it, Michigan hasn’t had a dominant running back since Mike Hart. Maybe Turner or Charbonnet can be that back.

How’s the kicking shaking out?

Quinn Nordin was sick before the Indiana game according to coach Jim Harbaugh, which is why freshman Jake Moody took over. He played well, making all six field goals and was 2-for-2 against Ohio State. He was 2-of-3 in the Peach Bowl, making one from 48 and missing from 52. Nordin still has a big leg, that hasn’t changed, but he struggled late in the season. And Moody has shown he is consistent. Still, is this job secure? Time will tell, but spring practice could be an opportunity for Nordin to regain his form and the starting job. Or perhaps this will be a two-prong situation with Moody handling shorter kicks and Nordin the longer.

What to make of the defense

It was hard to say what Michigan’s defense was all about in the Peach Bowl, but it was clear that linebacker Devin Bush was clearly terribly missed defending the middle of the field. Losing Kwity Paye and Devin Gil early didn’t help things. Work needs to be done in the secondary, but there’s experience there with Lavert Hill saying he’s coming back along with safety Josh Metellus. Cornerback David Long hasn’t yet announced if he will also be back, and then there’s coveted freshman Dax Hill coming in. The defense gave up too many points the last two games, that is clear, and while the offense needs to be tweaked, perhaps defensive coordinator Don Brown also will look at what’s been lacking in big games and adjust accordingly.