Michigan takeaways: Is Cam McGrone on verge of stardom?
Five takeaways from Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News following Michigan's 52-0 win over Rutgers on Saturday.
With Josh Ross out (he was wearing a boot on Saturday), Cam McGrone made his first start at middle linebacker, and he absolutely made a case for himself. He definitely attracted attention in a game most want to forget at Wisconsin. He finished with six tackles, but his hit on Nakia Watson, stopping him at the Michigan 1-yard line when he appeared to have a lane into the end zone, was the most impressive. He carried his aggressive play into the Rutgers game. He was credited with one tackle, but this is when stats don’t tell the whole story.
Is he Devin Bush? No, but McGrone is fast and physical and was credited with one hurry on Rutgers’ Artur Sitkowski – a huge hit in the final seconds of the first quarter. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh doesn’t laud a player unless he means it, and after the victory Harbaugh singled out McGrone.
“Cam McGrone, if he keeps playing like this, he’s going to be a star,” Harbaugh said. “The way he runs … but his physicality is really every week going higher and higher.”
McGrone said he hasn’t spoken to Bush lately but intends to call him to get some tips.
So that’s Dax Hill
The Michigan defensive stats leaders for the Rutgers game were Khaleke Hudson, Kwity Paye, Brad Hawkins and freshman Daxton Hill. Only a few days after safeties coach Chris Partridge was on the "Inside Michigan Football" radio show saying Hill was coming along nicely -- but hey, no one is rushing things -- Hill made a splash. The freshman was Michigan’s highest-ranked recruit, and the reviews of his play in practice have been pretty stellar. He’s fast, they said, he’s picking up the defense quickly, and he's close to getting more playing time.
Against Rutgers, he looked fast and hard-hitting. As a punt-team gunner, his highlight-reel moment came early in the second quarter when at midfield, he turned on the burners as he headed to his left and absolutely drilled Avery Young at the Rutgers 39-yard line. Used mostly in third-down situations, Hill finished with four tackles and was in on a tackle for loss. Anybody still think Michigan needs to proceed with caution using Hill?
Yeah, yeah, it’s Rutgers
Not that this needed to be emphasized again, but apparently it does. Everyone knows Michigan beat up on perennial Big Ten punching back Rutgers. Everyone knows that if things were different, a win over the Scarlet Knights should probably be downgraded. If that’s the case, tell every other team that pounds lesser teams.
It’s logical to couch every comment about Michigan’s performance with, “Yeah, but it was against Rutgers,” but the point is, the Wolverines did what they should do against a lesser opponent. They showed no mercy in a rebound game from a brutal loss. And while it may not mean Michigan is going to make a big run through its schedule now, it did show the Wolverines have determination and something to prove.
Maybe there wasn’t a collective exhale on the Michigan sideline after the Wolverines avoided fumbling on their first possession and instead scored. But there was definitely a sense of relief after the game, as the Wolverines were able to play a game nearly unscathed by turnovers. Shea Patterson had a pick in the second half, but that was, in the grand scheme of things, nothing.
Michigan entered the Rutgers game among the nation’s worst in turnover margin and had nine turnovers, including seven fumbles. They had fumbled on their first series of each game. Turnovers were a main reason the offense could never find a rhythm or get in sync.
“It was (a relief),” running back Christian Turner said. “We didn’t turn the ball over, that was good. That was another accomplishment for us. Keep grinding and doing what we do.”
Everyone in on it
The luxury of playing a team like Rutgers is it affords coaches an opportunity to play many reserves. Six running backs got carries, and this was a smart opportunity to get Tru Wilson, who had missed the last two games, a chance to get his feet wet again. He had four carries for 13 yards. Freshman Zach Charbonnet, who in the second game of the season had 33 carries and was “limited,” according to Jim Harbaugh, at Wisconsin, was able to be used sparingly against the Scarlet Knights, also a good thing. He had five carries for 22 yards. Christian Turner averaged 4.4 yards a carry for his 11 rushes.
This game also allowed for the wealth to be spread among receivers. Ronnie Bell continues to be a workhorse and had 83 yards on six catches. But for Donovan Peoples-Jones, who returned to the lineup last week, this was also an opportunity to get back into game mode – he had 62 yards on four catches. And finally, Joe Milton, the third-string quarterback elevated to backup while Dylan McCaffrey recovers from a concussion, earned valuable playing time. He was 3-of-4 for 59 yards, threw for a touchdown and ran one yard for a score.