Michigan football mailbag: QB competition, Chris Evans' role, funniest UM players

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan would have had close to a handful of spring practices in the books by now, but as we are all aware, there’s been a suspension of all athletic activities, including practices, until further notice. That doesn’t mean we need to suspend conversation about Michigan football. Of course not, so here goes — and thanks for the mailbag questions. Please stay safe and healthy.

Dylan McCaffrey

Question: Is there ANY football related activity on campus? Film? Lifting? Running? — @JDue51

Answer: No, sir. Nothing. Coaches and players have not been on campus this week and don’t see that changing. As I know you know with your film breakdowns, having film available to watch on your own is plentiful, so there’s no holdup there. The rest is up to the individuals.

Question: Wondering how the team, coaches, etc., are holding up. Can’t imagine missing this kind of time from my teammates in college (of course back then we also had call waiting and busy signals). — @Marty3535

Answer: Marty, aside from you showing your age (busy signals?), this all has been frustrating for everybody, but there’s a clear understanding why it is happening. Coaches are staying busy having regular meetings via video and phone conferencing; recruiting continues, just without in-person contact; and the players are home with family and friends. This certainly isn’t ideal since they were all gearing up for finally getting on the field again, but coaches and players are in constant communication.

Question: 1. Any chance of an extended fall camp for all teams with the cancellation of spring practice? 2. Does no spring ball make it even more likely that McCaffrey is the starter? — @UofMK1rw1n

Answer: Matt, I was wondering the same the other day regarding how teams will make up for spring practice depending how long the suspension of activities continues. It’s going to be interesting since some programs like Arizona State started spring ball on Feb. 24 and got in seven practices through March 3. Obviously, what happens next depends on when restrictions are lifted. It could mean spring practice starts in May or June, for instance, allowing a program like Michigan, which had not begun practicing, a chance to make up for those lost practices. You suggested extending fall camp, and that seems plausible, but it also seems a difficult balance for the players and their bodies as they prep for the season. This is a play-it-by-ear situation, and there will be plenty of options to consider, but keeping the players fresh has to be the biggest consideration.

Question: Will Patterson automatically be the starting QB, or will he have competition? — @papaaris6

Answer: Aris, you had me on this. You did. I admit, I was on the phone when I read this and was like, huh, what, Aris?

Question: Who will be the starting QB in the fall? — @coachware

Answer: Dymetrius, if I had to GUESS now with no spring ball and zero on-field competition, I’m giving the edge to Dylan McCaffrey because of his game experience.

Question: Does Joe Milton really have a shot at starting QB? — @pastordanfbc

Answer: Daniel, of course he does, and during a session with reporters before the bowl game he sounded like a guy determined to win it. Right now, I give the edge to McCaffrey. But I truly believe they both will play this fall.

Question: Does Cade McNamara even have a chance at starting QB? — @chuck_deleeuw

Answer: Chuck, from what I understand he has impressed the coaches and his teammates, but game experience is important for a lot of reasons. He needs more of it and will gradually see time, but for now, to me this is about McCaffrey and Milton.

Question: What happens with Chris Evans? Does he become a hybrid RB/slot or does he get lost in the shuffle in the RB group? — @MC_ShopOne

Answer: It’s really hard to say where Evans will fit in. He was supposed to be the lead back, taking over when Christian Turner after Karan Higdon moved on. He stayed emotionally invested despite not being around the team during his suspension, he hung in when he could have just chucked it all, and he worked out on his own. Does this lack of spring ball right now even the field a little bit? It could, and that puts Evans very much in the mix, and running backs coach Jay Harbaugh has made it clear he doesn’t mind playing multiple backs.

Question: Top five funnest Michigan players to interview during your time covering UM. Also most inspirational thing and saddest thing you had to cover? — @JIM2WIN2015

Devin Gardner played at Michigan from 2010-14.

Answer: That’s a great question. Let’s start with Devin Gardner, who was funny and entertaining, informative and offered plenty of insight. Jack Miller was a fun guy to interview, and he gained a lot of respect because he often was the player who appeared after losses, and there were a lot of those. Rod Payne was very funny and smart, and he had this amusing habit of not starting a press conference until he had my tape recorder in front of him. Todd Collins was interesting, a player who would turn the tables a lot when I’d be interviewing him and ask me questions, often about newspapers and how they’re produced. And Mike Hart, who was very smart, clever, cocky and always fun to talk to. As for inspiring things, Chase Winovich raising money for ChadTough is right up there and saddest thing was covering Bo Schembechler’s death and talking to so many of his players that day.

Question: What is your “All Time Michigan Football Team” since you have been covering Michigan Football? — @rodneymark15

Answer: Rodney, I’m shocked you didn’t add “so long” at the end of that question. Glad you didn’t! Understanding this will come off as predictable, but the 1997 team. The work was non-stop, it seemed, but the personalities were really enjoyable to interact with and cover. That goes for coaches and players, and I’m not just talking about Charles Woodson. There were some really interesting players on that team, from Brian Griese, to Dhani Jones, and Chris Howard to Steve Hutchinson. Even Jon Jansen falls in that category somehow. Somehow.

Question: Best stadium/arena pizza you have had? And did it have pineapple on it? — @StandardPaintWP

Answer: As I recall, the postgame pizza at Notre Dame and Illinois are very good. And NO to pineapple.

Question: Rather hear more stories about your no-good brothers ... — @SPARTANTIQUES

Answer: OK, here’s one, but it’s about me reversing the tables. I was around 8, growing up in Cincinnati and loved watching Big-Time wresting and especially loved Bobo Brazil. As I’ve noted, I was the youngest by a lot with three older siblings, so if I was with my brothers, I was around their friends. At church one Sunday, one of my oldest brother’s buddies, probably 18-19 at the time, started picking on me as my brothers would. I had enough and, while wearing one of my many Polly Flinders dresses, decided to use one of the moves I had seen on Big-Time wrestling and delivered an unexpected Big-Time punch to his gut. I will never forget watching him double over and my brother and friends laughing and laughing. A rare victory for young Angelique.