Michigan completed spring football in the best shape it’s been since head coach Jim Harbaugh arrived at U-M. The coach would be one of the first to admit its “excellence,” and it’s clear on his face. Not only are the veterans reaching new heights, but the young guys are following their lead and excelling in their quest for playing time.
A few who made huge moves this spring — starting on offense, offensive lineman Andrew Gentry. He’s finally getting back to the form that made him a top 100 player overall, having changed his body after a two-year mission in which he was away from the game and limited. He’s now at 315 pounds (where he wants to be) and rock solid, moving extremely well … so well, in fact, that he spent most of the spring playing the tackle position again after having moved to guard for much of last year.
In addition, he’s as “Michigan” as it gets. He wants to play, of course, but he understands the talent he’s competing against and is willing to keep battling until it’s his turn.
One of the young guys who doesn’t get enough credit, in part because he suffered a minor knee injury — true freshman running back Cole Cabana. Speaking to someone who’s been around, they say it’s only natural some want to compare Cabana to former RichRod back Sam McGuffie. It’s not a good comparison, our man told us.
“Cole is already 195 pounds. Sam was much smaller, and he was thrown in there before he was ready,” he said. “He didn’t have time to adjust, and it hurt him. And he was one of the better athletes we had here. People didn’t really know how good he was in that respect.
“But Cole is that kind of athlete, and there are a lot of things he can do.”
And then he dropped this:
“He’s faster than Donovan Edwards.”
Michigan frosh Benjamin Hall got a lot of the pub this spring, and rightfully so — he was good. But as Blake Corum told us, he’s just learning the game. He’s still working on his vision, our source said, even though it showed well in the spring game.
“He’s going to be great between the tackles. His bigger runs are going to come when he bounces outside like he did on the one run (to the goal line in the spring). He’s going to be like Mike [Hart] that way.”
He has some “Chris Perry” to him, too, he added. In short — some traits of some of the greats.
And while the Kevin Grady comparisons are out there given his build, our source said he is “much better than that.” That’s with all due respect to Grady, of course, who had some moments but didn’t live up to his 5-star billing.
But Cabana is being overlooked, our said … and he can’t wait to see more of him when he’s healthy.
True freshman lineman Amir Herring just got here, but he’s already gotten some good work in, and he’s changed his body, too. He’s at 305 pounds, he told us and has loved his time with Ben Herbert.
Senior defensive tackle Kris Jenkins is currently at 297, and he’s still hoping to be around 305 to 310 by fall. But he looks great, as do the bodies of most of the guys after spring. Herbert is putting them to work, and they are responding.
Michigan defense young players to watch
Some fans were perplexed about R.J. Moten’s defection and concerned about the depth in the safety room with his departure for Florida. They shouldn’t be, one Wolverine told us in Canton. Though they loved Moten and wish him the best, he said, youngsters Keon Sabb and Zeke Berry have upped their games and were too good to keep off the field this spring.
“Flat out, they’re just ready to make plays,” he said. “That’s really the only way to put it.”
To be clear, there were no digs at Moten, who didn’t play in the TCU game and actually spent time working with the linebackers. They just love the potential of the young guys, and starters Rod Moore and Makari Paige along with veteran Quentin Johnson are all going to be stalwarts in the lineup.
They like what they’ve got there and think Berry and Sabb will be in the Moore and Paige mold before long.
Young corner Jyaire Hill, too, is turning heads. Mike Sainristil can play some corner as needed, and they thought they might have to experiment more with that this spring. But Sainristil played primarily at nickel while Amorion Walker, Hill, Ja’Den McBurrows and others battled it out at the other corner spot.
And we continue to hear praise for Rayshaun Benny and his spring. He will play a huge role on a defensive line that’s as potentially deep and talented as any we’ve seen (at least on paper) in the last quarter century.
More football news
From our Anthony Broome …
Michigan lost a pair of defenders to the transfer portal recently in linebacker Nikhai Hill-Green and safety RJ Moten, which opens up plenty of snaps on the roster with two former starters now out the door. At this point, plenty are familiar with the names that could slide in and fill their roles, but one that has not come up frequently is junior linebacker Jaydon Hood. We spoke with a few players during the last leg of the spring trip in Ohio who named him as a player to watch this season that has not gotten a ton of buzz.
While it’s still early, Hood has positioned himself for more playing time after playing just four games in two seasons in Ann Arbor. It may be as a depth piece or special teamer, but his is a name to know heading into his junior season.
“He’s gonna play an important role on this team,” one Michigan freshman said. “With [Moten and Hill-Green gone], he’s going to get playing time. He gave me my welcome-to-college moment [on a big hit] in practice. This man hit me harder than I had ever been hit before. He reads well. He’s really smart, he’s fast, he’s extremely physical.”
Some were surprised when Moten transferred out of the program, but much of it had to do with being passed by Makari Paige on the depth chart and the young pieces making a hard charge in spring practice. Another player in attendance on the trip went as far as to say Paige could emerge as an early draft pick.
“I think Makari Paige goes unnoticed,” they said. “I think he could be a future first-round pick and right now nobody would say a word about it. He’s great at punching the ball out and is a turnover machine. And do not sleep on Zeke Berry [heading into his sophomore year].”
Michigan’s depth is in a good enough place to where it can lose starting-caliber players and barely break a sweat about it. Competition reigns supreme everywhere, and it will continue well into fall camp. Some fanbases see departures as red flags, while others see it as an opportunity for new faces to step into larger roles. U-M’s roster building deserves all the praise it gets.
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