#7 Michigan Wolverines v Michigan State Spartans
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Score: Michigan State (14), #7 Michigan (10)
3 Things We Learned
1) Michigan Defensive Tackle Maurice Hurst’s First Step
Hurst continues to display elite first-step quickness and he played a fantastic football game on Saturday. Like some of the undersized interior linemen before him that have been drafted early, he is able to win because of his natural leverage and combination of rare first-step quickness and power. Hurst is extremely disruptive and could be seen chasing the ball laterally after getting into the backfield due to his quickness.
He is athletic while on the move and will track down running backs if they delay to turn the corner. Hurst lined up as a 1-technique and a 3-technique in the game and was a handful for the Spartans offensive line regardless of where he matched up. Hurst did a nice job of blowing up the pocket at times, requiring the Spartans to put multiple blockers on him in order to keep him at bay. He also showcased good instincts to find the ball, chase and pursue and generally was a problem for the Spartans all night long.
2) Michigan’s Future is Bright on Defense
The Michigan defense has an incredibly bright future as they are already an elite defense and are only losing three players next year (linebackers Mike McCray and Chase Vinovich, and defensive tackle Maurice Hurst). Defensive coordinator Don Brown leaves his cornerbacks to play man-to-man coverage and he attacks with the rest of this defense. Cornerbacks Josh Metellus and LaVert Hill are both very good man coverage cornerbacks, capable of playing physically at the line of scrimmage and both have shown the ability to stay tight in coverage to make plays on the ball.
Defensive end Rashan Gary is an outstanding physical specimen, drawing double teams consistently because of his combination of quickness and power. Gary has long arms and plays with fantastic leverage to win at the point of attack and he does a great job of working through those double teams to squeeze and collapse the pocket to allow teammates to make plays.
Linebacker Devin Bush looks to have rare qualities and might be the best of the bunch at this point. He plays a touch on the reckless side and he’ll tiptoe on the razor’s edge at times to make hits that some might consider dirty. He is a nasty finisher and definitely brings physicality to finish a play. He has fantastic lateral quickness to chase plays from sideline to sideline and is a very aggressive player, and sometimes that aggression will bite him as it did on the Spartans second touchdown on Saturday. Bush fell for the action of the play working to his right, and the Spartans threw a screen pass to the other side of the field where Bush should have been. It may not have mattered as State had multiple blockers set up and Bush would have had to make a phenomenal play to get the running back to the ground, but it definitely showed how his aggressive nature can be manipulated.
Bush is very sound in coverage and his athleticism shines in this area as he can flip his hips and run with backs, receivers and tight ends and can stay tight in coverage to make plays on the ball.
3) Miscellaneous Thoughts
Michigan State senior center Brian Allen continues to flash solid play strength and does an adequate job of moving his feet at the college level. He plays with good leverage and maximizes his physical ability through great effort. However, he struggles to anchor and can get moved back into the pocket too easily. He is technically sound and a very solid college center but there isn’t a lot of upside in his play.
Michigan senior left tackle Mason Cole displayed decent footwork, doing a good job of getting out into the second level and breaking down to adjust and block targets. He is sound as a blind-side tackle at the college level but I worry about his ability to hold up to power and speed in the NFL. Michigan State redshirt junior tight end Matt Sokol continues to flash excellent athleticism even though he isn’t utilized a lot in the passing game. He is a smart player and sits into openings in zone coverage to help the Spartans move the chains.
Interestingly, the Spartans have used him as an option in sweep type situations where they shovel pass the ball to him and try to get him into the second level. He is also a very willing blocker and did a great job on multiple plays in the game. He made a great block on a sweep to the strong side of the formation, sustaining his block for a long time and allowing the running back to gain extra yards. Also, he made an excellent block on quarterback Brian Lewerke’s touchdown run.