Michigan head coach Brady Hoke seems to have a knack for suggesting there is a battle for a starting job at positions that likely already have the starters figured out. After trying to suggest there is a competition at quarterback this offseason, Hoke is also setting the tone for the defensive backs despite having a pair of players that combined for 10 interceptions last season. The message is clear though; there is room for improvement across the board in Ann Arbor.
Fall camps in college football should always be seen as an opportunity to take advantage of a clean slate across the roster, but Michigan has senior cornerbacks Raymon Taylor and junior Blake Countess the likely starters for the upcoming season, whether Hoke confirms that or not. Hoke sees these two players as leaders but goes on the record of saying “they’ve got to play every day.”
“I think Blake and Ray, they’re both older guys, who have played a lot,” Hoke said Friday, according to MLive.com. “Then you’ve got (sophomores) [Jourdan Lewis] and [Channing Stribling], guys who have done a nice job (developing). The leadership from Blake is going to be important, and from Raymon. But there’s also great competition. They’ve got to play every day. … They all know, they’d better have a day, every day.”
Why would Hoke shy away from just leaning on his upper classmen, including one earning first-team All-Big Ten honors last fall (Countess)? Simple. Michigan’s pass defense needs to improve and cut down on big plays by opposing offenses. Everybody on defense needs to step things up this season in order for Michigan to improve in the win total and Big Ten standings. If Michigan State has a no-fly zone in effect, all air traffic appears to be seeing clearer skies in Ann Arbor.
The Wolverines ranked seventh in the Big Ten in pass defense in 2013, the lowest conference ranking since Hoke was named head coach following the Rich Rodriguez era, which ended with Michigan ranked 11th (out of 11 teams at the time) in the Big Ten’s passing defense ranking. The 231 passing yards per game allowed last season by Michigan was the second highest total allowed dating back to 2007.
As for the quarterback situation, Hoke previously has said he plans to have a starter figured out early in camp. Spoiler alert: It will (most likely) be Devin Gardner.
And then there were two.
Seeing the Justin Fields writing on the wall, Tate Martell transferred from Ohio State in mid-January and ultimately landed at Miami. Three months later, another OSU signal-caller, Matthew Baldwin, confirmed on Twitter Thursday night that he too has decided to take his leave of the Buckeyes and place his name into the NCAA transfer database.
“[S]pring was a tough time for me personally. My family and I have prayed and talked a lot about where I belong and what is best for me,” Baldwin wrote as part of a very classy Twitter post revealing his decision. “In the end, we feel like it’d be better for me to step away from Ohio State.”
A four-star member of OSU’s 2018 recruiting class, Baldwin was rated as the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the country coming out of high school in Austin, Texas. Baldwin didn’t play a down for the Buckeyes as he continued his rehab from an ACL injury he suffered late in his high school career at Lake Travis.
With the twin departures of Baldwin and Martell, OSU is now down to two scholarship quarterbacks — the Georgia transfer Fields (HERE) and West Virginia transfer Chris Chugunov (HERE). Fields was widely expected to be the Buckeyes’ starter under center in the 2019 opener; Baldwin’s decision ensures that, barring injury, that will indeed be the case.
A week and a half after word broke Luke Jones was intending to leave Notre Dame comes the announcement Jones is going to be playing closer to home. The Arkansas native announced with a message on Twitter he is coming home to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks.
“I would like to thank the University of Note Dame for giving me the opportunity to pursue my dream of playing college football,” Jones said in a brief message on his Twitter account. “However, I have decided to transfer and play football for the University of Arkansas. I will be enrolling in the summer and am excited for this new chapter in my life!”
Jones spent a brief moment with the Notre Dame program as he was a member of the Class of 2018 in South Bend. Prior to committing to the Fighting Irish, Jones had been committed to the Arkansas football program in his recruiting process, but Notre Dame emerged victorious in the recruiting game during a coaching change with the Razorbacks.
Jones will be required to sit out the 2019 season under standard NCAA transfer rules, although those seem to be more like guidelines these days, so we’ll wait to see if there is a chance Jones gets to jump into the mix in the offensive line for the Razorbacks this fall.
Tight end Tyler Sear is hopping on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and heading from one metropolitan corner of the state to the next. Sear announced on his Twitter account on Thursday he is transferring from Pitt to Temple.
The Class of 2017 recruit of the Panthers left the program last October for what was simply described as personal reasons. It was unknown if the leave of absence was a short-term or long-term plan as the decisions about the status were being kept close to the vest within the Pitt program.
Sear did battle some injury concerns during his time at Pitt that prevented him from potentially reaching his full potential for the Panthers. He caught two passes for nine yards last season prior to his stepping away from the team.
Perhaps a clean slate with a new program will do Sear good as he steps in to try contributing with the Owls in the AAC. Sear will have to sit out the 2019 season due to standard NCAA transfer rules, unless an exception is granted by the NCAA. It is unknown if a waiver will be filed by Sear and Temple for immediate eligibility.
Sear has not used a redshirt year yet so he could burn that in 2019 while waiting to get back on the field if he is forced to sit out the 2019 season. That ould leave Sear with two years of eligibility remaining beginning with the 2020 season.
Ass another name to the growing list of players entering the transfer portal. This time it is Michigan cornerback Myles Sims. According to a report from 247 Sports, the former four-star prospect in Michigan’s Class of 2018 is evaluating his options.
Any player who adds his name to the transfer portal is allowed to make contact with potential programs of interest, but it does not automatically mean that player is gone for god. Sims will have the option of pulling his name out of the portal in the event he decides to stay in Ann Arbor. How quickly Sims will make any decision one way or the other remains to be seen.
Sims did not see the field last season for Michigan so he can use the 2018 season as his redshirt year. That gives the former four-star recruit four years of eligibility remaining, although he will likely have to burn one year of eligibility by sitting out the upcoming 2019 season.
Standard NCAA transfer rules require a player to sit out a full season before being ruled eligible to play again, although exceptions have been made a bit more frequently over the past year. Whether or not Sims will have the chance to play right away this fall will have to wait to be determined when he decides what his plans will be moving forward.