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Posted on Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

6 risers and fallers from Michigan football team's spring camp

By Kyle Meinke

It was an uneventful spring camp for the Michigan football team -- and that's a good thing for a club that has 15 starters back from an 11-2 campaign.

Coach Brady Hoke wasn't changing up schemes. He has most of his playmakers back. He has established leaders, and depth at several key positions (with both lines being a notable exception).

He mostly was looking to get out healthy after 15 practices, and he did that, aside from some lumps here and there. But a few surprises did emerge along the way.

It's prudent to not read too much into the spring game -- which featured Denard Robinson for only one series, for example, and only base schemes on both sides of the ball, for another.

But, judging from what we saw Saturday, bolstered by camp reports from players and coaches, here are some risers and fallers from Michigan's spring:


Joey Burzynski


Joey Burzynski

The sophomore offensive lineman was mentioned by Hoke and coordinator Al Borges as a player who was standing out at left guard this spring -- but so was Elliott Mealer, and it was assumed the fifth-year senior was the leader at the position.

As it turns out, Burzynski has run with the first unit since about the midway point of camp, and got the call at left guard for the spring game. He was the biggest surprise of camp, and provides an unexpected source of depth on an offensive line that badly needs it.

Looking ahead: Burzynski will try to lock down the left guard spot in fall camp, battling Mealer and incoming freshman Kyle Kalis for the job.


Thomas Rawls evades a tackle by linebacker Jake Ryan at the Michigan spring game.

Angela J. Cesere |

Thomas Rawls

Running backs coach Fred Jackson has lauded Rawls since he first stepped foot on campus, and had fans in a tizzy last fall when he likened the Flint native to a faster version of Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram.

Rawls ended up carrying the ball only 13 times. Coaches have since said he exhibited poor vision last year, and too often tried to power through tackles. Now, he's avoiding them altogether and reading his holes quicker. It showed this spring, as he shimmied his way into consistent carries, and again in the spring game, when he was the first alternate for starter Fitz Toussaint in the backfield. He scored the day's only two touchdowns.

Looking ahead: Rawls helped himself in a big way this spring, and will be in a head-to-head battle with senior Vincent Smith for the non-Toussaint carries this fall. Smith is a proven blocker and pass-catcher, but Rawls is a powerful and more dynamic rusher.

Russell Bellomy

The redshirt freshman quarterback doesn't have a powerful arm, but he displayed in the spring game the accuracy and mobility coaches have raved about throughout camp. He moved the offense consistently, and Hoke isn't asking for much more than that from his backup.

It's important the Wolverines have a reliable No. 2 in the chute, since Robinson's running exposes him to frequent bang-ups. Bellomy showed he could be that guy -- and was certainly more impressive than current No. 2 Devin Gardner in the scrimmage. He completed six of his nine passes against the second-unit defense.

Looking forward: Hoke was clear that Gardner remains Michigan's No. 2 quarterback, which means Bellomy is the No. 3. Neither will supplant Robinson at No. 1. That means the best Bellomy can do is challenge Gardner for the backup role -- and he could do that, especially if the Gardner Experiment at receiver develops into something more.


Devin Gardner attempts to fend off junior defensive end Jibreel Black during the Michigan spring game.

Melanie Maxwell I


Devin Gardner

Speaking of Gardner ... he wasn't dreadful in the spring game, but he was close. He took a sack on his first snap, threw an interception on his second and things didn't get much better from there. He completed only two of his seven passes. Hoke said Gardner remains the backup quarterback, but could that change? It's more likely now than it was before the start of camp.

The junior also took snaps at receiver this spring, in an effort to utilize his athleticism. He's one of the Wolverines' best overall athletes, and his 6-foot-4 build makes him an attractive option at wideout, where Michigan lost top big-play threat Junior Hemingway.

Looking forward: Now that Bellomy is surfacing as a capable option as a backup quarterback, would it behoove the Wolverines to promote him to the No. 2 quarterback spot and slide Gardner to wideout? That will be a burning question heading into fall camp. As for now, Gardner needs to iron out his issues in the passing game, if he is to remain Michigan's quarterback of the future (with Bellomy gaining ground, and five-star recruit Shane Morris set to join the program next year, that's no longer a certainty).

Elliott Mealer

Mealer came to Michigan as a four-star tackle and ranked among the top 30 players nationally at his position. Now a fifth-year senior, he has played in only 10 games, and started none of them.

After Michigan moved its top two left guards to other positions this spring, it appeared Mealer, a career utility player, was primed to earn a starting spot. He was mentioned consistently by coaches as a starting candidate, and he appeared to be the favorite after redshirt freshman Chris Bryant was moved to right guard. But he was beaten out by Burzynski for first-team reps in the spring game, and could be headed back toward utility duty.

Looking forward: Mealer will still receive a steady diet of reps as Michigan tries to develop depth on its offensive line. His direct competition for playing time will be Burzynski and Bryant, as well as Kalis.


Backups defensive ends Keith Heitzman, right, and Frank Clark combine to bring down Justice Hayes in Michigan's spring game.

Melanie Maxwell |

Defensive line

The position was expected to be a work in progress, after it lost three starters from last year, and that proved to be the case. The Wolverines aren't so bad at end, where Craig Roh (strong side) and Brennen Beyer (weak side) played well. Their backups, Keith Heitzman and Frank Clark, respectively, showed promise.

But Hoke said the middle was "soft" in the spring game. Will Campbell and Jibreel Black started at tackle and flashed potential, but aren't anywhere near the level at which Mike Martin and Will Heininger played last year. Their backups, Quinton Washington and Richard Ash, have a long way to go before they're ready to contribute.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Wed, Apr 18, 2012 : 7:49 a.m.

What's Gardner's time in the 40. Could be a possibility at wideout. But, with your starting Q-back a senior you better decide something for future. Hard to say what is best for quarterback position. Public does not have privy inside knowledge of attitudes of players. Gardner did show a little last year and does have some experience at Q-back. Enough to lead the team next year ?. Denard's reckless style of play does open you up to injury and you better have somebody ready. What's the saying your number 2 is only one play away from being your starter.

Steve McQueen

Wed, Apr 18, 2012 : 8:18 a.m.

Denard may get dinged from time to time....but what running QB doesnt? As far as I recall... Denard has not missed an entire game in his 2 years as a starter. Now he may go down for a number of plays after taking a shot, but he always gets right back in there. He is a very tough kid. Not sure of Devin's 40, but Id guess it to be 4.6 or possibly in the 4.5s, which is outstanding for a man of his size.

Steve McQueen

Wed, Apr 18, 2012 : 1:51 a.m.

In defense of Mealer. He did have a torn rotator cuff that happened in the tragedy...and the tragedy itself was devastating. That pretty much wiped out his first 2 years as he had to rehab. He played well in the spring game, often next to Chris Bryant who did not play very well. I expect Mealer to grab that guard spot in the fall. Burzynski is a nice story, but really he is this season's Nathan Brink.


Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 5:36 p.m.

According to the coaches and the players, Devin had an outstanding spring practice. To say that he has fallen is completely inappropriate, and just an all-around nasty thing to say about a player who has been dedicated to this program (same goes for the other players you say have "fallen"). Just a horrible, shameful article. I say ask yourself who has "fallen" after posting this article.


Wed, Apr 18, 2012 : 3 p.m.

Lol wow. It's just an opinion dude. Your entitled to yours as well.


Wed, Apr 18, 2012 : 7:32 a.m.

sheesh... lighten up


Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

Same situation every year, "out with the old and in with the new".


Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 4:46 p.m.

Can we finally, finally put to rest the "Denard should play WR, make Devin the starting QB" nonsense we intelligent people have had to listen to for the last couple years?

Zak Tillman

Fri, Apr 20, 2012 : 3:24 a.m.

If Denard doesn't throw 15 INTs again this year then yes those comments will be put to rest.


Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

I SEE NO HOPES for D. Gardner at QB. He is almost DONE at that position - no desire, no motivation, no growth, no improvement in his passing game where UM could rely on him, NOTHING !!

Zak Tillman

Fri, Apr 20, 2012 : 3:23 a.m.

you're basing this comment on what? A spring game? A few passes where he came off the bench cold last season? Last year everyone was talking about him taking over for Denard and moving DRob to WR. Lets see how he does next year were he will have an actual shot at being the starter.


Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 6:58 a.m.

He had no playing time for 2 years, one of the reasons why he did not develop more.

Terry Star21

Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 2:55 p.m.

I still think we are stronger and better than Hoke wants to admit, and that's fine. This years team will have the ability to run the table as Michigan Man Ted believes, and shouldn't really surprise anyone - it's Michigan of course. I like how coach Hoke and his staff run the practices and what the players learn, take away from and bring back to the game. MgoBlueForTiM.....continued great writing by Kyle Man....

Robert Granville

Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 2:43 p.m.

Falling stock is a totally inappropriate designation for Devin Gardner. He threw vs the ones unlike bellomy who only played the twos. Bellomy only made check down throws to routes covered by linebackers and d-ends. Of course Bellomy looked more efficient making easy tosses. At the end of the day they threw for the same yardage but Gardner picked up many more on the ground. Devin is the outright #2. His stock has not fallen. Stop reading so much into a spring game that demonstrated next to nothing.


Wed, Apr 18, 2012 : 5:34 p.m.

I agree with you. Plus if Gardner played some receiver during the spring that takes away from his QB development unless the move is part of that having both Denard and Devin on the field at the same time like it was discussed last year.


Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 5:34 p.m.

Completely agree Robert - according to the coaches and the players, Devin had an outstanding spring practice. To say that he has fallen is completely inappropriate, and just an all-around nasty thing to say about a player who has been dedicated to this program (same goes for the others who are said to have "fallen"). Just a horrible, shameful article.


Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 4:44 p.m.

2 for 7, 36 yards, 1 INT. 40-sum yards rushing. Looks like Denard his freshman year... which was pretty terrible.

Terry Star21

Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

Robert, the spring game is of not that much concern - the 14 spring practices were however, and Bellomy has looked good, Gardner not so much......

Scott Laux

Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 2:12 p.m.

Rawls looks stronger than Ingram. If he stays healthy he gives Michigan a whole new dimension in short yardage situations. Devin Gardner is an incredible athlete (great hands and moves and speed) . He would be the first receiver chosen in the 2013 draft if he played that position. Calvin Johnson II. Bellomy has great touch with the ball. It will be interesting to see how much that makes up for arm strength. On things for sure- he is very smart (and tall) and for a QB that is huge. Burzynski to start? Wow. And he came to Michigan for the academics.

Zak Tillman

Fri, Apr 20, 2012 : 3:19 a.m.

I don't know if I would compare him to Calvin Johnson just yet, and as I posted on an earlier comment we are all talking and thinking like Gardner wants to be a WR. What if he only wants to be a QB?

Steve McQueen

Wed, Apr 18, 2012 : 1:53 a.m.

The Way... Gardner has huge hands. He played some WR in the summer camp after his senior year, and none of the top rated corners could cover him. Also he has shown the same type of hands in some Michigan practices...he could be a beast at WR.


Wed, Apr 18, 2012 : 1:20 a.m.

okay, fred jackson...


Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 4:43 p.m.

How exactly do you know he has "great hands"? How many balls have you seen him catch?


Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 2:03 p.m.

The more I think about it the more I really want to see Gardner become a wideout.

Zak Tillman

Fri, Apr 20, 2012 : 3:17 a.m.

My only concern is the same as Denard if they were to switch him to a hybrid slot/rb/returner, would he stay? Gardner I'm sure wants to be a QB and there are probably quite a few teams, especially in the MAC, who would give him a shot if he were to transfer. So it's a high risk to try and just move him to WR.


Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 6:48 a.m.

Yeah, instead of sitting around in the bench, if the guy has talent at WR, then why not. Afterall, he has the height and the athleticism.


Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.

I totally agree with the Bellomy/Gardner assessments. The former looked much better than Gardner when passing. Overall, though, I'm not sure if the defenive line looked superb or the offensive line was a sieve.

jeff blue

Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 1:24 p.m.

JEFF BLUE's not so bold predictions (I wish I was thinking 11 - 2 again), but I see 9 - 4: vs. Alabama (in Arlington, TX) Loss Air Force Win Massachusettes Win @ Notre Dame Loss @ Purdue Win Illinois Win Michigan State Win @ Nebraska Loss @ Minnesota Win Northwestern Win Iowa Win @ Ohio State Loss

Zak Tillman

Fri, Apr 20, 2012 : 3:14 a.m.

I don't really understand how you can pick us over MSU and then lose to OSU. It seems that you took the home team in all of our big games this year and I am pretty sure we can beat Nebraska and OSU at their stadium. We beat Nebraska 45-17 last year and we are returning 15 starters, it's not like we are rebuilding. And OSU is going through a major offensive change and the defense will be starting some freshman up front. MSU is our biggest threat in the BIG. And ND will probably be starting a freshman QB, our secondary and linebackers will eat him up, Mattison will have plenty of surprises for him for sure. Alabama is of course the one I am most worried about. We do have a winning record against the SEC overall though and they are rebuilding (or reloading depending on who you talk to) on defense so I am not counting us out or penciling that game in as a loss just yet.


Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 6:46 a.m.

The 4 losses is possible but the only probable sure loss is the Alabama game. All games in the B1G are winnable.


Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 10:07 p.m.

TS21, do u hear these people LOL? ND=L??? Really? ohio=L??? Really dude? LOL Nebraska will be overrated and under achievers every year. THEY STILL HAVE TAYLOR MARTINEZ AT QB! But I do think this is all amusing tho. Part of me wanna stay off these sites until after the season just to come back and watch yall eat...... these comments. But continue on. GO BLUE!!!


Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 4:35 p.m.

And I will not make any predictions on wins for this team. They were only supposed to win 7 or 8 games last year. Though the schedule is tougher this year, I feel the team will be better. Hopefully that will offset the schedule. We shall see.


Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 4:31 p.m.

Franky, I actually agree with you on the Urban Meyer thought. Though I think he is a dirt ball who would willingly sweep things under the rug alla Tressel, he is certainly not clueless. But I also have to say as mentioned earlier on the Borges article: I think anyone who knows football can see that Hoke is not an Xs and Os coach. He coaches technique and he is a LEADER. He doesn't call the plays, but he makes the major decisions in each and every game. Borges and Mattison are fantastic at what they do. They are Xs and Os coaches on there respectable sides of the ball. Make no mistake, Hoke is the HEAD coach and undisputed leader of this program. The beauty of it all is that everyone within the program knows there role. That's what leads to 11 wins! Not "fans" outside the program second guessing coaches because of the lack of a headset.


Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

I love the Urban haters..."He hasn't a clue"!? Only every college football coach in the country WISHES they could be as clueless as him and have 'how' many national championships??? yeah, Brady is a good guy, but everyone know the Off/Def coordinators are running that team. they lose at LEAST '4' games this year.

jeff blue

Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 3:14 p.m.

Good comments and I agree. There are certain games this year that will tell the 2012 story. I am not confident in B10 vs SEC games - I hope we don't play an SEC team in our bowl. College football is a "game of inches" an we are likely to have some very close games. Nobody can really "call" these games as of today: Alabama, Notre Dame, MSU, Nebraska, OSU. Plus all of these tough games are really road games, except MSU.


Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

OOPS, I mean 2 wins, not three

Terry Star21

Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

This is funny Jeff, love comedy.....the ohio game is the funniest.....urban hasn't a clue.....


Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 2:46 p.m.

I almost agree. I think we will get 3 wins from the Alabama, ND, MSU, Neb, OSU games. I think we will be battle tested and rested against ND= W, We will finally get off the snyde against little brother= W. OSU will be playing their bowl game against us at home = L, @ NEB fisrt time to Lincoln and they will be rabid = L, and @ Alabama (effectively) = L Their second team lines would start at Michigan. 10-3 Capital One Bowl


Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 2:08 p.m.

Michigan won't lose to ND.

Matt Patercsak

Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 12:53 p.m.

"Now, he's avoiding them altogether and reading his holes quicker." Rawls is reading his holes quicker, but what made him stand out saturday was his yards after contact and physicality. so "avoiding them altogether" is not really applicable. The segment, save the last paragraph made him seem like a scat back