Spring Game, we can take a look at the biggest performers and the biggest disappointments of the day. Obviously, a lot of this is subjective, considering that Michigan was playing themselves and for every good play there is also a bad play, but I still think it's appropriate to take a look at what unfolded over the afternoon. I've compiled a list of the players that I believe were the biggest performers of the afternoon.
1) Russell Bellomy
A lot had been made about Bellomy's performances during spring practice and many described the massive improvements he has undergone as of late. I think fans saw a lot of that improvement before their eyes on Saturday. He not only completed a lot of passes and moved the ball, but he also looked poised in the pocket and under pressure, which is pretty difficult for a freshman (he will be a red-shirt freshman next season).
I remember one play that really caught my eye. He had dropped back in the pocket and several defenders had surrounded him and it looked like he was about to get sacked. However, he was able to get away and completed the pass anyway. This showed a lot of confidence for a quarterback that many had forgotten existed until a few weeks ago. He has probably been the most under the radar quarterback Michigan has signed in a long time. This is the first time fans got to see him in action, but there was no major response as was seen with players like Gardner in 2010.
I wrote about this a few weeks back, but I truly believe that by the end of next season, Bellomy will have secured the backup quarterback role from Devin Gardner. There are going to be a lot of people that disagree with me, but I see this for two primary reasons. First, Bellomy has improved significantly over the last few months and there's no reason to believe that improvement won't continue. Second, Gardner still seems to struggle with the offense in many situations and I think he is going to be so good if he moves to wide receiver that the coaches will not want to move him back under center.
Bottomline, Bellomy had the best Spring Game out of any player on Michigan's roster, especially considering his low expectations entering the game. With his development, there are sure to be some quarterback controversies over the next few seasons with him, Gardner, and Shane Morris.
2) Thomas Rawls
I can remember several situations when I thought for sure that he was going to be tackled or stopped in the backfield, but he would somehow escape or be able to throw the defender off himself. This is something that's going to get him the extra yards and one of the biggest reasons I'm predicting that he will become the backup running back by time the season ends. Yes, Vincent Smith is a great player and is very useful in certain scenarios (notably 3rd downs and passing plays) because of his blocking and catching skills, but Rawls has that raw ability that Smith will probably never gain during his career.
Now, don't get me wrong, Rawls is far from the best running back on the field (that title belongs to Toussaint), but I think he's going to be very good. Right now, he is certainly more prepared than guys like Justice Hayes and I think he's going to continue that during next season. He's not going to pass Toussaint for the starter position anytime soon, but I wouldn't be surprised if he saw a lot of action next season.
3) Blake Countess
Countess is the only player I've chosen that was a starter last season. This isn't because I think the starters performed badly, but rather that their expectations were significantly higher than players like Bellomy and Rawls. Toussaint had an excellent Spring Game and probably deserved the MVP award (if there was an award), but he should have done well. He proved himself last season and the Spring Game is typically about players that don't often see the field. Bellomy and Rawls didn't have a lot of expectations before the Spring Game, which is why their performances were so impressive. Players like Toussaint would have to do something spectacular to be the biggest performers of the day.
Having said that, Countess played so well that I felt it would be a crime not to include him on this list. He was the only defensive player to get a turnover against a scholarship quarterback and did an impressive job in shutting down many of the receivers he was covering. Granted, he didn't have the task of guarding against the best quarterback on the team, Denard Robinson, but he still did a fantastic job in coverage. I truly think Countess is one of those players that is just going to get progressively better in college without taking those major steps back.
There had been some doubts after the Ohio State game and the Sugar Bowl that Michigan and Countess' coverage weren't that good, but I think he ended those worries when he grabbed that interception out of the air. Countess is here to stay and he and J.T. Floyd are going to be a great duo during next season. I feel bad for the wide receivers that have the challenge of playing against them.
Overall, the Spring Game went pretty well for Michigan and there were a lot of improvements by many players. There's no way to say whether these improvements will carry over to next season, but players such as Bellomy, Rawls, and Countess have got to have fans excited for not only next season, but the next few years of Michigan football.
Photo Credit: AnnArbor.com