Michigan football spring game takeaways: Get ready to see Benjamin Hall star at RB

There was a little bit of everything in Michigan football's spring game, but that's probably to be expected in an scrimmage to open April.

It's likely not wise to draw too many sweeping conclusions from the event — last year, Darius Clemons stole the show; he's not done, but he didn't have a fall impact — but there were moments and players who stood out at the Maize and Blue scrimmage.

The Mike Hart-coached Maize team beat the Jay Harbaugh-coached Blue team, 22-21, after Leon Franklin scored a touchdown and tight end Payton O'Leary caught the game-winning two-point conversion from quarterback Davis Warren with 1:44 to play.

Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy huddles up on offense during the spring game at Michigan Stadium, April 1, 2023 in Ann Arbor.
Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy huddles up on offense during the spring game at Michigan Stadium, April 1, 2023 in Ann Arbor.

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The Maize team's reward: A steak dinner, while the Blue team gets hot dogs.

The good

Although there was one throw quarter back J.J. McCarthy will want back, the junior — who wore a white "no contact" jersey — once again showed the tantalizing talent from last fall, particularly on his final drive, which wrapped up the first half.

It started when he found O'Leary up the left sideline for a gain of 24.

On the next play, he threw an NFL-caliber pass from the left hash to the right sideline, just above the underneath defender yet below the defensive back crashing down on the play, for another first down.

Later on the drive on third-and-goal, from the 5, McCarthy rolled left against his body and threw a strike to Jake Thaw to tie the game at 7-all. McCarthy finished 7-for-10 for 84 yards, a touchdown and an interception despite throwing to non-standard targets such as Franklin, O'Leary and Matthew Hibner.

As for the newcomers, many popped, including Josaiah Stewart. The edge rusher transfer from Coastal Carolina had four tackles in the first half, including two for a loss and one sack, in which he beat Tristan Bounds from McCarthy's blind side.

Ernest Hausmann was another transfer who made his name known early and often. The soon-to-be sophomore from Nebraska had a first half-high five tackles, then made a game-changing play in the third quarter when he stripped Tuttle to set up the Blue team on Maize's side of the field.

Lastly, there was running back Benjamin Hall.

The freshman back got a lot of the work load for the Blue team in the second half and had one truly eye-popping run. On the final play of the third quarter, the 5-foot-10, 225-pounder got the handoff and waited patiently behind his line, then bounced right, juked back left, accelerated and outran the defense to the 1 for a 31-yard gain.

He reached the end zone two plays later to put Blue up, 14-7. Earlier in the drive, he had a 10-yard run in which he planted his right foot hard then cut upfield. He enters the season deep on the depth chart behind Blake Corum, Donovan Edwards and CJ Stokes, but expect the Wolverines to get him on the field when they can.

Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh on the field during the spring game at Michigan Stadium, April 1, 2023 in Ann Arbor.
Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh on the field during the spring game at Michigan Stadium, April 1, 2023 in Ann Arbor.

The bad

It's spring, so sloppiness is to be expected — but five turnovers was excessive.

On the bright side, at least the "Turnover Buffs," Michigan's sunglasses reward for taking the ball away, got a workout.

The first miscue came on a McCarthy interception on the game's opening drive; he had Marlin Klein wide open on on a post route but overthrew him, and Quentin Johnson came away with the pick.

The next was a Franklin fumble, recovered by Amorion Walker, on Blue's next possession.

Indiana transfer quarterback Jack Tuttle, who led Maize to the first score of the game with his legs, committed the next two. The first came late in the second quarter, when he avoided the initial rush but instead of throwing the ball away tried to heave a pass downfield; it floated long enough for Zeke Berry to pick it off.

Tuttle then fumbled in the third quarter when he was stripped by Hausmann — but Warren gave the ball back on the next play when Micah Pollard ran under a deep ball for an interception.

The noteworthy

Seven notable players on offense and defense sat this one out: Corum, Edwards, Stokes, Cole Cabana, AJ Henning, Will Johnson and Junior Colson.

Nikhai Hill-Green was back on the field, however.

The linebacker was expected to compete for a starting spot a season ago before he suffered a soft-tissue injury last summer that sidelined him for the entire season. His return to the field is inherently positive, though his actual day was up-and-down.

He was beat in man coverage in the third quarter by Maize's Hibner on a crossing route; Hibner took the pass 52 yards for the longest play of the day. But Hill-Green made up for it four plays later, when he sacked Warren on fourth-and-goal from the 3.

Early in the second half, Maize's Jaden McBurrows read a screen pass from Alex Orji to Hall and blew up the play for a loss of 5 yards. On the next snap, Derrick Moore blew through the line and slammed Hall for another loss on a draw play.

Tuttle also showed enough for Wolverines fans to be optimistic about his potential as a backup. His scoring drive in the first half lasted 17 plays and covered 68 yards, capped by a 3-yard Kalel Mullings TD run.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan football spring game takeaways: Benjamin Hall an eye-opener