Michigan football stock watch: Gemon Green plays well in first start at CB

Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press
·5 min read

Free Press sports writer Orion Sang looks at which Michigan football players helped or hurt their stock in Saturday's 49-24 win at Minnesota:

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QB Joe Milton: No one outside of the program knew what to expect from Michigan's new starting quarterback, who entered Saturday's game with just 11 career pass attempts. But Milton played just fine, completing 15-of-22 passes for 225 yards and one touchdown, and could've had another if tight end Erick All held onto a wide-open pass down the seam in the second half. Milton was also an asset in the run game, with eight carries for 52 yards and one score, including a crucial 23-yard pickup on third-and-2 that led to a touchdown. Most importantly, Milton didn't turn the ball over. That reverses the trend from 2019, when the Wolverines' offense repeatedly turned the ball over during the first half of the season. What more could Michigan have asked for in his first start?

[ What we learned at Minnesota; what to watch vs. Michigan State ]

The running backs: The Wolverines repeatedly said all offseason that they would play all four of the top running backs, and that's exactly what happened. The rotation worked: Zach Charbonnet, Hassan Haskins, Chris Evans and Blake Corum had 20 total carries for 176 yards and four touchdowns. Michigan wanted more explosive runs, and that's what it got: Charbonnet had a 70-yard touchdown, while Haskins had a 66-yard gain. Corum and Evans both got involved in the passing game, too, with Corum catching two passes for 36 yards and Evan catching one for 10 yards.

Michigan Wolverines running back Zach Charbonnet rushes for a 70-yard touchdown in the first quarter against Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium, Oct. 24, 2020.
Michigan Wolverines running back Zach Charbonnet rushes for a 70-yard touchdown in the first quarter against Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium, Oct. 24, 2020.

The offensive line: With four new starters and less time to develop chemistry compared to a normal offseason, there were plenty of questions facing Michigan's offensive line. The unit began to answer some of those with a dominating performance against the Gophers. All five offensive linemen worked together to open up holes in the run game, and they helped keep Milton upright in the passing game.

[ Michigan jumps three spots to No. 14 in latest Amway Coaches Poll ]

“The offensive line, the pass protection, I saw the stat line where there was one sack," Harbaugh said. "I can’t remember that sack. The protection was great. There was just a real firm pocket the entire day. Joe could always step up, he was clean the entire time. The only time he was really getting hit was when he was running with the ball."

CB Gemon Green: During fall camp, U-M pointedly mentioned how open the competition was to replace Ambry Thomas, starting opposite of Vincent Gray against Minnesota's high-powered offense. As it turned out, Green might've played even better than Gray, the team's No. 1 cornerback. He covered Rashod Bateman for much of the game and defended well, with a noteworthy stop on a slot fade to Bateman on third-and-goal. Green also had a couple near-interceptions, including one play when he jumped a route to the tight end in the middle of the field. He did give up a 44-yard gain to Chris Autman-Bell, who made a nice play to adjust to an under-thrown ball. But Green was solid in his starting debut.

Michigan's Gemon Green defends a pass against Minnesota in the second half at TCF Bank Stadium, Oct. 24, 2020.
Michigan's Gemon Green defends a pass against Minnesota in the second half at TCF Bank Stadium, Oct. 24, 2020.

LB Michael Barrett: Also making his first start, Barrett was seen vomiting on the field in the first quarter. "Just feel like I just did a lot in a little amount of time, just going fast," he explained. "Sometimes it just has to come up. Once it comes up, you feel so much better. It just happens.” The puking didn't affect his performance at all: Barrett made the defensive play of the game when he forced a sack fumble that was returned for a touchdown by defensive tackle Donovan Jeter. He finished with seven tackles, 1.5 for loss, and even added a 66-yard return off a squib kick to set up a touchdown.

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K Jake Moody: It's hard to find fault after a win like Saturday's. But Moody will surely wish he had some of his kicks back after missing three field-goal attempts from 38, 48 and 33 yards out. The junior was wide right on his first attempt — Harbaugh said he didn't feel as if Moody kicked the ball "with the authority that he usually does" — and then missed the second, longer attempt to the left, despite having enough distance. The third miss was not all Moody's fault, as the snap was low, which then affected the "whole mechanic" of the kick, according to Harbaugh. Moody began his career 10-of-11 on field goals, taking control of the place-kicking job at the end of 2018. Since then, he is just 6-of-12, and was 6-of-9 in 2019 before Quinn Nordin regained control of the job toward the end of the season.

Contact Orion Sang at osang@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @orion_sang. Read more on the Michigan Wolverines and sign up for our Wolverines newsletter. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here's how you can gain access to our most exclusive Michigan Wolverines content.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan football stock watch: CB Gemon Green solid in first start