Why Michigan football DT Mason Graham impressed Alex Orji spring ball

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — There are a lot of open spots for Michigan football this spring, but none are more high profile than that of the quarterback position.

Vacated by J.J. McCarthy who entered the NFL draft with a year of eligibility remaining, the Wolverines don’t have an heir apparent to the former five-star, but they have multiple candidates who are vying for the role of starter. Among the top contenders is junior signal caller Alex Orji.

On Monday, Michigan defensive tackle Mason Graham was asked which quarterback has particularly impressed him a week into spring ball and he noted that Orji, thanks to his ability to scramble or outright run, has really gotten his attention in practice.

“I’d probably say — I mean they’re all doing a good job — but Alex Orji can make plays with his legs,” Graham said. “So he’s a really big threat when it comes to that. He keeps us on edge. You don’t know what he’s doing, even when he doesn’t have the ball because he’s a weapon. Creates opportunities.

“I feel like everyone’s playing really good, presenting challenges throughout the spring so far. So, good competition.”

What is it about Orji’s ability to move the pocket and take off running that’s impressed Graham the most? Well, it’s the fact that he’s never quite sure what he might do on any given play.

In a game, Graham says, that presents challenges to any defensive line. Because a more stoic, pocket-passer is a bit more dead-to-rights, whereas a player like Orji keeps rushing linemen on their toes a bit more. And that can weigh on them.

“Especially from a defensive lineman standpoint, you’re rushing the quarterback and when a quarterback’s not very mobile or can’t move as well, you’re more confident in what you’re doing and you can do,” Graham said. “But when there’s somebody back there that can just run at any given time and you’ve gotta chase him down, it’s in the back of your mind throughout the game.”

Fans will get a chance to see Orji and the other quarterbacks in action in the annual spring game, which takes place on April 20 at noon at The Big House. The spring game will be broadcast nationally on Fox.

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