I left certain names of this list, such as Ben Gedeon, Grant Perry, and Channing Stribling, because they don't fit the profile of a true breakout candidate. In other words, they have already broken out (IMO) and shown their worth as potential starters or primary backups already. To be on this list you must be a relative unknown or major question mark going into the season.
|Mike McCray II #9|
OT Grant Newsome (So) - Newsome (6'7"/300lbs) proved to be so good as a true freshman that the coaches had to find a way to get him on the field. So, as any innovative staff would do, they went as far as employing a six man front line to start the game against Minnesota, and moved other players (Mason Cole) around to get him in other games and take advantage of any mismatches. Coming out of spring, Newsome is the guy to beat at left tackle and it would take a truly unforeseen breakthrough performance by another player to pry the job away from him. I expect him to be protecting from that position for the next three years at a very high level. Do not be surprised if he becomes an All-Big Ten player and future NFL draft pick.
|Tyree Kinnel #23|
TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr. (RFr) - Very few players impressed in the spring more than Wheatley Jr. His size alone catches everyone's eye at 6'6"/285lbs, and he provided one of the biggest highlights of spring practices - a one-handed catch and run that turned into a 75 yard score at Ford Field. Yes, it was practice, but it's hard not to take note of such things from a guy with his measurables. The coaches mentioned him a lot since the bowl practices last December as a player that has shown tremendous improvement, so it's fair to say that any hype building up over him is at least somewhat warranted. I for one will be surprised if he doesn't take over A.J. Williams' blocking role and provide a couple big plays this fall.
|Ty Issac #32|
DE's Chase Winovich and Lawrence Marshall (RSo) - This one is a twofer as both guys will be counted on to provide some depth at the end positions this season. Marshall got high praise from Harbaugh coming out of his first spring last year, but he failed to make an impact in the fall. He continues to grow and mature, and with a strong summer this year he could get his chance to compete on Saturdays. On the other hand, Winovich has proven to be a bit of a disappointment at both linebacker and tight end. The coaches moved him to the weak-side end spot for spring practices and he responded well. He got a lot of props from the staff, including defensive coordinator Don Brown. These coaches are no dummies. They know they are about to lose most of their top players along the line. They will need to get some of the younger guys a little game work in order to prepare for the future. And with Hawaii (3-10), Central Florida (0-12), and Colorado (4-8) all at home to kick off the season one would have to think that some backups will get plenty of opportunities to play. Just as much, the Wolverines could use another pass-rusher in the mix, and both Winovich and Marshall should get a chance to prove themselves worthy of playing time very soon.