Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Team Positional Rankings, Depth Chart, Predictions, 2017

Predicted 2017 Regular Season Record: 10-2 


Ranking the Units from Worst to First:


The Question Marks:

Punting
  1. Will Hart (RFr)
  2. Brad Robbins (Fr)
Bottom Line: The biggest question mark on the team is right here at punter. Who can Harbaugh rely on here? A second year preferred walk-on? A true freshman who was a signing day offer? Sure, there are other bodies out there, but none of them look like great options thus far. Luckily, Nordin could play here if needed too. But that would be asking a lot of the second-year kicker that has never attempted anything on the college playing field.

Prediction: The punting, or a lack thereof, will probably contribute to at least one loss this season. However, it will not be a total disaster and there is more than enough special teams coverage talent to keep returners at bay. Luckily, the offense will also be good enough to keep the punts under four per game, thus limiting the opportunities for big returns, blocks, or muffed balls.

Opponents That Could Make The Punters Lose Sleep: Florida K/P Returners (it's a big task in week one!); Ohio State KR Parris Campbell; Rutgers KR Janarion Grant; Indiana Hoosiers Punt Blocking

Preview Grade: D+

Cornerback
  1. Brandon Watson (RJr)
  2. David Long (So)
  3. Ambry Thomas (Fr)
  1. Keith Washington (RSo)
  2. Lavert Hill (So)
  3. Benjamin St-Juste (Fr)
  4. Drake Harris (RJr)

Bottom Line: No players returning with real starting experience here, but at least five guys who appear to be ready enough to compete on the college field. With the athleticism that is available here, this group is destined to get better with more experience.

Prediction: This group of youngsters won't get exposed as much as it would in most years due to a stellar pass-rush up front, but some big plays will be given up in the secondary. The tackling will be solid enough on the perimeter for it ever to become a complete disaster, which will be a testament to the ability of this coaching staff. In the end, this pass defense will still remain among the top units in the Big Ten, but it's hard not to imagine this group as anything but a relative weakness going into the season. And I am willing to bet that they get taken to the woodshed by at least one Big Ten passer this fall.

Opponents That Could Make The Cornerbacks Lose Sleep: Florida WR Antonio Callaway; Indiana WR's Simmie Cobbs and Nick Westbrook; Rutgers WR Janarion Grant; Penn State QB Trace McSorley

Preview Grade: C-


Kicking
  1. Quinn Nordin (RFr)
  2. Kyle Seychel (RJr)
Bottom Line: It was hard to gauge the kicking situation. Nordin could be a special talent that elevates that area to an immediate strength. It is unclear if he is ready to handle the pressure of big-time college football. Seychel is competing hard and will provide some depth. He could even take the job if Nordin is not up to the challenge. There is a lot of promise here. But contrary to my typical optimistic fan ways, I won't believe the hype until I see it.

Prediction: There will be some ups and downs, but Nordin will emerge as a real strength at the position by 2018. At least one big field goal will get missed this season, probably contributing to a loss, but there will also be a few kicks made that seemingly defy logic. There will be ups and downs. Kickoffs should be fine with Nordin booming balls through the endzone on a regular basis.

Opponents That Could Make The Kickers Lose Sleep: Ohio State PR/KR Parris Campbell; Rutgers PR/KR Janarion Grant; Maryland DE Chandler Burkett, Minnesota Kicker Emmit Carpenter

Grade: C+


Wide Receiver
  1. Kekoa Crawford (So)
  2. Mo' Ways (RJr)
  3. Nico Collins (Fr)
  1. Tarik Black (Fr)
  2. Nate Shoenle (RFr)
  3. Donovan Peoples-Jones (Fr)
  4. Nate Johnson (RFr)
  1. Grant Perry
  2. Eddie McDoom
  3. Oliver Martin (Fr)
Bottom Line: The talent level is very high among this group of players, so there is a lot of promise here. On the contrary, there are no returning starters and very little experience throughout the group. In fact, there is a grand total of 44 catches on the entire receiving corps' resume. It's anybody's guess as to how they will respond when the lights come on.

Prediction: Crawford, Black, and Shoenle are the top three guys going into fall camp. Mo' Ways and Grant Perry are right behind those three in their respective development, but things will change quickly. Perry will also be in a battle for the slot position with McDoom and Martin. Shoenle could play there as well. The coaches will utilize multiple formations and a variety of lineups to keep opponents on their toes. They will also have a lot of wrinkles drawn up to make use of some special talents and abilites.

Opponents That Could Make The Wide Receivers Lose Sleep: Florida CB Duke Dawson; Penn State CB John Reid; Indiana CB Rashard Fant; Ohio State CB Denzel Ward; Penn State S Marcus Allen

Grade: C+


Position Groups on the Rise:

Safety
  1. Tyree Kinnel (Jr)
  2. Jaylen Kelly-Powell (Fr)
  3. Brad Hawkins (Fr)
  1. Josh Metellus (So)
  2. J'Marick Woods (Fr)
  3. Tyler Cochran (RFr)
Bottome Line: Another unit that has no returning starters but do have a couple guys with experience set to take over. In fact, I see the combination of Metellus and Kinnel as a possible upgrade over Delano Hill and Dymonte Thomas. The problem is that there really isn't any depth to speak of yet. Hopefully, Kelly-Powell, Woods, and Hawkins - all freshmen - will be ready to play. Glasgow and Hudson both have some experience here too, but both guys are playing the "Viper" position these days. Watson also has the ability to play here in a pinch too, but the team really needs its younger players to step up quickly.

Prediction: Very little, if any, loss of production here overall as long as everybody stays healthy. Going into 2018 it should be the best group of safeties in the conference.

Opponents That Could Make The Safeties Lose Sleep: Penn State RB Saquon Barkley and TE Mike Gesicki; Wisconsin TE Troy Fumagalli; Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett and RB Mike Weber; Iowa RB Akrum Wadley

Grade: C+


Offensive Line
  1. LT Mason Cole (Sr)
  2. T Andrew Stueber (Fr)
  3. T JaRaymond Hall (Fr)
  1. LG Ben Bredeson (So)
  2. G Andrew Vastardis (RFr)
  1. C Patrick Kugler (5th)
  2. C Cesar Ruiz (Fr)
  1. RG Michael Onwenu (So)
  2. G Stephen Spanellis (RFr)
  3. G/T Nolan Ulizio (RSo)
  1. RT Jon Runyan Jr. (RSo)
  2. T Juwann Bushell-Beatty (RJr)
  3. T Chuck Filiaga (Fr)
  4. G/T Joel Honigford (Fr)

Bottom Line: This is a unit that has the talent and ability to be more productive than last year's group. Too many unknowns right now to rank them any higher, but the raw athleticism is there to create something great. The left side could be awesome with Cole (LT) and Bredeson (LG), both All-Conference material, protecting the backside. 5th-year senior Kugler (C) could finally be there at center too, as long as he doesn't get overtaken by the talented Ruiz. Onwenu (RG) is probably a year away from actually being great but he could still contribute to an improvement on the right side. Runyan Jr (RT) brings the most athleticism, but he still has to beat out Bushell-Beatty, who brings more size and experience. Overall, depth is better than it has been for most of the last decade, with a slew of talented underclassman. In reality, that isn't really saying much when you consider what had been developed here during the previous two coaching eras.

Prediction: An increase in production up front will occur and we will see the rushing numbers improve. The talent is too good even though it is relatively young, though there will be some growing pains. By the end of the season this group will be among the best in the conference. And how they play against Ohio State will tell us all exactly where they are at when the season ends. I believe it would be foolish to sleep on this group.

Opponents That Could Be A Thorn in The Linemen Linemen's Side: Minnesota DL Steven Richardson; Ohio State DE's Nick Bosa, Tyquan Lewis, and Sam Hubbard; Wisconsin's Front Seven

Grade: C+


Tight End
  1. Ian Bunting (RJr)
  2. Tyrone Wheatley Jr (RSo)
  3. Zach Gentry (RSo)
  4. Nick Eubanks (RFr)
  5. Sean McKeon (So)
Bottom Line: Bunting and Wheatley Jr. both have a little experience and both have shown an ability to produce when called upon. Now is there time to take over. Fending off the likes of Eubanks, Gentry, and McKeon for reps will be a challenge. All five could play a lot this fall. Gentry and Eubanks have the most intriguing raw receiving skills and either one could play out wide. In fact, Gentry had primarily gotten reps out there already in the spring. My guess is that we will see him lining up all over the place to take advantage of matchups against smaller defenders.

Prediction: The team will miss having a go-to player like Butt, but we will see very little drop in production from the group overall. In fact, this group will contribute to an improvement in the run-blocking along the edge of the line.

Opponents That Could Make The Tight Ends Lose Sleep: Penn State S Marcus Allen; Iowa LB Josey Jewell; Wisconsin LB's T.J. Edwards and Jack Cichy,

Grade: B


Linebacker
  1. Mike McCray II (5th)
  2. Noah Furbush (RJr)
  3. Rueben Jones (RSo)
  4. Drew Singleton (Fr)
  1. Devin Bush Jr (So)
  2. Michael Wroblewski (5th)
  3. Elysee Mbem-Bosse
  4. Jordan Anthony (Fr)
  5. Josh Ross (Fr)
  1. Kahleke Hudson (So)
  2. Jordan Glasgow (RSo)
  3. Devin Gil (So)
  4. Josh Uche (So)

Grade: B

Bottom Line: There is an elite mixture of talent here. McCray II, an All-Big Ten candidate, and Noah Furbush, the top backup and special teams player from a year ago, represent the core senior leadership of the group. McCray will once again start at the weakside position. Bush Jr. will take over for Ben Gedeon in the middle while Hudson takes over for Jabrill Peppers at the "Viper". They both have very high ceilings and could represent an upgrade to the starting lineup as a whole. Yes, Peppers was great and all, but Hudson himself looks like a physical beast who was born to play the "Viper". And I had him ranked a bit higher than most recruiting services back when he was just a recruit, as did the Michigan coaching staff. Wroblewski, Gil, Glasgow, and Jones provide more depth. Anthony, Singleton, and Ross III could represent the future, but all three are highly-touted recruits. They could be ready to play right away. The competition should be fierce.

Prediction: This group will not look as polished in September as last year's did, but there will be very little loss in production throughout the year. In fact, by the end of the year it could be in much better shape. There's just so much raw talent. Expect lots of sacks and a few more INT's than the three the unit produced last season. There is a lot to be excited about at LB.

Opponents That Could Be a Thorn In The Linebackers' Sides: Penn State RB Saquon Barkley and QB Trace McSorley; Ohio State RB Mike Weber and QB J.T. Barrett; Minnesota RB Rodney Smith; Iowa RB Akrum Wadley

Grade: B


Position Groups in Good Hands


Quarterback
  1. Wilton Speight (RJr)
  2. John O'Korn (5th)
  3. Brandon Peters (RFr)
  4. Michael Sessa (RFr)
  5. Alex Malzone (RSo)
  6. Dylan McCaffrey (Fr)
Grade: B+

Bottom Line: Returning both the starting and top backup quarterbacks that helped the team win 10 games last year is a major plus. Throw in the prospect of Peters potentially being the best of the bunch makes it hard not to smile. This is the best shape the position has been in a very long time.

Prediction: Speight will start again. O'Korn and Peters will still get playing time. In fact, expect to see them all in week one against Florida. Production in the passing game will improve overall and we will see this team throw for 3,000 yards. Expect a few monster games against some weaker pass defenses. Cincinnati and Air Force come to mind quickly. Indiana, Minnesota, and Purdue could represent some opportunities for big stats too. However, we will also see a slight increase in drops and tipped INT's as the young receivers get acclimated.

Opponents That Could Make The Quarterbacks Lose Sleep: Penn State DE Shariff Miller and S Marcus Allen; Florida's Secondary; Wisconsin Front Seven; Ohio State


Running Back
  1. Chris Evans (So)
  2. Karan Higdon (Jr)
  3. Ty Isaac (5th)
  4. Kareem Walker (RFr)
  5. Tru Wilson (RFr)
  6. O'Maury Samuels (Fr)
  7. Kurt Taylor (Fr)
Bottom Line: There is a lot to be excited about here with both star-power and depth. Evans looks like an overall game-changer with the speed and instincts to turn big plays. Higdon is a solid compliment that will play hard. He has shown to understand the blocking schemes as much as anybody. Isaac will also get a lot of reps and he too has the ability to take it to the house. The icing on the cake is Walker. Some think that he is the most talented player at the position.

Prediction: Expect an increase in big plays and overall yards from scrimmage. De'Veon Smith's pass-blocking will be sorely missed though.

Opponents That Could Be Speedbumps for The Running Backs: Ohio State LB Jerome Baker and those pesky DE's; Indiana LB Tegray Scales; Wisconsin Front Seven; Florida LB David Reese

Grade: B+


Defensive Tackle
  1. Maurice Hurst Jr (5th)
  2. James Hudson (Fr)
  3. Deron Irving-Bey (Fr)
  4. Carl Myers (RFr)
  5. Lawrence Marshall (RJr)
  6. Ron Johnson (RFr)
  1. Bryan Mone (RJr)
  2. Aubrey Soloman (Fr)
  3. Michael Dwumfour (RFr)
  4. Michale Paea (Fr)
Bottom Line: The starting duo of Hurst Jr. and Mone is about as good as it gets. Both guys are big and disruptive, and capable of blowing up blocking schemes all over the country. Their presence will provide room for the speedy linebackers and ends to run to the ball. Depth is a major concern though. A lot is riding on Soloman and Hudson, as well as several others, to arrive ready to play this summer. If not, then Myers, a walk-on, and Marshall, a 4-Star bust so far, will be depended on to provide some help off the bench. Rashan Gary could easily play here too if needed.

Prediction: Mark my words, Hurst Jr, Mone, and Soloman will form the best trio of tackles in the conference, and all three of them will receive some postseason accolades.

Opponents That Could Slow Up The Defensive Tackles: Ohio State OL; Wisconsin OL, Penn State OL

Grade: A-


Fullback
  1. Kahlid Hill (5th)
  2. Henry Poggi (5th)
  3. Nick Volk (RJr)
  4. Ben Mason (Fr)
Bottom Line: Hill and Poggi are the best pair of returning fullbacks in the nation. Hill has a special balance of ability as a blocker and receiver, and he led the team in rushing TD's last year. Expect to see more from him this season. Poggi is more of pure blocker but he can catch the ball too. Volk is strictly a backup while Mason will prepare to take over the position next year.

Prediction: Will be one of the most productive groups of fullbacks in the nation.

Opponents That Could Be a Thorn in The Fullbacks' Sides: Wisconsin Front Seven; Ohio State DE's; Florida LB David Reese (former Michigan commit), Iowa LB Josey Jewell

Grade: A-


Defensive End

Rashan Gary (So)
Carlo Kemp (RFr)
Donovan Jeter (Fr)

Chase Winovich (RJr)

Luiji Vilain (Fr)
Shelton Johnson (RSo)
Kwity Paye (Fr)



Bottom Line: A lot is riding on the idea that Gary will be a game-changer at the anchor position. Winovich has already shown that he can capitalize on opportunities when they are presented to him. Kemp looks poised to push for playing time too. Jeter had a good spring as an early enrollee and Vilain is a top 50 recruit.

Prediction: Gary will be one of the best in the country and Winovich will use his speed and athleticism to capitalize on opponent's attention being focused elsewhere, just as he did last year. Expect lots of sacks and TFL's. from this bunch for the next couple years. Kemp, Jeter, and Vilain will all provide just enough depth to support the starters.

Opponents That Could Be Speedbumps For the Defensive Ends: Ohio State OT's Jamarco Jones and Isiah Prince, and QB J.T. Barrett; Wisconsin OL and TE Troy Fumagalli; Penn State OL, RB Saquon Barkely, and TE Mike Gesicki

Grade: A-

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The 2017 Basketball Roster

Projected Depth Chart:

                                                                    Center (5)
                                                                  Mo' Wagner
                                                                   Jon Teske
                Forward/Guard (4)                                                    Guard/Forward (3)
                  Duncan Robinson                                                         Charles Mathews
                       Austin Davis                                                                 Isaiah Livers

                              Shooting Guard (2)                         Point Guard (1)
                   Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman               Jaaron Simmons
                                 Jordan Poole                                   Xavier Simpson
                                   Ibi Watson                                       Eli Brooks


Yes, football season is less than a month away and I am ecstatic about that. Everybody's excited. It is going to be an interesting season, especially with the Florida Gators on tap to open the season on September 2nd. But basketball season isn't too far away either. And just like Coach Harbaugh's squad, Coach Beilein's has a lot to be stoked about for the upcoming season too.

At first glance this roster doesn't seem as top heavy with only one star player returning and no sure-fire 5-Star recruits coming into town. But this year's roster is possibly deeper than last year's version. And if they indeed keep developing and improving they could become an even better team than the one we watched make a run to the Big Ten Tournament Championship back in February.

To start things off, the guard situation looks surprisingly good, especially considering the loss of team MVP Derrick Walton Jr. Grad transfer Jaaron Simmons should take his place at the point with Abdur-Rahkman retaining the #2 (shooting guard) position for the third year in a row. Xavier Simpson, Jordan Poole, Eli Brooks, and Ibi Watson will make up what could be a deep backcourt bench. The team is definitely in a better position here now than it was a year ago when there was nothing but a big question mark behind the two starters.

The forward positions are a bit more unsettled at the moment with forward D.J. Wilson being selected 17th overall in the NBA draft. That makes the return of Mo' Wagner huge. The German-born center/forward is a high-energy player that knows how to hustle. He is already a fan favorite and is, as of right now, the face of this team. He will be starting at center with Robinson and Matthews most-likiely flanking him on the perimeter. Teske, Davis, and Livers will be backing them up.

Expect the scoring to be spread out across the roster. Wagner, Abdur-Rahkman, and Mathews are the top three candidates to lead the team in scoring, and any of the three could be the guy that will have the ball in his hands when a game is on the line. Robinson will also get his fair share of buckets too. I suspect freshman Jordan Poole will be in the mix too. He might just be too talented of a shooter to leave on the bench for too long.

Simmons, a grad transfer from Ohio, will lead the team in assists but should be pushed by Xavier Simpson, who has shown some flash while dishing out passes and played very well on the defensive end of the floor. He saw limited action as a freshman though, having to play behind Walton, so it is still unclear about what we should expect from him.

Wagner and Teske look like the top two candidates to lead the team in rebounds, but Livers could come in and push them as a freshman. There is talent in this year's freshman class, but there is no telling as to how college-ready the young kids are right now. This team will hurt a lot of opponents with their shooting, but if coach Beilein can get some toughness out of his front court they should prove to be very deadly as the season progresses. A lot is riding on somebody emerging next to Wagner from a group of forwards and centers that have very little to no game experience at all.


The Maize and Blue Basketball Player Rankings, 2017

1. F Moritz Wagner (Jr) - Already a fan favorite, Wagner might just have become one of the most beloved Michigan basketball players of all-time by opting out of the NBA draft and coming back for at least one more season. His ability to shoot and hit a bucket from a number of different spots on the floor helps the offense be more versatile. If he can tighten up his efforts on the defensive side of the ball and exhibit more toughness in the low post then he could make himself into a potential lottery pick in next year's draft. His presence elevates the overall talent level of the roster and helps it run a little deeper up front, but his return mostly definitely helps with some continuity in regards to leadership.

2. SG  Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (Sr) - Not an elite-level athlete but he's no slouch either. He could be the senior leader this roster needs with an ability to score from just about anywhere. We should expect him to put up about a dozen points per game in his final campaign as a Wolverine. With increased production on both ends of the floor he could be considered a possible draft pick in next year's NBA draft.

3. SG  Charles Mathews (Jr) - Could be the best pure athlete on the team and he should instantly be one of the best offensive weapons after sitting out the past season due to NCAA transfer rules. He will probably start at the #3 spot and he could actually be a better play-maker than Irvin was there last year.

4. PG Jaaron Simmons (5th) - (Grad Transfer from Ohio) - May not be the deadly shooter that Walton Jr. was, but Simmons actually averaged more points (15.9) and more assists (6.5) for the Bobcats than the guy he's replacing for the Wolverines. He could help provide veteran stability and leadership at a key position. With the level of talent around the roster I am expecting a big year.

5. G/F Duncan Robinson (5th) - The third top returning scorer on the team will probably start at either the three or the four spot, but he might be used as a utility man at multiple positions, depending on the scheme. He isn't as big as Wilson was and he isn't among the top athletes on the team, but he will find a way to get buckets and is willing to play defense. Has a lot of experience too. Will be a valuable commodity for the team.

6. PG  Xavier Simpson (So) - Solidly built player that doesn't mind playing defense, Simpson also showed the capacity to make sweet passes when given the opportunity. He might not start this year but he will see increased playing time from 8.7 minutes per game to more like 18, especially if he starts to show a nose for the basket. At this point he hasn't been viewed as much of a threat to score at this level yet, but he sure was in high school. It would be interesting to see a glimpse of that player.

7. G  Jordan Poole (Fr) - The top incoming freshman could instantly be one the top players on the roster. He appears to be a deadly shooter from three-point range with enough raw athleticism to immediately take on most of the challenges of the college game. Look for him to get lots of minutes off the bench.

8.  C  Jon Teske (So) - A true 7-foot center with rebounding ability. He is a big question mark going into the season but he is a solid prospect who has continued to grow since stepping foot on campus. He will now be counted on to either win the starting job or provide some quality minutes off the bench. Do not expect him to be quite the scorer that Wagner is, but the team's defense at the rim could improve dramatically whenever Teske is in there guarding it.

9.  F  Isiah Livers (Fr) - Looks like a perfect forward-type prospect for this offense. It's too bad that it might have to happen now instead of a year from now. Though he probably won't be a starter, I expect Livers to get some quality minutes in the front court and hopefully develop into a team leader over the course of the next year.

10.  F  Austin Davis (RFr) - Beilein says this kid is a natural scorer that just gets the ball in the basket. That type of ability will go a long way towards providing depth up front. 

11. PG  Eli Brooks (Fr) - Looks like a prime candidate to redshirt now that Simmons is in the fold. Beilein says that Brooks will probably compete for minutes early but I believe he is a year away yet. 

12.  SG  Ibi Watson (So) - A decent shooter with a slim build. He should continue to develop and could help this team run very deep at guard.

13. F Brent Hibbits (Jr) - Purely practice fodder that will occasionally get playing time against inferior opponents. Could be a team leader in the locker room.

14. G Fred Wright-Jones (Jr) - Former manager turned player will also help out in practice.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Top Surprise Players for 2017

#35 Nate Shoenle


  1. WR Nate Shoenle (So) - Former walk-on has been one of the most talked about players this offseason. Most people first heard about him after his breakout performance in the spring game. Runs crisp routes and possesses reliable hands. Has decent size (6'2"/190lbs) and is just fast enough. Works hard and knows what to do. Situational awareness seems to be great for a player his age. Harbaugh says he continuously grades out as the team's most reliable receiver. If he keeps it up, it might be hard to keep him off the field come game day. And if he keeps improving he could be among the team leaders in receptions by December. 
  2. OL John Runyan Jr. (Jr) - Crowned the most athletic lineman in Harbaugh's combine event over the winter and played well in the spring game. Could be the starting right tackle against Florida in week one. He appears to have all the ability to handle pass protection duties against the strongside edge but he has been praised more for his run-blocking. He can get on defenders quickly and he can hit moving targets on the run. His emergence would be a godsend to a position that may have needed one. At the very least, his emergence will help provide depth. Was originally recruited by Hoke but signed on as a member of Harbaugh's first class in 2015. 
    #6 Keith Washington
  3. CB Keith Washington (Jr) - Has been mentioned a couple times in the last several months as a player to keep an eye on moving forward and had a nice outing in the spring game. He deflected a pass deep downfield and made a couple nice tackles on running backs in the flats to help secure the perimeter. I'd say it looks like we have a strong candidate for one of the starting spots right here. He too was a member of Harbaugh's very first class but was one of the few that was exclusively a Harbaugh recruit. Was a 3-Star prospect out of Alabama who was committed to play offense at Cal before the offer came to play corner at Michigan. 
  4. TE Nick Eubanks (So) - Had a solid spring overall and stood out in the spring game. The one drop he had may have been due to the utter shock in the fact that Brandon Peters had actually delivered the ball to that spot. I would bet on him making the catch next time. As much as he has progressed over the last year leads me to wonder just how high his ceiling really is in this offense. His emergence will help ease the loss of Jake Butt and Devin Asiasi. 
  5. WR Mo' Ways (Sr) - A lot of attention is on the young talent now at the position, but Ways may be the more reliable target. And despite the fact that he only has five receptions on his career, the senior has gotten a lot of playing time in the past and has helped the team in a number of ways, including special teams coverage units and run-blocking. He will get a good shot at using his big frame (6'3"/205lbs) to his advantage in the passing game too. I wouldn't be shocked if he actually ends up being the team's leading receiver when it's all said and done. 
  6. QB John O'Korn (5th) - I don't think most fans realize how lucky we all are to have this kid on the team. He was the top backup last year and he will be the top backup again, despite any rise of Brandon Peters. He is good enough to start. No, he didn't have a great showing in his lone start against Indiana last year, but the terrible weather obviously played a role in that one. O'Korn still threw two TD's and zero INT's on the season in mop-up duty and looked evenbetter in the spring. In fact, he kinda blew up the spring game with a few beatiful throws, including a sweet fade to freshman Tarik Black in the end zone for a TD. If he continues to make throws like that it will be tough to keep him off the field. And no matter how tempting it is to jump on the Peters bandwagon, all indicators are that Speight will start and O'Korn will be the backup going into the season. Knowing Harbaugh like I do though, I would not be too surprised to see all three get PT against the Gators. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

New Era at Michigan Evident at the NFL Draft. Plus: Wolverine Prospects, 2018

Brady Hoke laid the groundwork for this program by reviving the recruiting program that took a dive under the previous regime. He could easily sell the program to the kids but he had serious troubles in getting a return on the field with all that talent. Jim Harbaugh came along with his NFL experience and deep-rooted love for all things Michigan and pushed the program over the hump by winning 10 games and a New Year's Day bowl game against the Florida Gators.

Now some of those Hoke recruits turned Harbaugh disciples are taking their talents to the NFL. 18 players to be exact. 11 of which were drafted - breaking the previous record of 10 players drafted out of the program. And it was the most players out of any program in the country! That is something that was simply out of the question just a few short years ago if you were a Michigan fan.

Round One
Jabrill Peppers

Jabrill Peppers, Safety/Kick Returner - Pick 25
Cleveland Browns
5'11"/213lbs
Jabrill takes his talent to Ohio. At the surface it seems like a terrible place to be as an NFL rookie, nevertheless one from Michigan. The Browns have simply been terrible for as long as anybody outside of Cleveland can remember and it has become known as a place where first round picks go to die. Besides, it's Ohio. Ugh... Upon a closer inspection of the roster and schedule though, I see the makings of a good football team that could see opportunity come knocking for them this fall. Yes, believe it or not, I do think the Cleveland Browns have a real chance of being in the mix for a playoff spot come December. And I do bilieve that they are heading in the right direction. Adding Peppers to the mix only helps their chances of building a good defense. I've see a lot of 'experts' blast the Browns for taking him, but he looks like a good fit to me. That defense is full of young talent and it could be an ascending unit this year. NT Danny Shelton, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, LB Christian Kirksey, and LB Demario Davis are all players on the rise, and number one overall pick DE Myles Garrett will be expected to bring some heat from the edge. Adding a big-bodied, athletic safety with sub 4.5 speed and the demeanor to crash into opposing rushing attacks behind the line of scrimmage could provide a building block in the secondary. Despite all his flashiness as a return specialiast, Peppers is a blue-collar, lunchpail guy that comes to work every day with "an enthusiasm unknown to mankind" on defense. He may have only had one INT in his career, but he did lead the team in tackles for a loss. He just does his job and does it well. And like many players on this list, Jabrill was a Hoke recruit that ended up being a Harbaugh guy. If he says he can play safety in the NFL, then I don't doubt him. I surely wouldn't bet against him. And I might not want to bet against the Browns in the near future either. They could quickly become a contender if they could get either Cody Kessler or DeShone Kizer to emerge as a leader at quarterback.


Taco Charlton, Defensive End - Pick 28
Dallas Cowboys
6'6"/277lbs
Taco goes into Dallas with the opportunity to be a force on the edge for a playoff-ready team. And while the Cowboys defense was a bit of a surprise in 2016, it still has lots of room for improvement. The pass-rush was more effective than originally expected - posting 36 total sacks - but there was no dominant rusher that really stood out. It was simply a solid team effort. Taco is not a speed-rusher, though he did run a 4.9 forty, but he is a team guy. His strengths are in his upside and ability to play within any scheme. He is very athletic and seems to still be growing into his body. He has already shown the ability to fight through blockers with a variety of moves and use his long frame to his advantage against the run and the pass, but it kinda feels like he has only scratched the surface. It shouldn't be long before he is an NFL starter. If he can prove effective at getting to the passer he could help elevate this defense and making this team a real threat to make a run in the playoffs.

Third Round

Chris Wormley, Defensive Line - Pick 74
Baltimore Ravens
6'5"/300lbs
Chris joins former Wolverine teammate Willie Henry as John Harbaugh rebuilds that Raven's D-line. And while he is not the most explosive athlete of the bunch, he was perhaps the best lineman at Michigan for the last two years. He can play strong side end or tackle and is effective against both the run and the pass. He's not a flashy pass-rusher but he can maul his way through blockers and use his long arms to harass ball carriers and passers in the backfield. I like him as an end on rush downs and a tackle in passing situations. He looks like a three-down player with enough potential to warrant excitement. I thought he could have been a late first or early second round pick. At worst he appears to be a two down run-stopper at left end. I see both he and Henry being NFL starters very soon.

Jourdan Lewis, Cornerback - Pick 92
Dallas Cowboys
5'10"/190lbs
In my opinion, Jourdan was the best player on the entire team the last two years. In fact, there weren't many perimeter defenders better than him in all of college football over the last three seasons. He probably won't start right away in the NFL, but he could immediately help in nickel and dime packages. Eventually, he could develop into a star. Jourdan is the ultimate competitor who has enough athletic gifts to play the position at a very high level. His only apparent weakness is a lack of size, which could put him at an immediate disadvantage against the league's monster receivers. Sound technique and a desire to win can overcome such things though. Watch for him in 2018.

Delano Hill, Safety - Pick 95
Seattle Seahawks
Ht/Wt: 6'1"/215lbs
I was a bit surprised to see Delano go in the third round. I had him projected more as a fourth or fifth round pick, though he did have a solid career on some very good defenses at Michigan over the last four seasons. He just never really stood out. I guess that could be viewed as a good thing too, since we did not see him get burned much. He also turned heads at the scouting combine with a 4.47 forty. Pete Carroll needed some insurance at the safety position and he knows that there is a lot of value in a well-coached player with speed to burn on the back end. At the very least he looks like a solid backup and an immediate special teams contributor.
Amara Darboh

Amara Darboh, Wide Receiver - Pick 106
Seattle Seahawks
Ht/Wt: 6'2"/214lbs
I was not surprised to see Darboh go before the third round came to an end. In fact, I would not have been shocked to see him go in round two. At any rate, the Seahawks once again trust Harbaugh and his ability to cultivate NFL talent. Darboh, can do it all as a receiver, though he doesn't really stand out in any single area. There wasn't anything he wasn't willing and able to do in the last two years for the Wolverines. He is athletic enough (4.5 forty, 136"vert) to make big plays that most players can't and he is big enough to gobble up smaller DB's on perimeter blocks. Very few kids have a polished game that this former refugee possesses. Expect him to be a valued special teams player right away and a future contributor in the rotation at receiver.

Fourth Round

Ben Gedeon, Linebacker - Pick 120
Minnesota Vikings
Ht/Wt: 6'2"/244lbs
Ben is not particularly a great athlete by any means, but he is no slouch either. He is quicker than he is fast - putting up great numbers in the 20 and 60 yard shuttles at the combine while only running a 4.75 forty. He also possesses a lot of raw strength and power with 27 reps on bench. Though he doesn't look like an ascending player with star potential, he should be good enough to carve out a niche on a roster somewhere for the next 10 years. The Vikings are an ascending defense so he could be arriving there just in time to get a good spot. He looks like a prime candidate for special teams duties with a couple blocked kicks on his resume, and he should be a solid backup with the versatility to play in the middle or on the weakside.

Ryan Glasgow, Defensive Tackle - Pick 138
Cincinnati Bengals
Ht/Wt: 6'3"/300lbs
After joining the team as a walk-on five years ago, Ryan quickly became a leader on some very good defenses over the last three seasons at Michigan. The Bengals are trying to build up depth along their defensive front and with Glasgow now in the mix they add a scrappy player who relies on technique, instincts, and a non-stop motor to get by in the trenches. He doesn't really stand out but he takes care of his assignments well and rises to the occasion against top competition. And while he may never be a fulltime starter in the NFL, he could surely be a versatile backup capable of helping out against the run-heavy teams.

Jehu Chesson, Wide Receiver - Pick 139
Kansas City Chiefs
Ht/Wt: 6'3"/200lbs
Jehu gets picked up about where I thought he would go after an up and down career at Michigan. I was one of the few that thought he should have come out for the draft last year, as I thought he looked like a solid second round pick after that Citrus Bowl win over Florida. But a knee injury sustained in that game prompted him to return in order to recover fully. He never quite regained his form though. Before his injury he was the fastest player on the team, supposedly running in the 4.3 range. After the injury he struggled to get separation from his opponents in one on one situations. He did still run a 4.47 at the combine. That's not really an elite number for a receiver but it's a solid one, especially for a guy over 200 lbs. One of the most impressive things about Jehu is is willingness to throw his body around as a blocker. He has laid out quite a few college defenders. I won't be surprised to see this guy contribute early on in his career.

Fifth Round
Jake Butt

Jake Butt, Tight End - Pick 145
Denver Broncos
Ht/Wt: 6'5"/245lbs
Jake had already made a few hundred grand by the time he got selected, having picked up a now lucrative insurance policy before he injured his knee in the Orange Bowl. The deal paid him more money the more he slid in the draft after he was widely considered a second round talent heading into the game. Bitter-sweet results for sure. Now he gets to try his hand in an interesting situation out in Denver. Honestly, I can't think of a better situation for him. There is no doubt that the organization is rooting for a guy like this and they couldn't wait to take him with the first pick in the fifth round. They may have to give him a year to work out after the injury, but he could definitely turn out to be a steal. What Jake might lack in elite measurables he makes up for with smarts. Few players in the country run better routes from the tight end position or possess the quality hands that he does. Watch for him in 2018 as well.

Sixth Round

Jeremy Clark, Defensive Back - Pick 197
New York Jets
Ht/Wt: 6'3"/220lbs
Another guy that was considered one of the top two or three fastest guys on the team who is now attempting to return from knee injury. Unlike Jehu, Jeremy will not be able to get another year of college to help recover. The Jets are willing to take a risk on him though, and if they are willing to give him a year to recover and develop they might end up with a very skilled and versatile player for their secondary. The guy has multiple starts at both safety and corner for the Wolverines, and he has graded out well at both positions. He also did 20 reps on bench at the combine. He wasn't able to run yet but he is widely considered a 4.4 forty-type of guy. He is another one that we might need to wait another year to see. In the end he could be a steal.

Rookie Free Agents:

De'Veon Smith, Running Back
Miami Dolphins
Ht/Wt: 5'11"/223lbs
De'Veon is a pure rushing talent that relies on vision and strength. Harbaugh loved him and kept him as his starting running back for a reason. No, he won't blow anybody away with his speed or athleticism, but he will punish tacklers on the second level. He could be a good short-yardage or goalline back. He has decent hands and can run some routes, but he will be limited with what he is able to do against faster players in the NFL. De'Veon could help the 'Fins play a tougher brand of football up the middle. Just don't expect him to rip off any long touchdown runs or challenge defenses too much on the perimeter.

Channing Stribling, Cornerback
Cleveland Browns
Ht/Wt: 6'1"/185lbs
Stribling doesn't stand out as starting material but he could find a fit in a zone coverage scheme. His strengths revolve around his ability to utilize his long frame and blanket most receivers in zone coverage, despite his lack of upper body strength. And though he isn't very fast (4.6 forty), he plays with enough downfield instincts and confidence to compete in the NFL. In the right scheme he could be a starter some day, but he still has a lot of work to do.

Kenny Allen, Kicker/Punter
Baltimore Ravens
Ht/Wt: 6'4"/222lbs
The other Harbaugh is well aware of the type of prospect he is getting here. Allen will compete for a job and could end up the starter in Baltimore. His versatility is a plus but not a deal breaker. He will probably need to win a job outright in order to stick around.

Matt Godin, Defensive Line
Houston Texans
Ht/Wt: 6'6"/280lbs
An intriguing prospect with great size and ability as a run-stopper. He was primarily a backup throughout his career and is a long shot to make an NFL roster.

Erik Magnuson, Offensive Tackle
San Fransisco 49ers
Ht/Wt: 6'6"/305lbs
Not a bad body to have in camp. He isn't a mauler but he could find a home as a tackle in the right situation.

Kyle Kalis, Offensive Guard
Washington Redskins
Ht/Wt: 6'4"/308lbs
Didn't rise to the level of play that many fans were hoping for but still had a decent career at Michigan.

Dymonte Thomas, Safety
Denver Broncos
Ht/Wt: 6'2"/199lbs
Didn't have any real breakout moments as a Wolverine, but started all of 2016. Is kinda caught between being a slot corner or a free safety. His best days of football could be ahead of him but it might be hard for him to stick around without a huge showing this summer.


2018 Prospects

  1. Maurice Hurst Jr., Defensive Tackle Rd 1-2
  2. Mason Cole, Offensive Line Rd 1-2
  3. Bryan Mone, Defensive Tackle Rd 2-3*
  4. Tyree Kinnel, Safety Rd 3-4*
  5. Bryan McCray II, Linebacker Rd 3-4
  6. Kahlid Hill, Fullback Rd 4-5
  7. Ty Isaac, Running Back Rd 5-6
  8. Ian Bunting, Tight End Rd 6-7*
  9. Tyrone Wheatley Jr, Tight End Rd 6-7*
  10. Karan Higdon, Running Back FA*
  11. Patrick Kugler, Center FA
  12. Brandon Watson, Cornerback FA*
  13. Wilton Speight, Quarterback FA*
*Asterisk denotes players with college eligibility remaining. beyond 2018.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Leaders and Best: 2017 Edition

Every year about this time, as the football team enjoys spring practice, I release this list of the top players on tap for the new season ahead. These rankings of new and returning players are admittedly somewhat arbitrary, but it's intended to seek out potential "breakout" candidates and projecting expectations throughout the roster.

There are a lot of spots up for grabs. There are a lot of young players vying for playing time. We will start to see more of Harbaugh's guys with three full recruiting classes of his now on campus. However, there is still a strong presence at the top from players that were recruits under Hoke. And those guys will make up the bulk of the leadership on this team.

Of course, there is a lot of speculation here. But what would the offseason be without it? Anyway, let's get to it.

2015 Edition
2016 Edition

Enjoy!

Top 20 Returning Leaders:

*Denotes player that may not be able to play due to injury, academic, or off-field issues.
Mo' Hurst Jr. #73 
  1. DT Maurice Hurst Jr. (5th) 4-Star - Was arguably the most disruptive interior lineman the Wolverines had over the last two seasons. He posted 11.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks in 2016 and 6.5 TFL's and three sacks in 2015, as a reserve. Harbaugh's staff is dam lucky to be getting him back for a 5th year. For the defense, it all starts with the wall up front, and Mo' Hurst represents the cornerstone-type veteran player to build around in 2017. Prediction: Will be eager to put up big numbers. A First Team All-Big Ten selection seems imminent, and he could sniff national honors as well. Look for him to be considered a possible first round pick in next year's draft. He will be disruptive.
  2. OL Mason Cole (Sr) 4-Star - Just like Hurst, the team is lucky to be getting Cole back. He is one of the best centers in college football and he can play left tackle too if needed, as he did in the spring game. If any of the incoming freshmen prove worthy of playing at tackle then the coaches will gladly move him back inside. No matter where he plays though, Cole will be an asset to the team. Prediction: Cole will fill in at left tackle during his senior season. Though the coaches wish he could stay at center, his talent will be better served protecting the QB's blindside. Besides, it appears that the Wolverines have a couple viable options to replace him at center. He is most definitely an All-Big Ten candidate and a future starter in the NFL.
  3. LB Mike McCray II (5th) 4-Star- McCray is technically the lone returning starter on defense. He established himself as a leader early last season and never seemed to let up, thus erasing any concerns about his health after he missed all of 2015 with a shoulder injury. A repeat performance for his senior campaign would be just fine, as he gobbled up 75 tackles - 13 for a loss, 4.5 sacks, 6 PBU's, two INT's, and one TD on a pick-six. Prediction: McCray will once again man the "Will" linebacker position. He will be a team leader and among the top tacklers in the Big Ten. He will be in the running for several postseason awards and a spot on the All-Big Ten team. I also believe he will be among the top 100 prospects in next year's draft with a versatile game that translates well to the NFL. 
  4. DT Bryan Mone (RJr) 4-Star - Mone had a somewhat quiet 2016, posting only 11 tackles and one tackle for a loss. Just like Hurst, he was not a starter either. He could be a sleeping giant for the Wolverines though. A couple of injuries have held him back and if he has a strong offseason he too could find himself receiving numerous post-season accolades. Prediction: Mone's presence will help while the defense experiences a bit of a youth movement. He may not blow up the stat sheet, but opposing offenses will have a hard time running anywhere near him. The interior of the D-line will prove to be a strength for the team once again, thus taking pressure off other players around them. I guarantee you that Harbaugh is giggling to himself over his program being able to "reload" with talent like Mone already there to build around.
  5. DE Rashan Gary (So) 5-Star - Gary had a solid freshman season. It was nothing too flashy,
    Rashan Gary #3
     but he made the most of his limited opportunities. His playing time diminished during the latter part of the schedule as the coaches leaned heavily on their veteran players. Now with all the starters out of the way it is Gary's chance to be a leader and a big-time playmaker for this defense. Prediction: Gary will quickly establish his presence in the Michigan defense and receive All-Conference consideration in his first year as a starter. I suspect that there will be a lot of TFL's on his stat sheet. 
  6. FB Kahlid Hill (5th) 3-Star - There might not be a better fullback in the nation returning for 2017. The guy can simply do it all as a blocker, a big receiver, and a short-yardage runner. He was the second leading scorer on the team behind kicker Kenny Allen, leading the team with 13 total touchdowns - 10 rushing and three receiving. He will be a big key to the team's offensive success in 2017. Prediction: Hill will be the best fullack in the conference and a team leader. He will get a lot of opportunities near the goalline and I expect him to also get drafted next April. 
  7. RB Chris Evans (So) 4-Star - No freshman player on the team surprised Wolverine Nation with his play more than Evans. In week one he simply dominated Hawaii and remained a steady force throughout the season. He then capped off the year with a critical 30-yard TD run late in the fourth quarter of the Orange Bowl to give the team the lead against Florida State. If he continues to hone his game and earn more opportunities he could develop into one of the best playmakers in the nation. Prediction: Evans will become a primary weapon for the offense, leading the team in all-purpose yards. He will also be in the running for team leader in TD's. All-Conference Honors await. 
  8. QB Wilton Speight (RJr) 4-Star - Having your starting quarterback returning after a very good season is always a positive, and if Speight improves he will be in the running for a lot of postseason honors. Most teams in the country don't have as good of a player returning at the position. Still, things are a bit more complicated at the position than they might appear on the surface. There is so much talent behind him that Speight will have his hands full trying to stay at the top of the depth chart. But regardless of how any competition at the position pans out, the coaching staff are lucky to have a player they trust like Speight at the most important position on the team. Prediction: Speight maintains control of the job at quarterback. He will have his struggles early with so many players being replaced around him, but he will establish himself as a leader willing to do whatever it takes to win. Despite all this there is no guarantee that he is the starter when the season ends, and Speight will lose some snaps to both John O'Korn and sophomore (RFr) Brandon Peters throughout the year. There is just too much talent to predict what Harbaugh and company will do with it all. 
  9. S Tyree Kinnel (Jr) 4-Star - Somebody needs to step up and be a leader in the secondary with all four starters graduating. The coaches are confident that Kinnel can step in and pick up right where Delano Hill or Dymonte Thomas left off. He has earned more and more playing time since he arrived on campus two years ago, and he finished 2016 with 15 tackles. He should triple that number in 2017. He might even be able to play the nickel position with his ability to both cover and play the run. Prediction: Kinnel will be a starter and end the season among the best safeties in the Big Ten. Look for him to be among the top three players on the team in tackles.
  10. OL Ben Bredeson (So) 4-Star - The Freshman All-American from Wisconsin was one of the best players Michigan had up front all season. Yes, he made some rookie errors, but he continued to get better and he will become a fixture at left guard for the next two or three years. He could play left tackle if needed too, which speaks volumes about his versatility. Prediction: Will recieve some consideration for postseason honors as he establishes himself as a mainstay on the line. Any improvement in his game could spell trouble for most defensive tackles. 
    Ian Bunting #89
  11. TE Ian Bunting (RJr) 4-Star - Bunting showed that he could be relied upon to catch passes in the absence of Jake Butt. After the senior All-American went down with a knee injury in the Orange Bowl, Bunting came in and used his 6'7" frame to haul in three passes for a team-leading 40 receiving yards. A lot of talk has been made of him possibly being a future star. That would be cool with me. Prediction: I see Bunting catching about 30 passes this season, though the opportunity could be there for more. He should become one of Speight's favorite red zone targets. 
  12. DE Chase Winovich (RJr) 3-Star - Winovich tied with Chris Wormley for the second most sacks on the team (5.5). He also recorded eight tackles for a loss, four QB hurries, and a forced fumble. Not bad for a guy that only started two games. Now let's see if he can take his game to the next level. Prediction: There probably won't be a huge increase in his production on the stat sheet but he will be a disruptive player for the defensive front rotation. He will be a liability against the run, depending on the scheme, and he will need to rely on the presence of Mone, Hurst, and Gary to eat up blockers for him, just like the linebackers. He will be a starter but expect other guys to get reps at the weak-side position too.
  13. RB Karan Higdon (So) 3-Star - A solid back. Nothing flashy. He does a decent job of reading 
    Karan Higdon #22
    blocks and runs hard into the hole with a slashing style that is a little different than the other ball-carriers on the roster. He is not the most athletic guy in the backfield, but he still averaged nearly six yards per carry and scored six TD's behind a line that really struggled down the stretch. With improved blocking he could really excel and make a name for himself in the conference. Prediction: Higdon will challenge for the most rushing yards and rushing TD's this fall, but will fall short as the third option out of five possibilities at the position. There just aren't enough balls to go around.
  14. RB Ty Isaac (5th) 5-Star - Isaac rebounded nicely after a forgettable 2015 season, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and scoring five TD's in 2016. He will have to fight for carries with at least three, possibly four, other backs though, and he likely won't start. He should be a dependable veteran option for the coaches if he doesn't transfer out as a graduate for his final season of eligibility. 
  15. S Josh Metellus (So) 3-Star - The true freshman led the defense with six tackles and one sack against Rutgers in October and got lots of special teams action throughout the year. He then started the Orange Bowl in place of Peppers and finished the game with six tackles there too. He also returned a blocked PAT for two points at the end of the game. He should be a big asset to the team going forward, but it is unclear at this point whether or not he strictly plays safety or moves permanently to the "Viper" position. He might be needed more at safety. Prediction: Metellus will be among the team leaders in tackles and his versatility will find him lining up in a number of different hybrid roles this season. For the most part he will line up as a safety. He won't be as flashy as Peppers was but he can, and probably will, be just as productive. How much do you want to bet that Metellus gets more INT's in his UM career than Peppers did?
  16. OT Juwann Bushell-Beatty (RJr) 4-Star - JBB's presence at tackle will be a godsend in 2017 whether he starts or not, mark my words. With Mags and Braden gone, and Newsome's health in doubt, both starting tackle jobs will be up for grabs. JBB got a lot of playing time on the left side against Penn State and Wisconsin in 2016 before getting his first start against Rutgers. He played well enough but he might have some lingering leg issues that kept him off the field during the second half of the season. He also might be a better fit on the right side, so expect him to get a lot of attention there this spring. Prediction: JBB will be the starter on the right side and a fixture in the run-game, but he will get pushed by some of the younger guys at some point.
  17. *WR Grant Perry (Jr) 3-Star - The most experienced returning receiver may not ever play for the Wolverines again if he is indeed found guilty of the assualt charges filed against him. At this point he is suspended from the team. We are all hoping for the best but expecting and planning for the worst. Prediction: If he is allowed to play Perry will be one of the most reliable pass-catchers on the team. That is a big "if" though. We hope to know more by his court date in April. The sooner he gest back to the team the better. 
  18. LB Noah Furbush (RJr) 3-Star - A top backup and special teams player the last two years, Furbush should be ready to step into more of a leadership role on defense. He could play at any three of the linebacker positions, but I see him playing more on the inside with some occasional Sam duties. It all will depend on who they are playing and what type of packages they are employing for that game. Prediction: Furbush will get a lot of reps this fall though he probably will not be a fulltime starter. Expect to see him get more PT against run-heavy opponents as well as special teams. His contribution in the two-deep rotation will help keep guys fresh throughout the year and make this one of the best units in the Big Ten.
  19. DB Brandon Watson (RJr) 3-Star- With all four starters being lost to graduation, the secondary will need some veteran leadership. And though Watson has never started a game, he is the most experienced DB left on the roster. He should be a more regular contributor with an opportunity to crack the starting lineup, but he will face a lot of competition from a host of hungry young players. His performance in the spring game that included a pick-six provides a lot of optimism for his future. Prediction: Watson will probably be a starter over some of the younger talent on the depth chart. Even if he doesn't, he will get a lot of playing time as a backup and on special teams. His ability to play either safety or corner will be an asset in regards to depth in the secondary. 
  20. C/G Patrick Kugler (5th) 4-Star With a lot of holes needing to be filled along the line, Kugler's return to the O-line could help tremendously. He hasn't really appeared to be starting material anywhere thus far in his career, but he is currently in a battle with a true freshman for the starting job now that Cole is playing tackle again. He does have experience as a starter and it should be noted that he was one of the top center/guard prospects in the entire 2013 recruiting class. Prediction: Kugler gets the majority of snaps at center this fall but will split time with Ruiz. Don't expect anything too special but he should be good enough to not get the team into trouble. 

Notable Mention:

*OT Grant Newsome (Jr) 4-Star - After what he's been through since his injury back in October, Newsome is just glad to be able to walk at all. If he comes back to play this season and reclaims his starting position at left tackle it would go a long way toward solidifying a solid unit up front, but it would also be a freaking miracle. As it stands now his future is up in the air, but many of us remain hopeful that he can return to top health soon. Prediction: A very optimistic fan would say that Newsome comes back and works his way into the starting lineup by midseason while achieving Comeback Player of the Year honors in 2017. However, it's more likely that we don't see much of him until 2018. Unfortunately, it's possible that we never see him play again.


Next In Line:
  1. OG Michael Onwenu (So) 4-Star - 
    Michael Onwenu #50
    Onwenu is one of the top rising young players on the roster and he should nail down a job at right guard this spring. His 6'3"/350+lbs will be a much-welcomed addition to an offense that wants to run the ball right at people more effectively. With a year in the program under his very large belt he could be one of the top players on the team, regardless of position.
  2. MLB Devin Bush Jr. (So) 4-Star - Bush Jr. generally played well throughout his first season as a Wolverine to garner some optimism about his future. He gained a lot of quality experience along the way and is now participating in his second full spring after enrolling early last winter. He is a freshman anymore and we will see more of him going forward. In the spring game he showed us exactly what type of potential he has with a performance that left a lot of talking heads in awe. It's quite possible that Bush Jr. represents an upgrade over Ben Gedeon, who will be a member of an NFL roster this fall.
  3. RB Kareem Walker (RFr) 4-Star - Walker red-shirted to take care of some academic issues but turned some heads in practice towards the end of the season. With a full year in the program aleady he should be in great shape to compete for reps this fall. He will be in the four-deep rotation at running back and possibly a big-play threat when he's on the field. I have a very good feeling about him going forward. He could be the easy answer as to how the team replaces De'Veon Smith. In the spring game he looked like a hard-charging, fleet-footed back with the ability to fight for extra yardage after initial contact. 
  4. TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr. (RSo) 4-Star - I believe the staff will rely more on the tight ends as a group in 2017, and Wheatley will be one of the top targets at the position. We all know he is an intriguing prospect due to having good athleticism for a guy his size (6'6"/280lbs), but he needs to make the most of his increased reps this spring to hone his skills and get better. He and Bunting could really help ease the loss of all that receiving talent. He did have a highlight reel catch in the spring game that had him reaching for his shoelaces while on the run to get a first down. If we could get more of that this fall then I for one will be happy. 
  5. Khaleke Hudson #7
    S/LB Khaleke Hudson (So) 4-Star
     - Hudson looks like he could become a very good player for the Wolverines after being an underrated athlete in high school. He looks like he was chiseled out of stone and is equipped to play safety or linebacker. Look for him to be used regurlarly as a replacement for Jabrill Peppers at the "Viper" position.
  6. CB Lavert Hill (So) 4-Star - Got a lot of experience as a true freshman and his game is not unlike that of a younger Jourdan Lewis. I expect him to make major improvements and become a starter or the nickelback. Either way, we will be seeing more of him this fall.
  7. WR Kekoa Crawford (So) 4-Star - Played more and more as the season progressed and proved to be a tough player. He could be a very good blocker for the team on the perimeter, as well as a tough runner after the catch. He will compete for a starting job this spring and appears poised to beat out the seniors for playing time. He could play DB too if needed, which makes him more valuable and speaks volumes about his skillset. Ultimately, I think Harbaugh will want to keep him on the offensive side of the ball. 
  8. WR Eddie McDoom (So) 3-Star - McDoom came in as a true freshman and led the team in yards per rush, which came mostly on jet-sweeps and reverses. The coaching staff believes they have a developing weapon in him, and he could take over one of the top three receiver positions. Even if he doesn't start he will get a lot of opportunities to hear his name called out by the crowd. A move to running back is not out of the question either, but that won't happen this year if it ever does.
  9. CB David Long (So) 4-Star Long was a very highly-touted recruit coming out of high school and he got a lot of praise in practices throughout the 2016 season, despite not garnering a lot of playing time. The coaches will be looking for somebody to take over at corner though, and Long will be given every opportunity to develop his game and win the job. He has the necessary athleticism to a be a very good player in the Big Ten, and do not be surprised to see him among the top NFL prospects two years from now.
  10. WR Maurice Ways (RJr) 3-Star - Only five career catches on his resume, but he has had his hand in a few key blocks for the team over the last two years. He will get a chance to work on his game more this spring and the coaches hope he can become a dependable route-runner and pass-catcher for them. If he starts putting it all together he could be a key factor in the offense finding success in moving the chains.
  11. Drake Harris #14
    WR Drake Harris (RJr) 4-Star
     
    - Started garnering more playing time as 2016 rolled along and is poised for a run at a starting position this spring. If he can stay healthy and continue improving he will have a legit shot at being a major player for the team. Everybody has been expecting big things from him since he came on board in 2014. Could 2017 be the year he breaks out? There might just be too many quality targets for Speight to throw to, so Harris could get lost in the wash if he doesn't assert himself into the starting offense real soon. 
  12. TE/WR Zach Gentry (RSo) 4-Star - I have a good feeling about Gentry as a receiving threat going forward, but he will have to fight hard for reps in what appears to be a crowded position. He has the length (6'6") and athleticism to get up over defenders and he showed his skills in the spring with a long run and catch for a TD.
  13. S/LB Jordan Glasgow (RSo) 2-Star - Was a rising player all season that really made his presence known on special teams. Like his brothers before him, he could be a starter some day after coming to Michigan as a walk-on. I hope the fact that he missed a tackle on a pivotal kick return by Florida State late in the Orange Bowl motivates him to get better this off season. His 101 yard pick-six in the spring shows promise. Expect to see him get a lot of reps at the "Viper" spot along with Hudson and Furbush.                          
    Keith Washington #6
  14. CB Keith Washington (RSo) 3-Star - We haven't seen or heard much from the Alabama native, but he still has a lot of potential. He really showed up and played well in the spring game. In fact, no other defensive back impressed me more than him. He could end up being a starter when the season begins.
  15. DE Carlo Kemp (RFr) 4-Star - Kemp looks poised to be a top backup this fall. He flashed some ability as an early enrollee last winter but he was not in good enough shape physically to contribute in his first year. Now that he has trimmed up and packed on some real muscle he should be a factor. He showed a nose for the backfield in the spring game and played relatively well against the run for a guy of his size. In a couple years Don Brown might be referring to him as one of the "Dudes".

Top Ten Role Players, Contributors, and the Best off the Bench:
    Brandon Peters #
  1. QB Brandon Peters (RFr) 4-Star - For anybody that watched the spring game, Peters looked like the starting passer. No other QB is more athletic or has a stronger arm than him. No other QB has more upside either. His potential is through the roof. Prediction: Peters gets snaps this fall and could even be the starter before it's all said and done. If he continues to play like he did in the spring game I just don't know how Harbuagh could keep him on the bench.
  2. K Quinn Nordin (RFr) 3-Star - After missing a lot of time due to an injury, the highest rated kicking prospect in Michigan recruiting history will be counted on to step in and take care of a large chunk of the work left behind by the departed Kenny Allen. He hit a field goal early in the spring game that would have been good from 60+ yards, so the strength is there to be a difference-maker.
  3. QB John O'Korn (5th) 3-Star - Though O'Korn didn't really look impressive in his one outing as a starter in 2016 (Indiana), he is a veteran leader that will be a big asset for the team. He did look much better in the spring game, throwing tight, precision passes - including a beautiful fade to freshman Tarik Black for a TD. It never hurts to have guys like O'Korn on your sideline or in your locker room. 
  4. FB Henri Poggi (5th) 4-Star (DT) - Poggi might be the best backup fullback in the Big Ten. He can execute most blocks and even possesses some soft hands, though he doesn't appear to be a real weapon like Hill. He too could play a valuable role as a senior leader on a young team. He could possibly return to the defensive line, which is where he was recruited to play in the first place. 
  5. LB Devin Gil (So) 3-Star - A surprise player as a true freshman, Gil was Scout Team Player of the Week three times and got some game action in several contests. Expect to see him on special teams coverage units while getting mopup duties at linebacker. 
    #46 Michael Wroblewski
  6. Michael Wroblewski (5th) 2-Star A former walk-on who was awarded a scholarship last fall, Wroblewski has the necessary size and speed to play on the college level. He could turn out to be a very valuable player in terms of depth at the position. He should at least get a lot of special teams duties.
  7. DE Ron Johnson (RFr) 4-Star - Johnson was a highly touted recruit coming in as a freshman last year but redshirted the season. Two spots just opened up ahead of him. He could challenge for one of them if he's for it. A year in the program's strength and conditioning program will do him a lot of good. 
  8. WR Nate Johnson (So)  3-Star - Johnson came on late in the season and made some noise during the bowl practices. He looks like a future contributor that could emerge as early as this summer, though a switch to cornerback could occur if the receiver position begins to look a little too crowded. 
  9. DT Garret Miller (Sr) 2-Star - Miller garnered playing time in a few different contests last year and ended the season having logged five tackles. He could be one of the top backups on the interior of the line, though he will face a lot of competition from some first and second-year players.
  10. DT Michael Dwumfour (So) 3-Star - Has all the necessary size and strength to play the interior. He should be a backup but he might still be a year away from being able to contribute on a regular basis. 

Freshman Watch List:
  1. DT Aubrey Soloman 5-Star Might be the biggest recruiting win so far in the Harbaugh era, considering he had already once decommitted from the program. This kid is ready for the college trenches and he should help solidify the two-deep on the interior of the D-line. Look for him to be a full time starter in 2018. 
  2. WR Donovan Peoples-Jones 5-Star There may not be a better athlete in the entire 2017 recruiting class. With all the talent the team is losing on the receiving end of Speight's passes, the timing could not be more perfect for a player of this caliber to arrive on campus. There is also a spot open to return punts and kicks too, with Peppers and Lewis both gone to the NFL, and DPJ's 4.1 speed should help ease any pains from that loss. He is already enrolled and participating in off season drills too, so expectations will be high on him performing well right away this fall.
  3. OL Cesar Ruiz 4-Star Of all the offensive line prospects coming in this year, Ruiz is the most college-ready. He is a top-50 player and the best center in high school the last two years. It just so happens that starting center Mason Cole may have to move back to tackle too, so the opportunity is there for him to start right away. It doesn't hurt that he too is enrolled early and competing this spring. 
  4. WR Tarik Black (Fr) 4-Star There is a lot of freshman talent coming in at the receiver position, but Black is another early enrollee that should be a step ahead of most guys by the time summer camp rolls around. He is one of the top overall prospects off the East Coast and he looks physically capable of handling some work in year one. Just watch the spring game and tell me he doesn't look ready. He too can play special teams. 
  5. CB Ambry Thomas (Fr) 4-Star - There are few prospects out there with the combination of athleticism and confidence that Thomas carries with him to Ann Arbor, and with spots wide open on the depth chart he has an opportunity to come in and contribute right away. He is yet another recruit that is already on campus looking to get an edge on the competition. 
  6. P Brad Robbins (Fr) 2-Star - Widely considered one of the best punter prospects in the nation, Robbins picked Michigan over offers from Illinois and Nevada. The team needs a punter. He was brought here to push for the duty. Credit Harbaugh for going after some quality kicking talent and winning them over. 
  7. OT Andrew Stueber (Fr) 3-Star - A 6'6"/290lbs prospect from Ohio, Steuber could be the most underrated recruit in this year's freshman class. He was a late riser who the coaches really noticed in camp last summer. His recruitment kept gainimg momentum with quite a few more offers coming in down the stretch. I have him rated as a very high 3-Star recruit, as does 247 Sports. Scout.com has him listed as a 4-Star and among the top 250 prospects in the country. Obviously, the coaches are excited to have him on the team. I see him as a guy who could probably contribute early on in his career, much like Grant Newsome, Taylor Lewan and Mason Cole all did at left tackle before him. He might need a year in the program first, but don't be shocked if you see him playing right away this fall.
  8. DE Luiji Vilain (Fr) 4-Star - Is naturally strong and plays fast. Isn't always the first guy off the snap but he makes up for it with hustle and intensity. He was quickly rising up the rankings and is easily one of the top 50 prospect in the nation. I will be looking for him to relieve Chase Winovich throughout the season and get his name in the stat sheet several times. 
  9. LB Jordan Anthony (Fr) 4-Star Another top 100 player pulled from this year's cycle of recruits, Anthony is physically ready to compete at the next level. If he can get up to speed on Don Brown's defense then we should see plenty of him this fall. He could turn out to be a killer special teams player right away too. 
  10. CB Benjamin St-Juste  (Fr) 4-Star Committed to Harbaugh and the Wolverines before anybody else in the country knew who he was two years ago. Was originally targeted to be in the 2016 class, but wasn't actually eligible until now. He turned a lot of heads and cemented his status as a true 4-Star talent at Nike's The Opening last summer. He got beat up by Tarik black a little bit in the spring game, but he also had an interception too.


Top Sleepers:
  1. TE Sean McKeon (So) 3-Star - McKeon enrolled early as a part of last year's class and showed right away that he was capable of competing on this roster. With a year under his belt he could be primed for a role on Saturdays. 
  2. WR Nate Shoenle (So) 2-Star - Turned the coaches' heads last year as a freshman walk-on and has continued to do so this spring. The guy knows how to run routes, get separation, and use his hands to catch the ball. He's got decent size too, standing at 6'2"/185lbs. He is just another reason that the reciever position is so competitive right now. 
  3. TE Nick Eubanks (RFr) 3-Star - Another big target at 6'5"/235lbs that could get some real reps this year, especially with the transfer of Devin Asiasi. I kinda thought he was a little underrated as a prospect out of Florida. At the moment he is fifth on the depth chart but he showed in the spring game that he is capable of making plays. 
  4. OG/C Jon Runyan Jr. (RSo) 3-Star - A legacy prospect from Pennsylvania, Runyan has the basic tools to be a solid backup along the offensive line. In fact, he led in all but one of the categories for linemen during Harbaugh's mock NFL combine, including a 5.12 forty time. The dude is an athlete. If he can establish himself on the two-deep this spring it would pay huge dividends for the team this fall.
  5. LB Rueben Jones (RSo) 3-Star His name has come up in conversations with other players as to who we should look out for in the near future. He does possess good size and plays with a lot of hustle, but he is a complete unknown at linebacker. He played defensive end in high school against good competition in Florida, so the potential is definitely there. Could he be a year or two away from cracking the starting lineup?
  6. DT Carl Myers (RFr) 2-Star - A preferred walk-on from last year's recruiting cycle, Myers impressed the coaches early and earned some playing time in the opener against Hawaii. He was a highly decorated high school player with three state championships on his resume. He was also a state champ in shotput and discus, thus showing what type of raw power he is capable of producing. He could be a true sleeper on the D-line.  To