* Early enrollees are marked with an asterisk. Signees still coming this summer are in parentheses.
Rashan Gary, Chase Winovich, Carlo Kemp, Kwity Paye, Donovan Jeter, Luiji Vilain, (Aiden Hutchinson, Julius Welschof)
The Rundown: Gary and Winovich are one of the best returning tandems in the nation, no question. Gary anchors the strongside of the line, attracting a lot of double teams, while Winovich wreaks havoc in the backfield like a man with his hair on fire. Both are athletic and versatile, with great attitudes on and off the field. By all accounts, they are both stand up kids who are All-American material. There are also a lot of young, talented bodies behind the starters to create depth.
Lots of star power and depth on both ends of the D-line. This group should be a solid three-deep and two more very good prospects will be joining them this summer.
Devin Bush Jr., Khaleke Hudson, Noah Furbush, Josh Uche, Drew Singleton, Jordan Anthony, Josh Ross, Jordan Glasgow (safety), Devin Gil, Elysee Mbem-Bosse (Cam McGrone)
The Rundown: Bush and Hudson are two of the best linebackers returning in the Big Ten right now. They both can do it all on the field and both will be in the NFL some day soon. It is unclear as to who exactly will fill in for the departed Mike McCray II, but there is a slew of bodies to try out there. Furbush, a 5th-year senior with starting experience, is currently the top candidate. Anthony and Singleton were both very highly-touted recruits a year ago and a lot is expected of them soon. Ross has shown the ability to lay some big hits and Mbem-Bosse has garnered some experience on both defense and special teams. Both of them are worth watching out for this summer too. A combination of Uche, who is more of a pass-rusher, and Glasgow, a safety, will share the bulk of backup reps behind Hudson at the "Viper".
Like the end position, there is a lot of star power and enough depth to run three-deep at all three positions.
Lavert Hill, David Long, Ambry Thomas, Benjamin St-Juste (Myles Sims, Gemon German, Sammy Faustin)
The Rundown: Hill makes it look like Jourdan Lewis never left and Long is actually an upgrade on the other side. Ambry Thomas could have been a starter in his first season on many other rosters. He should continue to push for more playing time and will probably be in most sub-packages. Brandon Watson is a 5th-year senior who helps provide veteran leadership off the bench, but he could play more at safety in his final season. St-Juste is another youngster to watch out for in the near future, as are a healthy crop of incoming recruits this summer.
Bottom Line: A very strong group on the perimeter of the back seven, with two very good returning starters and some very good talent waiting in the wings.
4. Defensive Tackle
Aubrey Soloman, Bryan Mone, Michael Dwumfour, Lawrence Marshall, Ron Johnson, Deron Irving-Bey, Stephen Paea, Carl Myers, Taylor Upshaw*
Soloman looks capable of basically picking up where Mo' Hurst left off. He actually was a starter at the end of his freshman season. Mone has been a big factor against the run for this team for a couple years now, and he should continue to do so. It would be nice to see more big plays out of him though. Dwumfour and Marshall will be the top backups and both will get a chance for playing time. At least four or five other players will get a chance this spring and summer to earn a spot in the rotation too.
The starters look formidable but depth could be thin if some younger players don't step up.
Kekoa Crawford, Tarik Black, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins, Grant Perry, Nate Shoenle, Eddie McDoom, Oliver Martin (Ronnie Bell)
The Rundown: Admittedly, this group sorta gets a pass from me for a subpar year in 2017. There was the injury to Black as he was emerging as the team's best receiver during the first three weeks of the season. There were the issues at quarterback as well. And there were a few rookie mistakes at key moments that could have cost the team a loss or two. Well, the QB situation should be improved and all these kids won't be freshmen any more, so I am expecting bigger things from all the talent assembled here. Much bigger things. Peoples-Jones and Crawford ended the season as the starters, and both were actually trending up. Crawford averaged 20 yards per catch on seven receptions in the last two games combined (OSU, USC). Black will be fully recovered from a broken foot to try reclaiming his spot in the lineup this spring. All three guys have flashed potential while bringing a lot of athleticism to the field. Collins also got a lot of reps at the end of the year, particularly in the bowl game. He too should be a big factor going forward. Grant Perry is the senior leader despite losing his job to freshmen. He will find ways to contribute in his final year though, and will be very valuable in regards to depth. A few other kids will get a chance to mix it up as well, including Oliver Martin, another highly-touted recruit from a year ago.
Lots of young, raw athletic talent to choose from out at receiver. If the quarterback situation is improved, things could start getting very interesting in the passing game. New coach Jim McElwain and an improved running game should help this group improve as well.
Brandon Peters, Shea Patterson, Dylan McCaffrey, Michael Sessa, Joe Milton*
Another position that is being ranked more on potential than actual production from last season. There have been definite flashes of ability from both Peters and Patterson (at Ole Miss) against good FBS competition, but neither one has broken out, yet. Any way you dice it, the quarterback position group has more raw talent than we've seen at the position in over 10 years, possibly longer. There is also at least one more player in redshirt freshman Dylan McCaffrey that could be ready to play once the season opens. In all, there is one 5-Star recruit and three 4-Stars on the roster here. That is exactly the level of talent that every FBS coach could hope for on their roster. Now Harbaugh just needs to find a definitive leader among them.
Lots of young arms looking to take the next step. It should be fun.
Quinn Nordin (Jake Moody)
The Rundown: Nordin has an NFL-level leg but was way too inconsistent in 2017, missing some easy field goals. He redeemed himself in the Outback Bowl but made an ass of himself while grabbing his junk while taunting the South Carolina bench. He should've been flagged. Hopefully he matures a little bit and finds his groove. There might not be a better kicking prospect in the Big Ten. Ryan Tice is transferring so another backup needs to be found, but the team might have to wait for Moody's arrival this summer.
Lots of star potential at the top but more consistency and depth needs to be found.
8. Tight End
Sean McKeon, Zach Gentry, Tyrone Wheatley Jr., Nick Eubanks, (Mustapha Muhammad, Ryan Hayes, Luke Schoonmaker)
The Rundown: This position group is shaping up to be a very good one in 2018. McKeon is the returning team leader in receptions and reminds some scouts of Jake Butt. Gentry has shown flashes of being a threat in the middle of the field and he can use his 6'7" frame to his advantage. Wheatley Jr. has shown solid potential as a blocker but needs to get open more consistently. If all three can step up their games then this group could be deadly.
Just enough depth and star potential to make this an above average group going into 2018. Lots of talent is being added this summer too. A true breakout season from at least one guy is not unlikely this season.
9. Running Backs
Karan Higdon, Chris Evans, Kareem Walker, O'Maury Samuels, Kurt Taylor (Michael Bennett Christian Turner, Hassan Haskins)
The Rundown: This group collectively disappointed down the stretch, so there is a lot of room for improvement here. However, there is a lot of experience and star potential returning for 2018. Higdon and Evans return as the team's top two rushers from last season, and both have flashed big-time potential on a number of occasions. The big problem is that it was usually against lesser competition. If they can improve their pass-blocking and improve overall production against their rivals, they can become elite-level players with true NFL potential. Walker still has a lot of ground to make up on the top two, but he should be a little more up to speed after getting some reps throughout 2017. There is some potential on the bench too, and three very underrated prospects will arrive this summer.
Slightly above average group that needs to improve its pass-blocking, particularly in third and long situations. If they can solve any issues in that department then the ceiling becomes extremely high.
Tyree Kinnel, Josh Metellus, Brandon Watson, Brad Hawkins, Ja'Marick Woods (Casey Hughes, Vincent Gray, German Green)
The Rundown: The safety group struggled to stop the big play down the stretch in 2017 and got burned in the bowl game a few times by the Gamecocks. Something needed to be done here, and Harbaugh did the best he could. It didn't need to be a lot, as Kinnel and Metellus are solid and both should return as the starters, but depth was a big concern. Moving Watson and Glasgow back there full time could help too, but their talents might be needed elsewhere. Bringing in Hughes as a grad transfer from Utah should help immediately. He started 11 games for the Utes at corner last season.
The coaches want the safeties to cover more effectively than they did last season. Improving the depth is a great start to solving this position's problems, but there is not doubt that this is the weakest spot on the defense, so expect teams to attack them here.
Ben Mason, Jared Wangler (Ben VanSumeren)
The Rundown: The team will miss Henry Poggi and Kahlid Hill here, but Mason looks ready to prove himself as an able successor. He got a lot of playing time as a freshman and performed well. He should be an excellent lead blocker here, and he has shown a little knack for punching the ball into the endzone. VanSumeren comes in as an underrated recruit. Athletically, he can do it all as a fullback, H-back, or tight end. His receiving skills will be a welcomed addition to the backfield, and if he proves to be a good pass-blocker he could get some looks on third downs.
To be fair, Michigan's situation at fullback is most-likely better than 95% of the rest of the country, but most other teams don't utilize a fullback at all. It's all about the spread option passing attacks in college football these days. As far as what Michigan has on the roster, Mason is the only guy with experience. There is virtually no depth behind him.
Brad Robbins, Will Hart (George Caratan)
The Rundown: Robbins was voted an All-Big Ten Honoree by the coaches in his freshman season. Doesn't blow anybody away with leg strength, but he's got the touch and placement that every coach covets at the position.
This position looks to be in good hands with Robbins and Hart. More depth could also be coming here in the summer.
13. Offensive Line
Ben Bredeson (G), Cesar Ruiz (C/G), Michael Onwenu (G), Juwann Bushell-Beatty (T), Stephen Spanellis (G/C), Grant Newsome (T), Nolan Ulizio (T), Jon Runyan (C/G), James Hudson (G/T), Chuck Filiaga (T), Andrew Stueber (T), Greg Robinson (T), Andrew Vastardis (G), Joel Honigford (G/T) (Jalen Mayfield)
When Brady Hoke took over the Michigan program in 2011 there were only eight scholarship linemen on the roster. Since then it has been an uphill battle to make the O-line a position that opponents fear at Michigan once again. There is a nice mixture of talent and experience on the interior of the line, with Bredeson and Ruiz leading the way. Onwenu has loads of potential too, but his weight is continuously a problem. Right tackle was in crisis mode all season long last year and everybody that played there returns, for better or for worse. The team loses its best lineman, Mason Cole, to graduation, so two starting tackles will need to be found. There is a slew of redshirt freshmen ready to challenge for a spot, including James Hudson. He was a big-bodied 4-Star talent out of Ohio a year ago who could break into one of the two tackle spots this spring. Of the 13 scholarship linemen now on the roster, 12 of them have at least two years of eligibility remaining, and seven of those 12 have garnered significant experience somewhere on the line in the last two years. This group is still relatively young but somewhat experienced with 55 collective starts among them. I expect things to look different here in 2018 than in most recent years.
The interior should be very good moving forward, but both tackle positions need retooling. Depth isn't the greatest either, as a lot of fresh faces grace the chart. Though it's not a total disaster either, as they were all highly-touted recruits. The potential could be through the roof if a couple dudes emerge from the pile of tackle prospects. Until that happens though, this group will be considered average at best and one of the biggest question marks on the roster.