Michigan faces a huge turnover in players with some great long term guys either gone on to the NFL or lost to eligibility rules.
Gone are 3 out of 5 Offensive Linemen, their top rusher in De’Veon Smith, both top Wide Receivers and their great Tight End. On defense, they lost nearly everybody.
Maybe Michigan fans should just skip the 2017 season and find something else to do. Maybe the program will fall apart and head coach Jim Harbaugh falls into the hot seat and fans turn against him.
Or, maybe not.
Michigan has a lot more going for it than the casual fan might think.
First of all, if football all begins at Quarterback, the Wolverines have some experience returning. 6-6, 240 Wilton Speight started all season for the Wolverines and although he could have been better, he still had his moments. The experienced senior threw for 2,538 yards and 18 Touchdowns last season.
As always, some fans are wanting something better.
Something better just may be redshirt freshman Brandon Peters. One of the top Quarterback recruits in the country a couple of years ago, Peters is a talent and he looked great in Michigan’s Spring game. He may be the future of the Michigan program, if he can hold off one of the Wolverines’ most celebrated recruits in Dylan McCaffrey the younger brother of Christian. McCaffrey Family
The Wolverines have almost an embarrassment of riches at Quarterback with John O’Korn and Alex Malzone.
While Speight is experienced, he needs to clean up his game a little bit.
Brandon Peters is waiting in the wings.
With De’Veon Smith gone, Chris Evans should take over at Running Back and he brings great speed to the position. Evans ran for over 600 yards a year ago at nearly 7 yards per carry. He lacks the power of the 230 pound De’Veon Smith, but he has a burst that Smith lacked.
The Wolverines will play a lot of backs next season with Karan Higdon and Ty Isaac also returning. If they want power, Isaac is 245 pounds.
Former 5 star Running Back from New Jersey, Kareem Walker is finally available and time will tell
how good he will be. They also have recruits Kurt Taylor and O’Maury Samuels.
The Running Back position is in good hands.
Top Fullbacks Khalid Hill, the Touchdown man, and Henry Poggi both return and Jim Harbaugh is old school. He likes to run a lot from the I-Formation using Fullbacks.
The Wolverines lost their best Wide Receivers from the past few seasons, but all is not bleak. They recruited some of the best receivers in the country in Donovan Peoples-Jones, Tarik Black, Nico Collins and Oliver Martin. Those guys will play and Black might actually be the best of the bunch when all is said and done with his 6-4, 210 frame.
Returning receivers include Kekoa Crawford, Eddie McDoom, Nate Johnson and Grant Perry. With the talented freshmen here, this group could become a team strength.
To say that Michigan has Tight Ends is like saying Betty Crocker has cake recipes. They got ’em.
Sure, they lost Jake Butt who was a talent, but they return Tyrone Wheatley Jr, Ian Bunting, Sean McKeon, Nick Eubanks and Zach Gentry. Bunting probably starts, but Wheatley will be the better pass receiver. Eubanks and McKeon are coming on and I blogged about Gentry earlier: Zach Gentry
Another position that you might say lies in good hands and Michigan actually uses their Tight Ends.
As previously mentioned, the Wolverines lost 3 long time starters in the Offensive Line. That could be a good thing in the long run, because the replacements could be better as Harbaugh and staff continue recruiting. The problem that Michigan might suffer this year is lack of experienced depth.
4 year starter Mason Cole is back at Left Tackle after playing Center. He’s not the best Left Tackle in
the country, but he brings a lot of experience and toughness to the position. Backing him up is a walk-on named Greg Robinson. While Robinson is an exceptional walk-on, losing Cole to injury this season could be rough on offensive production.
True freshman Joel Honigford could be the future starter here and Cesar Ruiz, another true freshman, could slide out from Center if necessary.
Ben Bredeson was one of the hottest Offensive Tackle recruits in the country a year ago out of the state of Wisconsin. Due to injury last season, Left Guard Ben Braden moved out to Left Tackle and Bredeson moved into the starting spot in Braden’s place. Behind Bredeson will be equally youthful players.
The Wolverines have experience at Center with Patrick Kugler who is a senior. He’s been mostly a back up during his career at Michigan, but he’s earned playing time over the last few years. Behind him is super true freshman Cesar Ruiz who was the top Center prospect in the nation in the most recent signing class. Ruiz could be the answer long term, and he should have the talent to fill in at Left Tackle if needed.
Michael Onwenu will be the new starter at Right Guard and he has the talent to be a very good one. But, he has to stay healthy. He’s the biggest of the Offensive Linemen at 6-3, 350. There is almost no depth at all behind him.
The Right Tackle starter will likely be Jon Runyan Jr, if he can beat out Juwann Bushell-Beatty. Bushell-Beatty was the starter at Left Tackle last season before being lost for the year with an injury. True freshmen Chuck Filiaga and Andrew Stueber should be quality depth this season.
If everybody stays healthy on offense this season, the Wolverines have a chance at being better this season.
Across the line of scrimmage, Michigan has some huge shoes to fill at almost every position.
The super exciting position is at Defensive End with former top recruit in the nation, Rashan Gary
returns for his sophomore season. He played behind seniors last season, but now it’s Gary’s turn to take over. Gary just has the ability to dominate this season and beyond. At 6-5, 285, during the winter off season, Gary was able to run a 40 yard dash in the 4.5 range. That is moving for a smaller Running Back. For a 290 pound Defensive End, that is just plain scary. Gary has a chance at becoming one of the first guys picked in the NFL Draft after his junior season.
He should explode this season which is one of the reasons I am excited about Michigan in 2017 instead of fretting over them.
Behind Gary should be redshirt freshman Carlo Kemp and maybe true freshman Donovan Jeter. Ron Johnson redshirted last season and he might play at Defensive End as well.
At the other end, which is called the Buck Linebacker position, they have Chase Winovich who also possesses great quickness and pass rushing abilities. Playing the run might be a problem, but he can put heat on a Quarterback early and often.
Rueben Jones should be his main back up going in. But, incoming freshmen Luiji Villain and Kwity Paye should put some pressure on the guys ahead of them. Vilain might already be a fan favorite with that name so closely resembling villain.
In the middle, people underrating the Wolverines this season forget about Bryan Mone. Playing Noseguard, Mone is outstanding when he has been healthy.
Backing him up should be redshirt freshman Michael Dwumfour, and incoming freshmen Aubrey Solomon and Phillip Paea and they all should be stars over the next few seasons. Solomon, in particular, was an interesting recruiting victory for the Harbaugh staff.
At the Defensive Tackle position, Michigan also returns a guy with plenty of experience and talent in Maurice Hurst. Michigan may have lost a lot of players, but they have good talent returning at a lot of spots. Lawrence Marshall is also at Tackle and incoming freshmen James Hudson and Deron Irving-Bey.
The defensive front should be more than fine with the guys returning and incoming stars. It might even
be a team strength with Gary, Mone and Hurst.
At Outside Linebacker, Noah Furbush is expected to start. Don’t misjudge Furbush, he is 6-5, 240 and can run. The other guys vying for playing time are either redshirt freshmen, or true freshmen. Joshua Uche, Devin Gil and Drew Singleton are all wanting to prove themselves.
At the Inside Linebacker Mike position, Devin Bush is looking to have a breakout season after being a highly touted recruit last season and the son of a former Florida State great.
Behind Bush will probably be sophomore Elysee Mbem-Bosse and walk-ons.
Michael McCray, a senior, is back at the Will position after seemingly being around forever. Jared Wangler and recruits Joshua Ross and Jordan Anthony are going to back up McCray.
If Michigan fans should worry about anything, it could be the defensive backfield. They lost a lot of talent and they don’t return much experience at all.
Redshirt freshmen David Long or Benjamin St Juste should start at the Field Cornerback and either Keith Washington or LaVert Hill should start on the Boundary Corner side. Brandon Watson could start at a Corner spot and has the most experience.
An interesting development at Cornerback could be the conversion of Drake Harris from the offense. What’s intriguing about Harris is his 6-4, 190 frame.
Tyree Kinnell at Free Safety is the Michigan Defensive Back that has played the most. Behind him are freshmen, which could be very frightening.
Walk-on Safety Jordan Glasgow, the youngest of three brothers could be the starter at Strong Safety and he possesses the same type of heart that his two older brothers did.
The Wolverines are far from the dead in the water team that some people make them out to be. Yes, they had some huge losses, but they also return a lot of great talent. The secondary will be young, but the front 7 will keep the heat off of them very early in the season while they develop.
Michigan might surprise some people this season.