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Posts Tagged ‘Predicting Michigan’

Predicting Michigan 2016: The linebackers

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016


Predicting Michgian 2016-Linebackers

Appalachian v Michigan(Leon Halip, Getty Images)

Previous: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers, Tight Ends, Offensive Line, Defensive Line

There aren’t many legitimate critiques to make about Michigan’s 2015 defense, which finished the season among the 10 best defenses in the country. But it did have one clear weakness that was especially obvious late in the Big Ten season: the linebackers.
Heading into the season, the Wolverines felt good about their linebacking corps. Veteran starters Joe Bolden, Desmond Morgan and James Ross figured to have solid seasons as seniors. Unfortunately for Michigan, they were the Achilles heel of the defense and, ultimately, were the undoing in the final game against Ohio State.

Now the position will see more turnover than any other spot on the roster. With new faces joining the team and a few veterans expected to step up, here’s Michigan’s outlook at linebacker.

Returning contributors:

With all three senior starters gone, Michigan will turn to a handful of players who figure to step into bigger roles at linebacker.

Senior Mike McCray is finally healthy and prime for a breakout season (Scout.com)

Senior Mike McCray is finally healthy and primed for a breakout season (Scout.com)

One of the most talked about players throughout the summer has been Mike McCray, who missed the entire 2015 season with an injury. McCray worked himself into the mix at linebacker during his sophomore year, playing in 11 games and even blocking a punt. McCray is a reliable, consistent tackler and has the size to plug up running lanes. His challenge will be getting to the edge on stretch plays or dropping back in pass coverage – two abilities Michigan linebackers lacked in 2015.

Another player who hopes to take on a much bigger role is Ben Gedeon. Gedeon quietly enjoyed a very solid 2015 season, playing in 11 of 13 games and making a career-high 34 tackles. He showed good burst late in the year, picking up 2.5 tackles for loss in the team’s final three games. The senior has spent his first three seasons as a very solid part of the linebacker rotation, but now he has a chance to take on an even bigger role.

Oh yeah, there’s another returning player joining the linebacking corps. His name is Jabrill Peppers.

Peppers makes the jump to linebacker after playing virtually everywhere on the field. He’ll likely line up at multiple positions again in 2016, but his main job appears to be shoring up a thin second line. Peppers is the best athlete on the team, but that really hasn’t translated into any breakout performances through two seasons. He’s shown flashes of his elite athletic ability, but Michigan fans are still waiting (in heavy anticipation) for him to actually explode.

Linebacker is the spot where Peppers can best demonstrate his elite versatility. If he settles into the position, he has a chance to be one of the best at the position in the Big Ten.

Career Stats – McCray
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
11 2 0 2 0.0 1.0 0 0 0
Career Stats – Ben Gedeon
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
37 42 28 70 2.0 5.5 0 0 0
Career Stats – Jabrill Peppers
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF PD INT
15 40 13 53 0.0 5.5 0 10 0
Potential contributors:

The rest of Michigan’s linebackers are relatively unproven, but a couple of guys stand out as having a chance to make an impact this season.

One is Noah Furbush, who has battled some injuries but impressed Jim Harbaugh during camp and should work his way into the mix. The redshirt sophomore is a fringe candidate for a starting spot and hopes to build on a season in which he contributed mostly on special teams.

Furbush was a beast in high school, recording well over 200 tackles and even picking up 43 tackles for loss during his career. He’s not much of a pass rusher, but his ability to read plays and get in the backfield gives him a good chance to play in Don Brown’s defense. Remember Furbush as a potential breakout player in Michigan’s defense.

A more under-the-radar player who might contribute is Reuben Jones, who made the switch from defensive end to linebacker after committing to Michigan last season. Jones was the first player to commit to Harbaugh at Michigan and has been working his way toward some playing time as a redshirt freshman. As a former defensive lineman, Jones would bring a backfield threat into the mix at linebacker, something Brown values in his defense.

Career Stats – Furbush
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
9 3 1 4 0.0 0.0 0 0 0
Career Stats – Jones
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
New faces:

Harbaugh knew his roster was thin at linebacker, so what did he do? He brought in four highly-rated linebacker commits to stir up the competition.

The headliner of the group is Devin Bush, a Florida native who will get a look at inside linebacker this season. Throughout camp, Bush’s name has been at the top of the list of freshmen who will make an impact in 2016. He’s a good tackler with enough speed to get to the edge – something this group desperately needs. Bush showed good instincts in the spring game, but he’ll need more work in pass coverage before he’s considered a great all-around player.

Bush’s high school teammate, Devin Gil, joins him in Ann Arbor after they helped Charles W. Flanagan High School win the 8A division title in Florida. Gil was a less flashy player in high school, but showed a better knack for pass coverage than Bush. There’s a chance the freshman could convert to safety before his college career is done, but for now, he’s fighting for a chance to see the field with his old teammate at the next level.

If Bush and Gil came to Michigan as one package deal, Elysee Mbem-Bosse and Josh Uche came as another. The two committed to the Wolverines somewhat unexpectedly on Jan. 24 and have made some noise during fall camp. Mbem-Bosse was mentioned by Harbaugh Monday as a freshman who could play this season and Uche – a former defensive end – could end up playing a hybrid role as well.

With four talented freshmen in the mix for playing time, Harbaugh hopes Michigan will elevate its linebacker play from the start.

Michigan also welcomed preferred walk-on Peter Bush to the roster. Bush, a former quarterback, is a guy to keep an eye on from the walk-on list, as he had offers to play several positions at schools around the country.

Meet the rest:

Jack Dunaway: Sophomore, 6-3, 222, from Bloomfield Hills, Mich. (Brother Rice)
No career stats
Cheyenn Robertson: Sophomore, 6-3, 238, from Union City, N.J. (St. Peter’s Prep)
No career stats
Michael Wroblewski: Senior, 6-2, 242, from Sanit Clair Shores, Mich. (Detroit Jesuit)
No career stats
Alex Kaminski: Junior, 5-11, 209, from Ada, Mich. (Lowell)
No career stats
Jameson Offerdahl: Sophomore, 6-2, 214, from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Cardinal Gibbons)
No career stats
Jared Wangler: Junior, 6-2, 229, from Royal Oak, Mich. (De La Salle)
No career stats
Wyatt Shallman: Senior, 6-3, 242, from Harland, Mich. (Detroit Catholic Central)
No career defensive stats

Predicting Michigan 2016: The defensive line

Thursday, August 25th, 2016


Predicting Michgian 2016-DefensiveLine
Chris Wormley(Calros Osorio, AP)

Previous: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers, Tight Ends, Offensive Line

For Michigan, the defensive line is the position group everybody wants to see. Thanks to a strong recruiting class and minimal attrition to the NFL, the Wolverines return a very deep defensive line that was excellent in 2015 until being struck by injury.

When Michigan sported a top five defense through the first half of the season, it was led by a defensive line that completely stuffed opposing running games and caused a little bit of mayhem in the backfield. Players like Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling enjoyed breakout seasons, but some of their success has to be attributed to the work done in the trenches.

Will Michigan be even better on the defensive line this year?

Major contributors:

Instead of naming starters, let’s take a look at all the defensive linemen who should play major minutes as starters or heavily-used backups this season.

Last season, everything started with defensive end Chris Wormley, who racked up an insane 14.5 tackles for loss. It wasn’t just sacks for Wormley – though he did have 6.5 – as he regularly got great jumps off the edge and stuff running backs behind the line.

Taco Charlton

Senior end Taco Charlton is getting first-round talk entering the season

Wormley has evolved into Michigan’s smartest defensive lineman and the Toledo, Ohio native should be just as productive as a fifth-year senior. Look for him to improve on his All Big Ten Third Team honors.

The other returning defensive end who saw major playing time in 2015 is Taco Charlton. Charlton was enjoying a solid season through 10 games, but really broke out against Penn State. He exploded for two sacks and three tackles for loss, including a bone-rattling hit on battered quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Charlton is a pure pass rusher who has quietly picked up 14 sacks the last two seasons. He’s only made four starts in his career 35 games, but this season he’ll see his role increase as a senior.

Then there’s Rashan Gary. We haven’t seen the freshman play a single snap at the college level, but I’m still expecting him to be an impact player wherever he lands on the defensive line. He’s listed as a defensive end, but Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Don Brown won’t be afraid to move him around and take advantage of his versatility. Gary is an elite pass rusher and an able run blocker, so he can play in any situation. He put on a clinic in the Under Armour All-America Game, tallying three sacks and taking home the MVP. Gary is one of the most highly-touted recruits ever, and the first No. 1 to come to Michigan. Fans should expect a special season.

Moving to the inside of the line, Michigan has one rock who holds the whole group together: Ryan Glasgow. The fifth-year senior won’t have much success rushing the quarterback, but he’s the best run stopper on the roster. Glasgow recorded five tackles for loss last season, but his real value came in plugging up the inside running lanes. When he went down with a chest injury, the run stopping game fell apart. Indiana and Ohio State absolutely shredded the Wolverines in the running game and D.J. Durkin had no answer without Glasgow anchoring the tackles. He’s not the flashiest lineman, but Glasgow is vitally important to the defense.

Maurice Hurst complimented Glasgow well on the inside of the defensive line, providing support against the run, but also recording three sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. Hurst played in every game last season but should see more snaps this season with Willie Henry off the roster.

One of the biggest wildcards for the entire Michigan team could be Bryan Mone, who was a solid run stopper for the Wolverines as a true freshman in 2014. Mone was expected to be a game-changing nose tackle last season, but a devastating ankle injury ended his year before it even started. Mone will get a chance to reestablish himself as a good defensive tackle and combine with Glasgow to stuff opposing running backs.

Career Stats – Wormley
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
38 44 39 83 12.0 24.0 1 1 0
Career Stats – Charlton
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
35 36 15 51 9.0 14.4 1 0 0
Career Stats – Glasgow
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
32 26 23 49 1.0 9.0 1 1 0
Career Stats – Hurst
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
21 20 18 38 3.0 7.5 0 0 0
Career Stats – Mone
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
12 2 7 9 0.0 1.5 0 1 0
Other contributors:

With Gary and Mone joining the rotation and taking up snaps, I think Matthew Godin might see a bit of a decreased role. Godin was a less effective version of Glasgow last season, specializing in stopping the run but struggling to do so after Glasgow’s injury. Godin will still be a part of the rotation because he’s a solid, reliable tackle, but there are a few players with higher upside ahead of him.

Two other players to keep an eye on are Lawrence Marshall and Chase Winovich. Marshall played in only three games last season, but his potential to be a pass rusher off the edge gives him a chance to get into the rotation. Winovich played in six games last season, but didn’t make much of an impact. He should be a depth guy heading into his junior year.

Career Stats – Godin
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
22 9 17 26 1.5 2.5 0 0 1
Career Stats – Marshall
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
3 1 0 1 0.0 0.0 0 0 0
Career Stats – Winovich
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
6 2 0 2 0.0 0.0 0 0 0
New faces:

Gary stole the headlines for Michigan at defensive line, and for good reason. But there are two other commits from the line in the 2016 class.

Defensive tackle Michael Dwumfour is a valuable tackle who can get pressure up the middle. He racked up seven sacks and 21 tackles for loss in his high school senior season and could make an impact if he doesn’t redshirt in 2016.

Shelton Johnson is a less heralded commit from the 2015 class and is off to a rough start after being suspended by Harbaugh for an unknown issue. Johnson is a solid pass rusher off the edge, but took a step back during his senior season at Riverview High School in Florida, tallying only three sacks. He might not see much of the field in 2016.

Camden, N.J. native Ron Johnson was a 247 Composite four-star with offers from Alabama, Oregon, Stanford, Ohio State, Michigan State and other major programs. The potential is there for the defensive end, but the depth Michigan has along the line will mean a likely redshirt season for him this fall.

Meet the rest:

Michael Wroblewski: Senior, 6-2, 242, from Saint Clair Shores, Mich. (Detroit Jesuit)
No career stats
Salim Makki: Junior, 6-0, 264, from Dearborn, Mich. (Fordson)
No career stats
Garrett Miller: Senior, 6-4, 271, from Adrian, Mich. (Sand Creek)
No career stats

Predicting Michigan 2016: The offensive line

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016


Predicting Michgian 2016-OffensiveLine
Mason Cole(Melanie Maxwell, MLive.com)

Previous: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers, Tight Ends

It’s not the most glamorous position on the football field, but no group will play a more important role than the offensive line for Michigan this season, especially with a new quarterback taking over and a heightened emphasis on running the ball.

Luckily for Michigan, it returns one of the most important qualities in an offensive line: experience. Four of the team’s five regular starters return for 2016 after Graham Glasgow was selected in the third round of the NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.

The two unknowns heading into the offseason were who would take that fifth starting spot, and which reserves can step into a bigger rotational role.

Starting five

Four of Michigan’s five offensive linemen return after starting at least 12 games last season. The most solid, reliable player is fifth-year senior Kyle Kalis, who started all 13 games at right guard and elevated his play to near all-conference levels. Kalis has been a mainstay on the offensive line since his redshirt freshman season in 2013. Since settling in at right guard, Kalis has become a solid pass protector, but like much of the line, needs to take the next step to create the running game Jim Harbaugh envisions.

Grant Newsome played his way out of a redshirt as a true freshman in 2015 and now moves into the starting lineup (Melanie Maxwell, MLive.com)

Grant Newsome played his way out of a redshirt as a true freshman in 2015 and now moves into the starting lineup (Melanie Maxwell, MLive.com)

Fellow fifth-year senior Ben Braden takes up the other guard slot, coming off a breakout season in which he started 13 games and quietly put up some of the best performances on the line. Recruited as a tackle, Braden was hailed as a strong run blocker coming into Ann Arbor, but he’s done a nice job to date stopping the inside pass rush.

Both starting tackles return for the 2016 season, but with a bit of a twist. Fifth-year senior Erik Magnuson will lock down his familiar right tackle spot and be a major contributor on the line for a fourth straight season. He’s slowly turned himself into a strong edge blocker and enjoyed his best season under Harbaugh a year go.

But former starting left tackle Mason Cole will step into a new role for his junior year, though he’ll be just as crucial to this veteran line. After becoming Michigan’s first true freshman to start a season opener on the offensive line in 2014, Cole played left tackle in each of his first 25 games at Michigan. Now, he’ll step into Glasgow’s empty shoes as the starting center, a role he’s embraced this summer.

Michigan went through a disastrous period at center under Brady Hoke, struggling with the center-quarterback exchange, and at times, allowing defenders to get huge jumps off the snap. Cole will be critical in picking up the running game this season and shoring up the inside of the line. He’s a smart player and has the physical tools for a smooth transition, but Cole will be a player to watch when the Wolverines take the field Sept. 3.

Four starters down, and one question mark to go. The new kid at the starters’ table will be sophomore Grant Newsome, who takes over the vitally important left tackle position. Newsome is one of the best natural two-way blockers on the roster, coming into college as an excellent pass blocker and an able run blocker. He’s strong and explosive, but the key will be consistency and moving his feet off the edge on a play-by-play basis. Newsome will have his gaffs, like any young player, but as the season goes on, he’ll benefit from playing next to such an experienced group.

Projected Starters
Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle
Grant Newsome Ben Braden Mason Cole Kyle Kalis Erik Magnuson
2015 Starts 1 13 13 13 12
Career Starts 1 25 25 29 24
Likely contributors

The starting five played a ton of snaps for Michigan last season, but there are a few returning players who contributed in the rotation. Perhaps the most seasoned backup, and a candidate for a starting role as a redshirt senior next year, is David Dawson. Dawson shared some time with Braden at left guard last season and held his own, especially in pass blocking. He’ll be an important depth guy in 2016.

Senior Patrick Kugler is in a similar situation, though his ceiling was much higher coming into Ann Arbor. The former five-star recruit played a backup role in 2015 and could provide some insurance if Cole struggles at center, which seems unlikely. Either way, the senior will play a role.

An interesting player to watch will be junior Juwann Bushell-Beatty, who played in only four games as a reserve lineman last season. The Paramus, N.J. native was just getting his feet wet last season, and passed his first college test. He might not take on a huge role this season, but look for Bushell-Beatty to make moves up the depth chart for 2017.

Ben Pliska played in two games last season, so his role could grow as a fifth-year senior in 2016. He can fill in at multiple positions on the line and gives Harbaugh another option if one of these contributors struggles or goes down with an injury.

Two linemen who didn’t play last season but should figure into the mix as redshirt freshmen are Nolan Ulizio and Jon Runyan. Both members of Harbaugh’s first recruiting class at Michigan, Ulizio and Runyan committed as three-star prospects. Ulizio fits the fits the typical Harbaugh bill — a smart, physical player who plays the position with a chip on his shoulder. Runyan is a little different, as he’s more of a quick, explosive lineman who may be a little undersized, but compensates with great technique. Expect both players to find a home in the rotation off the bench.

New faces

Michigan pulled in three new offensive line recruits in its elite 2016 class, led by Wisconsin’s finest, Ben Bredeson. That’s right, Harbaugh managed to pull a Wisconsin lineman away from the Badgers, and Bredeson is exactly what you’d expect from that ilk. One of the top offensive linemen in his class, Bredeson projects as a guard or tackle and could probably step into a bigger role if Michigan wasn’t so stacked with veteran lineman. Bredeson has decent size, but his value comes from his athleticism, which makes him an excellent run blocker. If he can bring his pass protection up to par, he’ll be a familiar face on the line over the next several years.

Harbaugh pulled another gem from the offensive line crop, snagging Michael Onwenu out of Cass Tech in Detroit. Onwenu is an absolutely enormous human who will play guard at over 350 pounds. He can pass block well for a big guy, but his specialty should be run blocking as he matures. It’s all power and strength with Onwenu, so his ability to learn the intricacies of the position will dictate his success at Michigan.

The third – and sometimes forgotten – man from this group is Stephen Spanellis, who committed to Michigan out of nowhere in January. Spanellis is just another big, strong lineman to add to the mix, joining the team at 6-feet-6 inches tall and around 300 pounds. He probably won’t play much of a role as a freshman, but the Baltimore native could factor in down the line.

Michigan also welcomed preferred walk-ons Anthony Kay, Carl Myers and Andrew Vastardis to the offensive line group.

Meet the rest

Greg Froelich: Senior, 6-2, 257, from Maplewood, N.J. (Deerfield Academy)
Greg Robinson: Freshman, 6-6, 290, from Hudson, Ohio (Hudson)

Predicting Michigan 2016: The wide receivers

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016


Predicting Michgian 2016-WideReceivers

Nov 7, 2015; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Jehu Chesson (86) celebrates his touchdown in the first quarter against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports(Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

Previous: Quarterbacks, Running Backs

When Jim Harbaugh arrived in Ann Arbor over a year ago, he inherited a Michigan team with an uncharacteristic lack of star power at wide receiver. Devin Funchess had already announced his intentions to enter the NFL Draft and no other player on the roster had recorded 500 yards or 40 catches.

But in just one year, Harbaugh took two redshirt juniors and turned them into dangerous playmakers in a new offense. Now, as fifth-year seniors, they’ll be asked to carry the load in a receiver corps dominated by young, unproven players.

Returning Starters

Breakout seasons from Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh couldn’t have come at a better time last year. With Jake Rudock taking over the offense and Funchess off to the NFL, Harbaugh managed to squeeze more than 100 catches, over 1,400 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns out of the duo.

Chesson’s game really transformed in 2015 as he turned into a more well-rounded offensive weapon. Along with catching 50 passes, Chesson also carried the ball eight times for 155 yards and two touchdowns. He was Jabrill Peppers’ best return game partner and one of his biggest plays of the season was a kick return touchdown to shock Northwester on the opening play.

Chesson was voted the team’s MVP at the postseason banquet, but Harbaugh has promoted Darboh as the team’s best wideout heading into 2016.

Darboh was Rudock’s favorite target early in the season and really played a consistent wide receiver for Michigan throughout the year. He has the most reliable hands on the team at wide receiver and can win a jump ball if the quarterback throws it up. His 58 catches led the team and he has a great chance to repeat that as a senior.

Chesson and Darboh have turned into one of the best wide receiver duos in the country and whoever wins the starting quarterback job will be in good hands come Sept. 3.

Projected Stats – Chesson
Receptions Yards YPC Long TD YPG
45 680 15.1 7 52.3
Career Stats
2015 50 764 15.3 64 9 58.8
2014 14 154 11.0 28 0 14.0
2013 15 221 14.7 58 1 17.0
2012 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Totals 79 1,139 14.4 64 10 30.8
Projected Stats – Darboh
Receptions Yards YPC Long TD YPG
60 750 12.5 6 57.7
Career Stats
2015 58 727 12.5 39 5 55.9
2014 36 473 13.1 34 2 39.4
2013 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2012 0 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 94 1,200 12.8 39 7 33.3
Returning contributors

The top two spots on the depth chart are obviously clear cut, but the third wide receiver slot is seemingly up for grabs.

After the spring game, it certainly seems like Grant Perry is a top candidate to win the job. Perry caught only 14 passes for 128 yards last season, but he was Wilton Speight’s favorite target in April’s spring game.

Sep 3, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Grant Perry (9) lines up for a play during the second half against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Utah won 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

(Russ Isabella, USA Today Sports)

Perry was targeted more than any other receiver on April 1, catching three passes for 30 yards. He looked like the No. 1 receiver with both Chesson and Darboh on the sidelines.

Perry — the No. 2 receiver from Michigan in the 2014 recruiting class — isn’t a huge playmaker, but a reliable target who runs his routes well and catches the balls that get to him. He might not be as explosive as other options, but Harbaugh knows Perry could be the best option for an unproven quarterback.

Then there’s Drake Harris.

Harris came to Ann Arbor as one of the most anticipated recruits of the Brady Hoke era. The state’s top receiver out of Grand Rapids, Harris looked like a player who would step in and help the team right away.

But injury and inconsistency have pushed Harris out of the spotlight. He caught only six passes for 39 yards last season and didn’t touch the ball the second half of the year.

Harris has good hands and excellent athleticism, so there’s still a chance he could stay healthy and put everything together to be a solid weapon for Michigan. But at this point, he’s on the outside of the starting lineup and looking like more of a rotation guy.

The only other returning wide receiver who saw the field last season is Maurice Ways, a junior out of Beverly Hills, Michigan.

Ways picked up three catches for 40 yards last season, so he wasn’t much of a factor in the offense. When Harbaugh announced the junior would have foot surgery in March, it looked like a severe uphill battle for Ways to get into the wide receiver rotation.

But Ways is back on the field and participating in drills, which means he could be ready to contribute when September rolls around. The former 3-star recruit has good hands and checks in at 6 foot 4, so don’t count him out of the competition for the No. 3 spot just yet.

Projected Stats – Perry
Receptions Yards YPC Long TD YPG
30 280 9.3 3 21.5
Career Stats
2015 14 128 9.1 25 1 9.8
Totals 14 128 9.1 25 1 9.8
Projected Stats – Harris
Receptions Yards YPC Long TD YPG
15 200 13.3 1 15.4
Career Stats
2015 6 39 6.5 13 0 4.3
Totals 6 39 6.5 13 0 4.3
Projected Stats – Ways
Receptions Yards YPC Long TD YPG
10 120 12.0 0 9.2
Career Stats
2015 3 40 13.3 21 0 3.6
2014 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Totals 3 40 13.3 21 0 3.6
New Faces

One of the highlights of Michigan’s elite 2016 recruiting class is the group of wide receivers Harbaugh pulled from all around the country.

Five new receivers joined the roster in 2016, including early enrollee Ahmir Mitchell. Mitchell was one of the top freshmen featured in the spring game, and his size really stood out.

As the No. 1 receiver out of New Jersey, Mitchell figures to have a chance to play this season. He’s a home run threat that Michigan needs behind Chesson and he’s also big enough to win matchups over the middle.

Dylan Crawford, a 6-foot wide receiver with great hands out of Santa Margarita, could also play a role this season. Crawford is touted as a fundamentally sound receiver who can run routes and has good speed. His ceiling might not be as high as the New Jersey duo’s, but he could be closer to contributing early in his career.

The other two freshmen — Eddie McDoom and Nate Johnson — are explosive playmakers and could find themselves playing in the slot. They don’t have the size of some of Michigan’s other wide receivers, but fill a major hole in the playmaking category. Harbaugh might consider redshirting one or both of the freshmen due to the depth at wide receiver.

New Jersey star Brad Hawkins was also supposed to be a member of this class, but had NCAA Clearinghouse issues and will put off his enrollment until next year. Instead, he will spend this fall at Suffield Academy (Conn.) prep school.

Projected Stats – Mitchell
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
20 150 7.5 2 11.5
Projected Stats – Hawkins
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
5 30 6.0 0 2.3
Projected Stats – Crawford
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
5 50 10.0 0 3.8

Predicting Michigan 2016: The running backs

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016


Predicting Michgian 2016-RunningBacks

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Previous: Quarterbacks

The Michigan rushing attack showed improvement in some areas under Jim Harbaugh in Year 1, but it still has a long way to go if the Wolverines hope to compete for a Big Ten East title.

Michigan returns each of its three most experienced running backs from last season, but none of them have an iron grip on the starting job.

Returning Starters

Barring something unforeseen, senior De’Veon Smith will top the running back depth chart when Michigan breaks camp. Smith spent most of the last two seasons as the starting running back and did a solid job, though he struggled in conference play.

Drake Johnson

(AP photo)

In five games against nonconference opponents last season, Smith thrice ran for over 100 yards and scored a combined four touchdowns. In seven conference matchups, he rushed for fewer than 45 yards per game and got shut down in big games like Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State.

There’s a reason Smith carried the ball 180 times last season. Because of Michigan’s struggles with run blocking, Smith gave the offense its best chance to break tackles and pick up yards after contact. He was extremely difficult to bring down in the open field and found the end zone in goal line situations.

But Smith’s big play potential is limited. There were times throughout the season when the offensive line created a hole and Smith wasn’t able to adjust in time to hit it, instead running into tacklers or even the backs of his linemen.

Smith is the all-around best proven option for Michigan this fall, but there are other players with more upside. Smith will likely be the starter against Hawaii, but he’ll need to keep earning that role to stay ahead of the pack.

Drake Johnson is the other running back with starting experience in the Maize and Blue. Johnson took the job from Smith late in 2014 and averaged six yards per carry despite sitting out against several of Michigan’s weaker opponents.

The Ann Arbor Pioneer product was carrying an undermanned Michigan offense in the Horseshoe on Nov. 29, 2014 before an injury cut his season a few minutes short. He picked up 74 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground against Ohio State and had the Wolverines in position for a massive upset.

When he went down, so did Michigan’s chances.

Johnson was an afterthought for much of the 2015 campaign despite showing promising signs when he did get in on the action. When Michigan struggled to run the ball against Maryland, Johnson earned 13 carries and turned them into 68 yards and a touchdown. He also took a screen pass 31 yards for a touchdown that basically put the game away.

Since his injury, Johnson has largely fallen off the radar. But in his final year of eligibility, he figures to play a significant role in the Michigan backfield.

Projected Stats – Smith
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
160 700 4.4 5 53.8 95
Career Stats
2015 180 753 4.2 6 57.9 159
2014 108 519 4.8 6 43.3 26
2013 26 117 4.5 0 9.8 0
Totals 314 1,389 4.4 12 37.5 185
Projected Stats – Johnson
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
50 300 6.0 3 23.1 2
Career Stats
2015 54 271 5.0 4 22.6 96
2014 60 361 6.0 4 30.1 11
2013 2 9 4.5 0 9.0 0
2012 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Totals 116 641 5.5 8 25.6 107
Returning contributors

Last season Michigan had two former five-star running backs on its roster. Neither of them have come anywhere near their expected potential and neither made a major impact on the 2015 season.

(Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

(Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

Now Derrick Green is gone and Ty Isaac is surrounded by uncertainty. He wasn’t bad last season, but he wasn’t good enough to stay in Harbaugh’s rotation.

Isaac’s first year in Ann Arbor was defined by one 76-yard touchdown dash against UNLV, but he also averaged a solid 4.4 yards per carry the other 29 times his number was called. He fell out of the rotation for one reason: fumbles.

Isaac’s role on the team basically evaporated after a near-disastrous goal line fumble in Maryland. Michigan was backed up inside its own five-yard line when Isaac coughed up the ball in a one-possession game. The Wolverines recovered, but it was the last straw for Harbaugh. Isaac received only four touches the rest of the season.

The talent is there, and there’s definitely a spot for Isaac in Michigan’s backfield. But he’s running out of time to make the most of it.

Karan Higdon is the only other returning running back who received double digit carries last season. As a true freshman, Higdon impressed Harbaugh enough to earn playing time against ranked opponents in Northwestern and Michigan State. He figures to be similarly buried on the depth chart this season, but with so many big, bruising running backs fighting for carries, Higdon will be a potential change of pace.

Projected Stats – Isaac
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
50 240 4.8 2 18.5 25
Career Stats
2015 30 205 6.8 1 29.3 0
2014 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2013 40 236 5.9 2 16.9 57
Totals 70 441 6.3 3 21.0 57
Projected Stats – Higdon
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
20 60 3.0 0 4.6 7
Career Stats
2015 11 19 1.7 0 6.3 3
Totals 11 19 1.7 0 6.3 3
New Faces

Michigan brought in a pair of huge running backs this offseason, including one of the top overall recruits in the nation.

Kareem Walker was one of the most valuable commitments in recent Michigan history after he flipped from Ohio State, not only because he helped recruit guys like Rashan Gary and Michael Dwumfour, but also because he’s a five-star talent who fits the Harbaugh offense perfectly.

Walker is a powerful inside runner and makes a living abusing tacklers one-on-one. Michigan fans got their first look at the freshman when he blew up two tacklers on a red zone run in the Spring Game.

Though he admits he doesn’t want to be a back who carries the ball 30 times per game, Walker expects to be in the rotation from Day 1. At this point, there’s no reason to doubt he will be.

The other, less heralded running back commit is Kingston Davis, who snubbed a handful of SEC schools to make the trip north to Ann Arbor. The Alabama native fits into the same category as Smith and Walker. He’s a huge body who welcomes contact and runs between the tackles.

Harbaugh loves big running backs. Now, he has plenty of them.

Projected Stats – Walker
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
70 350 5.0 5 26.9 35
Projected Stats – Davis
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
20 80 4.0 1 6.2 4
Meet the Rest

Wyatt Shallman: Senior, 6-3, 245, from Hartland, Mich. (Detroit Central Catholic)
Career stats: 4 attempts for 14 yards, 0 TDs
Joe Hewlett: Junior, 6-0, 195, from Novi, Mich. (Northville)
No career stats

Predicting Michigan 2016: The quarterbacks

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016


Predicting Michgian 2016-Quarterbacks
John O'Korn
(Melanie Maxwell, MLive.com)

The 2015 offseason turned over a new page for Michigan quarterbacks as a talented coaching staff came in and the team moved on from embattled signal caller Devin Gardner.

Most of last year’s candidates were relative unknowns. Shane Morris hadn’t shown much promise in his limited reps as a sophomore and Jake Rudock hadn’t arrived in Ann Arbor for the spring game. Fans really didn’t know what to expect.

It didn’t start off well. Rudock won the job late in the summer and made an awful first impression in Utah. He threw three interceptions — including a pick-six — in an opener that the Wolverines otherwise might have won. It was a rough start to the Jim Harbaugh era, but it didn’t last long.

By the end of the year, Rudock was one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Just months after Iowa had tossed him in the recycling bin, Rudock heard his name called in the sixth round of the NFL Draft.

That’s what Harbaugh can do with a little bit of talent. This offseason, he has a wealth of it.

Starting candidates
Wilton Speight

(Jesse Johnson, USA Today Sports)

While Michigan’s roster holds several capable players under center, there are only two serious candidates to start the season atop the depth chart. Heading into July, the frontrunner appears to be redshirt sophomore Wilton Speight (6-6, 239).

Speight served as Rudock’s backup in 2015, a role that turned out to be extremely important to Michigan’s season. On Halloween in Minnesota, with Rudock sidelined by injury, Speight inherited a five-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter. He looked shaky during his first few drives, but on Michigan’s last possession of the game, Speight completed all three of his passes for 29 yards and the eventual game-winning touchdown.

Speight’s contribution wasn’t entirely out of the blue. The former three-star prospect flashed great arm talent during the Elite 11 camp in San Francisco. His size and arm strength were, and still are, his primary calling cards. He wouldn’t be the frontrunner this late in the process without big time ability.

The other starting candidate is Houston transfer John O’Korn (6-4, 209), who announced his commitment to the Wolverines shortly after Harbaugh became head coach. O’Korn dazzled during his freshman campaign at Houston, throwing for over 3,000 yards, completing 58.1 percent of his passes and tossing 28 touchdowns compared to 10 picks.

But the sophomore slump hit O’Korn hard. He lost his starting job to Greg Ward Jr. just five games into the 2014 season after throwing eight interceptions and completing only 52 percent of his passes.

How could O’Korn save his career? He went to Harbaugh.

The redshirt junior impressed fans at the spring game on April Fool’s Day. He completed only six of 14 pass attempts, but showcased his downfield arm strength for a pair of big completions and finished with 93 yards and a touchdown. He also ran the ball exceptionally well on broken plays, scrambling seven times for 28 yards.

Who has the edge to start against Hawaii on Sept. 3? For now, I’ll go with O’Korn. Though he’s only thrown one live pass in the last 20 months, O’Korn appears to fit Michigan’s 2016 roster perfectly. He can throw the ball downfield to playmakers like Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh, and Jake Butt and he adds an extra dimension to the offense with his legs.

Speight has also proven his ability to jump in off the bench and help in a backup role, which might factor into the decision.

At this point in the summer, the battle appears to be neck and neck. No matter what happens, fans can be sure that Harbaugh will have both guys ready to go when September rolls around.

Projected Stats – O’Korn
Passing Yards Pass TD INT Comp % Rush Yards Rush TD
2,500 22 10 59.5% 200 2
Career Stats
2014 951 6 8 52.0% 18 1
2013 3,117 28 10 58.1% 104 1
Totals 4,068 32 18 56.4% 122 2
*All at Houston
Projected Stats – Speight
Passing Yards Pass TD INT Comp % Rush Yards Rush TD
500 3 1 62.0% 175 2
Career Stats
2015 73 1 1 65.7% 2 0
2014 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Totals 73 1 1 65.7% 2 0
Potential contributors

Below the top dogs on the depth chart, Michigan has a pair of quarterbacks who were once considered excellent prospects, but who have taken a back seat on the hype train since arriving in Ann Arbor.

(Christian Peterson, Getty Images)

(Christian Peterson, Getty Images)

The first, and most obvious, example is Shane Morris (6-3, 208), who defines the term ‘roller coaster career.’

Once an elite five-star prospect, Morris’ arrival at Michigan was somewhat dampened when he missed his senior season at De La Salle due to a battle with mononucleosis. From there, Morris played a reserve role behind Gardner until the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings bowl. The freshman started the bowl game and fared pretty well, completing 24 of 38 passes for 196 yards and an interception. Though offensive coordinator Al Borges didn’t really unleash Morris during the game, his arm strength shone through.

Unfortunately, 2014 was a disaster for Michigan and Morris. Not only did the sophomore complete just 14 of 40 passes for three picks and no touchdowns, he also found himself smack dab in the middle of a concussion protocol controversy when Brady Hoke left him in after a hard hit against Minnesota.

Since that game, Morris has thrown just one pass for the Wolverines. Harbaugh decided to redshirt the junior last season.

Morris frequently lined up at wide receiver in the spring game, and Michigan has shown a growing tendency to move players around and tinker with special packages. Guys like Jabrill Peppers have been used in unconventional roles and former quarterback recruit Zach Gentry has already made a switch to tight end.

Morris’ future will be one to watch closely.

Alex Malzone (6-1, 222) has similarly seen his stock fall since the beginning of his college career.

The former four-star recruit jumped right into the action last offseason, starting for the Maize Team in the 2015 spring game. Malzone completed 15 of 27 passes, but threw for only 95 yards and two picks in the 7-0 loss.

The redshirt freshman has recently been in the spotlight off the field for allegedly altering his driver’s license, an issue Harbaugh promised would be addressed.

Morris and Malzone are both very talented players, but Harbaugh is accruing an embarrassment of riches at the quarterback position. The current plan doesn’t appear to have a major role in store for this duo. But if the injury bug hits hard, or something unforeseen pops up, Michigan has serviceable options lurking on the sideline.

Projected Stats – Morris
Passing Yards Pass TD INT Comp % Rush Yards Rush TD
100 1 0 55.5% 12 0
Career Stats
2015 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2014 128 0 3 35.0% 28 0
2013 261 0 2 61.7% 40 0
Totals 389 0 5 49.4% 68 0
Projected Stats – Malzone
Passing Yards Pass TD INT Comp % Rush Yards Rush TD
0 0 0 N/A 0 0
Career Stats
Redshirted in 2015
Newcomer

Michigan did bring in one quarterback recruit this offseason, and it’s one that fans should be extremely excited about: Brandon Peters (6-5, 205).

Peters has the highest upside of any quarterback on the roster despite never having taken a college snap.

A four-star recruit and one of the top five quarterbacks in his class, Peters committed to Harbaugh in April of 2015 and never wavered. The 6-foot-4 Avon, Ind. product is athletic and has a quick release, but his accuracy and arm strength stole the show at the spring game.

Peters didn’t look like a freshman during his reps, staying in the pocket and making accurate throws around the field. Two passes that really stood out were a 19-yard dart to Gentry over the middle and a rollout play in which he hit Grant Perry while on the run.

Harbaugh has the luxury of redshirting Peters this season, which will give him a year of tutelage and strength building. I think that’s the preferred plan for 2016. But by 2017, even with O’Korn and Speight returning and current commit Dylan McCaffrey likely joining the mix, look for Peters to have a say in the battle for the starting job.

Projected Stats – Peters
Redshirt
Meet the Rest

Garret Moores: Senior, 6-3, 214, from Northville, Mich. (Detroit Central Catholic). No career stats

Predicting Michigan 2015: The running backs

Thursday, July 16th, 2015


PredictingMichigan-RunningBacks

Miami Ohio v Michigan

It seems long ago that five-star recruit Derrick Green’s commitment to the University of Michigan sent former head coach Brady Hoke into tears of joy. Ever since that day (Jan. 26, 2013), Michigan’s offense has left fans crying for another reason.

Though much of the blame for the team’s poor rushing performance over the past few years belongs to the offensive line, a few highly-regarded running backs have certainly struggled to live up to the hype. Green and classmate De’Veon Smith, once regarded near-elite talents in the running game, have failed to combine for 1,000 rushing yards in a single season midway through their college careers.

With an improving offensive line and even more viable options in the backfield, the rushing game should see a marked improvement in 2015.

Potential starters

For a team that struggled to rush the ball consistently under Hoke, Michigan does return a slew of potential weapons for Jim Harbaugh’s maiden voyage. Perhaps the most interesting case is that of Drake Johnson, who took the reins in the second half of last season before an injury ended his campaign a few quarters early at Ohio State.

Ty Isaac

Ty Isaac showed promise as a freshman at USC in 2013 and will get a chance to lead Michigan’s backfield this fall (David Cleveland, AP)

Johnson earned a chance at the top spot against Indiana, when he rushed for 122 yards and two scores on 16 carries. Though he only gained 30 yards on 10 carries against Northwestern, the junior finished on a strong note, gaining 168 yards and scoring twice on 29 carries in the team’s final two games. He averaged just over six yards per carry in 60 total attempts and scored four touchdowns. If he fully recovers in time for the season, Johnson will get a shot to win the starting job.

But even with a full recovery, Johnson’s ceiling is much lower than that of Derrick Green, who started to run more effectively before breaking his collar bone midway through the 2014 season. Green rushed for 170 yards on 15 carries in the opener against Appalachian State and averaged 6.2 yards per carry against both Miami (Ohio) and Rutgers.

Unfortunately for the Wolverines, Green didn’t show up to the two biggest games of his season, rushing for only 31 yards on 19 combined carries against Notre Dame and Minnesota. As a freshman in 2013, Green averaged fewer than four yards per carry in eight of the 11 games he played in and failed to record a single 100-yard game.

Green offers the best combination of power and athleticism in the Michigan running back unit, which should give him a leg up as the Wolverines transition into a more power-based offensive attack under Harbaugh. But the junior will ultimately have to find his consistency and earn the job on the field, something he’s been unable to do through two seasons.

De’Veon Smith, often the forgotten man behind Green — and later Johnson — in the rotation, stood as the only Michigan back to carry the ball in every single game last season. Smith led the team with 519 yards and six touchdowns on the ground and averaged a solid 4.8 yards per carry.

Though Smith developed a bit of a nose for the end zone last season, he earned only 108 carries in 12 games and gained over 60 yards in a game only twice – a 115-yard effort in the opener against Appalachian State and a 121-yard game in Northwestern.

Smith is the most stable running back on Michigan’s depth chart; he has neither an outstanding chance to over perform nor a colossal chance to fail. The best case scenario for Michigan would be one of the more explosive backs earning the starting job so that Smith can slot into a productive backup role he clearly deserves.

The final piece of the starting running back puzzle is USC transfer Ty Isaac, who came to Ann Arbor after one season with the Trojans. Isaac received only 40 carries for USC as a true freshman in 2013, averaging 5.9 yards per carry and scoring two touchdowns.

A former five-star recruit out of Illinois, Isaac stands at 6-foot-3 and weighs around 240 pounds. If he does win the job, he’s got the best body to become a workhorse and take over the Michigan offense. He was a single-cut back coming out of high school with good burst and quick feet for his size. Isaac can also be a weapon in the passing game, which can only help his chances with a new quarterback taking over the system.

My initial reaction to this four-man battle for the starting job was that Green and Johnson, who each put together solid half-seasons before injuries last season, would head into the season as frontrunners. But Isaac’s size and agility might actually be the deciding factors if he can shake off the rust from a year on the sideline.

New running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley has a tough decision ahead of him in naming a starting back, but too much talent is a good problem to face.

Projected Stats – Isaac
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG
120 672 5.6 8 51.7
Career Stats
2013* 40 236 5.9 2 16.9
Totals 40 236 5.9 2 16.9
*All at USC
Projected Stats – Green
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG
95 510 5.4 6 39.2
Career Stats
2014 82 471 5.7 3 78.5
2013 83 270 3.3 2 20.8
Totals 165 741 4.5 5 39.0
Projected Stats – Johnson
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG
60 340 5.7 4 26.2
Career Stats
2014 60 361 6.0 4 30.1
2013 2 9 4.5 0 9.0
2012 0 0 N/A 0 N/A
Totals 62 370 6.0 4 28.5
Projected Stats – Smith
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG
50 235 4.7 6 18.1
Career Stats
2014 108 519 4.8 6 43.3
2013 26 117 4.5 0 9.8
Totals 134 636 4.7 6 26.5

Newcomer

Michigan added another piece to the running back corps through recruiting this spring, flipping three-star Karan Higdon from Iowa at the last minute. The 5-foot-10, 190 pound back rushed for 15 touchdowns and nearly 1,000 yards on 185 carries as a junior and gives Michigan a quick outside runner who can make defenders miss in the open field.

Higdon committed to Wheatley on Feb. 4 as one of the first recruits to join Harbaugh’s class. He’s a north-south runner, which will fit well into the new offensive scheme, and has above-average power for a light back.

With the four upper classmen mentioned above, it’s possible that Higdon will take a redshirt as a freshman, perhaps to add more weight before hitting the field in 2016. But as the only guy on the team who was actually recruited by Harbaugh, don’t count anything out.

Projected Stats – Higdon
Redshirt or very little playing time this fall

Meet the rest

Antonio Whitfield, junior, 5’4″, 160, from Canal Winchester, Ohio, no career stats

Junior Wyatt Shallman‘s claim to fame so far in his first couple of years at Michigan was adopting a wallaby last month. On the field, he has recorded just one carry in last year’s season opener against Appalachian State. He was featured in the spring game in April, gaining 22 yards on 12 carries while Johnson and Isaac sat out, but in a crowded backfield he won’t see much time this fall.

Projected Stats – Shallman
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG
5 21 4.2 0 1.6
Career Stats
2014 1 5 5.0 0 0.4
2013 0 0 N/A 0 N/A
Totals 1 5 5.0 0 0.4

Predicting Michigan 2015: The quarterbacks

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015


PredictingMichigan-Quarterbacks

Shane Morris(Tony Ding, AP)

For the past few years, Michigan was haunted by underwhelming performances at the most important position on the football field: quarterback.

While Devin Gardner showed flashes of brilliance and put together a few heroic games, like his 451-yard, 4-touchdown effort against Ohio State in 2013, he never really blossomed into the talent his five-star recruiting ranks hinted at.

Now, with the dual-threat era of Gardner and Denard Robinson firmly in the rear-view mirror, Michigan will look to get back to its John Navarre and Chad Henne-type roots under new head coach Jim Harbaugh.

He’ll certainly have options. Harbaugh brought in a slew of potential contributors under center, likely hoping at least one of them will turn into a quarterback worthy of leading the Maize and Blue.

Potential starters

Though no one is ever really sure what Harbaugh will do, it appears he’s got a two-horse race for the starting job in 2015. His options could hardly be more different.

Jake Rudock

Fifth-year senior transfer Jake Rudock will battle Shane Morris for the starting spot this fall, bringing experience to a position severely lacking it (Charlie Litchfield, The Register)

On one hand, Shane Morris enters his junior season after a disappointing — though incomplete — sophomore campaign. While called upon to lead Michigan during Gardner’s struggles, Morris simply couldn’t get the job done. He completed just 14 passes in 40 attempts on the season and threw more interceptions (three) than touchdowns (zero).

Morris was considered one of the finest prospects in the country during his junior year of high school when he committed to the Wolverines. But after missing his senior season due to a battle with mononucleosis, some of the steam evaporated from his arrival in Ann Arbor.

Morris has one of the strongest arms Michigan has seen on the football field, but his greatest challenge is knowing how and when to use it. He showed some improvement during the Spring Game, when he dialed back at times and found receivers with a soft touch he hadn’t shown on any previous Saturday.

Morris’ stiffest competition will come from senior transfer Jake Rudock, who left the Iowa Hawkeyes to join Michigan for his final year of eligibility.

Rudock was solid in his final season at Iowa a year ago, completing 61.7 percent of his 345 passes for 2,436 yards, and 16 touchdowns. The greatest advantage for Rudock is his tremendous ball protection: He threw just five picks last season, a huge upgrade over Gardner’s 15.

While Morris’s ceiling is certainly higher than Rudock’s, the fifth-year senior offers a much safer bet for a team that hopes to rely on its defense and rushing attack to lead the charge. Rudock finished in the top five in the Big Ten in passing touchdowns, passing yards, and passing completions last season. With that kind of production under center, Michigan’s 2014 season would have been a much different story.

Who will win the starting job? It’s unlikely that Rudock would burn his final year of eligibility transferring to Michigan unless he was certain he’d be the No. 1 guy. Though nothing is set in stone, Rudock offers a far more polished quarterback for Harbaugh in his first season, which is sure to come with unrealistically high expectations.

Iowa fans were often frustrated by Rudock’s tendency to dink and dunk the ball, pleading for more passes downfield. But Michigan fans, who’ve not seen an organized passing attack since 2007 will appreciate Rudock’s touchdown-to-interception ratio and career 60.3 percent completion percentage.

Projected Stats – Rudock
Passing Yards Pass TD INT Comp % Rush Yards Rush TD
2,300 17 7 60.0% 185 3
Career Stats
2014 2,436 16 5 61.7% 176 3
2013 2,383 18 13 59.0% 218 5
2012 0 0 0 N/A 0 0
2011 0 0 0 N/A 0 0
Totals 4,819 34 18 60.3% 394 8
*All at Iowa
Projected Stats – Morris
Passing Yards Pass TD INT Comp % Rush Yards Rush TD
250 3 3 55.0% 35 0
Career Stats
2014 128 0 3 35.0% 28 0
2013 261 0 2 61.7% 40 0
Totals 389 0 5 49.4% 68 0

Backups

The most obvious difference in Michigan’s quarterback unit heading into 2015 isn’t the standout talent at the top; it’s the quality of arms lower on the depth chart.

Michigan brought in a pair of highly-talented freshmen to add to the mix in Alex Malzone and Zach Gentry.

(Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

True freshman Alex Malzone battled Shane Morris in spring camp, but shouldn’t factor into the upcoming season (Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

Malzone was ranked the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the state when he committed to Michigan, tossing 38 touchdowns and completing 67.6 percent of his passes for 2,794 yards as a senior at Brother Rice High School. He enrolled early and went head-to-head with Morris in Michigan’s Spring Game, struggling to find receivers but showcasing his excellent arm strength. He completed 15-of-27 passes for 95 yards, but was tagged for a pair of interceptions.

Malzone will benefit from sitting behind Rudock and Morris in 2015, using the time to get used to the speed of the college game.

Harbaugh’s first quarterback commitment t0 Michigan came from Gentry, who flipped from Texas to the Wolverines on Jan. 24. Gentry, a four-star recruit from Albuquerque, N.M., is a towering 6’7″ and weighs 230 pounds. He threw for nearly 3,000 yards his senior season and ran for over 1,000 more. He scored 48 total touchdowns that season – 26 through the air and 22 on the ground.

But don’t expect Gentry to be a typical dual threat quarterback at Michigan. His size and athleticism powered much of his rushing success in high school and his elite arm strength will be his main weapon at the college level. Gentry has a quick release and a strong gun, which will give him a shot to compete for the starting spot in 2016. That being said, he likely won’t have much of an impact as a true freshman, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Harbaugh slapped a redshirt on this young phenom this fall.

Perhaps the only quarterback in this group that could have a major impact on Michigan’s 2015 season is redshirt freshman Wilton Speight, who was injured during the spring and didn’t play a snap in the Spring Game.

Speight, a former four-star recruit who started in the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game, threw for 5,879 yards and 68 touchdowns in his final two high school seasons and gives Harbaugh another physically imposing option. At 6’6″, 235 pounds with a powerful arm, Speight is primed to dominate the college game if he can crack the lineup.

Speight is probably on the outside looking in as far as the battle for the starting job goes, but don’t count him out just yet, as he’s got all the tools to be the No. 1 guy.

Projected Stats – Speight
Passing Yards Pass TD INT Comp % Rush Yards Rush TD
300 5 2 60.0% 15 0
Career Stats
Redshirted in 2014
Projected Stats – Malzone
Little, if any, playing time
Projected Stats – Gentry
Redshirt

Meet the rest

Four other quarterbacks fill out the roster, but it would take a catastrophic turn of events for any of them to see the field this fall.

Brian Cleary, senior, 6’3″, 205 from Gross Point, Mich. (Detroit Jesuit), no career stats
Joe Hewlett, sophomore, 6’0″, 192 from Novi, Mich. (Northville), no career stats
Matt Thompson, sophomore, 6’5″, 214 from Cincinnati, Ohio (Indian Hill), no career stats
Garrett Moores, junior, 6’3″, 211 from Detroit, Mich. (Detroit Catholic), no career stats

Do you agree with these projections? Do you see the quarterback race turning out much differently? We’d love to hear your opinion. Post your stat predictions in the comments below.