Michigan Football Preview 2017

2017 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 49 of 179

48 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2017 FOOTBALL PREVIEW Top Five Players Out Of Spring Ball 1 Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Maurice Hurst — Hurst was arguably the best lineman among an elite group of them last year, dominant in pass rush on the interior, and yet was snubbed for any All-Big Ten honors despite posting 34 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, one pass broken up, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble. He's primed for a huge season. 2 Fifth-year senior linebacker Mike McCray — The "Steady Eddie" of the defense last year, McCray returns with even loftier goals after posting 76 tackles, 12.5 stops for loss, 4.5 sacks, two interceptions, a fumble recovery and one forced fumble a year ago. He was one of the defense's rocks this spring, according to coaches. 3 Sophomore defensive end Rashan Gary — Gary was asked to ramp it up this spring after notching 27 stops, five tackles for loss and a sack last season, and he responded. Teammates said he was unblockable at times, and it appears he's set for a breakout season. 4 Senior offensive lineman Mason Cole — The versatile lineman moved from center back to left tackle, where he started his first two years, and picked up where he left off as the leader on a line with plenty to prove. He's a future pro, and he played like it this spring. 5 Sophomore running back Chris Evans — Evans averaged 7.0 yards per carry as a freshman and proved elusive again in the spring, even after adding a good eight pounds to his frame. He looked markedly bigger, and the added strength will only help him with durability this season. Maurice Hurst continued his stellar play this spring from last fall, when he compiled 11.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks as a reserve. Pro Football Focus dubbed him the No. 22 returning player in college football. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN BY CHRIS BALAS It has now been a dozen years since Mich- igan won a Big Ten title, and the cold reality is it's much tougher to win one in this day and age than it was when U-M last accomplished the feat. The Wolverines shared a title in 2004, no longer an option with the Big Ten Champi- onship Game the decider, and must go through a tough East Division just for the right to play for the trophy. Last year, Michigan returned 15 starters from the 2015 team, and 11 of them went on to be selected in the 2017 NFL Draft, but an inability to close games cost them a shot at a championship. They'll rely on youth at many positions this year in an effort to reclaim their spot among the Big Ten elite. The following is a look at the best of the best — players, games and position groups — as well as other aspects to watch heading into the 2017 season. 2017 Season Preview A Primer On Michigan's Outlook Entering Year Three Of The Jim Harbaugh Era

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