Michigan Football Preview 2017

2017 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 50 of 179

1 Defensive Line — The D-line secures the top spot for the third straight year even after losing three starters (Taco Charlton, Chris Wormley and Ryan Glasgow) to the first, third and fourth rounds of the NFL Draft, respectively. Fifth-year senior Maurice Hurst is All-America material, and sophomore end Rashan Gary certainly has the potential. Redshirt juniors Chase Winovich and Bryan Mone have played plenty of football, and both had good springs. Depth is the biggest concern here, though sophomore Carlo Kemp has really emerged at end. Veteran end and redshirt junior Lawrence Marshall is back, but hasn't played much football. Highly regarded freshmen like tackle Aubrey Solomon and end Luiji Vilain could help boost depth, along with redshirt freshman tackle Michael Dwumfour. 2 Running Back — Sophomore Chris Evans is the favorite to start after rack- ing up 614 yards as a true freshman, but there's a lot of depth at tailback. Junior Karan Higdon and fifth-year senior Ty Isaac have both played plenty of football and have had their moments, while redshirt freshman Kareem Walker had some impressive runs this spring. Experienced fullbacks Khalid Hill and Henry Poggi also bolster this position. Hill has become one of the better lead blockers at fullback in recent years and is a touchdown machine at the goal line, racking up 10 on the ground (plus three more through the air) last season. 3 Linebacker — Fifth-year senior Mike McCray is the only returning defensive starter, but he's a good one. The honorable mention All-Big Ten selection notched 12.5 tackles for loss among his 76 stops last year and is a leader by example. Redshirt junior Noah Furbush has shown flashes of his ability when healthy, though he's been banged up for a good part of his career, and redshirt senior Mike Wro- blewski earned plenty of praise this spring and is in the mix. This group should get a boost from sophomores Devin Bush and Khaleke Hudson, who both got their feet wet last year and showed great potential in the spring. 4 Quarterback — There's plenty to prove here, but the talent level continues to rise. Redshirt junior Wilton Speight was a third-team All-Big Ten selection last year after throwing for 2,538 yards and 18 touchdowns against only seven picks, and redshirt freshman Brandon Peters is pushing him. Speight had his ups and downs, the latter including a two-interception day during the spring game, but he still has a leg up on the others. Highly regarded freshman Dylan McCaffrey joins the stable this fall and will add to the competition. 5 Offensive Line — The fact that this group is No. 5 with so much uncertainty indicates how many question marks there are on this team. Still, there are pieces up front. Senior left tackle Mason Cole and sophomore left guard Ben Bredeson both earned postseason accolades from the Big Ten, so the left side of the line looks great. Fifth-year senior Pat Kugler was serviceable at center during the spring. The right side is the unknown. We like sophomore right guard Mike Onwenu's potential, and he could be a star if he keeps his weight down. Redshirt junior right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty has dropped some pounds and is more athletic, but he'll be in a battle this summer to keep that job. Redshirt sophomore Jon Runyan and others are pushing him. Top Five Players To Watch 1 Redshirt junior nose tackle Bryan Mone — Injuries have slowed Mone's progress the last two years, but he'll be asked to fill the role Ryan Glasgow did last year in stuffing the run. He had a solid spring, but he can dominate in the middle — and he'll need to on a defense that must replace 10 starters. 2 Junior safety Tyree Kinnel — Kinnel has played behind Dymonte Thomas and Delano Hill most of his first two years, but it's his time to shine. He showed flashes of greatness in the spring, but now he needs to prove he can be the every-down leader the Wolverines need him to be in the secondary. 3 Sophomore linebacker Devin Bush — Ben Gedeon surprised and turned himself into a fourth- round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft after notching 106 tackles last year, leaving big shoes to fill. Bush was a special teams standout last year, is a big hitter and has great speed at the position. He's smaller (5-11), but at 232 pounds is more than capable of manning the position. 4 Sophomore linebacker Khaleke Hudson — Hudson has found a home at the viper position, and he has the tough task of replacing All-American and NFL Draft first-round pick Jabrill Pep- pers. He's explosive, though, and better suited to play closer to the line of scrimmage than safety, which he did last year. Though listed at 6-0, 205 pounds, he's extremely well built and should be able to take the pounding. 5 Fifth-year senior center Pat Kugler — Kugler could well be one of the most important players on this year's team. His emergence allows senior Mason Cole to man the left tackle spot and bolsters (potentially) a line with a lot of question marks. A good summer in the weight room could help him solidify this position, and his progress the last several months seems to indicate he'll get after it. THE WOLVERINE 2017 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 49 Top Five Strongest Position Groups Junior Karan Higdon is one of three returning U-M running backs that rushed for at least 400 yards and four touchdowns last year. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN Pat Kugler, a fifth-year senior, has played in only nine games during his U-M career but will fill a key role in 2017. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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