Michigan Football Preview 2017

2017 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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72 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2017 FOOTBALL PREVIEW WIDE RECEIVERS BY JOHN BORTON M ichigan's wide receivers look like they're on the fast track to some- thing special, fast serving as the key word. In an in-house combine prior to the of- ficial start of Michigan football spring prac- tice, some numbers ran right off the page. Early enrollee freshman Donovan Peoples- Jones ran a hand-timed 4.41 40-yard dash and a 3.91 pro shuttle, not to mention broad jumping 11 feet, 0.5 inches. Sophomore wideout Kekoa Crawford demonstrated speed and endurance with his 23.62 clocking in the 200-yard shut- tle. Sophomore Eddie McDoom didn't ap- pear in the posted results, and Michigan fans know he can turn the corner and speed away before they can collectively bellow "Dooooooooom!" The movers and shakers among new coach Pep Hamilton's group make it tough to call a starting lineup at this point, according to Michigan sideline reporter and Detroit radio personality Doug Karsch. "It looks like a really, really fast room," Karsch said. "You look around and think, 'Which one of these nine, 10 or 11 guys is going to emerge?' It's fascinating to see how it's going to sift out. "If I was asked, right now, to sit down and write who is going to be the X, the Y and the Z receivers, it's a tough call." Michigan coaches wrote down every snap from The Big House to Rome and back. They'll get reports on who is doing what over the summer and see for themselves again when the Wolverines convene in Au- gust. Those who race from the starting gate, catch the football, secure it when hit and block in the run game will eventually emerge as the front-liners. But they'll be supple- mented, and pushed, by a formidable surge of young talent that sees no reason to wait its turn. The sophomores are among the veterans of this crew, and Crawford certainly put in his bid for future time as a true freshman in 2016. He played in all 13 Michigan games, making four catches for 47 yards, including a touchdown, while rushing three times for 15 yards. He's among the fastest Wolverines and, with extensive on-field experience from a year ago, has put himself in position to be one of the starting wide receivers. "It looks like he has a chance to be a real downfield passing threat," Karsch assessed. "He seems to have good speed. How hard does he work? How much does he want it? "He clearly has the physical talent. It's just a matter of that manifesting itself and him getting seasoned on the field. "Because of the young depth at that posi- tion, there's opportunity and there's competi- tion. He will be pushed by the large incoming class." McDoom is another sophomore who jumped into the fray with both feet a year ago. He also played in all 13 Michigan con- tests, catching five passes for 59 yards but making his name on jet sweeps, accompa- nied by the chorus echoing the last part of his name. He racked up 160 yards on 16 carries, but insisted he's ready for much more this season. "He wants to be more than just a jet sweep guy, and he showed some of that in the spring game," Karsch observed. "He has a very ex- citing future. There is a lot of discussion that he's more versatile this year than he was last year. "It looks like he could make a real jump forward, especially with perhaps some more playing time available at the slot position." McDoom quieted the crowd at Michigan Stadium near the end of the spring game, crashing to the turf on a 29-yard reception and eventually having to be carted off the field with an apparent ankle injury. But head coach Jim Harbaugh later insisted the Wol- verines suffered no serious or long-term inju- ries in the contest, obviously good news for Michigan's receiving corps. McDoom can play either on the outside or in the slot, the latter a position put into question by junior Grant Perry's legal issues. Perry was suspended from all team activities, pending the adjudication of charges stem- ming from an Oct. 15 incident in East Lan- sing, but Harbaugh announced in early June he was back with the team. "He put himself behind the eight ball," Karsch said. "He's going to have to dig out of that doghouse if he gets an opportunity. You don't want to be in Jim Harbaugh's dog- house, and as talented as that wide receiver room is, you don't want to fall behind in the competition. PRESEASON ANALYSIS: WIDE RECIEVERS STARTERS ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ The starters are to be determined, with a wealth of talent and less experience than they'd like. Junior Grant Perry and sopho- mores Kekoa Crawford and Eddie McDoom saw the field most in 2016, and they'll get a chance to step up their production. It's a free- for-all, though, with stars here limited only by on-field time required. DEPTH ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Depth should be no problem, the veterans battling the strong sophomore class, and five freshmen looking to make their mark. Again, experienced depth will be a work in progress. X-FACTOR Junior Grant Perry is the most proven player — his 27 college catches are more than the rest of the group combined — but he missed two regular-season games last year before a suspension held him out of the bowl game and spring practices. He returned to the team this summer and could provide the young unit with much-needed experience. OVERALL ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ This could be a five-star group … eventu- ally. Right now, it's a room awash in speed and play-making ability, but that hasn't been tested consistently on the collegiate level. How this crew comes along will have a big say in Michigan's success. Note: Star rankings are made on a scale of 1-5 stars. QUICK FACTS Position Coach: Pep Hamilton (first season). Returning Starters: None. Departing Starters: Amara Darboh (28) and Jehu Chesson (25). Projected New Starters: Kekoa Crawford, Tarik Black and Eddie McDoom. Top Reserves: Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nate Johnson. Wait Until 2018: Nico Collins. Newcomers: Black, Collins, Peoples-Jones, Brad Hawkins and Oliver Martin. Moved In: None. Moved Out: Drake Harris (to DB). Rookie Impact: Black. Most Improved Player: McDoom. Best Pro Prospect: Peoples-Jones. Young And HungrY U-M's Pass Catchers Feature Abundant Talent And Are Learning Quickly

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