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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 27, Digital 6

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 27, ISSUE 6 95 best interior rusher, as the anchor. And sophomore Rashan Gary could develop into one of Michigan's all- time best pass rushers, according to Balas. He had only a sack last year as a reserve, but seven QB hur- ries, third-most on the Wolverines. The secondary, though, is a big question. "All four will need to be replaced, and they need to find depth, as well," Balas said. "Cornerbacks David Long and Lavert Hill are talented, but they need to be more physical and will be tested. Defensive coordina- tor Don Brown will put them on an island on 90 per- cent of snaps." In between, Michigan should be set at linebacker, led by fifth-year senior middle linebacker Mike Mc- Cray, the leading returning tackler with 76 last season and All-Big Ten honorable mention. For as many questions as Michigan has on defense, it might have as many on offense. There, the Wolver- ines have to replace most of their receiving corps, four offensive linemen, their running back and tight end. That'll leave quarterback Wilton Speight to take on a bigger role; if he can handle that is in doubt, as the senior was up and down last season, throwing for 2,538 yards with 18 TDs and seven interceptions. He was efficient at times, but not a game-changer. "Michigan quarterbacks have a history of being able to win a game or two on their own when the running game's not working, or when teams are selling out to stop it," Balas said. "Speight wasn't that guy last year, and there's concern he might not be." But Michigan should be able to find him talented help, even if it's inexperienced. Perhaps sophomore Eddie McDoom, maybe the best name is college foot- ball, steps into a bigger role after having five recep- tions for 59 yards as a true freshman. But Michigan also will need rookies Donovan Peoples-Jones or Tarik Black or both to grow up quickly, perhaps as starters. And sophomore Chris Evans will look to return a big-play threat to the backfield, after he averaged sev- en yards a carry in gaining 614 as the primary backup in 2016. But Evans' ceiling might be as much on the offensive line, which is still in a rebuild, as it is on his own talents. Mostly, it needs to find a center. "Guard Ben Bredeson is very good and should take the next step on the left side, but the whole right side is a question mark. The line has not been Michigan caliber for some time," Balas said. "There's talent there, but it's young." — Kyle Charters

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