The Wolverine

2018 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 49 of 179

BY CHRIS BALAS M ichigan last won a Big Ten title in 2004, and to make it to Indianapolis for a shot this year, the Wolverines will have to run a gauntlet of a schedule. U-M faces the nation's second-toughest slate according to ESPN. com, playing three rivals (Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State) on the road, two top-13 teams in the outlet's post-spring rankings (Wis- consin and Penn State) at home and a number of other tough games. But it's past time the program scaled the mountain to win a title, and they've got the talent to do it. Here's a preseason look at what head coach Jim Harbaugh's group has, some of what to expect, goals and more heading into the 2018 campaign. 2018 Season Preview A Primer On Michigan's Outlook Entering Year Four Of The Jim Harbaugh Era Top Five Players Out Of Spring Ball 1 Sophomore defensive end Rashan Gary — This could be Gary's last year in a Michigan uniform, and he's preparing to make it his best. WalterFootball. com has him as a top-five pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, and last year's first-team All-Big Ten selection and Richard Katcher Award winner as Michigan's most outstanding defensive lineman or outside linebacker had a monster spring. He should improve on his 66-tackle sophomore season in which he notched 12.0 tackles for loss and six sacks. 2 Junior linebacker DEVIN BUSH JR. — Bush earned second-team All- America honors last year from Walter Camp and was Michigan's best linebacker after notching a team-best 102 tackles, including 9.5 for loss and five sacks. He's in the best shape of his life, and those around the program said it showed on the field this spring. 3 Fifth-year senior defensive end Chase Winovich — Michigan's ends might be the best duo in the conference, and Winovich and Gary have the po- tential to be among the best in the country. Winovich took advantage of added attention on Gary and tackle Maurice Hurst to dominate from his position, notch- ing 18 tackles for loss and eight sacks last year. He's even bigger now and much stronger, and his teammates said he was as tough to block as ever this spring. 4 Senior running back Karan Higdon — Higdon has separated from the pack after a 994-yard season, and he's also improved his pass blocking dramati- cally (an area in which he needed to get much better). He has improved his stock each year, and he's got a chance to be one of the Big Ten's best backs after a great spring. 5 Sophomore wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones — Redshirt freshman Tarik Black also had a great spring, but Peoples-Jones might be one of the most improved players on the team at any position. He made highlight-reel catches, improved his blocking (per coaches) and seems primed for a breakout season after bringing in 277 yards through the air last year. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 48 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2018 FOOTBALL PREVIEW

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