#46 Michigan (11-6, 1-3 B1G) vs
#86 Nebraska (9-7, 3-1)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||2 pm ET, Saturday|
Michigan -8 (KenPom)
Michigan -8 (Bovada)
PBP: Wayne Randazzo
Analyst: Stephen Bardo
To nobody's surprise, Michigan is no longer in the field in the Bracket Matrix, and the majority of the brackets that include them haven't been updated since the Illinois debacle.
Tomorrow's matchup with Nebraska looked a whole lot better a couple months ago, prior to M's defensive collapse and the Huskers' unexpectedly stong start in conference play. KenPom has Michigan as an eight-point favorite; their 76% chance to win is the highest projection for any game on the rest of the schedule—yes, even including M's trip to Rutgers. Both sides probably feel the line should be closer than that, even though Nebraska must deal with the loss of their best post player, Ed Morrow. The betting sites have yet to weigh in. [UPDATE: Michigan -8, just like KenPom. The Morrow injury probably played a big factor in that line.]
It's hard to overstate how much Michigan needs to win this game. Heading into the Kohl Center next week at 1-4 in the conference would be a nightmare scenario.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||5||Glynn Watson||So.||6'0, 175||80||23||111||Not At All|
|Excellent three-point and free-throw shooter, not a great finisher. Top-50 in steal rate.|
|G||0||Tai Webster||Sr.||6'4, 195||88||27||106||Not really|
|Big, aggressive point guard shoots 51/33/72 with high FT rate.|
|G||11||Evan Taylor||Jr.||6'5, 206||48||14||88||Very|
|Inefficient, low-usage scorer with high turnover rate. Defensive specialist.|
|F||15||Isaiah Roby||Fr.||6'8, 214||33||18||83||Very|
|Good shot-blocker, otherwise struggling. One of a few options to replace Morrow.|
|F||12||Michael Jacobson||So.||6'9, 230||63||17||97||Very|
|Good offensive rebounder, poor finisher. Usually a PF but could play C with Morrow out.|
|F||10||Jack McVeigh||So.||6'8, 215||48||15||96||Kinda|
|Stretch four type shooting 36% on twos and 30% on threes with little rebounding.|
|F||2||Jeriah Horne||Fr.||6'7, 222||22||19||108||Not really|
|Just A Shooter™ type is making 10/30 on threes, 9/14 on twos.|
|C||32||Jordy Tshimanga||Fr.||6'11, 275||24||23||83||Very|
|Big impact on boards, only shooting 34%. Frequently in foul trouble.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE.
- CB Jourdan Lewis. Two-time All-American has case for second-best cover corner in school history. Various excellent stats, none better than this: over his last two years throwing it in the dirt and throwing at Jourdan Lewis were equally productive in terms of QB rating.
- DE Taco Charlton. Rampant in the second half of the season against both run and pass and destined for the first round of the draft. Charlton was the rare WDE to play at 280 pounds and gave Michigan's run defense oomph it will miss even if his replacement keeps up the pass rush productivity.
- SAM Jabrill Peppers. Massively overrated nonentity will be mysteriously drafted in first round this April and have decade-long NFL career. Absence in bowl game went completely unnoticed and did not pave the way for almost all of Dalvin Cook's yards.
- NT Ryan Glasgow. Robot Viking finally started getting appropriately rated as a senior, when he was again an excellent penetrator and disruptor of all things run and pass.
- SDE Chris Wormley. TE obliterator and utterly steady; maybe a hair less than explosive. Pass rush not a huge strength, but that went unnoticed since everyone else was picking QB out of their teeth. Elite run defender capable of playing inside or out.
- CB Channing Stribling. Outstanding year in coverage; if he was any easier to hit with a completion than Lewis it was a narrow thing indeed. Run support an Area For Improvement, as they say. Should still go early in the NFL draft, as he's a legit 6-foot.
- Safeties Delano Hill and Dymonte Thomas. Close to interchangeable, so addressed together: capable of deep zones and slot coverage, these two kept Jabrill Peppers out of coverage almost all year. Tremendous luxury to be able to do that and flip 'em on motion. Thomas did bust a few times for big plays (most prominently against UCF and FSU), but as safety tandems go this might be tops in recent Michigan history.
- ILB Ben Gedeon. Sideline to sideline ILB who couldn't carry wheel routes downfield. Consistent tackler who showed up in the right spot almost every time; took on blocks with aplomb and shed them with authority. Lack of playing time early in career got more inexplicable every game.
- DT Matt Godin. Played well enough early in the season, when Hurst was laid up with a minor injury, to maintain that status for the duration. Was solid in his role; provided little pass rush but effective run defender. Least productive rotation DL by some distance but still meaningfully positive per PFF.
get in his belly [Fuller]
- DT Maurice Hurst. Technically not a starter but whatever man. Per PFF, the most productive interior pass rusher in the nation. Huge grades to both them and this sites UFR; with serious uptick in snaps should have breakout senior year and contend for AA status.
- ILB Mike McCray. Resurrected career after long-term injury threatened it and was about 80% revelation. Superior blitzer, tough customer on the inside. Struggled to contain edge runs for much of the year; late improvement in that department.
- CB Jeremy Clark. Injured in game four and Michigan will try to get a sixth year for him. If that comes through Clark is a bolt of experience in a secondary that will otherwise have almost none. Lost his starting job to Stribling but started anyway since Lewis was out for the first three games; has a year of solid starts under his belt and should be a draftable guy.
- DE Rashan Gary. Snaps limited by guys in front of him; impressive and productive when he did get on the field. Physical potential limitless, and should take The Leap as a sophomore.
- DE Chase Winovich. Crazy productive pass rusher who'd show up for a handful of snaps in big-time games and come away with a sack anyway. Per PFF had 27 pressure events in 277 snaps, which is almost precisely the same rate at which Charlton racked them up. Run D occasionally wobbly. Potential breakout player.
- DT Bryan Mone. Second straight injury-plagued year. As a result barely got over the 100-snap threshold that we're using to distinguish "new" from "what's left." Struggled when he did get snaps much of the year, hopefully because he was not 100%. Flashed ability against OSU.
- FS Tyree Kinnel. Promising safety candidate was dimeback for much of the year and did well in that role. Had a couple of Kovacsian TFLs where he'd fly up from outside the picture to kill a guy dead. Coverage, which was reputed to be a strength when he was a recruit, didn't get tested.
- CB Brandon Watson. Nickel corner was beat with some regularity when tested. Doesn't seem to have much upside.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
dread level: rising [Patrick Barron]
Everything! Almost everything, anyway. The DL has some guys who have established a certain level of performance, to the point where only one of them is even sort of "new," that a redshirt junior who would be old except for terrible injury luck.
Dudes flanking McCray. Devin Bush figures to draw into the starting lineup next to McCray since he was the clear #3 ILB last year. That should push the bulkier McCray to MLB and give Bush WLB. Hopefully that would allow McCray to focus more on getting vertical instead of lateral. Bush is very much a spread ILB.
Meanwhile at SAM/Viper(!!!), many different things could happen. Josh Metellus and Jordan Glasgow got Don Brown praise for their work at Viper(!!!) during bowl practices; Noah Furbush is a more traditional LB option at the spot; Khaleke Hudson still seems like a perfect fit as an emphatically box safety; if Michigan can get Willie Gay, recruiting types report that he is an instant impact player.
Either all of the secondary or all but one guy in the secondary. Michigan has a ton of cornerback talent pushing through at a spot where you can get by decently on athleticism. Safety has guys with scattered snaps a year ago and really needs a couple of players to come through.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 1977
omar comin' [Fuller]
Still the defensive line. Michigan graduates all four starters but this is very much a reload situation, not a rebuild. Michigan figures to start:
- Maurice Hurst, who produced just as much as last year's top starters in 60-70% of their snaps. He is going to be elite.
- Rashan Gary, who was +13 in about 300 snaps as a true freshman and is a holy lock to be real good as the #1 recruit in the country.
- Chase Winovich, who would be coming off a double-digit sack season if he had as many snaps as Charlton, in his first year as a WDE.
- Bryan Mone, who had a series of injury struggles the last two years but flashed his ability on a critical third and short stop against the Buckeyes.
Those guys are very much in contention for the best line in the conference.
Probably cornerback? If Michigan gets Clark back that's a veteran who will be of interest to the NFL as a Sherman-type jumbo CB; I thought he was a B+ guy in 2015 and should get better if allowed to return. Surely Michigan can find Lewis 2.0 from the pile of recruits in shiny wrapping paper they've accumulated.
Don Dang Brown. Brown lived up to the hype and then some. Michigan LBs totaled 43 TFLs as he solved problems with aggression; Michigan is at or near the top of any defensive metric you care to look at. While the copious talent had a lot to do with that, those guys were around last year and Brown still just about halved S&P+'s expected points allowed metric from 13.7 to 7.7.
While there's going to be some regression, Brown's defenses tend to take a year before kicking in to high gear. Increased familiarity with the system should help mitigate the personnel losses.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 2017
Is Kemp ready to play? Is anyone? [Fuller]
Defensive line depth. Seven different guys saw 250+ snaps last year, with Bryan Mone getting 117 of his own. Four of those guys are gone. There is a shortage of gentlemen ready to step in. This site constantly says that nose tackle is a spot with two starters. Starter #2 at NT is...?
DE is probably fine. Between Reuben Jones, Carlo Kemp, Lawrence Marshall, and Ron Johnson Michigan can find a couple guys to spell the starters. The only DT on the roster other than the projected starters is Mike Dwumfour, a middling three star coming off an injury redshirt. Michigan's bringing in a ton of DT types in this recruiting class but even if they get a top guy like Jay Tufele or Aubrey Solomon, relying on a true freshman in the two deep is alarming. Michigan might have no choice but to move Gary to DT.
Going from Peppers to Not Peppers. The silver lining of his absence almost certainly costing Michigan the Orange Bowl is that I don't have to spend much time explaining why Peppers's departure will be costly. Yes, he tended to go on a ride when he got blocked. Michigan was delighted to take that tradeoff if it meant that you could not outrun Michigan's front seven with Usain Bolt.
WHAT'S HEISENBERG ROD STEWART UNCERTAINTY
Safety. You know, I'm almost sanguine about safety these days. After a solid decade of safeties topping out at "eh, he hasn't set his head on fire" and frequently dipping into "welp, he set his head on fire again," Michigan's on a run of guys who are actual positives. It is at this moment that we must have maximum vigilance, for this is when Angry Michigan Safety Hating God loves to strike.
Michigan clearly likes Kinnel. Unfortunately they have few alternatives; it looks like both Hudson and Metellus are tracking towards hits, but are both of those guys box safeties who you don't want to see in deep coverage? I dunno. Mental issues for a couple of true sophomores could pop up as well.
Outside linebackering. Bush will probably be at least all right and could verge on good by the end of the season. SAM/Viper(!!!) could see just about any level of performance and it wouldn't be much of a surprise.
MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS
What looks like another excellent starting DL and cornerbacks that should pick up the departed's mantle without too much trouble is a good baseline to work from. And while the unit is going to be young—just three seniors are currently projected in the starting lineup—it isn't going to be troublingly so. The only spots at which freshmen are likely to contend are backup DT and maybe somewhere in the secondary.
So while they aren't going to be this year's outfit, which was neck and neck with Alabama for the nation's best, neither are they going to drop off to average. Unfortunately, this is not a fully Harbaugh-ized program so there are some sore spots at which one injury could radically reshape the outlook—someone please wrap the DL starters in cotton until fall—so I reserve the right to repeal the prediction if the wrong guy goes down, but this should be a top 15 S&P+ defense and top 20-ish in YPP and the like.
- Pep Hamilton Part 1: It makes some sense if you understand it’s the Browns, and the fact that he can be reunited with Ed Feng.
- Hoop: very poor defensive effort, AND opponents are shooting the lights out from three, AND…callers
- Callers: They call into a radio station to talk about Beilein. Most of what they say is sensible. What happened to the Donlon Effect?
- B recruiting: it is what it is. Recruiting with attrition in mind is a good change.
- The O-Line: Hoke’s bad recruiting and bad luck left just one upperclassman tackle (JBB) on the team for 2017.
- Pep Hamilton Part 2: Pep was on hand for the big uptick in Stanford. Calm, smart, confident—not fiery on the sideline. Coaching turnover will be a thing as long as Harbaugh’s here, but not a bad thing.
- PJ Fleck rowing his whole recruiting out of K-zoo with him; we’ve moved WMU’s kitchen sink to soft commit.
You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.
THE USUAL LINKS
Squint really hard—is there a Lewanlong in there?
When updating the roster I also of course grabbed the current rankings and star ratings from each site for the committed players. I was having some fun seeing where they fit among past Michigan recruits, and figured I might as well share.
Explanation of numbers: My “☆s” ratings are a composite score on a sliding 5-star scale that averages the available recruiting site data. So for example 247sports had Shane Morris a 95, and the 81st overall recruit. On my scale that would be a 4.4-star, the equivalent of a 5.9 in the top 100 to Rivals, a 4-star in the top 100 on Scout, and an 84 on ESPN. Weights in the second column are as a recruit. Also the old ESPN grades are scaled to match (as best as possible) their modern ratings system. Pre-2002 ratings are not to be trusted because those data I have are mostly just stars, with the occasional top-100 or something, and pre-1996 is the recruiting dark ages.
Please get the point: This is not a “You might remember me from such players as,” which is based on scouting—you’ll have to wait for the 2017 recruiting posts this spring and summer before we can make those kinds of claims. The tape and offers can sometimes tell a very different story than the scouting services, to say nothing of fit and who’s doing the offering.
The point here is to orient you as to how highly rated these guys are, because “he’s a 4-star” can mean a ton of things but “he’s right around where Kekoa Crawford ended up” is a mark.
Dylan McCaffrey (M rank as recruit since 1995: 9/25)
|4||Jason Kapsner||’96||6'6 /220||-||SUPERPREP:
#7 QB, AA
|5||Shane Morris||’13||6'3/183||6.0 (#4 DUAL)
|5* (#3 QB)
|84 (#8 QB)
|95 (#4 PRO)
|6||Brandon Peters||’16||6'5/216||5.9 (#6 PRO)
|4* (#4 QB)
|85 (#3 PP)
|96 (#4 PRO)
|8||Devin Gardner||’10||6'4/195||5.9 (#1 DUAL)
|5* (#5 QB)
|84 (#5 DT)
|96 (#1 DUAL)
|9||Dylan McCaffrey||’17||6'5/196||6.0 (#4 DUAL)
|4* (#8 QB)
|84 (#2 PP)
|95 (#4 PRO)
|10||Clayton Richard||’03||6'4/225||4* (#4 PRO)
|4* (#13 QB)
|11||Matt Gutierrez||’02||6'4/206||4* (#5 PRO)
|4* (#12 QB)
|12||Tate Forcier||’09||6'1/184||5.9 (#5 DUAL)
|4* (#15 QB)
|84 (#14 QB)
|13||Denard Robinson||’09||6'0/179||5.8 (#14 ATH)
|4* (#16 CB)
|84 (#7 ATH)
|15||Alex Malzone||’15||6'2/205||5.8 (#11 PRO)
|4* (#14 QB)
|80 (#16 PP)
|88 (#15 PRO)
Go look at the QB class of 2004 if you doubt a #13 was pretty good.
Between Devin Gardner and Clayton Richard/Tate Forcier, but I see a closer comp to Shane Morris except taller and more Harbaugh. Like Morris, McCaffrey created disagreement as to whether he’s a pro-style or dual-threat, and he was a consensus five-star before slipping down to wind up a high-ish 4-star. If he slipped a bit further, it’s probably not as much as Shane would have fallen in today’s more dynamic rankings world. McCaffrey may also get moved up a bit as ESPN finalizes their ratings—Brandon Peters was ranked the same nationally—60th overall—but got a score of 85.
That McCaffrey was recruited by Harbaugh, not Borges, is important. When I went through all the quarterbacks Harbaugh recruited to Stanford the vast majority of his targets wound up good quarterbacks. In 2008 he got Luck and almost got RGIII but for Stanford’s admissions policy. The following year three out of his five offers (Matt Barkley, Taysom Hill, and Brock Osweiler) ended up Heisman candidates, and the other two (Josh Nunes at Stanford and Allan Bridgford at Cal) were starters. As for Borges, his one scouting success story so far is Wilton Speight…after two years of being coached by Harbaugh.
[Hit THE JUMP for more.]
DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE.
- TE Jake Butt. Mackey win might have been a career award but it was warranted in that context. Sure handed, huge catching radius threat. Blocking indifferent. Butt will be missed by more than last name aficionados. 69% catch rate is nuts. He's off to the second round of the draft unless people are spooked by a bowl-game ACL tear.
- WR Amara Darboh. Delivered on Jim Harbaugh's assertions that he was Michigan's best receiver with an All Big Ten year. Still left you wanting a bit more, though, as he had multiple opportunities to bail Wilton Speight out of iffy throws and took few of them during Michigan's unfortunate finish.
- RT Erik Magnuson. Quiet, steady performer at tackle. Was never a star and I'm a little dubious of people projecting him on day two in the draft, but if Michigan had five Erik Magnusons the year ends very differently. Alas.
- WR Jehu Chesson. Never recaptured his stellar late 2015 form as a senior. Still moderately productive, but only that. Speed did not translate into downfield production, or even many targets. Those went to Darboh, with iffy success.
- RB De'Veon Smith. Workhorse back had solid season. Detractors will point to middling YPC (4.7) relative to the rest of the platoon; this is unfair since Smith got all the short yardage work and was often making yards on his own just to get to that number. Pass protection dipped in senior year.
- LT Ben Braden. Pressed into service at left tackle after Grant Newsome's injury, where he was neither as bad as expected nor actually good. Reduced his tendency to lean on guys as his career went on but never fully excised that from his game. Draft chatter minimal, understandably.
- RG Kyle Kalis. Promising start to senior season submarined by a recurrence of mental errors and then just straight up getting crushed by top-level interior pass rushers. Extravagantly whipped by Jaleel Johnson, Nick Bosa, and DeMarcus Walker in Michigan's losses. I will never say "it can't get worse" in reference to a Michigan offensive line again, but Kalis seems eminently replaceable.
- RB/QB Jabrill Peppers. Offensive output was minimal after wildcat QB business was diagnosed. Effective decoy mostly.
- QB Shane Morris. Never found playing time and is taking a grad transfer.
- OL David Dawson. Announced a grad transfer even before spring practice, further emphasizing how thin Michigan was on the OL this year: either he or the coaches didn't think he had any shot at a job this fall.
- OL Mason Cole. Move to center went relatively well, though I was less into him than PFF was. Had difficulty moving large nose tackle types and didn't get to do much operating in space, oddly. Pass protection was very good once he was removed from edge types, and I might be expecting to much. He had an NFL decision to make at a spot that usually doesn't see a ton of guys go.
- QB Wilton Speight. Debut season was solid statistically: 7.7 YPA, 62% completions, 18-7 TD-INT, third in the Big Ten in passer rating, 29th passing O in S&P+. Michigan's sack rate allowed was pretty good (27th) largely because of Speight's excellent pocket presence. Late wobbles leave the door open a crack for Brandon Peters.
- The rest of the running back platoon. Chris Evans will headline after the bowl game touchdown; Ty Isaac and Karan Higdon also had their moments. Evans is a jittery speedster who promises to hit the home runs Smith could not. Higdon will probably pick up most of the mooseback work since he's a low-to-the-ground guy who runs behinds his pads, as they say. Isaac's never had it click, really, but played well in relatively limited opportunities last year.
- OL Ben Bredeson. Flat out bad most of the year, because he was a true freshman. Should get a lot better, whether it's at guard or tackle. Honestly we should just forget about this season entirely when it comes to projecting him down the road.
- FBs Henry Poggi and Khalid Hill. FB duo was quite a dichotomy. Hill led the team in touchdowns and paved various players on spectacular edge two-for-one blocks while catching 89% of the balls that came his way. Poggi was not the threat as a receiver or runner and was substantially below average as a blocker. Despite this the two FBs split time about down the middle.
- Kaiju. Devin Asiasi and Tyrone Wheatley Jr were mostly blockers. Both were up and down, as freshmen tend to be, flashing A+ power while occasionally falling off dudes. They were not targeted often but made the most of their opportunities. With Butt's absence Michigan will rely more heavily on both; the potential for a Leap from one or both entices.
- TE Ian Bunting. Looked like Butt 2.0 on a slick seam catch in the bowl game, and also looked like Butt 2.0 when he gave up a comically easy sack a few plays later. Previous bullet makes his role in the offense somewhat in question
- (Probably) WR Grant Perry. Legal troubles probably get pled down to misdemeanors and allow him to stay on the team. Slippery slot receiver will have a role if still around.
- RB Drake Johnson. Star-crossed running back lost last season to a forklift accident and will apply for a sixth year. Fast straight-line runner who will find a role.
- OL Juwann Bushell-Beatty. Temporarily the LT after Newsome left. Displaced after struggling mightily.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
Bredeson is a returning starter, sort of[Fuller]
Basically the whole offensive line. For purposes of this bullet we're pretending freshman Ben Bredeson and not freshman Ben Bredeson are different people, because we need that to be the case. Michigan needs to replace three starters and get a transformation from the aforementioned; this is a lot of turnover. Mike Onwenu is penciled in at right guard and unlikely to be dislodged by anything short of a supernova; Bredeson will start somewhere. Cole exists. The other two spots are anyone's guess.
Ditto the receivers. Michigan got some good blocking, one bad drop, and one badass catch from Kekoa Crawford this year; Eddie McDoom took a bunch of jet sweeps and had one nice slant catch; Drake Harris was targeted deep several times, all of those incompletions except for one sweet catch invalidated by an unnecessary offensive pass interference call. That is the sum total of returning experience for the WR corps.
Tight ends in a post-Butt world. Ton of potential at the spot; probably fine; need to see that potential develop.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 1977
Probably Wilton Speight. Speight's 2016 did not have the clear takeoff narrative that Jake Rudock did. He was great for a couple games early, then bad, then indifferent, then awesome after the bye week until he turned into a pumpkin a third of the way through Iowa. He was terrific against Ohio State despite an injury that seemed to prevent him from throwing it downfield whatsoever... except for two turnovers 100% on him that lost the game. He gets an incomplete for the Orange Bowl since every time he dropped back he was beset by hounds instantly.
It would be much easier to draw an upward arrow if he'd packed the bad stuff in early and then got a lot better; unfortunately that is not the case. I'm still a Speight optimist for three reasons:
- Harbaugh. This should be self-explanatory but if you need a refresher here's the QB season preview.
- Speight seems to have the hardest thing down: pocket presence. His ability to turn garbage into first downs is exceptional for a guy his size.
- His good periods came after an opportunity to take a breather and focus on the things Harbaugh was coaching him to do. Speight was hot at the beginning of the season, after the bye, and after he missed the Indiana game. As we go along here he should be more that guy than the one who forgot and reverted to high school/Borges stuff when the heat got turned up.
Also, redshirt sophomores generally get better. It's not a big step from where he's currently at to an All Big Ten type season.
The three to five horsemen. I really like Chris Evans and Karan Higdon, and with Johnson, Isaac, Kareem Walker, and O'Maury Samuels also available this looks set to be a very deep and good running back crew. It may lack the out and out star that Najee Harris would have provided; I'm not stressing about the ballcarriers not getting what they should. All three returners graded significantly positively on PFF (relative to workload).
Blocky/catchy blocking. If one or both Kaiju takes a Williams-esque step forward and Hill gets most of the fullback work, Michigan's ability to generate yards off tackle will take a big step forward. Butt was an excellent player overall; he was average-at-best as a blocker.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 2017
Newsome's injury recover is critical [Bill Rapai]
Tackle. Hoke's OL recruiting was, in a word, disastrous. Michigan enters 2017 with exactly one Hoke-recruited OT: Bushell-Beatty. That means Michigan will have to do two of the following:
- Get Grant Newsome back from a terrifying injury that kept him in the hospital for over a month. (FWIW, there's been some chatter that Newsome's injury doesn't have an unusually lengthy prognosis despite the hospital stay.)
- Move Mason Cole back to the tackle spot he couldn't pass protect at.
- Move Ben Bredeson out to tackle, where he might have the same issues Cole does.
- Start Bushell-Beatty, who got beat up by Rutgers last year.
- Start Nolan Ulizio, a low-rated redshirt sophomore.
- Start a true freshman.
Two of those options might work out really well. But probably not.
WHAT'S HEISENBERG ROD STEWART UNCERTAINTY
The guys on the end of Speight passes. Young receivers are usually bad. Of late, however, you're seeing a couple guys a year break through as true freshmen. Michigan has a couple of candidates in the 2017 class. Both Tarik Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones enrolled early, and both seem like sharp guys who will pick up the offense quickly. Add those guys to the McDoom/Crawford/Johnson troika that the coaching staff is high on and Drake Harris and it's not too hard to see Michigan being at least as good as they were this year.
Or they could be first-and-second year guys and run into each other on the regular. Ask again later.
Meanwhile, Michigan has a solid candidate to do Butt stuff in Ian Bunting. Still a difficult ask for anyone to live up to Butt's ability to reel in anything in his area.
The interior OL. At guard, a dropoff is unlikely from a true freshman and a guy who ended up –12 on the season per PFF. Michigan needs to do much more than tread water, though. Mike Onwenu is a unique prospect at one spot, and Bredeson will either be a lot better... or playing tackle, and then the other guard spot is a series of question marks. Cole stabilizes; whether or not these guys are any good is still very much an open question.
The Pep effect. Is Pep Hamilton an upgrade on Jedd Fisch? Does it even matter when Harbaugh's running things?
MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS
Another mediocre season is in the offing unless Michigan gets a Christmas miracle an the offensive line that will probably feature one upperclassman and is 50/50 to sport another true freshman. That is a tough hill to climb for anyone. The skill positions should be good but are likely a year away from being able to offer win-games-on-our-own help—again Michigan is all but devoid of upperclassmen.
A projected Speight uptick is the main reason for optimism; it's asking a lot of him to be Andrew Luck in an environment where he's going to be running away an awful lot.
The good news is good news about 2018, when Michigan loses only a few projected contributors: Mason Cole, the fullbacks, Drake Johnson, and Ty Isaac. Whatever they find this year will enter 2018 just about unscathed.
Donovan Peoples-Jones, Jaylen Kelly-Powell, and Ambry Thomas are no strangers to being featured in Future Blue Originals posts; David and I scouted October’s Cass-King PSL playoff game, and Ace, David, and I took in King’s game against Southfield A&T in the Prep Kickoff Classic. With Michigan losing their top two outside receivers, Peppers at SAM, and Lewis and Stribling at corner, it seemed like the time to take another look at the three Cass and King commits that have a shot at seeing the field for Michigan in 2017.
I headed back to the Youtube mine to find another complete game film chock-full of Michigan prospects. This time we’ll take a look at the regular-season meeting between Cass Tech and King, which was played in early October on Cass’s weather-beaten field; you’ll see the sloppy field conditions come into play multiple times throughout, though not to the point where we’re unable to get a good feel for the incoming freshmen’s strengths and weaknesses. A quick aside: I’ve had this tab open since the video was posted, and in that time Mike James has uploaded more full games that would very much be of interest to Michigan fans.
[Hit THE JUMP for the scouting reports]