What is this? Folks who cover the USMNT drop lists like this projecting the 23 guys who end up on the next World Cup team. I have appropriated it. Regarding the number of tickets: 22 starters on offense and defense + 2 kickers + nickelback + SAM + FLEX TE + SLOT.
Note that due to Michigan's frequent deployment of a 3-3-5 with a true SAM linebacker I've added that slot to this year's list. There are now 28 tickets. Actually there are 29 because there are two RBs.
PACK YOUR BAGS
Enjoy it while it lasts. Gary is a unanimous top-ten pick amongst Way Too Early mock draft types. He was first team All Big Ten per the coaches at a loaded spot after an 11 TFL, 5 sack season. Goal in what's presumably his final year is to go from All Big Ten to All American. That's more likely than not.
The platonic ideal of a Don Brown linebacker. Roaring start to the season petered out into solid play as opposing offenses started focusing more time and resources on blocking him; still racked up 9.5 TFLs and 5 sacks and was 1st team ABT. Occasional busts expected out of a true sophomore and should drop out of his game as he takes up the mantle of upperclass leader. Drawing skills questionable.
Set program and B10 record for TFLs in a game because Minnesota decided to be very Nice to him. Also had 8 non-Gopher TFLs and was a frequent, excellent blitzer. Versatile and explosive; replaced Peppers on defense with almost no hiccup. Busted coverage vs OSU was a bummer. Again, true sophomore.
Translated productive 2016 cameos with nearly no efficiency loss, leading team with 17.5 TFLs and 8 sacks. Ironman who played almost every snap with a nonstop motor. Enjoyed Eric's hat. Some run issues with lane integrity and holding up against power at his face. Should lose snaps as 2017 class comes online behind him.
Don't let that dropped INT and a couple of drag routes obscure what was otherwise an excellent end to the season for Metellus. Graded out consistently well in UFR. Versatile slot defender and safety was a highly reliable tackler and virtually never showed up on your screen for bad reasons. There are far far worse fates for a new starting S. Don't make me remind you of AMSHG.
Spate of missed tackles as Kinnel got over-aggressive on screens see him slot just below Metellus; most of his other misfortune was getting freshman Jourdan Lewis'd on slot fades and the occasional Hornibrook heat-seeking missile. Busts were rare; key component of a secondary that exceeded all reasonable expectations. Man coverage on slots could use some work.
Was already a holy lock to be the starting center in 2018, and then he started at RG for the back half of the season. There was little dropoff from Onwenu until Wisconsin and TJ Edwards came to town; even so Ruiz played out of his mind for a true freshman. He's a natural C and ain't nobody coming for his job.
M's leading receiver... with 29 catches. Couple that with an in-season blocking turnaround as he went from Very Bad to Good-ish, and you've got a pending four year-starter unless the NFL intervenes. Athletic, good hands—the OSU drop was uncharacteristic and I have the charts to prove it—and mean enough on the ground.
Loping downfield menace would have had a massive breakout season in functioning pass offense; in Michigan's he got 15 catches. Led the team in YPC with a Gesicki-esque 18.4, and was not a pretty pretty princess when asked to block. More or less Post Apocalyptic Jake Butt. Hopefully can become Regular Jake Butt in 2018.
Corners both drop because of Ambry Thomas buzz. Long still put Simmie Cobbs on a milk carton. Program ambassador type. Like Hill, barely challenged over the second half of the season as opponents gave up on their outside WRs. Should improve faster than Watson and emerge into ABT or AA type.
Michigan's leading receiver by yardage last year, Perry looked the part of a polished just-gets-open chain-mover. He looked that part far too rarely for the usual reasons. As a senior his deployment will be similar, but hopefully he'll be one of a large number of weapons instead of the one guy you need to look for on third and seven. A version of Perry in a functional passing game is really efficient.
Felt wrong to leave either main RB out so let's break out some lower case letters. Higdon is 71 bowl yards away from being Michigan's first 1,000 yard RB since Fitz Toussaint. He demonstrated not only an ability to power through tackles but to run away from a bunch of them. A few better cuts and he's the total package. Oh... and a lot better pass blocking.
Disappointing first half mostly about terrible blocking at inopportune times; came on late; displayed open-field chops against OSU. A jet with ankle-breaking ability. Running through a few arm tackles. Got up to 5.3 YPC even with terrible start. Should have had 40 catches this year. Scouts flag football at 7 AM. Should be allowed to wear a helmet that has his hair on it.
Alarming pass protection feels a lot more understandable if Bredeson is a redshirt freshman, but that was not possible given the dearth of OL Harbaugh inherited. Became a solid cog in the run game; apparently never ever going to get looked at as a tackle. Says somethin' about somethin'. Go go gadget Ed Warinner, here and everywhere else.
Sometimes there's a man. Mason is that man. He's the only veteran fullback on the roster who anyone can name, for one. For two, Harbaugh can't shut up about his physical physicality. For three, Michigan followed that up with meaningful in-season playing time, and he did well with it. For four, just look at that fullback-ass photo at left. Fullback? Fullback.
UNLESS SOMETHING STRANGE HAPPENS
Hello, Five Star Tate Forcier. While there is just enough of a chance that Patterson's lack of familiarity with the playbook sees someone else win the job to put him in this category… naw. Third-best SEC QB per PFF last year, 64%, 8.7 YPA, 17-9 TD-INT, yes please. Good thinking-face emoji face. Face.
Another (almost) entirely missed spring session drew the ire of Zordich. If this goes like last year's ire, polish up the Heisman. But! Thomas is a potential bustout and Hill could get the proverbial Wakeup Call. Still likely to be AA-worthy and a potential early departure. No safety in this secondary.
Spanellis chatter out of spring dings Onwenu, who got bumped for Ruiz even after seemingly recovering his health last year. Continued mashing is a given. Stunt pickups, please. Endurance remains a question, as it often is for super-giant OL. Could go either way here: AA potential, bench potential. This one may be more Herbert than Warinner.
Emerged as Michigan's main—often only—receiver by midseason, whereupon he was zestily overthrown on wide open post routes and humped to death by hoodie-wearing jabronis in full view of the referees. Did get a bomb against Wisconsin, and had two huge punt returns. Breakout could be coming, pending pass pro.
M's late preference for a 4-man-front seemed directly tied to the development of Solomon, a five-star who started flashing that talent late in the year. Removal against OSU because of a ding, not his play; Martin/Glasgow/Hurst play-alike who could/should bust out big time in full time starters role.
Torrid start cooled off; still hit 15 of 20 attempts on the year. Three missed XPs are... uh. Not great. S&P+ has him an almost entirely average kicker. This is not the worst, but it is quite a comedown from GREATEST KICKER IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY, which is what Nordin seemed like for half the season. Let's get back to that plz.
FAIRLY SAFE BET
Mo Hurst, but big! Dwumfour's been a hype machine since last year, when he was unneeded, and has continued to generate downright absurd talk. Most of this is unprompted from the coaches, to the point where Harbaugh sat back down and asked Ira to ask about breakout players so he could shout Dwumfour out.
Michigan's #1 receiver until injury hewed him down; flashed his talent early; with Crawford's continued struggles it's likely that Black walks right back into the starting lineup once he's healthy. Massive, thudding downfield guy with great body control and a year of experience sounds like a nice safety blanket for Peters.
This is still a picture of Jordan Glasgow in a bear shirt, and will probably always be a picture of Glasgow in a bear shirt. The punter in question, Robbins, was middling at best as a freshman and could come in for some competition from walk-ons, but the main walk-on shanked three early and got yanked so not so much.
IN A BATTLE
Back down in the salt mines for Furbush as linebacker hype for others threatens his spot as Devin Bush's personal snowplow. Could lose time to more dynamic players since he was a bit of a one-trick pony. Someone who could drop into coverage (Singleton? Anthony) would give the 3-3-5 more oomph.
Also gave Simmie Cobbs the business. Athletic upside not as high as the other guys but he's making it work as a press corner. Thomas lurks, though, and given the need for a slot fade response Watson's time could be under threat more than the other two guys. Don't count him out.
Mike McCray's vacancy is wide open and could go to any of the second-year players, or Devin Gil, or Josh Uche, or even a relocated Noah Furbush. Ross gets the nod here because he's got recruiting rankings on the veterans and playing time on his classmates. This is a shot in the dark, but a relatively friendly one. The last two spots... not so much.
JBB couldn't pass protect a lick last year and that's not likely to change in his final year. News that he'd moved over to LT and had not been clearly dislodged by one of the redshirt freshmen is necessarily alarming. Banking pretty heavily on Warinner >>> Drevno for any optimism.
Here's a near-random guess at which dude will emerge from the seething pile. All three of the returning candidates had major issues, so the door is wide open for a freshman. Hudson moved to tackle and is picking up Webb hype while nobody else has been mentioned, so here he is. Other options: Spanellis, Filiaga, Stueber, Honigford, Runyan, JBB, and Ulizio.
NOT STARTERS BUT CONTRIBUTING
RB Kareem Walker—flashed promise late, needs to follow his blocking better.
WR Kekoa Crawford—scuffled badly this year, but will rotate in.
WR Nico Collins—redshirt yanked rather pointlessly late this year.
WR Eddie McDoom—Breastonian threat could have been better utilized.
TE Ty Wheatley—injury may have got him Wally Pipped but there's a role for a masher.
TE Nick Eubanks—knocked out for year by brutal targeting.
T Jon Runyan Jr.—RT for much of second half against OSU.
T Grant Newsome—please please please
G Stephen Spanellis—productive masher as 6th OL.
SDE Carlo Kemp—significant PT a year ago; still developing.
NT Bryan Mone—man-planet will be short yardage asset.
3T Lawrence Marshall—decent backup DT
WDE Kwity Paye—flashed some talent as a freshman, up 30 pounds.
SAM Josh Uche—effective rush specialist late in the year.
CB Ambry Thomas—KO returner and super talented dude could take aim at everyone's snaps.
PUSHING FROM BEHIND
QB Brandon Peters—spring talk not real great.
QB Dylan McCaffrey—oblig redshirt year in rear view.
RB O'Maury Samuels—probably needs an injury before he can see real time.
WR Oliver Martin—weird that he was the guy who redshirted.
WR Nate Schoenle—got a few targets.
C Phil Paea—move to O was probably inevitable.
G Andrew Vastardis—walk-on is in conversation.
T Nolan Ulizio—Pretty terrible but did get a half season of starts.
T Andrew Stueber—potential LT if Newsome can't go.
T Chuck Filiaga—enormous man may be G but M has to see if he's a tackle.
T Joel Honigford—Another LT candidate if he works out.
3T Donovan Jeter—ND decommit w/ salty comments afterwards will be fan favorite
WDE Luiji Vilain—injury enforced redshirt gave Paye the early edge.
MLB Drew Singleton—will battle Gil/Ross.
SAM Jordan Anthony—maybe more of a viper/Bush backup?
CB Benjamin St Juste—oh Canada.
S Jordan Glasgow—behind Woods; special teams stalwart.
S Jaylen Kelly-Powell—got some PT late, didn't go well.
S J'Marick Woods—Ol' Woods brings the wood.
S Brad Hawkins—mostly active on special teams.
WAITING THEIR TURN
RB Kurt Taylor—moves up if he can pass block.
SDE Ron Johnson—might be late early for him as Paye went right by on the weakside.
3T Deron Irving-Bey—at least another year before he's ready.
WDE Reuben Jones—late early.