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 + FLEX TE + H-back.
PREVIOUSLY: Pre-Bowl. There aren't a whole lot of changes for this one, which is good.
PACK YOUR BAGS
1. CB/S/KR/PR/WR/RB/NICKEL Jabrill Peppers, So.* [Last time: 1]
Began the year as a one-man screen destroyer and ended it as the top option at a half-dozen spots. M may work him in as a RB more; still assume his primary duties will be on defense, where a little bit of development in coverage will make him a scary all-purpose demon. Adding a half dozen touchdowns of all varieties could propel him to NYC.
2. CB Jourdan Lewis, Sr. [Last time: 2]
All-American set the single-season Michigan PBU record because opponents kept targeting him despite that being a very, very bad idea. Titanic matchup against future NFLers Cook and Burbridge will be remembered by both sides for a long time. Headed for first round of draft but not for another year.
3. LT Mason Cole, Jr. [Last time: 3]
Developed into an A- run blocker and B pass blocker in year two as Michigan's left tackle. Some deficiencies against the top tier pass rushers and will never by NFL prototype. Could move to C if Grant Newsome is as quick a learner as Cole was; 0.0% chance anything save injury pushes him from lineup.
4. FLEX Jake Butt, Sr. [Last time: 4]
Inexplicably not a Mackey finalist despite athleticism, catching radius, and absolutely fantastic hands. Blocking just okay but far from a liability. Seriously how did this guy not win the Mackey? What are you even doing, Mackey? Are you playing Fallout 4 and randomly selecting guys your slacker brother suggests? Drugs are bad, mmmkay?
5. NT Ryan Glasgow, Sr.* [Last time: 5]
Won Order Of St. Kovacs as a sophomore and then turned into a slightly poor man's Mike Martin as a junior before he was hewn down by a shoulder injury. Violent player who added serious pass rush, linchpin of Michigan's rush defense for much of the year, great endurance, if you call him a "former walk-on" he will and should rip your head off.
6. SDE Chris Wormley, Sr* [Last time: 6]
Mega-jumbo defensive end wreckt all tight ends who tried to block him. A key part of Michigan's stunt game and reasonably capable of getting to the QB himself, Wormley matured into an all-around force. Can also play three-tech. As a senior you'd like to see him bring a little bit more organic pass rush to his game but other than that holes are hard to find.
7. WR Jehu Chesson, Sr.* [Last time: 8]
Open deep all year and finally got on the same page with Rudock late for season-ending surge. Fast. Murderous blocker. Jet sweep maestro. Fast. Polite. Fast. Went from Stonum-ish to Breaston-ish to Manningham-ish over course of season. Huge year beckons if QB situation right.
8. WR Amara Darboh, Sr* [Last time: 9]
Nearly lived up to Avant-esque reputation with series of bonkers catches and chain-moving underneath YAC. Hands maybe a tiny bit iffy. Like Chesson, a quality blocker and a WR screen target thanks to his burly tackle-breaking ability. Got more separation than previous years but not really a burner. Very solid option nonetheless.
9. K Kenny Allen, Sr.* [Last time: 10]
Early-season kicker worries dissipated as Allen went 14/18 on the year with one miss due to a bad snap and a second that got blown across the face of the uprights by a sudden gust of wind. Didn't hit anything particularly long, but had a bunch of touchbacks when he wanted to have touchbacks. Another year of reliability beckons.
10. FS Dymonte Thomas, Sr. [Last time: 13]
The unfortunate departure of Brian Cole bumps the safeties up into total lock category. Thomas is a lightning bolt who finally figured out the direction he should be zipping halfway through the season, displacing Hill after some bumps. Encouraging play after ascension to starter status relieves post-Wilson worries.
11. SS Delano Hill, Sr. [Last time: 14]
Started season as starter before aforementioned hiccups. Still saw plenty of PT after nominal benching and did better. Severe case of Greg Oden disease means he will look exactly the same age—42—for the next 50 years. Must tackle people when behind them, that's a protip.
UNLESS SOMETHING STRANGE HAPPENS
12. ILB Ben Gedeon, Sr. [Last time: 12]
The only returning LB with non-garbage time defensive snaps to his name and starting MLB by default. "Default" is never a good thing to hear in a depth chart discussion but Gedeon has been serviceable to date and should at least continue producing at that level. Inability to wrest more PT from Bolden does worry.
13. CB Jeremy Clark, Sr* [Last time: 20]
Moving on up only because I think I was excessively cautious about Channing Stribling taking his job. That's not likely to happen; Stribling will play but Michigan has something Richard Sherman-shaped in Clark, and his 2015 was a star-crossed on during which excellent coverage turned into compost because of bloody fate.
14. G Ben Braden, Sr.* [Last time: 15]
People were leery when the tackle-shaped Braden was tried at guard again, and then downright alarmed after Utah's DL put him in the backfield for 60 minutes. Soon after Braden settled down and became M's most consistent lineman behind the two lock starters. Lunging massively reduced. Seemed to know what to do more than others.
15. T Erik Magnuson, Sr*. [Last time: 16]
Middling season as a tackle. Okay at run blocking but occasionally frustrating, especially on the second level. Pass protection generally good but, like Cole, struggled to cope with top-shelf rushers. Not going to be All Big Ten next year; difficult to see anyone supplanting him.
16. G Kyle Kalis, Sr* [Last time: 17]
Sounds like Klingon, plays like… uh… a notoriously confused Star Trek race. Maybe those Darmok guys? Physically powerful and prone to mistakes, Kalis was up and down and up and down. IDed what he was supposed to do too late too often. Probably destined to frustrating what-if player. But if it all comes together clicky clicky etc.
17. FB/H-back Henry Poggi, Jr* [Last time: 18]
2015 headshot of the year winner. Lebowski fan. Frequently retweets people saying he looks like an anthropomorphic thumb. Had slightly confused transition to FB/H-back but demonstrated ability to move people as year went on. Not much of a runner yet and will cede snaps to someone (Shallman?) who is. Sometimes there's a man.
FAIRLY SAFE BET
18. QB John O'Korn, Jr* [Last time: 17]
Houston transfer was platonic opposite of Jake Rudock: huge arm, aggressive, kinda nuts. 3000 yard freshman year devolved into Hackenberg-like frustration and benching. Touted as superior to Rudock in workouts, and for half of 2015 that was very plausible. Competitors are all freshmen or Borges recruits. In Harbaugh We Trust.
19. OT Grant Newsome, So. [Last time: 22]
Burned redshirt after LTT's dismissal and looked the part of a sun-eclipsing, rush-obliterating NFL left tackle in the mold of Long or Lewan. Even wore 77 to speed those comparisons. Long way from looking like it to being it. Major X-factor for season as sudden emergence into good LT frees up Cole to put out most pressing fire elsewhere.
With Michigan passing on a random Aussie (so far) it's Allen, not Peppers, who gets the first-ever dual nod on 27 Tickets. Allen was originally recruited as a punter and has displayed a booming leg on scattered opportunities so far. Won't be as precise as Blake O'Neill but should be able to flip the field on the regular like he did.
IN A BATTLE
Sometimes you move down because something good happened, and Rashan Gary happened for Michigan. While Gary's long-term position is not WDE, he could slot in there as a freshman. Pushing senior Taco out of the lineup after a 5.5 sack year as a backup is probably a hill too far; uncertainty just went up. Taco's cannibalism compounded by the fact he appears to be eating his namesake from the top?
Like Charlton, Hurst would slot in much higher without Gary but makes the list despite him. Hurst was mostly great a year ago as a nose, a disruptive penetrator with a spectaucular first step. Did struggle against extended doubles and especially zone stretches late in the year. Performance still enticing for sophomore. All Big Ten performance relatively likely.
23. SLOT Grant Perry, So. [Last time: 23]
Freshman thrust into the fray in opener, whereupon he was responsible for two INTs and relegated to spot duty for the rest of the season. Role naturally limited in Harbauffense; did get a bunch of snaps late as M abandoned running the ball. Solid blocker on screens and promises to be a consistent underneath option once he learns what he's doing.
24. TE Khalid Hill, Jr.* [Last time: 21]
Position was already up in the air somewhat but with Devin Asiasi coming in at 260 or 270, Hill will have stiff competition for AJ Williams's snaps from the drop. Hill's a smooth receiver who has a squat, blocking-friendly build and should hold off Asiasi and TJ Wheatley, for a given definition of "hold off" that includes a ton of rotation.
25. RB De'Veon Smith, Jr.* [Last time: 25]
Run at left emblematic of season, as he missed his hole but ran over half of BYU to score anyway. Erratic vision, slow, impossible to tackle, fantastic blocker—Smith is a guy who helps you win football games but maybe not as a feature back. Walker, Peppers, Johnson, and others will push for, and acquire, significant carries.
Early-enrolling freshman was clear top option on M's board throughout recruitment and serendipitously fits Don Brown's desire for fast, instinctive LBs even if they're a bit small. Relatively well prepared to contribute and start early w/ dad a former NFL LB. Furbush, McCray (if healthy) will push for time.
27. SAM Noah Furbush, So* [Last time: 26]
Furbush bumps Wangler from the projected SAM spot since the coverage SS/LB type guy is Peppers, more or less, and the SAM is going to be put over a tight end against manball outfits. Furbush, a special teams force a year ago, is your wild-ass guess as to who might get those snaps.
TECHNICALLY NOT STARTERS BUT CLOSE
RB Drake Johnson—if he can stay healthy.
RB Kareem Walker—okay he's not Fournette but let's not dismiss him out of hand because of a couple of recruiting ranking downgrades.
TE TJ Wheatley—not moving to OL, should get in on some jumbo-jumbo TE packages.
DE/DT Rashan Gary—heh
NT Bryan Mone—massive Tongan was reputed to be better than Glasgow before last season. This was not true, but Mone was badly missed after Glasgow went out.
DE Matt Godin—if allowed to push out to SDE will be an effective backup for Wormley. If forced to play 3TECH, look out.
PUSHING FROM BEHIND
QB Zach Gentry—rumors of move to TE way overblown. M will take extended look.
QB Wilton Speight—threw winning TD against Minnesota but didn't look like a guy who had a shot at displacing O'Korn. Could transfer.
RB Ty Isaac—doghouse for fumbling and then doghouse for extracurriculars.
RB Karan Higdon—quick little guy had one nice carry and got swarmed a lot at LOS.
RB Kingston Davis—absolutely not a fullback
WR Moe Ways—Darboh analogue had a few catches, should be eased into more PT with an eye towards 2017.
WR Drake Harris—temporarily healthy, did little, still really skinny, got hurt again.
WR Nate Johnson—mean-ass slot receiver, if that's a thing. Golden Tate is ceiling.
WR Kekoa Crawford—Hawaiian for smooth.
WR Eddie McDoom—MCDOOOOOOOOM
WR Ahmir Mitchell—early enrollee could move to S
TE Ian Bunting—Ol' Skillet Hands saw PT drop as season progressed, but just one year removed from being HS WR so not a surprise.
TE Devin Asiasi—plug-and-play inline TE has some depth chart hurdles to clear.
C Patrick Kugler—will be a redshirt junior; given performance this year could displace starter. Magnuson, Cole flexibility means that if he's best five he plays.
G David Dawson—stuck behind middling Gs a year ago, will get a shot.
WLB Mike McCray—health issue was a labrum that required a second surgery, reportedly full go by late last year.
ILB Chase Winovich—returned to LB after lost year as TE.
ILB Reuben Jones—move to ILB a stop-gap, I think.
ILB Elysee Mbem-Bosse—most field-ready of ILB freshmen outside of Bush.
CB David Long—program ambassador role starts now, CB starter in 2017?
CB LaVert Hill—Jourdan Lewis analogue in HS; will play with expectation of starting next year.
CB Channing Stribling—maybe 30% of the snaps last year; middling performance.
CB Brandon Watson—saw some nickel snaps when M was trying to save Peppers a bit.
S Tyree Kinnel—burned redshirt indicates he'll compete for the job.
WAITING THEIR TURN
QB Alex Malzone—not going to compete physically w/ O'Korn or Gentry but could develop into a Rudock type down the road.
QB Brandon Peters—true freshman will enter with a boatload of hype
QB Shane Morris—will he be on the roster?
FB Wyatt Shallman—now is the time to try his blocking out. Constantly hurt.
WR DaMario Jones—scattered snaps a year ago, got passed by guys younger than him.
WR Brad Hawkins—another S candidate
TE Nick Eubanks—Funchess 2.0
TE Sean McKeon—Butt 2.0?
G Michael Onwenu—can play at incredible weight, but probably not 370.
T Ben Bredeson—Must pan out.
G Stephen Spanellis—road grader needs seasoning.
T Nolan Ulizio—late pickup last year hopes to build for 2017.
T Juwann Bushell-Beatty—late early for him
WDE Lawrence Marshall—ghost after enormous pile of spring hype.
WDE Ron Johnson—explosive edge rusher needs year of meat sauce
SDE Shelton Johnson—probably has to cool his heels and put on more weight.
NT Michael Dwumfour—Hurst-esque NT/3TECH needs polish
CB Keith Washington—Breaston-esque HS QB competing at CB, coming off redshirt.
CB Freddy Canteen—moved from WR. It could happen?