As you have certainly heard by now, Michigan Football cancelled its spring game due to inclement weather. The game would have provided everyone with a glimpse at how the team is looking and how some of the key position battles are shaping up.
Based on interviews with players and coaches here are some news and notes on those position battles.
Michigan’s offensive line has underwhelmed during the Jim Harbaugh era. Offensive line guru Ed Warriner was brought in to help right the ship and get the line playing at a higher level.
The interior of the line should be in pretty good shape. Cesar Ruiz will take over at center, after playing guard last season. Ben Bredeson has the left guard position locked down and Michael Onwenu is reportedly playing much better, but will have to hold off players like Stephen Spanellis to keep his starting spot.
Things are much less certain at the tackle positions. Juwann Bushell-Beatty will likely frontrunner at left tackle with Jon Runyan Jr. at right tackle. Youngsters Chuck Filiaga and James Hudson should factor into the two deep. Nolan Ulizio, Andrew Stueber, and Joel Honigford are also battling for playing time at tackle.
The offensive line is by far the biggest area of concern on the team. They have to get this unit functioning at a higher level, if they are going to compete for championships.
Michigan’s quarterbacks have also been an area of concern. They have not played well in big games and that has to be remedied. The team is still waiting for a ruling from the NCAA regarding Shea Patterson’s request for immediate eligibility. He figures to the frontrunner to win the job at this point, assuming he’s eligible.
Dylan McCaffrey redshirted last year and is now squarely in the mix at quarterback. Look for him to get extended looks from the coaching staff from now all the way through fall camp.
Brandon Peters was the talk of last year’s spring game, but that didn’t translate to sustained on the field success. Early enrollee Joe Milton has been competing in spring practice and looks like he will be a dynamic athlete.
There will be a lot of new faces under center, so keep an eye on how they fare. If Patterson isn’t granted a waiver, that means either McCaffrey or Peters will start with Milton being the X-factor.
Thanks in large part to poor quarterback play and struggles on the offensive line, Michigan’s wide receivers were not very productive last year, combining for just three touchdown receptions and 1,132 receiving yards.
Before suffering a season-ending injury late in the third game of the season, Tarik Black was Michigan’s best receiver. He is healthy now and should have a big season. Donovan Peoples-Jones is bursting with potential and should be a more productive player. Nico Collins played sparingly last year, but has the look of a future star. Slot receiver Oliver Martin redshirted last year, but figures to have a big role in 2018.
Look for the wide receivers to be vastly improved in 2018.
The defense is going to be good. The defensive line is going to be dominant. However, losing Maurice Hurst to the NFL will hurt. Michael Dwumfour is the frontrunner to take over Hurst’s spot on the line. According to recent reports from Greg Mattison and Rashan Gary, he is having an outstanding spring.
“Michael Dwumfour, [is] fast off the ball, get off just like Mo [Hurst],” Gary said. “It’s ridiculous. You’re going to see it when time comes.” Another player to keep an eye on is Bryan Mone. He is reportedly in excellent shape and could be a major part of the Wolverines’ deep line.
At linebacker Michigan returns All-American Devin Bush and All-Big Ten third team selection Khaleke Hudson. Both players will be juniors this fall and will give Don Brown not only a seasoned duo, but an extremely talented pair of linebackers, who are going to make a lot of game-changing plays.
The question at linebacker is, who will replace Mike McCray? That figures to be an all-out battle with numerous challengers including Josh Uche (Jr), Drew Singleton (RS Fr), Josh Ross (So), Jordan Anthony (RS Fr), Devin Gil (RS So) and Noah Furbush (Sr). Keep an eye on all of them during the spring game.
In the secondary, Michigan has an outstanding pair of corners in juniors David Long and Lavert Hill. Sophomore Ambry Thomas (So) is going to be a star. Pay attention to J’Marick Woods (So) and early enrollee Myles Sims at safety. Both players are big hitters with very high ceilings.
Quinn Nordin had some great moments last year as well as some frustrating ones. He will need to develop consistency and that starts with a strong spring.
Michigan’s punting game was a debacle last season. There is an opportunity for Brad Robbins or Will Hart to take control of the position. Both players struggled last year, but hopefully they are ready to take the next step in their development.
Obviously a lot will change between now and the season opener on September 1, at Notre Dame. Spring practice is just the beginning for this team. A lot will hinge on Patterson’s eligibility, but the defense is going to be fantastic and the offensive line should be much more stable this year than it has been in a while.
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