I do this kind of exercise from time to time on my own, but I figured that since I’m a certified “blogger of Michigan athletics” now (or whatever title I fall under), I might as well put it down as an article.
What I am going to do is take a look at what I feel will be the Michigan football depth chart (2-deep) when the Wolverines kick off the 2014 season against Appalachian State (gasp!) on August 30th. This little preview will not take into account injuries with the exception of obvious ones like Jake Butt and Ondre Pipkins. Remember, this is a preview of the regular season depth chart, not spring practice. I know that Erik Magnuson and Chris Bryant are out for the spring, but I expect them back for the fall, so they will be included here.
Follow me through the jump to take a look…
Devin Gardner (RS Sr), Shane Morris (So)
I don’t really buy the whole “the quarterback position is an open competition” stuff from Hoke. Maybe I’m wrong (I often am), but in my mind, this is Devin Gardner’s team, and Devin Gardner behind center is what gives Michigan the best chance to win. Shane Morris has a howitzer attached to his shoulder where his left arm should be, and he may well be a damned good quarterback in time; but I still feel that Devin Gardner is the superior player.
Derrick Green (So), DeVeon Smith (So)
Hand to God, I think they both get a ton of carries in 2014. If you would have asked me a month ago, I might have listed Smith as the starter here, but then I saw that Green is back down to 220-225lbs, which is where he should be. That moved the needle back in Green’s favor in my mind. I think Smith can and will be a good B1G running back, but Green has something extra. He’s faster, has better vision, and is a more capable receiver out of the backfield in my view. Of course, we don’t know what new OC Doug Nussmeier will want to do with the backfield, and it obviously all starts up front with the offensive line, but for now I think Green will be the starter with Smith running as his primary backup.
Joe Kerridge (RS Jr), Sione Houma (Jr)
I love the fullback position. I love guys who come onto the field with the sole intention of blowing someone up, and there’s no position like that quite like fullback. Both of these guys bring something different to the table. Kerridge is the better blocker and comes with more “thump”. When Joe Kerridge hits someone, you “hear football”, as Brady Hoke likes to say. Houma is the more athletic one, is the better runner, and is the better receiver. Quite frankly, I have no idea what Nussmeier is going to do with the fullback position. He might end up scrapping it entirely in favor of an H-back or U-back (we’ll get to those later). But for now, I’ll stick with Kerridge as my starter.
Wide Receiver #1
Devin Funchess (Jr), Jehu Chesson (RS So)
We don’t really know what is going to happen with Funchess. With the injury to Jake Butt, the possibility exists that Funchess will go back to playing tight end primarily, but I really, really don’t want that happen. Funchess provides mismatches at the TE position, yes. He can’t be covered by linebackers or safeties, true. But did you watch last season? He can’t be covered by cornerbacks either. He straight up runs by them, jumps over them, and out-muscles them all over the field. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I want that at wide receiver as opposed to at tight end all day, every day. As for Chesson, he showed some good things in 2013. He’s already a capable blocker, he has good speed, and looks to have a solid pair of hands. He needs to work on his route running, his knowledge of the playbook, and he needs to get bigger. He’ll see plenty of time in 2014, but for this exercise he slides in as the #3 “outside receiver”, so to speak.
Wide Receiver #2
Amara Darboh (RS So), Drake Harris (Fr)
I would love for Drake Harris to redshirt. I really, really would. But in my view, the minute he stepped on campus he became one of the top 4 “outside receivers”, in front of older guys like York and Dukes, as well as in front of fellow freshman Moe Ways. As for Darboh, he was penciled in to start last year opposite Jeremy Gallon, but as we all know, a foot injury ended his season early. I think that once he comes back 100% healthy, he’ll re-pass Chesson for an outside starting role.
Freddy Canteen (Fr), Justice Hayes (RS Jr)
I already know what you’re going to say. “Where is Norfleet!???!!???111” Personally, I don’t see a whole lot from Norfleet. Many, many people have been clamoring for him to play more of a role in the offense, but other than some good wiggle in open space, I don’t see a ton that can help Michigan. He’s not as fast as people want to think, and while yes, he’s very quick and elusive, I think those particular attributes play better as a “once in awhile” offensive guy, rather than a starter. Sure, Michigan should run some plays with Norfleet involved. But I don’t think that constitutes a starter’s role. Canteen enrolled early, has ideal size for the slot (6’1″), and excels at the one thing it usually takes receivers to master: Route running. This may be a bold prediction, but I expect him to grab ahold of the starting slot job and never let go.
AJ Williams (Jr), Jordan Paskorz (RS Sr)
I know. I already miss Jake Butt too. And to be honest with you all, I don’t know if Ian Bunting is going to be big enough to play tight end (weight-wise) right away. We saw what happened when a freshman Devin Funchess tried to play tight end (he got blown up when trying to block). I could see something like Williams/Paskorz on running downs/short yardage passing downs/etc; while Bunting comes in as a receiving tight end in passing situations. No one on the roster (aside from Butt), is a “complete” tight end, meaning that Nussmeier is going to have to mix and match and strategize around this particular weakness.
Left Offensive Tackle
Erik Magnuson (RS So), Ben Braden (RS So)
Magnuson is, quite simply, our only hope here. Lewan and Schofield are gone, I don’t think Braden has the necessary athleticism and quickness to play the blindside effectively, and other potential left tackles Logan Tuley-Tillman and Juwann Bushell-Beatty are still a year or two away. I think Magnuson can certainly develop into an All-B1G caliber left tackle, but I don’t think it’s going to happen in 2014. I do think, however, that if he can stay healthy and put on a bit more weight, he’ll be solid there, which is all we can reasonably ask for. Braden looks like a future mauler at right tackle all the way to me, but I think he could fill in at left tackle in a pinch, much the same as Schofield did.
Left Offensive Guard
Kyle Bosch (So), Chris Bryant (RS Jr)
Bosch was forced into starting duty as a true freshman out of pure necessity, and I think he did okay for a true frosh. He got beat pretty badly at times, didn’t understand his assignment on certain plays, and held up pretty solidly at times. While his performance as a whole hurt Michigan in 2013, I think the experience he gained will prove invaluable as he’ll be counted on to be a starter in 2014. As for Chris Bryant…man. Dude cannot catch a break with injuries. I don’t know if he’d ever have been a plus player, but he sure as heck would have absolutely destroyed some people. If he can stay healthy through the summer and into fall camp, he’ll challenge Bosch and Kalis (spoiler!) for the guard position. He might just be the best pure drive blocker on the team.
Graham Glasgow (RS Jr), Patrick Kugler (RS Fr)
Personally, think is one position that I’ll be watching very closely in the spring. The way this battle goes could determine a lot about the offensive line as a whole. Kugler came in with all the accolades and an ideal pedigree, along with advanced technique and a head for the position. But he also came in injured and never really got 100% healthy. If he’s 100% healthy, it’s entirely possible that he’s the best center on the roster by a good margin. If that happens, I believe that Glasgow could easily slide over and start at a guard. I think he did a very good job of playing guard last season before being moved to center, where he never looked 100% comfortable. Like I said, this one could be very, very interesting.
Right Offensive Guard
Kyle Kalis (RS So), Blake Bars (RS So)/David Dawson (RS Fr)
Yeah, I cheated here. I listed three guys. Sue me. Anyways, I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews of David Dawson ever since he stepped foot on campus, but the reason I’m hesitant to put him by himself on the two deep is because not only have I never seen him play personally, but he’s also a bit of a tweener in terms of positions. Some say right tackle, some say guard. I don’t know, never having seen him, so I’ll abstain from making a sweeping statement. Anyways, I still believe that Kyle Kalis will be a monster. He’s too big, too athletic, too strong, and too technically sound not to end up a terror on the interior offensive line. I believe he’ll be the best offensive lineman on the Michigan team in 2014. Put that in stone.
Right Offensive Tackle
Ben Braden (RS So), David Dawson (RS Fr)
As I stated above, I think Ben Braden is going to be a helluva right tackle. He’s absolutely massive, has decent athleticism, and looks to already be a good run blocker. Perhaps his pass blocking will lag behind some, but I’d rather see that on Devin Gardner’s right side than his blindside. Dawson again–he might end up the “6th offensive lineman” this season, meaning that he comes in at any of several positions if need be, be it right tackle or either guard spot. Chris Fox would be on here if I knew he was 100% healthy…I loved his tape coming out of high school that much.
I don’t know if Coach Nussmeier is going to use an H-back or a U-back or both or neither. I don’t know if he’s going to run 4 WR sets very often, go with 2 TE sets, or anything. Sure, you can look at Alabama game film and try to get a feel for his offensive strategy, but the truth is that Michigan’s roster is not Alabama’s roster, and there will undoubtedly be some adjustments made. Regardless, guys like Wyatt Shallman and Khalid Hill could see time at either H or U-back, depending on the particular deployment of the position and the particular situation. As for wide receiver, I’d bet that if there’s someone who contributes who I don’t have listed, it’ll be Da’Mario Jones.
Let me know what you think, and stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, which will (obviously) focus on the defense.
Thanks for reading, and Go Blue!