Despite the performance this year by the Wolverines, there is always excitement in the air from fans, waiting in angst for seven to eight months to see their Wolverines get back to playing the game that, historically and statistically, they’re the best at, football. In this case, this year, that group of young men is composed of Team 135.
Things are going to look different this year: There are new incoming freshman, some position changes, the seasoned veterans(if we want to call them that), and the in-house coaching changes as far as positions go, and most notably, the firing of former offensive coordinator Al Borges and the hiring of the former offensive coordinator for the Alabama Crimson Tide, Doug Nussmeier. With all those changes, I believe there is a reason for fans to be excited and optimistic as well. So, in my opinion, here are five guys who will have breakout seasons this fall.
My first choice is Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Chris Wormley. Wormley suffered a torn ACL in his first year, causing him to redshirt, which put a damper on things on the possibility of him contributing as a freshman. Last year, he played in 13 games as a reserve defensive lineman, recording 19 tackles, two and half sacks and four and half tackles for loss. While that’s not stats that jump out of you, keep in my mind he was coming off an ACL tear, I believe, with a full bill of health, he will contribute and make a big impact this fall, especially with Ondre Pipkins suffering the ACL bug last year, potentially hindering what he’s able to do right away. Seems to be an awful lot of ACL talk, I wonder why? Oh, that’s right, it seems every year Michigan has a key player go down with an ACL injury.
For my second choice, I chose redshirt sophomore wide receiver Amara Darboh. Going into last year, Darboh was receiving rave reviews by the coaches and was expected to be a go-to receiver along with Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess in, what turned out to be, an anemic offense. He should be back this fall, and should make an impact. With good size, good hands, he has the ability to be that jump-ball, playmaking receiver that Michigan was missing, besides Funchess, of course. Clearly, that’s seems to be a focus in recruiting wide receivers these past few years under Brady Hoke.
For my third and fourth choices are sophomore running backs De’Veon Smith and Derrick Green. It seemed last year, getting two highly touted freshman running backs was going to finally get stability in the backfield. That didn’t happen. There were definitely bright spots, though. With Fitzgerald Touissant graduated, expect these two guys to carry the load this season, with Green getting the starting job. Nussmeier continues to insinuate the goal is “not to go backwards,” something that happened way too often last season. Green did seem to have some trouble with the fluctuation of weight, but according to recent post on twitter, he seems dedicated to get back to “running back weight.” Green is a bruiser. One thing he is capable of is running a defender over, with speed to burn, too. I believe he will receive the majority of the carries to start, but De’Veon Smith will be right on his tail. As for Smith, based on watching games, he had a much better freshman year than Green. He had many bright spots last year, also having the ability to break tackles, run away from defenders and make plays. Both running backs will be the center of attention this fall, and with a new OC, revamped offensive line, I expect big things this year.
For my fifth and final choice is freshman defensive back/athlete Jabrill Peppers. Did you actually think I wasn’t going to include him in my “five breakout players” list? There really isn’t much to say, everything has already been said or shown by YouTube, recruiting experts, and Peppers haven’t already said. But I will.
Expectations for Peppers are through the roof, but why shouldn’t they be? He was ranked the number three player in the country, number one player at his position by rivals.com. He’s only a freshman, he hasn’t even been in a game, but, once again, every highlight is a top ten play, he’s built like an Ox, and he says he wants to be better than one of the best players to ever put on the winged helmet, Charles Woodson. I understand expectations are high, but saying he is the next Woodson is probably a stretch, for now, anyway.
I would be shocked, as most fans would, if he doesn’t see the field game one, on Aug. 30 against Appalachian State, again. His position is defensive back, but this kid has the ability to play on offense, defense, special teams, and excel at each one. Peppers is a playmaker, it should be an electrifying few years watching him, potentially from a great player, into a legend at Michigan. Only time will tell. Stay tuned.