Michigan football has meet all expectations thus far into the season.
Through four games, the Wolverines have scored 40 plus points in every outing, scored the second most touchdowns of any team in the country — 28 — and are 4-0 heading into a monumental test at home against Wisconsin.
One of the reasons Michigan had such high expectations heading in was due to the in-coming recruiting class. In his first, full recruiting year, Jim Harbaugh brought in the No. 6 class in the country, according to 247sports.com.
With the dominant victories the Wolverines have put on opponents, the freshmen have been able to get early playing time, rather than taking a redshirt like most do.
Against Hawaii in the season opener, a program-record 17 freshmen saw the field, including the top-ranked overall recruit Rashan Gary and running back Chris Evans — who ran for 112 yards and a touchdown.
One advantage Michigan has over opponents this year is experience. Michigan returned 14 starters from last year; however, 12 of those are seniors. Junior standouts like Jabrill Peppers and Maurice Hurst are also draft eligible after the season, so the Wolverines are likely to see a much different lineup in 2017.
With so much talent potentially leaving Ann Arbor, it makes this season critical to prepare younger players for the future.
Learning From Rivals
Both Ohio State and Michigan State went through a similar situation a year ago.
The Buckeyes chose to play freshmen like Noah Brown, Sam Hubbard and Malik Hooker last year and has made large dividends for a team that saw 12 players get drafted and is still currently ranked second in the country.
MSU on the other hand, chose to ride the momentum of their senior class — which worked well at the time — but the Spartans were just dominated in a 30-6 outing by the Badgers on Saturday.
Moving Into the Next Era
Harbaugh is not a coach that only looks short-term, but has a plan for the next five years at Michigan. I believe he knows he has to get the younger guys playing time or the team could see a large decline down the road.
Freshmen such as David Long, Lavert Hill and Khaleke Hudson will need to develop heavily this year with the secondary losing every starter at the end of the season. Although, Jermey Clark may be eligible for a sixth year after tearing his ACL against Penn State.
On offense, passing targets Kekoya “Dylan” Crawford, Eddie McDoom and Devin Asiasi will be looked upon to continue their excellent starts. Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh and Jake Butt will graduate in May, and Drake Harris and Maurice Ways have not seen much time due to injuries.
Lineman Ben Bredenson, Michael Onwenu, Ron Johnson and Gary are also players that will be crucial parts moving forward.
The Wolverines will no doubt bring in a strong 2017 class, but it is up to the “Fab 25” to lead Michigan into the next era.
(Photo: Salwan Georges, Detroit Free Press)