Michigan held their annual Maize against Blue game on Saturday, April 15, 2017. After an extremely busy off-season, football is officially back. After the 2016-2017 campaign, there are several of questions looming amongst the Michigan fans. The most notable curiosity of all was how Michigan would replace Heisman finalist, Jabrill Peppers. Once final, the Maize squad bested the Blue squad by a score of 31-29. After the first live look of what this team can do, let’s take a look at how the team is feeling and some key position breakdowns for Michigan this season.
There is absolutely no question about who will be the starter for the opening game against Florida. Despite a shaky performance in the Spring Game (9/26, 78 yards, 3 INT), Wilton Speight will be the outright starter to begin the 2017 season. Speight has far more experience than any other quarterback on the roster, and had it not been for injuries late in the season, could have led the Wolverines to a Big Ten title. However, Brandon Peters impressed many with his performance (9/17, 160 yards, TD, INT). Peters has surpassed O’Korn as the second-string quarterback thus far.
It was no surprise with all of the off-season work Chris Evans has put in, he would draw a lot of attention in the Spring game. Although he was not very active throughout the game, expect Evans to get a heavy load of the carries for the Wolverines backfield. Ty Isaac, Kareem Walker, and Karan Higdon are amongst other backs who will be used effectively throughout the season. Keep an eye out for Walker, after all of the hype about Najee Harris potentially coming to Michigan, he is out to prove why missing out on Harris is not as big as it seems.
Now, possibly the biggest threat of the team, the receivers. The incoming freshman class will look to have an immediate impact. Players like Tarik Black, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and Nico Collins will provide an absurd amount of youth and talent complimented with the experience and speed of Moe Ways and Eddie McDoom. With Asiasi transferring to UCLA and the departure of Jake Butt, the tight end position is wide open. Expect Tyrone Wheatley Jr. to come out and have an impact much like Jake Butt did in his time at Michigan. If Speight can remain healthy, and find his groove in this upcoming season, he could have Heisman-like numbers throughout the season.
The biggest question of the off-season is the linebackers. With Mike McCray returning, he will offer plenty of veteran leadership in the young core. After mainly playing in special teams throughout his freshman year, Devin Bush Jr. looks to have a Peppers-like impact for the Wolverines’ defense. Bush is one of the players Michigan fans should keep their eyes on. After losing Peppers to the draft, Bush will provide nearly everything that Peppers had which includes a natural instinct for the ball. The linebacker position is arguably the biggest question mark for this upcoming season, however they should hold their own and be just fine.
The group of defensive line is an exciting bunch for the Wolverines. Rashan Gary, the biggest threat amongst the group, looks to impress after his eye-popping freshman season. The return of Maurice Hurst only intensifies the hunger in this group, which will wreak havoc amongst opposing quarterbacks. The addition of Aubrey Solomon could prove to have as big of an impact as a starter. With Solomon coming off the bench providing as much of an impact as the starters, the Michigan defensive line is something keep an eye on.
The secondary will be full of new names but have seen playing time in the past. With departures from Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling, the secondary will not have that ‘lockdown’ look it had a year ago. However, make no mistake that the next batch of players are ready to fill in the shoes. The starting cornerbacks are projected to be Lavert Hill and David Long. The starting safeties are projected to be Tyree Kinnel and Josh Metellus. Going into the season, the secondary will be tested and tested often. If the players want to make a name for themselves and earn the respect of opposing offenses, they will have to show up when needed the most.
Another notable position is Chris Evans becoming the primary returner, in which he will look to fill the shoes of Jabrill Peppers.
The Spring game was a wonderful opportunity for us as fans to take a look at what the team has to offer this upcoming season. Not only did the fans get a feel, but the upcoming freshman class, which includes Aubrey Solomon, were given a chance to feel the intensity and environment of The Big House. Michigan fans should feel optimistic about the 2017-2018 campaign as Jim Harbaugh has his eyes set on a historic season.