Michigan Football: 8 Underclassmen to Get Excited About

Joel GreerCorrespondent INovember 16, 2012

Michigan Football: 8 Underclassmen to Get Excited About

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    When Brady Hoke arrived in 2011, Michigan recruiting immediately took a turn for the better.

    The 2012 recruiting class was rated the No. 4 class in the nation by Scout.com, and the 2013 class should at least be in the top five.

    Some of those players have already secured spots in the starting lineup or are getting decent playing time. Others will be competing for minutes during the spring.

    Let's check out a few of the underclassmen we should be watching carefully:

Kyle Kalis, Left Guard

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    The No. 1 prospect from talent-rich Ohio was originally an Ohio State commit. But uncertainty during the Buckeyes' problem with the NCAA led Kalis to switch his allegiance to Michigan. "I can't go there (Ohio State) and take penalties for something I never did," Kalis told ESPN.com.

    "Ohio State is a great program. I'm just not sure how long it will take them to recover. I want a solid, grounded coaching staff with a safe environment. Where there aren't such tough questions."

    Most likely redshirting this season, Kalis will likely take one of the guard spots when Ricky Barnum and Patrick Omameh graduate next spring.

Chris Bryant, Right Guard

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    One of Brady Hoke's first signees, Chris Bryant was expected to challenge for a starting guard spot this fall.

    Unfortunately, he fractured a tibia early in camp, ending the 2012 season.

    Bryant was recruited from Chicago's Simeon Vocational HS at nearly 330 pounds. He redshirted his first year then dropped 12 pounds over the summer.

    "The off season definitely was a good one for me," Bryant told Scout.com." I dropped weight and got stronger and faster, so once you do all the work in the off-season, it definitely carries over the field, so I definitely feel the difference. 

Drake Johnson, Running Back

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    Landing at Michigan was a dream come true for Drake Johnson.

    After all, the talented running back played high school football at Ann Arbor's Pioneer HS, just a three-wood shot from the Big House.

    An all-around athlete, Johnson gained 2,805 yards and scored 37 touchdowns as a high school senior before becoming an All-American in the 110-meter high hurdles. 

    After redshirting this season, expect Johnson to compete for playing time with Fitzgerald Toussaint, Thomas Rawls and Justine Hayes next spring.

Jehu Chesson, Wide Receiver

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    A nice combination of size (6'3")  and speed (4.5), Jehu Chesson caught 53 passes during his senior year at Ladue Horton Watkins HS in Missouri.

    Also receiving offers from UCLA, Northwestern, Iowa and Missouri, Chesson simply liked Michigan more.

    "Academically, they're all great academic schools. Iowa is a great academic school, but not what Michigan is, Chesson told Scout.com.

    "Academically, Northwestern may be better, but at Michigan, I can still get a great education, and football wise, still do what I want to do. It seemed like the smart thing to choose and with God's grace, I was in the right position."

    Chesson, along with freshman tight end Devin Funchess, adds height to the Michigan receiving corps, especially with Devin Gardner moving back to quarterback.

    A former state hurdles champion, Chesson will most likely be redshirted this season.  

Willie Henry, Defensive Tackle

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    The name Ted Ginn, Jr. is certainly familiar to Michigan fans.

    Ginn was a three-time All-American as a wide receiver and punt returner at Ohio State from 2004-2006.

    Ginn's dad is a well-known coach at Cleveland Glenville HS, which has produced several outstanding college players.

    One player to watch is Willie Henry, a 6'2" 314 lb. defense tackle who could be the sleeper of the 2012 recruiting class.

    Henry is on schedule to redshirt this year, but should be a factor when Michigan restructures its interior line next spring.

    Henry could play along side freshman Ondre Pipkins, who has played sparingly this season.

Tom Strobel, Defensive End

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    Already 6'6", 252 lbs, Tom Strobel is the ideal size for a weakside defensive end.

    As a high school senior, Strobel registered 11.5 sacks, something that should raise eyebrows with a Michigan team that has trouble rushing the quarterback.

    Come to think of it, Strobel might be headed for the strongside end, especially the way he spoke about food during one of his recruiting visits.

    "You're eating prime rib, you're eating lobster tail, like chicken," Strobel told Scout.com. "Like everything you could ever imagine."

Royce Jenkins-Stone, Inside Linebacker

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    A bright future awaits former Detroit Cass Tech two-way star Royce Jenkins-Stone.

    As a HS senior, Jenkins-Stone led the Technicians to the Division I State title, finishing the season with 143 tackles while rushing for 12 touchdowns.

    Playing mainly on special teams this season, expect Jenkins-Stone to add weight before competing for an inside linebacker position next spring.

    A 4-star prospect, he was Scout.com's No. 2 nationally rated middle linebacker.

Allen Gant, Safety

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    You can't argue Allen Gant's pedigree.

    The son of former Michigan safety Tony Gant and the cousin of Michigan Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, Allen was a multi-sport athlete at Southview HS in Sylvania, Ohio.

    Gant played basketball, competed in the shotput and discus and also ran track while also playing both ways on the gridiron.

    At 6'2", 199 lbs., Gant will be looking to play safety next fall.