Michigan Football: 5 Wolverines with the Most to Gain in Spring Practice
Even though the college football season just ended, spring practice is only about two months away.
So who are some of the key Wolverines that fans will be keeping an eye on this upcoming March? This will be a crucial spring for a few players, as plenty of starting jobs are still up in the air.
Here's a look at five players with the most to gain throughout spring practice.
5. Frank Clark
Defensive end Frank Clark didn't exactly have the breakout year that many were expecting out of him this year. He just never seemed to bounce back from off-the-field trouble early in the season that led to his suspension in the season opener against Alabama.
As he enters his junior year, it's basically now or never for Clark. With the young talent Michigan has at defensive end, Clark better win the starting job this year if he ever wants to be more than a co-starter.
With Craig Roh's departure at weakside defensive end, we may see a combination of players shuffle around between the two end spots. That means that we could see as many as six guys competing for playing time, while there are obviously only two starting spots available.
Beyer, Clark, Heitzman and Ojemudia all have game experience, while two redshirt freshmen will also be brought into the equation in Chris Wormley and Tom Strobel.
Wow, talk about a crowded position. However, that can only be a good thing for the Wolverines, as competition usually breeds success.
4. Jack Miller
With Elliott Mealer's departure, you could make the case that Jack Miller is the only true center on Michigan's roster. Yet, he has never played a meaningful snap at the position.
Some think that Pat Kugler may come in and potentially start as a true freshman, but don't count on it. The job is, without a doubt, Miller's to lose, and it would be very surprising if he isn't starting in the team's opener.
However, how much will the lack of game experience hurt him?
There will obviously be growing pains—just as there is with any young and inexperienced lineman—and the realistic expectations for Miller should be that he settles in and starts playing well by mid-season.
Seeing as how he's such a runaway favorite to win the job, though, what if somebody else winds up winning it instead? Will that mean that Michigan is in real trouble at the position or will it mean that somebody else simply stepped up and deserved to win the job over Miller?
We'll have to wait and see.
3. Jibreel Black
Jibreel Black never turned into the solid player that he showed flashes of becoming as a freshman. Now, as he gets set to enter his senior year, this is his last chance.
Honestly, though, Black is a man without a position. Most think that he is too small to play defensive tackle, yet he didn't see much time at defensive end this past season either.
In fact, there were games where Black rarely appeared at all. Thought to be a big part of the defensive line rotation before the season, it's now safe to say that 2012 was a disappointment for Black.
With all the young talent being stock piled along the line, though, things won't be getting any easier for him this season. If he is to seize a prominent role, it would appear to be the spot that Will Campbell vacated.
But, as previously mentioned, he'll be faced with stiff competition from a few youngsters, so he'll certainly have to earn it.
2. Ondre Pipkins
Even though he's only a sophomore, it's fair to say that the defensive tackle spot opposite Quinton Washington is Pipkins' to lose.
Only playing sparingly last season, big things are expected out of Pipkins in 2013. This kid has the potential to be that anchor on the defensive line that plugs up running lanes and is constantly wreaking havoc on every play. Michigan fans simply haven't seen enough of that over the last few years.
As mentioned earlier, Jibreel Black will be in competition for this spot as well, along with a few youngsters. Still, the depth and talent at defensive tackle is nowhere near the level it will be at in a year or two.
If Pipkins can live up to his potential this season, he and Washington will form an absolutely dangerous duo at defensive tackle.
We'll see if Pipkins is ready to take that next step this spring.
1. Amara Darboh
Honestly, it was a pretty easy choice to have Amara Darboh as the No. 1 Michigan Wolverine with the most to prove in 2013.
Darboh was expected to see at least some playing time at wide receiver last year as a freshman, yet he was seldom on the field.
That should definitely change in 2013, and big things will be expected of Darboh this fall. We'll see if he is ready to take that next step in his sophomore season.
The main reason that Darboh is listed as the player with the most to gain on this list is because of the competition at his position. There is no question that Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo are Michigan's top two receivers, but who is possibly next in line?
That's where Darboh comes in. His main competition will be from walk-on Joe Reynolds, and from the seldom used Jeremy Jackson. Needless to say, I like Darboh's chances.
This could really wind up being a breakout year for him. He'll likely start out as the No. 3 receiver on the depth chart, but by the end of the year, I wouldn't be surprised if he is right up there with Gallon as Michigan's best receiver.