While certainly noteworthy, Morris and Green merely headlined a haul that, today, seems to have some not-so hidden talent.
Showing composure and promise under fire, Morris held tight by completing 63 percent of his passes for 196 yards during Team 134’s 31-14 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl loss to K-State.
Green contributed a five-yard carry that resulted in a first down—that was it. He received 43 of 83 touches during the final four games and finished the season with 270 yards and two touchdowns.
Brimming with potential, Morris and Green were two of Brady Hoke’s top youngsters. But they weren’t the best.
Nope. Not even close.
No. 1: Take Jake
He’s getting bigger, stronger and faster—Jake Butt will soon be a star complement to Devin Funchess.
With three catches for 33 yards against K-State, the freshman supplied some sort of offensive highlights when none were to be found.
Michigan scored six points during the first half and rushed for 10 yards. Butt’s average of 11 yards per catch was the high point of the evening for coordinator Al Borges, whose play-calling churned out 261 yards of nothingness.
Who was Michigan's top true frosh?
Emerging as an effective and reliable target, Butt reeled in 15 of his 20 catches during the final four games of the season. Continuously showing progress each week, he proved that he was the most college-ready prospect from Hoke’s 2013 collection.
Butt wasn’t just a solid contributor “for a freshman;” he was the team’s third-leading receiver (235 yards, 2 TDs). At this point, it doesn’t matter who plays quarterback—Butt can work with either Gardner or Morris.
That being said, Butt looked extraordinarily comfortable—when compared to others who dropped passes—catching bullets from Morris. Michigan has depth at receiver and tight end. More physical than Funchess, it’s likely that Butt could take on more of a blocking role while Funchess remains the favored option.
That’s fine. That’ll create more opportunities for Butt, who seemed to surprise defenders with his athleticism. A simple recollection of the season reveals an interesting observation: Teams didn’t seem concerned with Butt most of the time.
That’s a nice recipe for success, but it’s doubtful that defensive backs will sleep on Butt next fall. He’s been exposed for what he is: a true threat.
No. 2: Ben in Blue
Remember Ben Gedeon?
It’s OK, he got lost in the fold. Everyone was talking “Morris this, Green that” and neglected to mention one of the Wolverines’ best young special teamers.
Appearing in 13 games, Gedeon gave a frosh-best 19 tackles (10 solo) to Team 134, which ended the year at 7-6.
His sack of Daniel Sams in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl was perhaps the highlight of the season. His play on kickoffs is noteworthy, too.
While defending returns, Gedeon hawked the ball. That's the way to do it, especially for a player who could end up seeing more snaps in the 4-3 than on STs. A climb up the depth chart may be in the 6'3", 236-pounder's immediate future.
|13||19 (10 solo)||1||1|
Michigan freshman LB Ben Gedeon benched 225lbs. 26 times on day 1 of camp - would've been 5th best for LBs at the NFL Combine. #TheFreak— Speed Kills (@mspeedkills) July 31, 2013
No. 3: Secondary Freshies?
They're defensive backs, but they're primary components.
Sure, the deep ball was a problem in 2013—and Lewis fell victim to a couple—but that can be corrected through coaching. Pace dictates play, and Michigan’s defensive backs were often forced to linger on the border between solid coverage and the land of taking too many chances.
Gambles pay off big, but they’re also costly. Lesson learned. Lewis should be a serviceable corner as a sophomore. With 13 games of experience, he’ll be asked to either step up or move out of the way.
Stribling and Thomas look to be Michigan's next-gen rock-'em, sock-'em safeties/nickels. Curt Mallory, the secondary coach, certainly has enough pieces to rebound from what was a lukewarm finish by his players.
MGoBlue slightly disagrees with this assessment of the freshmen. However, it's important to note that perspective comes into play.
For those looking for the upside, a positive review and forecast is necessary. For those leaning toward the more critical side, perhaps the idea of redshirting one or more of the players mentioned seemed warranted.
Both are fair looks at the topic. Considering the overall struggles, perhaps a sunnier approach serves best. Stribling and Thomas are hard hitters. Throw in Jabrill Peppers, just imagine that...
And remember, Thomas made an immediate impact. It was one of Michigan's top plays. Sadly, it came during a 59-9 Week 1 beating of Central Michigan, not during a Week 14 win over the Buckeyes.
Dymonte Thomas' punt block, the fast field goal, Norfleet fumble rec. Anything else?— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) January 2, 2014
No. 4: Don't Run Past De'Veon
Nineteen of 26 carries came within the final three games for De’Veon Smith, who had four carries for seven yards against K-State.
It’s completely logical to criticize Borges for the lack of Smith Time this season. There were instances in which he appeared superior to Green, who had moments of good and bad. Why Borges waited until Doomsday to play his top backs is a head-scratcher.
Smith had seven carries for 57 yards during the 42-41 loss to Ohio State. However, 38 of those yards came at once. But as the season drew to a close, he demonstrated forward progress in every sense of the word.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81