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Michigan Football: Projecting Who Will Win Wolverines' Open Starting Positions

Adam BiggersSenior Analyst IIJune 10, 2014

Michigan Football: Projecting Who Will Win Wolverines' Open Starting Positions

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    OK, so you know this guy's going to start this fall...as soon as he recovers from a surgery performed on his core muscles.
    OK, so you know this guy's going to start this fall...as soon as he recovers from a surgery performed on his core muscles.USA TODAY Sports

    Pretty soon, that 80-something-day countdown is going to dwindle down to about 10 days. 

    And then there'll be three. And then, next thing you know, it'll be time for Michigan's season opener versus Appalachian State at The Big House. 

    But right now, it's only early June—so there's plenty of time to analyze, discuss, think about, ponder and pontificate all things Wolverines football. Of course, one of the hottest topics is always one about starters—as in, who'll be the No. 1s heading into 2014. 

    By breaking down position groups, this slideshow will present a look at potential starters. 

    Fall can't get here soon enough, can it?

O-line

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    The Wolverines' O-line must rebound from a laughable 2013 season.
    The Wolverines' O-line must rebound from a laughable 2013 season.Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Starting with the most perplexing, frustrating and seemingly indecisive unit only makes sense. With that being said, here's information about Team 135's O-line, which will certainly miss tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. 

    Oh yeah, those guys will be missed. Especially Lewan...right?! 

    Is Michigan Better off Without Taylor Lewan? #goblue http://t.co/1WklPcbTxP

    — Phil Callihan (@pcallihan) June 6, 2014

    This past spring, Graham Glasgow was suspended due to a violation of team rules and won't play in the opener. However, he'd be the guy if he were available, so he's making the cut. Ben Pliska, a 6'3", 277-pound redshirt sophomore, and Patrick Kulger, a 6'5", 295-pound redshirt freshman, are expected to challenge for snaps as well. They could be options at center or be plugged in elsewhere. 

    #Michigan Football: Doug Nussmeier’s New Scheme Has #Wolverines O-Line Ready to Roll @UMGoBlue - http://t.co/lpYtK4blnH

    — Mark Rogers (@MarkRogersTV) March 30, 2014
    PositionLTLGCRGRT
    PlayerErik Magnuson (6'6", 295; RS SO)Kyle Bosch (6'5", 301; SO)Graham Glasgow (6'6", 308; RS JR)Kyle Kalis (6'5", 304; RS SO)Ben Braden (6'6", 319; RS SO)

     

RBs

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    De'Veon Smith had seven carries for 57 yards (8.1 YPC) during Michigan's 42-41 loss to Ohio State in 2013. Sadly, that's actually a gold star on the backfield's resume as it enters 2014.
    De'Veon Smith had seven carries for 57 yards (8.1 YPC) during Michigan's 42-41 loss to Ohio State in 2013. Sadly, that's actually a gold star on the backfield's resume as it enters 2014.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    With the addition of Ty Isaac, one would assume that Michigan's backfield would be incredible this fall. And that'd be correct, except there's one thing: Isaac, a USC transfer, has to get cleared by a hardship waiver in order for the NCAA to grant him eligibility. Otherwise, he has to wait until 2015. 

    But that doesn't mean that the Wolverines will be weak without him. They already had a promising set of sophomores ready to lead the way: Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith, who were two of the top backs of the 2013 class, mind you. 

    Now, let's assume that Isaac won't play this season. That's no big deal. Green and Smith have another year of experience and could provide upward of 1,500 yards when combined. Now, throw in Isaac and we're talking 2,000-ish at a minimum. 

    Note: Nussmeier is known for working a multiback system, so expect Smith and Green to see plenty of action; and should he be available, the same goes for Isaac. Smith is listed at No. 1 due to a stronger finish in 2013 and initial impressions. He could get the most touches this fall as the featured runner, while Green and (maybe) Isaac contribute as late-down backs.

    Also, Drake Johnson, a 6'0", 212-pound RS SO, is expected to compete for playing time once he's fully recovered from an ACL injury sustained in Week 1 of the 2013 season. 

    Joe Kerridge, a 6'0", 247-pound redshirst junior, will likely be the starting fullback. With Nussmeier in Ann Arbor, Michigan, he could resurrect the position every now and then. 

    PositionRB 1RB 2RB 3
    PlayerDe'Veon Smith (5'11", 223; SO)Derrick Green (5'11", 227; SO)Ty Isaac (6'3", 240; SO)

     

WR/TE

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    Devin Funchess is Michigan's do-all WR who can also play TE.
    Devin Funchess is Michigan's do-all WR who can also play TE.USA TODAY Sports

    Now that Jeremy Gallon is in the NFL, the Wolverines find themselves looking for another playmaker at the wide receiver position. Freddy "Footwork" Canteen, a true freshman and early enrollee, dazzled during the spring game. He's going to definitely compete for the role of starting slot man. 

    Then, there's a lot of youth and potential floating around on that roster. Hoke and Nussmeier have a lot of talented but unproven pieces to utilize. 

    Depth will include Da'Mario Jones, a 6'2", 198-pound SO, Drake Harris, a 6'4", 180-pound FR and Csont'e York, a 6'3," 194-pound SO. Also don't forget about Amara Darboh, a 6'2", 212-pound RS SO who's also in consideration for a starting position. 

    As for the tight ends, once Jake Butt's completely recovered from an ACL injury during winter workouts, he'll be the undisputed No. 1 tight end on the roster. He had three catches for 33 yards during Team 134's embarrassing 31-14 loss to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. As one of the lone bright spots on offense, he certainly provided enough to look forward to in 2014. 

    In his stead, look for A.J. Williams, a 6'6," 263-pound JR, to start in Week 1. The projection will list Butt at No. 1, as the job will be his once he's ready. 

    Looks like Da'Mario Jones and Jehu Chesson in that top 4 WR group w/ Funchess and Canteen.

    — Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) April 5, 2014

    Michigan wide receiver Jehu Chesson preps for bigger role this season, from @zhelfand http://t.co/xilml5CXvO

    — Mark Snyder (@Mark__Snyder) March 29, 2014
    PositionSlotTEXY
    PlayerFreddy Canteen (6'1", 170: FR)Jake Butt (6'6", 250; SO)Devin Funchess (6'5", 230; JR)Jehu Chesson (6'3", 195; RS SO)

QBs

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    It's Devin Gardner. But you knew that.
    It's Devin Gardner. But you knew that.USA TODAY Sports

    This one's going to be concise: The No. 1 job is Devin Gardner's until Devin Gardner says so. However, and this is a big "however," sophomore Shane Morris looked decent during the bowl loss. That was enough to get people talking about something that probably wasn't going to happen. 

    Of course, college football is a strange beast. For all we know, Morris could have the summer of his life and leapfrog Gardner come fallhe's talented enough to do so. Barring a meltdown, injury or some unforeseen stroke of craziness, Gardner will be the man under center on opening day.

    PositionQB 1QB 2QB 3
    PlayerDevin Gardner (6'4", 218; RS SR)Shane Morris (6'3", 202; SO)Wilton Speight (6'6", 230; FR)

D-line

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    Prepare for Willie Henry and Ondre Pipkins to anchor the D-line in 2014.
    Prepare for Willie Henry and Ondre Pipkins to anchor the D-line in 2014.USA TODAY Sports

    During the spring game, Willie Henry stole the show and earned a ton of praise for the way he attacked the offensive line. 

    The 6'2", 297-pound RS SO is among Greg Mattison's rising stars. Expect to see a lot out of him this fall, as he'll likely be one of, if not the, most important piece on the D-line.

    Michigan DL coach Mark Smith says Willie Henry can be as good as he wants, he just has to want it @MLive http://t.co/7gpenleCNZ

    — Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) April 14, 2014

    Here are the rest: 

    PositionSDENTDTWDE
    Player Brennen Beyer (6'3", 256; SR)Ondre Pipkins (6'3", 313; JR)Willie Henry (6'2", 297; RS SO)Frank Clark (6'2", 270; SR)

LBs

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    Jake Ryan has another year at Michigan before he gets a shot to play on Sunday.
    Jake Ryan has another year at Michigan before he gets a shot to play on Sunday.Tony Ding/Associated Press

    This is a deep position for the Wolverines, who'd love to have a fully healthy Jake Ryan this fall. As the brains of the defense, the experienced linebacker brings a certain feel each time he takes the field. If there's a guy out there working hard, it's Ryan, whose motor can never be questioned. 

    The 6'3", 235-pound SR is the heart and soul of the defense. And the following table will lay out the names of the guys who'll be battling behind the line with him. 

    PositionMLB (Mike)OLB (Sam)ILB (Will)
    PlayerJake Ryan (6'3", 235; SR)Royce Jenkins-Stone (6'2", 221; JR)Desmond Morgan (6'1", 232; SR)

DBs

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    Michigan has a wealth of options at DB.
    Michigan has a wealth of options at DB.USA TODAY Sports

    As is the case with linebackers, the defensive backfield also boasts great talent. 

    Jourdan Lewis was solid during the spring game, and he'll be an important part of a secondary that's been on the uptick for two seasons. Last year, the Wolverines finished with 17 picks, which equates to the second-most in the Big Ten. 

    With Jabrill Peppers, a super-frosh extraordinaire, entering the mix, expect plenty of highlight-reel picks, deflections and laid-out receivers. With Channing Stribling and Dymonte Thomas, Team 135's set of defensive backs has the means to excite. Blake Countess recently had surgery on core muscles, so he's in the midst of a recovery process; he'll be the No. 1 left corner when he returns.

    I'm not saying Michigan's secondary is weak. I'm just saying Jabrill Peppers might come in next year and start at all four positions.

    — Bob Wojnowski (@bobwojnowski) December 29, 2013

    RT @nickbaumgardner: Hoke says Michigan will start Jabrill Peppers out at nickel, see how it goes. Could play safety or CB

    — ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) April 18, 2014

    Here's a look at the guys who'll head the front: 

    PositionRCBLCBSSFSNickel
    PlayerRaymon Taylor (5'10", 182; SR)Blake Countess (5'10", 183; RS JR)Delano Hill (6'0", 205; SO)Jarrod Wilson 6'2", 202; JR)Jourdan Lewis (5'10", 174: SO)/Jabrill Peppers (6'0", 205; FR)

Special Teams

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    Matt Wile should be the field-goal and kickoff man this season.
    Matt Wile should be the field-goal and kickoff man this season.Associated Press

    K Hagerup will sit out 2013 season, return for 2014 season following a suspension (Dec. 16, 2012) for violating team rules per Michigan.

    — ESPN Michigan (@ESPNMichigan) May 7, 2013

    Michigan P Will Hagerup 'not proud' of off-field behavior, trying to make most of third chance @MLive http://t.co/kcesm4uzKM

    — Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) April 2, 2014

    After violating team rules in 2012, Will Hagerup, who was also that season's conference punter of the year, was forced to sit out 2013. Luckily, he was given yet another chance and was granted a return this fall. He didn't participate in spring ball, but he'll probably be the starting punter. 

    As for kickoffs and field goals, expect Matt Wile to head that department. Scott Sypniewski is in line to be the long snapper, and Kenny Allen, also a punter/kicker, could be the holder. 

    Due to their speed and hands, Dennis Norfleet (hands, ahem), Freddy Canteen and Drake Harris are the obvious candidates to kick and punt returns.

     

    Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

    Unless otherwise noted, all roster information comes MGoBlue.com.

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