Michigan Football: Projecting Jim Harbaugh's Offensive Starters
Jim Harbaugh is wrapping up his first recruiting class with a whirlwind series of home visits across the country. He is hoping to convince a few undecided players to commit to Michigan and flip some commitments from other programs.
Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press reports that: "Harbaugh has spent the contact period since Jan. 15 all over the country, occasionally in multiple states, not to mention multiple schools, in the same day. The class could now reach 16 prospects by Wednesday's national signing day."
After national signing day, Harbaugh will know which players he’ll have on his roster for his first season at Michigan.
Here is a projection of how his first recruiting class will impact his offensive starters for next season.
Every play starts with the snap up front. Senior Jack Miller has developed into a decent center and emerged as a team spokesman. After being benched during the 2013 season, he bounced back to take control of the position as a junior.
He was also one of the few players to comment on Harbaugh’s hire, telling MLive.com: "I think everybody is excited. He’s an energetic, intense guy. He seems to be able to relate to a younger crowd well. It's hard to say anything until we start working, but everyone is looking forward to it."
Miller will continue to lead the offensive line next season.
Junior Kyle Kalis and senior Graham Glasgow both struggled early last season but ended strongly. Their progress was evident in last season's finale versus Ohio State, and both are expected to retain their positions under Harbaugh.
After two seasons when the offensive line was questionable at best, Harbaugh can expect to have a strong interior line to protect his young quarterback—a luxury that previous coach Brady Hoke lacked.
Last season Michigan had to replace first-round NFL draft pick Taylor Lewan. Mason Cole stepped in becoming the first true freshman to start at left tackle in Michigan history and was named a freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America.
Junior Ben Braden handled the other tackle position, and both will return to protect the edges of Harbaugh’s West Coast offense.
Junior Jake Butt (41 receptions for 446 yards and four touchdowns) looks to add to his career statistics under Harbaugh who has a strong tendency to utilize the tight end (and sometimes two) in his offense.
Juniors Amara Darboh (36 receptions for 473 yards and two touchdowns) and Jehu Chesson (29 receptions for 375 yards and one touchdown) will have a chance to shine in an offense that will be a good fit for their skills.
Last year sophomore Freddy Canteen (five receptions for 22 yards and one touchdown) was the breakout star of spring practice. Unfortunately that success didn’t translate to his first season of play.
With a full year of conditioning and practice to improve his routes, he’ll be in good position to be featured in Harbaugh’s offense.
Harbaugh has a stable of talented running backs to choose from, but look for freshman Mike Weber and sophomore Ty Isaac to be the starters next season. That is, if Weber can be pried from his current commitment to Ohio State. Harbaugh is making every effort to flip him back to Michigan, as reported by MLive. Weber had committed under Brady Hoke but changed his mind when Michigan collapsed.
Isaac sat out last season after transferring from USC and is a perfect fit to play in Harbaugh’s offense.
Freshman Alex Malzone will emerge from the logjam that is Michigan’s quarterback position. He committed before Harbaugh was hired and never wavered even as the coaching search dragged on. He has the physical talent and mental toughness to thrive under Harbaugh’s tutelage.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand.
All season statistics from mgoblue.com, the official University of Michigan athletic department website.