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Michigan Football: Wolverines Who Could Surprise People This Spring

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2016

Michigan Football: Wolverines Who Could Surprise People This Spring

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Spring practice regularly brings a handful of breakout performers, and the Michigan football team will be looking for players to fill some of the final remaining projected openings.

    The Wolverines only have a couple of vacant spots on offense, but one position needs a starter and immediate depth is paramount at two other places.

    The four players discussed held minor roles or weren't on the roster last year. However, they'll have increased responsibilities during the 2016 season.

    And the last one? Well, that's just a surprise.

Ahmir Mitchell, Wide Receiver

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    An injury to star receiver Jehu Chesson has provided an opportunity for younger receivers to grab extra reps. Early enrollee Ahmir Mitchell is one wideout poised to take advantage of the chance.

    Sam Webb of Scout believes Mitchell looks physically prepared to compete with defensive backs, adding the 4-star recruit "has learned pretty quickly that he won't be able to outmuscle every guy" like in high school.

    But that's a normal transition for receivers. Most of them are simply better athletes than the majority of competition at lower levels.

    Michigan's leading wideout in 2015 behind Chesson and Amara Darboh was Grant Perry, who managed just 14 catches for 128 yards. Drake Harris and Mo Ways are also back, but that's it.

    The competition is strong, but Mitchell has an outstanding chance to start jumping up the depth chart.

Henry Poggi, Fullback

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    Henry Poggi
    Henry PoggiCredit: 247Sports

    Sione Houma was fantastic in 2015, and Joe Kerridge provided stout blocking during his snaps. Both players have exhausted their eligibility, though, so the Wolverines need a fullback.

    Kingston Davis was listed at the position throughout the recruiting cycle, but the early enrollee is playing running back. So, who's next?

    That leaves Henry Poggi as the top candidate. Fellow converted tight end Khalid Hill will also challenge for the role, a competition that Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com reports head coach Jim Harbaugh is eagerly awaiting.

    Poggi was, to be blunt, a bad blocker early last season, though he slowly improved. His continued development during spring practice could turn a few heads.

    Michigan needs that to happen, too.

Patrick Kugler, Center

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    Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

    Mason Cole will be a starter in 2016, but identifying his position is a work in progress. Among other factors, Patrick Kugler will help determine that decision.

    Per Angelique S. Chengelis of the Detroit News, Harbaugh recently said he's "trying to get our best five offensive linemen on the field."

    That sounds simple enough, but Kugler is the odd man out. From left to right, the Wolverines' starters are projected to be Grant Newsome, Ben Braden, Cole, Kyle Kalis and Erik Magnuson.

    However, Newsome—a redshirt freshman—could shine during the spring while Kugler earns a billing as one of Michigan's best five. If that happens, he may start at center and slide Cole to guard, bouncing Braden or Kalis from the lineup.

    At worst, Kugler will be the top rotational piece. He'll work to claim more throughout March.

Mike McCray, Linebacker

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Although Devin Bush Jr. has received most of the attention as a potential starter at linebacker, junior Mike McCray will be a factor, too.

    Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press notes first-year defensive coordinator Don Brown said he's "really happy with McCray. Probably for the first time in his career, he's healthy and I'm liking what I'm seeing."

    McCray only has two career tackles for the Wolverines, which is certainly a product of injuries. The 6'4", 240-pounder missed the entire 2015 campaign due to an undisclosed medical issue.

    Perhaps spring practice will be the beginning of McCray's breakout—and healthy—year.

Jabrill Peppers, Everything

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    Tony Ding/Associated Press

    "But we already know Jabrill Peppers is amazing!"

    That's true. No argument.

    However, it's clear we have no idea what might happen next. After all, we didn't expect Peppers to play linebacker, but he's doing exactly that at spring practice.

    "For most of the day, Michigan lined Peppers up in the box as a third linebacker," according to Baumgardner. "He wasn't playing safety. He wasn't playing nickel. He was blitzing, supporting the run and covering tight ends and running backs underneath."

    Peppers might register a snap at eight different positions during the spring game, and there's no guarantee we've ever seen him at each of those places before.

    Man, this kid is amazing.


    All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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