2017-18 Michigan Football Season Preview

The Daily Traub is pivoting. Since my current employment does not allow for much time, nor hockey blogging, I’ll be confined to a Michigan football season preview post, a Lions season preview post and then some NFL Draft reviews. Everything else is going to get canned…at least for now.

We’re also doing double-time because I’m behind schedule…so here comes you’re quick Michigan Football Season preview.

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Okay with that is out of my system, I’m going to keep telling myself that a jersey for one game is not that big of a deal. This is their 6th alternate uniform since 2011 (second time ever wearing a maize jersey) and if Harbaugh is okay with it, I’ll try to be. I personally don’t much care for the all-maize look and think blue pants would be better. The best throwback/alternate so far is the 2011 Sugar Bowl Jersey, followed up by the 2011 Under The Lights game…and after that you can throw out the rest. But it is what it is. At the end of the day, all that matters is they need to win the game.

I was not sure they were ever going to get a roster out before the game against Florida, but as it turns out, if you wait long enough to do your season preview, they will!

OFFENSE

Say it with me now, “Wilton Speight is a good starting quarterback. If he had not gotten hurt against Iowa, I would not be complaining about him or begging for Brandon Peters.” I wish every Michigan fan would realize this, but I do not think they ever will. Speight was not some godsend or some incredible quarterback that dragged this team to victory last year. But once he got hurt, the team lost 3/4 games. That’s not a coincidence.

Did Speight look like trash in the Spring Game? Yes, he did. But I have no reason to believe that he won’t be better than he was last year. He’s had an entire offseason with Jim Harbaugh…he’s going to be better. He has the arm strength to make all of the throws necessary and he has a grasp on the offense. The questions are: is he healthy and is he going to make smart decisions? Speight will have to keep it simple and keep it smart because the defense, while talented, is very young and lacks depth at quite a few spots. They CANNOT be on the field the whole game, that will be a recipe for disaster. The Michigan team is going to have to control the clock to have success, particularly against the better teams on their schedule. Controlling the ball for over half of the game will solve a lot of their deficiencies.

With Chris Evans and Karan Higdon at running back , I think there is enough skill there to produce. Higdon is the more complete back at the moment, but Evans’ ceiling pretty much does not exist and I’m excited for where his future is headed. I’m not sure if Ty Isaac and Kareem Walker will contribute, but that’s a pretty deep backfield. Running back will not be the reason this team does not gain yards on the ground.

You’re returning a known quality in Khalid Hill at fullback and while you lose Jake Butt at tight end, there is young talent there. I love Ian Bunting’s size at the tight end spot. Tyrone Wheatley Jr and Nick Eubanks are going to end up being dynamic options. Wheatley is the most complete tight end on the roster and Eubanks is similar to Eric Ebron. And do not forget about Zach Gentry or Sean McKeon…this team has an incredible amount of tight ends and it’s going to be interesting to see which ones earn the most playing time. They are going to have weapons en masse in the passing game, whether any of them can block well enough to get some effective movement in the ground game is anybody’s guess.

Wide receiver is an interesting position to say the least. I had hoped that they would redshirt at least one of the four incoming WRs, but since they’ve moved Drake Harris and Nate Johnson to DB, I do not see that happening. Tarik Black was an absolute monster in the spring game and I have high hopes for him this year. Jim Harbaugh said on Tuesday that Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones are two of his favorite people, this can only mean good things. Kekoa Crawford will be the team’s go-to wide receiver to start the year with Grant Perry in the slot. I’m expecting Eddie McDoom to continue to get his touches, but the only question I can think of is how much are Nico Collins and Oliver Martin going to play. It’s obvious that Nate Schoenle is going to get a fair amount of snaps after the press coverage he’s gotten…but these two freshmen have not been talked about all that much.

lol oh ya nevermind.

You can look forward to a healthy dose of young wide receivers this year…each more talented than the last. It hurts losing experienced pass catchers, but wide receiver is the easiest position to play when you move from high school to college.

Looking at the offensive line, it appears that the starters have finally sorted themselves out…for now.

LT Mason Cole LG Ben Bredeson C Patrick Kugler RG Michael Onwenu RT Nolan Ulizio

The first four have been locks since day 1. Kugler had a little competition with Cesar Ruiz, but other than that, it’s been set. Meanwhile, Ulizio came out of nowhere to snatch the right tackle spot away from Jon Runyan Jr and Juwan Bushell-Beatty.

Cole is a four-year starter that is one of the most versatile linemen in Michigan history. Bredeson experienced growing pains last year but should take a step forward now. Kugler, Onwenu and Ulizio are basically unknowns given their limited playing time. I’ve heard good things about Onwenu and he is an absolute mountain. Michigan OC Tim Drevno had this to say about Ulizio.

I do not love the depth on this offensive line, but that seems to be an issue everywhere. Four of the rumored back up offensive linemen are either true freshmen or redshirt freshmen….soooo yeah. Fingers crossed.

DEFENSE

The starters on the front 7 of this defense look goooodddddddd. The starting defensive line is going to be an absolute force this year…but if anybody gets hurt…dear god help us all.

Rashan Gary, Bryan Mone, Maurice Hurst Jr, and Chase Winovich are going to form one of the best starting defensive lines in the country this year. And frankly, it’s not particularly close. Gary has the potential to be the #1 draft pick in the next couple of years and he’s going to wreak havoc. If he’s not getting to the quarterback or running back, he’s going to draw double-teams and chip blocks and open up space for other guys to make plays. Hurst is quietly one of the best DT’s in the country and I’m glad he’s starting to get some of the press that he deserves. Mone will be a solid contributor if he stays healthy and when Winovich got in last year, he played like his hair was on fire. Hopefully there will be more of that this year. Looking at the depth, or lack there of, I cannot wait to see Aubrey Solomon on the field and I’ve read some good things about some young guys like Luiji Vilain, Carlo Kemp and Kwity Paye…but those guys are young. It’s going to be amazing how many young players play and get significant playing time this year on the defensive line.

The linebacker group is going to be athletic…to say the least. Mike McCray, Devin Bush and Khaleke Hudson (Viper) is going to be a potent trio. They’re going to be able to stuff the run and rush the passer no problem. I hope that McCray and Bush have worked on their pass coverage skills this fall, the young secondary could end up needing all the help they can get. The back up linebackers are well…interesting. I won’t lie to you and tell you that I can give you a firm break down on all of them, but I know that with the exception of Wroblewski, they’re all athletic. You can solve a lot of problems with athleticism…and aggression.

Defensive backs coach Mike Zordich says that Lavert Hill has one starting spot locked, but I have no clue about the second corner spot. Tyree Kinnel and Josh Metellus will start at the safety spots. Metellus looked good in the Orange Bowl and Kinnel was solid in the spring game. The young corners though have minimal experience and hopefully they’re as good as they were advertised to be when they were recruited. It would have been fantastic if Jeremy Clark could have gotten a medical redshirt. Clark and Hill would have been a phenomenal pair. Long, Thomas and St. Juste will all end up playing this year (Long could end up starting) but it’s tough to evaluate with no film except high school tape and spring game film. YOLO, as the kids say.

FRESHMEN

If you need a breakdown of this freshmen class, check out my giant post from the spring…the section called Fall Camp. I said 11-12 freshmen will play and Harbaugh said earlier this week that is going to be the range.

DEPTH CHART

While we may not have gotten a depth chart from Jim Harbaugh, I’ve put one together for you. We know all of the starters with the exception of the second CB spot, the rest of the two-deep though is almost a total mystery.

SEASON PREDICTION

Saturday
Sep. 2
Gators Florida Gators
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
3:30pm ET
ABC
W
Saturday
Sep. 9
Bearcats Cincinnati Bearcats
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
Noon ET
ABC/ESPN/2 TBA
W
Saturday
Sep. 16
Falcons Air Force Falcons
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
Noon ET
BTN
W
Saturday
Sep. 23
Boilermakers at Purdue Boilermakers
Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN
3:30 or 4pm ET
TV TBA
W
Saturday
Sep. 30
OFF
Saturday
Oct. 7
Spartans Michigan State Spartans
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
Time TBA
TV TBA
W
Saturday
Oct. 14
Hoosiers at Indiana Hoosiers
Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, IN
Noon ET
TV TBA
W
Saturday
Oct. 21
Nittany Lions at Penn State Nittany Lions
Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA
Time TBA
TV TBA
L
Saturday
Oct. 28
Scarlet Knights Rutgers Scarlet Knights (HC)
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
Noon ET
TV TBA
W
Saturday
Nov. 4
Gophers Minnesota Golden Gophers
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
Time TBA
TV TBA
W
Saturday
Nov. 11
Terrapins at Maryland Terrapins
Maryland Stadium, College Park, MD
Time TBA
TV TBA
W
Saturday
Nov. 18
Badgers at Wisconsin Badgers
Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, WI
Time TBA
TV TBA
W
Saturday
Nov. 25
Buckeyes Ohio State Buckeyes
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
Noon ET
FOX
W

Alright, there you have it. Perfect scenario and everyone stays healthy, I’ve got Michigan for an 11-1 season. I think at worst they’ll be 10-2…but this schedule gives them the chance to go 12-0. Ohio State will be a tough matchup, and Florida is a nice test early on…but if they had to lose one or two games, I think it’ll be Penn State or Wisconsin at night. Something about a young team playing a night game just does not give me a whole lot of confidence, for better or for worse. It’s going to be a fun year and I’ve got some very high hopes.

If you need a more in-depth preview of the upcoming season, I recommend checking out MGoBlog. Their previews for this year are incredibly thorough and I wish I had the time to do the same.

[Photo via: Freep]
[Photo via: Neo Sports]
[Photo via: MLive]

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