2014 Spring Game Preview: Who to Watch and Who\’s Watching

 

  1. Devin Gardner vs Shane Morris and Wilton Speight 
    • Just about everyone, except for my buddy, softball teammate and head SEC Bleacher Report writer Barrett Sallee, are predicting that Gardner will be the starter come August. However, he still is not 100% healthy so i\’m sure we\’ll see more of Morris and Speight. That will give them an even better chance in the \”open\” competition. Morris really impressed me with his live arm and poise in the BWW Bowl while Speight seems to have the size and knowledge to be a prototypical Michigan quarterback.
  2. Patrick Kugler and Jack Miller  
    • The news of Graham Glasgow\’s suspension comes at a bad time for the offensive line\’s chemistry but it is very good for the depth. Glasgow is the most consistent interior lineman so this time off gives Kulger and Miller time to develop at the center position. Hoke is going to start the 5 best lineman and if Kugler or Miller turn out to be good enough to start, Glasgow can slide to another position of need along the line. There\’s also a chance the Wolverines land former Alabama OC/OG Chad Lindsey, which could really solidify the interior.
  3. Derrick Green vs DeVeon Smith 
    • 2013 was one of the worst rushing seasons in Wolverines history. That\’s not good and that\’s why Al Borges is no longer with the program. Now, Doug Nussmeier is in and the offensive line has some experience on the interior. This means a much easier time for Green and Smith. They have carries under their belt and this offense is much more suited for them, especially as a duo. Expect to see a lot of power runs straight at the defense.
  4. David Dawson and Ben Braden
    • Michigan had offensive line problems in 2013 and now have to replace two NFL draftees at offensive tackle. To make things even harder, the likely starter at left tackle, Erik Magnuson, is out for the spring with an injury. So, Dawson is taking over for him and Braden is the projected starter on the right side. They both have the physical tools and skills but need playing time to develop. This is that opportunity.
  5. Jake Ryan
    • Many players have switched positions this offseason but none are bigger than Ryan\’s move from the SAM to the MIKE. He is now, officially, the face of the defense. With his playmaking ability, it only makes sense that he will now be in position to make a play on just about every play. Keep an eye on him during the game while he develops in the middle.
  6. Early Enrollees
    • With seven of his sixteen 2014 commits enrolling early, Brady Hoke gets to chance to develop some of his top young talent. Some of the names making the most noise during spring practice have been the speedy slot receiver Freddy Canteen, quarterback Wilton Speight, and offensive tackle Mason Cole. Those guys should have great games but other names to watch include nose tackle Bryan Mone and safety Brandon Watson. Both are physical guys that Mattison loves. The other two freshmen, wide receiver Drake Harris and linebacker Michael Ferns may not play due to injuries.
  7. Halfbacks
    • The old school/new addition position will be something that all old time Michigan fans will love to see. A mixture of a full back and tight end, the halfback opens up both the rushing and passing game with blocking and playmaking ability. The guys that will take over that position are Khalid Hill and, soon to be fan favorite, Wyatt Shallman. Both guys have the skills and size to be impact players for years to come. Hill is more of a receiving threat, while Shallman is more of a rushing/blocking threat.
  8. Safeties
    • The one position that has yet to be shored up for the Wolverines in a long time, safety is something to definitely keep an eye on. Thomas Gordon is gone and there are talented recruits ready to take over. Some of the names to watch are Dymonte Thomas, Jeremy Clark and Delano Hill, to go along with part time starter Jarrod Wilson. All of them bring a different style to the field, and I expect all four to play a lot this fall.
  9. Pass Rushers
    • Last year, the defense was torched many times thanks to a lack of a pass rush. That is why Hoke moved the coaches around and Mattison is implementing a more aggressive defense. With the talent available, a lack of a rush should never be an issue. The two main names to watch out for are Frank Clark and Taco Charlton. Both have a ton of raw skills and are starting to develop even more. Other names that should contribute include Brennan Beyer, Mario Ojemudia and Allen Gant.
  10. Defensive/Nose Tackles
    • Mattison\’s defenses are anchored up the middle and he has shown that with his recruitment of the big boys up front. The top guy, Ondre Pipkins, is coming back from an ACL injury but looks to be ready to go. Other names to watch include Willie Henry, Chris Wormley, Matthew Godin, Tom Strobel, Bryan Mone, and the name most have highlighted during camp, Maurice Hurst Jr.

Our \”Ryan-Rawls Award\” Prediction:

  • Royce Jenkins-Stone and Ross Douglas
    • The award is named after Jake Ryan and Thomas Rawls, and is given to the breakout player(s) of the annual Spring Game.
    • I gave this year\’s award to both Royce da 5-2 and Ross D Runner (yeah, those are the nicknames I gave them). Why? Because I believe RJS is the most physically gifted linebackers on the roster and is hitting his stride. I think he will have multiple tackles, maybe a sack and even an interception.
    • As for Douglas, his move from cornerback to running back will benefit all parties involved. He has great feet, vision and speed that will make Nussmeier\’s offense that much more dynamic. In the Spring Game, I think he will have a couple home run plays, including a 30+ yard run and receiving touchdown.

Visitors:

Transfers

  • C Chad Lindsey, Alabama
    • Graduated and is looking to transfer and start. Great connection with Nussmeier.

2015

  • 4* TE Hale Hentges
  • 4* TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr
  • 4* WR Miles Boykin
  • 4* QB Brian Lewerke
  • 3* OL David Moorman
  • S Manny Andrade
  • RB Marvin Franklin Jr
  • LB Aleks Dragin
  • DE Martez Morton
  • WR Flynn Nagel
  • S Aaron Garland
  • QB Chuck Norgle
  • DT Eddie Zinn-Turner

2016

  • OT Ben Bredeson
  • QB Messiah deWeaver
  • LB Brendan Ferns
  • LB Daelin Hayes
  • CB Lavert Hill
  • S Tyrece Speaight
  • WR Emmanuel Rugamba
  • DE Khalid Kareem
  • WR Josiah Purchase
  • WR Quayvon Skanes
  • RB Christian Bobak

2017

  • QB Kyle Wood
  • LB Joshua Ross
  • OT Josh Myers
  • DE Johnathan Berghorst
  • WR Ricky Smalling
  • S Justin Weller

Also, the entire Core 6 program will be at the game. This is a big deal since they have consistently pumped out some of the best players out of Illinois over the past couple years, including Laquon Treadwell, Clifton Garrett, Logan Tuley-Tillman and Erik Swenson.