2016 Michigan Spring Football Preview: Special Teams

Michigan football’s spring break is one of the most talked about in college football history thanks to Jim Harbaugh’s plan to take the team to the IMG Academy academy in Florida. As for something that may not be talked about a whole lot this spring, the UM special teams battle.

Overview

With the departure of John Baxter after only one year, Jim Harbaugh will turn to Chris Partridge and Jay Harbaugh to coach up UM’s special teams. That’s not the only change that’s coming to the Wolverines in 2016 either as the staff will need to replace well known punter Blake O’Neill.

On top of the replacements, it’ll be interesting to watch Jabrill Peppers, Jehu Chesson and Jourdan Lewis improve even more as return specialists while sophomore K Andrew David will look to get off the schneid and challenge K Kenny Allen (and Cal Poly transfer K James Foug) for each kicking position. There also could be a bit of a fight for the starting long snapper position as walk-on LS Andrew Robinson, who played well in his limited playing time, will try to take the starting gig from senior LS Scott Sypniewski.

The positional battles that will take place this spring will pair in comparison to the battles this summer once the freshmen get to campus, including K/P Quinn Nordin, WR Eddie McDoom and ATH Chris Evans.

Pre-Spring Expected Depth Chart

-Not enrolled yet

Kicker

  1. #91 Kenny Allen, 5th
  2. #16 Andrew David, SO
  3. James Foug, JR
  4. Quinn Nordin, FR

Punter

  1. #91 Kenny Allen, 5th
  2. #16 Andrew David, SO
  3. #41 Ryan Tice, SO
  4. Quinn Nordin, FR
  5. Will Hart, FR

Long Snapper

  1. #31 Scott Sypniewski, SR* 
  2. #50 Andrew Robinson, JR
  3. Cameron Cheeseman, FR

Kick Returner

  1. #5 Jabrill Peppers, JR* 
  2. #86 Jehu Chesson, 5th 
  3. #26 Jourdan Lewis, SR 
  4. #25 Dymonte Thomas, SR 
  5. Eddie McDoom, FR
  6. Chris Evans, FR

Punt Returner

  1. #5 Jabrill Peppers, JR* 
  2. #26 Jourdan Lewis, SR 
  3. #86 Jehu Chesson, 5th 
  4. Chris Evans, FR

Name to Watch Closest

Allen. The expected starter at multiple positions, Allen is a guy who really took the reins in the kicking game in 2015 and was one of the biggest surprises of the season. He connected on 18/22 field goal attempts while also handling kickoff duties and punting duties in the Citrus Bowl which helped prove his value and earned the former walk-on a 5th year scholarship. With the top kicker in the 2016 class coming to campus this summer, he’ll look to make Nordin’s job even harder after a solid spring.

Don’t Forget About Me

David. Coming into his freshmen year, most believed David would take over as the place kicker but he struggled throughout his first collegiate season. Questions have arose if he’ll stay in Ann Arbor with Allen’s play and Nordin’s arrival but he was one of the top kickers in his class and if he can get down the mental side of things, he could really fight for a position this offseason.

Breakout Prediction

Thomas. Peppers, Chesson and Lewis all had their moments in 2015 and are very likely to return as the top three return men but Thomas is a guy to watch closely. He’s really coming into his own and with his experience as a running back in high school, he could find a nice fit as a return man this offseason.

Other Spring Positional Previews

Who do you believe will leave spring ball as the starters at each position? Add your predictions in the comment section below! 

Photo Credit: Duane Burleson/Associated Press

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