Michigan will finally step out from behind the curtains and onto the field Saturday for the first time of 2017 to play in their annual spring game. It is always an exciting time to see the first look at the team for the upcoming season. The game kicks off at 1:00 p.m., but will not be broadcasted on television until 3:00 p.m. on Big Ten Network.
Quarterbacks are not expected to have as much of a “battle” as years past with Wilton Speight seemingly holding down the starting position for the second year. However, it will be interesting to see who the second best signal caller (assuming Speight maintains the No. 1 job). John O’Korn, Brandon Peters, and Alex Malzone are all looking to earn the backup position.
One position of intrigue is running back, primarily because of the coaching of former tight ends coach, Jay Harbaugh. Chris Evans likely will get the most looks because of his stellar true freshman campaign a year ago, but Ty Isaac, Karan Higdon, and Kareem Walker all will have their chance to stake their claim at earning snaps and carries this coming fall with a solid spring game.
If running backs aren’t the most intriguing position to watch, wide receiver will be. It is no secret that Donovan Peoples-Jones will garner most of the attention, but returners Maurice Ways, Drake Harris, Eddie McDoom, and Nate Johnson will all have their chance to replace Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh. Another player to watch is Tarik Black, an early enrollee.
At tight end, it is expected to be a committee that will help pick up where Jake Butt left off. Ian Bunting has the most returning experience and should in turn get the most targets in the spring game. After Bunting, it will be interesting to see who among Tyrone Wheatley Jr., Nick Eubanks, Sean McKeon, and Zach Gentry step up as receiving targets and strong blockers.
At offensive line, the talk seems to center around Patrick Kugler gaining trust at center and Mason Cole moving to left tackle, playing opposite of Juwann Bushell-Beatty. The guards seem to be second-year players, Ben Bredeson and Michael Onwenu. Cesar Ruiz will definitely have a chance to beat out Kugler at center.
Although Rashan Gary gets most of the attention on the defensive line, it will have to replace Chris Wormley, Taco Charlton, Ryan Glasgow, and Matt Godin. In the middle of the d-line, Maurice Hurst and Bryan Mone will have the inside track to earning the starting spots. Chase Winovich will likely get to play on the opposite edge as Gary. Rueben Jones, Carlo Kemp, and Chase Jeter will all be players to watch as potential second stringers.
Linebacker presents arguably the biggest losses productivity-wise in Jabrill Peppers and Ben Gedeon. Returning is Mike McCray, who excelled in his first year on the field last season. Devin Bush, Ben Mason, Mike Wroblewski, and Elysse Mbem-Bosse all could see time early in the season and have the chance to earn starting spots. Khaleke Hudson and Jordan Glasgow are battling to replace Peppers at the Viper position.
With Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribbling moving on at cornerback, Lavert Hill and David Long seem to have the most talk about them entering the spring game. One other name to watch is Keith Wasington. Two early enrollees, Ambry Thomas and Benjamin St. Juste, both are intriguing players to watch develop from the spring game to fall camp. Thomas’ athleticism and St. Juste’s size give them the potential to see a lot of time in the fall.
Similar to cornerback, safety will have two new starters. Tyree Kinnel will likely earn one of them and Josh Metellus the other. Like Thomas and St. Juste, Jaylen Kelly-Powell and J’Marick Woods are early enrollees looking to gain respect.