2019 Michigan Football Season Preview: Depth Chart Prediction

The 2019 Michigan football season is so close you start to feel it deep down in your plums. It’s that time of camp where rumors are starting to fly, injuries are starting to happen, and hype trains are running wild.

Most analysts and media members are expecting big things from the Wolverines this fall. But who exactly will be the guys to lead the maize and blue?

Here is my depth chart prediction for the 2019 Michigan football team, but that doesn’t mean this will be the depth chart against Middle Tennesse State. Changes always happen throughout the season, whether that be from performance or injury issues, but I think these will be the “guys” in the two-deep this season:

Offense

Quarterback

  • Starter: #2 Shea Patterson, SR
  • Backup: #10 Dylan McCaffrey, JR
    • Others: #3 Joe Milton, SO and #12 Cade McNamara, FR

Patterson will be the guy but he won’t be the only one to see the field in big games. McCaffrey’s dual-threat ability will get him on the field in almost every game as well as cleanup duty in the laughers. Milton will likely see some time in a couple of blowout games as well.

Running Back

  • Starter(s): #13 Tru Wilson, SR and #24 Zach Charbonnet, FR
  • Backup: #3 Christian Turner, SO
    • Others: #25 Hassan Haskins, SO and #40 Ben VanSumeren, SO

This is a tough one. I fully expect Wilson to be the starter to begin the season thanks to his versatility and pass blocking abilities. However, like Harbaugh and others have said, the “freight train” that is Charbonnet will be tough to keep on the sidelines. It may take a couple of games but I expect him to be the bell cow as the season goes on with Wilson being more of a 3rd down back and Turner getting good reps as well. Don’t sleep on Haskins and VanSumeren turning heads either when they get reps in more comfortable games.

Wide Receiver

  • Starters: #4 Nico Collins, JR and #9 Donovan Peoples-Jones, JR
  • Backups: #7 Tarik Black, JR, #8 Ronnie Bell, SO, #6 Cornelius Johnson, FR
    • Others: #81 Nate Schoenle, SR and #43 Jake McCurry, JR

The most talented position on the roster, the wide receiver group will be fun to watch as long as everyone stays healthy. All-B1G seasons look very possible for Collins and Peoples-Jones while Bell should start in the slot and Black will be the true #3 guy. The true freshmen should also introduce himself to the world throughout the season.

Slot Receiver

  • Starter: #8 Ronnie Bell, SO
  • Backup: #19 Mike Sainristil, FR
    • Others: #15 Giles Jackson, FR

According to multiple reports including TMI’s Sam Webb, Bell has been putting on a show in camp and is a guy the staff won’t be able to keep off the field. He can play on the inside or out but I like his upside on the inside as a guy who is tough to cover, has strong hands, can make catches in traffic, and can beat the defense over the top. But with him going outside at times, the spring ball standout, Sainristil, will get a ton of run as well. His quickness and crisp routes will make him a quarterback’s favorite target. Don’t forget about the other freshmen, Jackson as well.

Tight End

  • Starter: #84 Sean McKeon, SR
  • Backup: #82 Nick Eubanks, SR
    • Others: #85 Mustapha Muhammad, SO, #83 Erick All, FR, and #86 Luke Schoonmaker, SO

McKeon has been another guy that’s been getting really positive reviews over the summer. He has yet to completely put it together in his first couple of years but this will be his time to shine. Eubanks will continue to add more versatility to the position and should have a nice year as a more prominent target. But it’s the “other” three that I’ll have my eye on. Which of Muhammad, All, and Schoonmaker take the step and lock down the 3rd tight end spot, especially with the top two guys being seniors this season.

Left Tackle

  • Starter: #75 Jon Runyan Jr., SR
  • Backup: #76 Ryan Hayes, SO
    • Others: #53 Trente Jones, FR and #77 Trevor Keegan, FR

Runyan returns to man the blindside after being named to the All-Big Ten first team in his first year as a starter in 2018. There are rumors of him possibly being out to begin the year but if true, he’s still expected to man the left side for the majority of the year. Behind him is where it gets tricky. Hayes is the next guy up at both tackle spots with mainly true freshmen sitting behind him. With Andrew Stueber already lost for the year, if Runyan is out awhile or another injury pops up, things could get interesting on the outside.

Left Guard

  • Starter: #74 Ben Bredeson, SR
  • Backup: #66 Chuck Filiaga, JR
    • Others: #53 Trente Jones, FR and #70 Jack Stewart, FR

The best lineman on the roster, preseason All-American and future 1-3 round NFL draft pick, Bredeson is everything you want in a guard. He’s mean, tough, smart and agile. And he’s a leader, being named captain for the second season in a row. Behind him, former touted recruit Filiaga has locked down the backup job and should get some good reps this season when possible to help him get ready to man the position full time in 2020.

Center

  • Starter: #51 Cesar Ruiz, JR
  • Backup: #72 Stephen Spanellis, 5th
    • Others: #58 Zach Carpenter, FR and #68 Andrew Vastardis, JR

Another solidified spot on the line, Ruiz returns to improve on an impressive sophomore season. He’ll lock down the center while veterans Spanellis and Vastardis will be there for depth, but the future looks to be in the hands of the true freshmen, Carpenter. Highly highly unlikely he’ll burn his redshirt but he could be the guy next in line once Ruiz heads to the league.

Right Guard

  • Starter: #50 Michael Onwenu, SR
  • Backup: #55 Nolan Rumler, FR
    • Others: #72 Stephen Spanellis, 5th, #68 Andrew Vastardis, JR and #52 Karsen Barnhart, FR

There have been a couple of veterans who have reportedly took a big step forward this summer and Onwenu is another one of those guys. He’s slimmed down and looks to be in line for his best year yet. Behind him, it may be a true freshmen if anything goes wrong. Rumler looks to be that guy but Spanellis is another name to watch when backup reps are there to be had.

Right Tackle

  • Starter: #73 Jalen Mayfield, SO
  • Backup(s): #76 Ryan Hayes, SO or #59 Joel Honigford, JR
    • Others: #52 Karsen Barnhart, FR and #61 Dan Jokisch, SR

The only spot not returning a starter and the one that’s made the biggest news this offseason after Andrew Stueber was lost for the season with a knee injury. That gave the starting spot to Mayfield, who looked to be in line to start either way. Behind him, it looks to be Hayes or Honigford, who has made the transition to tackle this offseason.

Defense

Nose Tackle

  • Starter: #2 Carlo Kemp, SR
  • Backup: #42 Ben Mason, JR
    • Others: #58 Mazi Smith, FR and #92 Phillip Paea, JR

Another interior line position locked down by a senior captain. Kemp has made an amazing transition from linebacker to tackle over his four years in Ann Arbor, and this year could be a big one. He’s a darkhorse pick for All-Big Ten performer on the defensive line. Behind him could be another position mover in fullback turned defensive lineman, Ben Mason. The fan-favorite may not be the most technically sound lineman out there but his effort and strength could make him a productive situational lineman. True freshmen Mazi Smith is another first-year guy that could force his way onto the field this fall.

Defensive Tackle

  • Starter: #50 Michael Dwumfour, SR
  • Backup: #95 Donovan Jeter, JR
    • Others: #15 Chris Hinton, FR and #80 Mike Morris, FR

This spot could see multiple starters throughout the season. Dwumfour was the hyped up defensive lineman last summer and now Jeter is that guy this year. Both offer a good mix of size, strength and quickness from the interior, and should both get plenty of playing time. We’ll see who locks it down. Freshmen Hinton could be yet another guy that gets some time during the year, though I won’t be surprised if he maintains his redshirt.

Anchor

  • Starter: #97 Aidan Hutchinson, SO
  • Backup: #18 Luiji Vilain, JR
    • Others: #96 Julius Welschof, SO and #99 Gabe Newburg, FR

If you’re looking for a player that takes a huge leap this year, Hutchinson may be the top candidate. He was a breakout player during his freshmen season, playing behind Rashan Gary. But this year, it’s all him and he’s set for a monster year on the edge. Behind him, expect to see both Vilain and Welschof, who are both very interesting prospects that everyone will get the first chance to see this year.

Defensive End

  • Starter: #19 Kwity Paye, JR
  • Backup: #4 Mike Danna, 5th
    • Others: #91 Taylor Upshaw, SO and #71 David Ojabo, FR

My pick for defensive MVP, Paye put his name on the map as a sophomore and looks to have made another huge jump this offseason. He’ll mainly lineup on the edge as a weakside end but he’s said to be able to play pretty much anywhere on the front seven. Look out for that, especially if grad transfer Mike Danna is everything ProFootballFocus’ numbers says he is. With Upshaw and Ojabo making noise in camp as well, this is one of the strongest position groups on the defense.

SAM

  • Starter: #6 Josh Uche, SR
  • Backup: #23 Michael Barrett, SO
    • Others: #10 Anthony Solomon, FR

In situational play, Uche led the Wolverines in sacks in 2018 and comes back this year a full time starter. He’s moving from end to the SAM position, which will free him up even more to make plays in this defense. If he takes another step forward, he could play his way into the top 3 rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft. Behind him is a bit of a question mark though with the sophomore Barrett looking to be next in line.

MIKE

  • Starter: #12 Josh Ross, JR
  • Backup: #44 Cam McGrone, SO
    • Others: #34 Jordan Anthony, JR and #13 Charles Thomas, FR

Ross will take over for first-round pick Devin Bush and though he’s not quite the player the Steeler is, he’s a gamechanger from the MIKE position. He’s a fluid, violent linebacker that can play sideline to sideline and should be an impact player throughout the year. But he’ll have to fend off McGrone, who is set to be a big time player for the Wolverines. Look for the two to see the field together at times, with Anthony getting time in the middle as well.

WILL

  • Starter: #8 Devin Gil, SR
  • Backup(s): #29 Jordan Glasgow, 5th and #34 Jordan Anthony, JR
    • Others: #13 Charles Thomas, FR

Gil returns for his senior season rocking a new number and looking to lead this young defense. But he will have to hold off the third Glasgow, who will see plenty of time as a depth linebacker and standout on special teams, as well as Anthony. And he’s a guy to watch closely. He was a top-rated recruit and is reportedly putting it all together. I could see him pushing Gil for starting time during the season.

Viper

  • Starter: #7 Khaleke Hudson, SR
  • Backup: #23 Michael Barrett, SO
    • Others: #26 J’Marick Woods, JR and #10 Anthony Solomon, FR

Looking for a bounce back year, Hudson didn’t take the step forward everyone expected last season. He followed up his 77 tackle sophomore season with just 39 tackles his junior year. This is the last hurrah for the senior captain who needs to be a playmaker again. And I like those chances. Behind him, Barrett is the main name to watch but lookout for Woods as well. Both guys have bright futures in this defense and it should start this year.

Rover Safety

  • Starter: #14 Josh Metellus, SR
  • Backup: #26 J’Marick Woods, JR
    • Others: #13 German Green, SO and #23 Quinten Johnson, FR

Another playmaking senior leader on this defense, Metellus heads into his final season looking to win big and solidify himself as an NFL draft pick. If he can take another step forward with his coverage skills, he should be an all-conference performer. But this is another spot Woods will fight for playing time. I think he could be a Swiss Army Knife-like player for this defense.

Free Safety

  • Starter: #20 Brad Hawkins, JR
  • Backup: #30 Dax Hill, FR
    • Others: #17 Sammy Faustin, SO and #27 Hunter Reynolds, JR

There isn’t a player that has been getting more love in recent weeks than Hawkins as he’s all but locked down the free safety role and is set to be a standout. True freshmen Dax Hill will see the field early and get more meaningful snaps as the season goes on. He’s just too athletic and talented to keep off the field, especially against speedy spread offenses.

Nickel Cornerback

  • Starter(s): #16 Jaylen Kelly-Powell, JR or #1 Ambry Thomas, JR
  • Backup(s): #20 Brad Hawkins, JR and #30 Dax Hill, FR
    • Other: #9 Gemon Green, SO

This will be a spot that may see multiple players get run throughout the season but it may be a mix of the two Detroit defensive backs. JKP has reportedly taken a big step forward this offseason and looks primed to make an impact. And then there’s Thomas, who is now back with the team after being diagnosed with colitis this offseason. It may take some time to get back to 1000% but once he does, he’s one of the fastest players on the roster and a nice fit at nickel. Hawkins, Hill and Green are other players that could get run there.

Right Cornerback

  • Starter: #24 Lavert Hill, SR
  • Backup: #16 Jaylen Kelly-Powell, JR
    • Others: #9 Gemon Green, SO

Speaking of Detroit defensive backs, Hill is the top corner on the roster and one of the best in the country. He’ll be THE guy in the secondary (sorry, Ohio State), and should all but lockdown one half of the field each game. Behind him, Kelly-Powell is heading into a pivotal junior season. He’s a guy I’m most interested in watching this season. Don’t sleep on Green either, who has all the talent, just needs a little more time to put it all together.

Left Cornerback

  • Starter: #31 Vincent Gray, SO
  • Backup(s): #1 Ambry Thomas, JR and #5 DJ Turner, FR
    • Others: #3 Jalen Perry, FR

He may not be out of Detroit but Gray is another in-state defensive back is set to man the opposite side of the field as Hill. He’s a long, athletic corner that has that physicality Don Brown and Mike Zordich want in their defensive backs. Thomas will take some time to get fully back into the swing of things and true freshmen DJ Turner is another new guy that may see the field this fall.

Special Teams

Kicker

  • Starter: #2 Jake Moody, SO
  • Backup: #3 Quinn Nordin, SR
    • Others: #39 Alan Selzer, SR

A camp battle that hasn’t received a ton of publicity, Moody and Nordin will likely get chances this season. Though Moody may be the main guy after showing his consistency and accuracy a year ago.

Punter

  • Starter: #17 Will Hart, SR
  • Backup: #3 Brad Robbins, JR
    • Others: #18 George Caratan, SO

Hart was an All-Big Ten performer a year ago after filling in for Robbins after he had to have surgery last season. If the senior can improve on last year, he may be up for the Ray Guy Award for top punter in the country.

Kick Returner

  • Starter: #8 Ronnie Bell, SO
  • Backup: #19 Mike Sainristil, FR
    • Others: #15 Giles Jackson, FR

Punt Returner

  • Starter: #9 Donovan Peoples-Jones, JR
  • Backup: #8 Ronnie Bell, SO
    • Others: #19 Mike Sainristil, FR and #15 Giles Jackson, FR

Photo Credit: Patrick Barron/MGoBlog