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2016 Fierce 40 Previews: #10 Michigan

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 15, 2016

#10 Michigan Wolverines

2015 Recap:
10-3 for the Wolverines as 2015 marked their return to relavency after a few years of obscurity under the command of Brady Hoke. The three losses were all against quality opponents losing a close one to Utah to open the year. A game where Michigan State got a miracle to defeat them on a return and then a shelling against Ohio State.  Michigan went 3-3 against ranked opponents and 7-0 against unranked teams, avoiding upsets and handling the teams they were supposed to handle.


Coaching:
If Michigan wanted to make a splash they certainly did it with the hire of Jim Harbaugh, easily the most anticipated new coaching move coming into the season anywhere. Harbaugh made a successful transition with 10 victories and making Michigan immediately competitive. Most importantly Michigan seemed to raise their level of physical play and intensity, it was noticable from day one.


Offense

We just got done previewing Houston at #11 in our preseason countdown and now we have their old quarterback John O'Korn turning up in Ann Arbor where he has two years of eligibility to pilot the Wolverines. O' Korn was a highly touted recruit who seems to be the only signal caller on the roster with significant experience. What will really work for O' Korn is the targets he has to choose from and it starts with tight end Jake Butt. Butt looks like he will carry on the tradition of Michigan tight ends who are groomed for life at the next level and he is a pretty good blocker for someone whose main focus is catching the football. Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson form the best 1-2 starting wide receiver combo in the conference. Put these receivers stats together with the production of Butt from last season and you get 159-2145-17. It doesn't matter how good the targets are up front as the Wolverines return four starts from their offensive line and running back De'Veon Smith will be there to take advantage. Michigan was a subpar 84th running the football a season ago and we know this is not the way Jim Harbaugh usually operates. Look for the Michigan ground game to be revitalized and the key to the offensive production.
 

Best Draft Prospects: Jake Butt TE 1st Round 2017.

                                       Kyle Kalis OG 2nd Round 2017.


Defense

Michigan lost their defenisve coordinator from a season ago, a unit that ranked #4 in the country. If you are Jim Harbaugh what do you do? You hire the man who ran the #1 unit in the country and bring aboard Don Brown. Michigan returns five starters and even though they lost some big names to graduation they were a deep unit a year ago and have expereinced players stepping in at nearly every position. The secondary is the focal point with Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers serving as the true stars of the unit. Peppers will play a rover position going between linebacker and safety but he projects as a safety at the next level and will be a draft-eligible sophomore after this season. Rashan Gary should find his on the field and be starting by some point this season. The defensive end was the #1 recruit in the nation and he will see considerable time with Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton along the edge. Ryan Glasnow is a true nose tackle who will be the key to the line and openeing up lanes for the players around him. If there is a weak link it's at linebacker where the Wolverines have plenty of expereince but seem to lack the big name playmaker, this may mean we see more of Peppers staying as a linebacker vice sliding into the secondary.

Best Draft Prospects: Jabrill Peppers S 1st Round 2017 (Early Declaration).

                                      Jourdan Lewis 2nd Round 2017.


Special Teams:

Harbaugh puts a huge emphasis on special teams, as we know his brother John made his mark in the NFL starting as a special teams coach. Wer are not sure who is going to replace punter Bake O'Neal but it could be kicker Kenny Allen who might pull double duty. Our secondary players to watch for the draft, Jabrill Peppers and Jourdain Lewis are the return men and both have supreme big play ability.


Schedule:

Michigan won't have the travel away from Ann Arbor until October 8th as their first five games are at home. The backend of the schedule does offer some challenging road contests (Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State). The last home game for the Wolverines will be against Wisconsin. It's a tough schedule but Michigan does get a break by having so many home games to open up the schedule.


Draft and Overall Outlook:

This could be the first time in five or six years where that game against Ohio State will be looming at the end of the schedule and could be the pivital game in deciding who goes to the Big Ten Championship. The Draft classes for Michigan over the next few years will be deep and the recruiting classes have definately been kicked up a notch in terms of talent with the arrival of Harbaugh. Harbaugh is very hands on in recruiting, not just coaching.

DJ Boyer