Super Mailbag: WolverinesWire Answers Your Michigan Football Questions

Super Mailbag: WolverinesWire Answers Your Michigan Football Questions

Football

Super Mailbag: WolverinesWire Answers Your Michigan Football Questions


You have Michigan football questions, Super Mailbag has Michigan football answers.


Super Mailbag: WolverinesWire Answers Your Michigan Football Questions

Not just mailbag, super mailbag.

Someone forgot that they asked for mailbag questions and then went and did a bunch of other things. (It couldn’t have been me, I’m far too responsible.)

As a result, we’re going all SUPER MAILBAG, taking a ton of your Michigan football questions and paying them off accordingly.

Enough banter and procrastination — let’s get to it!

Well, looky here, Mr. Jay Sarkar of WLNS News in Lansing!

This is actually a super easy one for me to answer, even though it’s a place that didn’t exist when I was a student at Michigan. Without a doubt, I would go to Frita Batidos and get a chorizo frita (basically a burger topped with shoestring fries) with thick cut bacon (it’s like literally a half-inch thick), guacamole and a sunny-side up egg with a coconut batido (milkshake).

I have to limit my Frita Batidos consumption given how not good for me it is, but the Cuban-inspired street fare by acclaimed chef Eve Aronoff is something I have to have at least once every six months. If I had to say goodbye to Ann Arbor for whatever reason, that would definitely be my choice.

Aside from that, I could go with my most often eaten meal on campus: a BTB Burrito chicken quesadilla on whole wheat with guac and hot sauce inside. I’ve ordered literally the same thing well over 200 times.

Definitely way too early to tell who actually will start at the tackle spots, given that we haven’t even gotten to fall camp, and there’s always a surprise in there somewhere. But, I heard a lot of really good things about Jon Runyan Jr. this offseason, so I could see him making a push.

I think, ideally, Juwann Bushell-Beatty would be the other guy there, because it’s his last year, and he’s a huge body who has starting experience. One of my sources last spring had told me that Michigan essentially wanted to force him into being the right tackle starter, but it didn’t work out that way, and Ulizio ended up being the guy coming out of camp.

All that being said, it’s going to be difficult for either of those guys to fend off some of the young talent that’s already on the roster. Chuck Filiaga and James Hudson are among some of the top recruits in the country, and have huge upsides. During my time at 247Sports, Steve Lorenz used to often talk about how much the staff loves Andrew Stueber as well.

So, at this juncture, especially with a new coach overseeing the position group, in Ed Warinner, it’s difficult for me to say there’s a clear cut starter at either end, because there really just isn’t right now. The best I can say is you hope your veteran guys had something click and become the obvious options early in fall camp, but right now, in the summer, it really is anyone’s guess.

As for your McCray question…

This is a tough one, because given his recruiting ranking, family pedigree and how much Jim Harbaugh raved about him throughout the year, from training camp through the season, you’d think it would be Josh Ross, right? But you can’t count out Devin Gil, who actually got the nod over McCray in the 2017 season opener as McCray dealt with (if I recall correctly) an equipment malfunction.

Don Brown said this past spring that it will be a Devin Gil/Josh Ross competition at WILL, and that Drew Singleton will be moving inside to back up Devin Bush Jr. (made even more interesting once Cam McGrone gets acclimated, because I think he has the highest ceiling of any linebacker on the roster). Jordan Anthony seems to be something of a wildcard, that could play anywhere in the middle.

To answer the latter question, I think you’ll see a mixture of Ross and Gil the most (would expect them to platoon, similar to the Jeremy Clark/Channing Stribling deal a few years back), with healthy doses of the rest.

They all have to see the field, though, that’s for sure.

BONUS: Don’t forget about SAM linebacker, where Noah Furbush and Josh Uche have been killing it. I’ve heard a ton about Uche’s upside as of late, and he should be a guy who surprises, that is, if you weren’t paying attention to how disruptive he was on the snaps he was in last year.

I think it has to be Christian Turner. I know the staff has high hopes for him, and sees him as a potential breakout player. But, I want to see how he, Hassan Haskins and Mike Barrett all acclimate this fall before I say that definitively.

Particularly with Haskins, one source told me before he committed last year that Michigan saw him as a five-star type talent that just went unevaluated, given where he was playing in Eureka (MO). The late offer wasn’t indicative of there being players higher on the board — it was Michigan trying to keep him off other teams’ radars while they worked to get him in the fold. Then they offered and things moved along rather quickly. I could see him coming in and making an early impact.

And, of course, Barrett is going to play. He’s too talented not to put out there. But if I was to pick one guy who comes in after Hidgon and Evans get their carries, Turner would be my choice right now.

Ask me again halfway through fall camp, and I very well could have a different answer.

A little bit of column A, a little bit of column B? (And column C should be improving anyhow with Ben Herbert & Co.)

I addressed this in my insider piece some 10 days back, but when Drevno was leading the charge, there was just too much confusion. I had spoken to a source during the spring who said that Warinner significantly simplified things for the offensive line, and the OL had taken much more enthusiastically to what Warinner was selling compared to his predecessor. Which makes sense when you recall the story that Tim Drevno told the media last fall about the OL’s struggles, using an analogy to his past as a baseball groundskeeper, where he kept trying to pump this well on a hot Montana day, and it wouldn’t give out — but he kept pumping and pumping until it finally did.

Well, college football is a win now game, and what Drevno was attempting to impart seemed to be a little too complex given the personnel. So, that put Michigan at a schematic disadvantage, because, at times, guys didn’t know what they were needing to do on a down-by-down basis. Thus you saw lapses. When Michigan somewhat simplified the run concepts by returning to a power-based attack, that’s when the lightbulbs seemed to turn on there.

As far as the technical part, I think it suffered as a result of the complications of the schematic parts. Things worked in spurts, and it seemed to be more mental lapses that I saw last year than anything.

Time will tell if the unit has truly improved in pass protection. Honestly, it has to have, because last year was abysmal. And they have a talented group up front, with almost too much talent, when I really look at it. I think you can expect modest improvement to start, and hopefully, by the season’s end, this looks much more like an OL you’d expect a Jim Harbaugh-coached team to have.

Shrug-dot-emoji.

He told reporters in Paris that he was waiting on one clearance before he could be involved in physical contact again. He’s been running and such for some time now. But, given the nature of his injury, I really can’t predict if that clearance will come or not.

Obviously hope so. Rooting hard for him.

My top picks are LB Cam McGrone and TE Mustapha Muhammad.

That might be cheap, given that they’re both atop Michigan’s recruiting rankings, but McGrone is maybe the best prospect I’ve seen with my own two eyes in a (non-Army All-American) game setting, notching 20-plus tackles and making the play of the game to win the game for his squad. Muhammad brings a different dimension to a deep unit, but a TE room that tends to rotate quite a bit.

But I’ll add another name: Aidan Hutchinson.

Yes, he’s playing behind a super-deep bench, but I think he’s got too much talent to not get onto the field at some point. He didn’t get the accolades he deserved, even though he had an unreal performance in the Army All-American game this past year, leading all players in sacks, if I recall correctly. Obviously, he has it in his family pedigree, with his father Chris being a former All-American for Michigan.

I mean, I have to say the offense as a whole.

While there’s a lot of optimism coming out of spring ball, until we actually see it clicking in game action with live bullets flying, it’s going to be a concern.

We heard all December how things were clicking, and once Michigan got to the bowl game, it was much ado about nothing. Now, that was the staff talking, compared to some other sources I have, who have stated they are more optimistic given what they’ve seen this spring. But almost everything is still a question mark.

We can assume Shea Patterson will win the job (and Michigan would still presumably be in great hands if Peters or Dylan McCaffrey won, too), but we don’t know how it all fits or how it all works right now. Patterson has at least thrown for over 300 yards/game in his career to this point, so that spells good news for the offense, but that was at Ole Miss — we don’t know if that will look the same in Ann Arbor.

We still don’t know for sure that the wide receivers will take that step forward. We can presume they will, because a squad of all underclassmen at the unit (with the exception of Grant Perry) is bound to spell doom, despite our assertions last summer that it spelled fortune. Lesson learned. It takes a long time for things to click at that position, and while the optimal year for Black and DPJ, in my opinion, will be year three, there should be a strong modicum of improvement from one to two.

And while the tailbacks have gotten better and better, I want to see them average more than 3 yards per carry in the big games. There’s a common thread in Michigan’s losses in the past two years, and it’s this: 2.8, 2.12, 2.47, 2.62, 2.45, 1.57, 2.78 and 2.24. That is yards per carry against Iowa, Ohio State and Florida State in 2016 and against Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Ohio State and South Carolina in 2017, respectively. Michigan only won twice in that span when averaging less than 3 YPC, and that was with 2.9 against UCF and 2.95 against Wisconsin (both in 2016). This is the stat that needs to look better across the board if Michigan is going to take that big step forward in 2018 and beyond. They’ve killed against the Indianas and Minnesotas of the world. But Michigan always should. They need something more consistent against the MSUs and OSUs if the Big Ten is going to be in contention. By contrast, MSU and OSU have averaged 3.95 YPC or better each of the last two years against Michigan.

Still looking good for both last I’ve heard, with Keegan certainly being much more of a wild card.

One source told me about Keegan: “He’s a different kid,” and really difficult to get a read on. He obviously likes Michigan, and has made multiple visits to Ann Arbor at this juncture. It looks like a Michigan – Ohio State battle for him, and the Wolverines got in on his recruitment first, so perhaps that’s a feather in their cap, but it remains to be seen (the same thing could be said of Nic Petit-Frere, of course).

If you’re asking me which one is more likely, I’d choose Harrod, but I think Michigan’s very much in it with both.

Because Ohio State has been really, really good year-in, year-out, and his last name is Bosa.

When you look at the stats alone, I can see an argument being made for Bosa. He had 18 tackles for loss compared to Gary’s 12, 8.5 sacks compared to Gary’s 6 — all while he wasn’t a full-time starter. But Gary was almost always double-teamed, chipped, etc. at the line, where, from what I’ve seen (which is admittedly limited) Bosa didn’t get the same consideration from opposing teams’ OLs.

Personally, I think Gary is better, but I’ve seen a lot more of him, since I cover Michigan. So there’s certainly a bias on my part. But I think you can reasonably say that both are outstanding talents, and I would expect Gary to really take another step forward this upcoming season, a la Taco Charlton.

It would be a disappointment if he didn’t. He looked a lot better as the season wore on last year, and he arrived to Michigan as a raw talent — whereas Tarik Black was more polished.

Based off my piece in Leaders & Best, it sounds like Black is still a little more polished, but you can’t teach experience, and now DPJ has that requisite experience against Big Ten caliber defensive backs. He definitely should take a big step forward, as you say, given that this will be his second full year in the system.

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Kirby Puckett.

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