Monday Thoughts: Michigan Football, Big Ten Media Days Edition

jim harbaugh michigan big ten media days

Monday Thoughts: Michigan Football, Big Ten Media Days Edition

Football

Monday Thoughts: Michigan Football, Big Ten Media Days Edition


Thoughts on Michigan football in 2018, based off what we heard from Big Ten Media Days.


Monday Thoughts: Michigan Football, Big Ten Media Days Edition

The Wolverines have an opportunity in 2018, though many aren’t giving them a chance.

It’s the polar opposite of 2016, when there was palpable excitement in Ann Arbor about the Michigan football program. Everyone knew that the Wolverines were a College Football Playoff contender, and the maize and blue came literally inches away from getting that desired berth into the final four teams in.

Yet, in 2018, despite having a lot of similarities, aren’t getting similar respect.

Talking to Tyree Kinnel at his podium session on Monday, he says that the feeling in the locker room is very much the same as it was in 2016. Chase Winovich says it would be a failure if Michigan doesn’t win the whole thing. I wasn’t there for Karan Higdon’s sentiments on the matter, but I read what other reporters wrote, which were along the same lines.

The most bullish person I spoke to about the matter was FOX Sports color analyst Joel Klatt, who told me last year that Michigan was primed for a run if everything went well, especially at the quarterback position. It turned out, it didn’t — and that’s likely the biggest reason why. After all, Wilton Speight (who I was always much higher on that the majority of the fanbase and a lot of pundits out there) broke three vertebrae in Week Four, and Michigan’s struggles at the position for the rest of year were well known.

So why doesn’t Michigan get any love in the contender department? Well, it has to do with recent history. As in: the most recent history.

Going 8-5 doesn’t do a lot for optimism, especially after blowing a huge lead against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. It was the opposite feeling in 2016, as Michigan was coming off an absolute annihilation over Florida in the Capital One Citrus Bowl.

But, all the pieces are in place. You have a former five-star or a high-end former four-star quarterback expected to lead this team. You have a group that was inexperienced last year, now coming in as savvy veterans. You have talent everywhere you look on the field.

Sound familiar?

I said this before, but, to me, it feels a lot like 2006, where players like Chad Henne, Mario Manningham and Mike Hart were just reaching their potential. You have a lot of third-year players ready to take that proverbial next step.

Listen, I could be spectacularly wrong, especially if there’s some key injuries. But what the FOX Sports guys said to me all confirmed the facts I’ve been parroting for some time now.

Like Klatt’s recognition of the offense having those pieces in place, or Robert Smith’s mention of the running game not eclipsing 3 yards-per-carry against better defenses. All of the returning experience and offseason changes addresses directly all of Michigan’s past woes.

Will it be enough? We’ll find out soon enough.

Common themes

There were a lot of common themes and names I heard bandied about, and they all should be welcome from the perspective of that it’s what’s best for Michigan in 2018.

Like, in Harbaugh’s mentions of the offensive line, he said that Juwann Bushell-Beatty and Jon Runyan Jr. are two players who had impressive springs/summers. That jibes with what I’ve been hearing and saying. And they’re both players that Michigan needs to take that big step forward and earn starting roles.

Yes, you eventually want James Hudson and Chuck Filiaga to be those guys on the outside, but JBB and Runyan taking the reins is the best case scenario. They’re both older, and should have a better mastery of the system at this point. You want experience to win along the offensive line, more often than not.

The consensus from media types is that Shea Patterson should be the quarterback (all four of the FOX analysts I spoke to mentioned him as being the crux of Michigan’s potential success in 2018). But the players and Jim Harbaugh weren’t saying that. Hedging our bets, we still expect Patterson to win out, but if it’s Peters (and Chase Winovich basically confirmed it’s a two horse race, even though Harbaugh said that McCaffrey had the biggest leap of the QBs this spring), Michigan will still be in a great spot, in my opinion.

Everyone expects Michigan’s defense to be elite. Obviously.

Michael Dwumfour and Aubrey Solomon are clearly your guys in the middle, and that’s what everyone I talked to said, Harbaugh included.

Michigan should be in a really good spot with the running backs. Harbaugh said that Hassan Haskins’ measurables since arriving in Ann Arbor have the staff optimistic about his potential contribution. Something else I’ve mentioned in these pages.

We haven’t yet entered into fall camp, but based off everything we’ve heard, things are lining up as I’ve predicted would put Michigan in the best possible position to make a run. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Other notes

I can’t wait to share with you more from the FOX guys. Joel Klatt has amazing insight and is one of my favorite people in the industry. And he’s just a truly nice guy.

Got great stuff from Robert Smith on the Michigan – Ohio State rivalry.

Brady Quinn might be relatively new to working as an on-screen analyst, but he came super prepared, with a huge book full of notes, and spoke so intelligently about where Michigan is at right now. He also gave some amazing insight into Notre Dame that Wolverines fans are going to want to read.

Bruce Feldman is an absolute pro, and I’m excited for his new opportunity at The Athletic. His insight is also invaluable.

There will be a ton more in the coming days, and a lot of it confirming everything I said above. Just wait, Michigan fans. The season is coming, and it has the potential to be much better than those looking at the schedule difficulty are giving credit for.

Contact/Follow @WolverinesWire@isaiahhole

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