Why Michigan football is counting on several second-year players to make big contributions in 2018.
Second-year Michigan Players Expected to Make Big Leap in 2018
You saw it a year ago, when the Wolverines roster was full of players who were freshmen in 2016.
So many of Michigan’s big time playmakers in 2017 were guys who were just getting their feet wet the year before.
You go down the list: Rashan Gary, Chris Evans, Lavert Hill, David Long, Michael Onwenu, Ben Bredeson, Devin Bush Jr., Khaleke Hudson, Josh Metellus — all starters in 2017, but were only in their second year with the program.
Jim Harbaugh said on Monday at Big Ten Media Days that he’s expecting a similar trajectory from the second-year players in 2018. And there’s a lot of them who could make a significant impact.
All eyes are likely on the receivers — four of them — three of which played a year ago, and two of which started. Tarik Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones are the primary culprits, but Nico Collins got some play last season, and Oliver Martin has just been waiting for his opportunity.
But they aren’t the only ones.
Ambry Thomas is potential superstar in the defensive backfield and at kick returner. Fellow kick returner Brad Hawkins has added muscle, and could make a big impact at safety, after moving over from VIPER. Nose tackle Aubrey Solomon is expected to start. Kwity Paye should see more time in relief of Chase Winovich. Josh Ross is vying for a starting role at WILL linebacker against Devin Gil, with Mike McCray’s departure. Cesar Ruiz is your likely starter at center.
All of the above got valuable experience in games a year ago, and, as Harbaugh has often noted, you can’t teach experience.
So, heading into 2018, expectations are that those players who were just getting their feet wet in 2017 could be, and should be, valuable contributors in just their second season.
Harbaugh explained why during his hour-long podium session at Big Ten Media Days.
“I think it’ll help,” Harbaugh said. “Been there before. Been there, done that. That’s what experience is – being in do or die moments and knowing what they feel like. Going through it another time, another year after they’ve had a chance to train. They knew where the bar was, and they didn’t get over it or did get over it. And then you train again to get over it or you notch that bar up even higher and then train some more and get over that, get over that height.
“So they’ve had a chance to – all those players that played last year and were in some of those moments – have had another year to train and get even better.”