As we torturously wait for the next couple weeks to disappear, finally revealing the beginning of the season that we've waited so long for, I'll be running five opinion pieces on 10 players- 5 RS Freshmen, 5 True Freshmen- that I expect to contribute this fall. I'll be ranking them based on how much I expect them to contribute, then pair them off with their RS/Non-RS equivalent. Today we present number two.
THE REDSHIRT FRESHMAN
Willie Henry- Defensive Tackle; 6'2, 306
As of right now, the depth chart at 3-technique reads like this:
I have to believe that it won't look that way for too long. The strange thing there is that Glasgow is ahead of Henry, the man who spent all offseason getting hyped up by practice rumor-mongers, and the man who played as big of a role as DTs usually do in scrimmage/practice highlight videos. While the idea of a walk-on lineman ending up featured prominently in the two deep is no surprise (Nate Brink, Will Heininger), it's usually preceded by a lot of rumors. My assumption here is that Henry's been hot and cold throughout camp, and they put Glasgow ahead both to reward Glasgow for a strong offseason and push Henry.
That is to say I don't think this nominal depth chart will keep Henry out of prominent action throughout the season, early and often. Henry's first step is one of the best I've seen from Michigan linemen recruits in the past 5 years, and he's the only recruited lineman in that depth chart that actually..you know..looks like a tackle. Black has always had some difficulty holding up in run support due to his size, smart money says that doesn't change magically in one offseason. Strobel was a 5-tech, like, 3 weeks ago, and is still only 265. These are not people you want cleaning up for linebackers by the time Michigan State rolls around, even though their line may end up being 4 walk-ons and that string cheese wrapper Dantonio found floating around in the trash bowl by October.
Even if I'm dead wrong about all of this and Henry plays like a back-up, well, that'll still mean heavy contribution time in Mattison's rotation-heavy defensive line. I'd guess by the end of the season he'll have put himself in a good position to be the heir apparent at 3-tech, and nab at least 2 sacks.
Derrick Green/DeVeon Smith- Running Backs
I know, I know, I cheated. When I initially wrote up these posts this one was going to be all about Derrick Green and his accolades and 7 YPC. Things change quickly through August, however, and the Derrick Green role we all assumed for this offense may end up being played by...well.. DeVeon Smith. Some combination of lots of weight, injury, and missed practice time for classes has put Green a bit behind the curve, and Smith seems to have taken advantage. The thing about redshirting someone like DeVeon is that you're not going to see a RS SR Smith look demonstrably better than a SR Smith because of his modest ceiling, so you're essentially just doing it because you think there will be more of a role for him in four years than now. And who really knows that far in the future?
There is definitely a role available for both of these freshman to take behind Fitz Toussaint. The only power back returning is one with poor vision and the tendency to bounce instead of using, you know, his size. This is not a problem either of our young friends are rumored to have. Outside of that, we've got a bona fide 3rd down back and a kid who should probably be at Eastern right now.
If you wanted a more concrete prediction from me, it's this. Smith will play a key back-up role through September, good for 5-10 targets/carries a game. By the time we reach the B1G schedule, Green will sub-plant his playing time after having finally adjusted and shaken off his injury. By the end of the season, we'll see a four headed monster with Toussaint, Hayes, Green, and Smith playing roles. Green and Smith will enter the offseason in a tussle for the starting job. This year, the two will combine for somewhere around 400 yards and 7 touchdowns.