Now that the season has started, let's try to gauge just how right (....wrong) we were about our predictions going into the season. As you might remember, we ran a few posts in August that ranked how likely freshmen and redshirt freshmen were to contribute this fall. Now that we've got four games under the belt, let's check up on our young friends...
The Redshirt Freshman: Chris Wormley
What I said: Right now, I'd guess Wormley will spell Heitzman and Black, especially on nickel and other sub-packages. A starting role by the end of the season isn't out of the question, but is far from a given.
Okay, not a bad start! Wormley is probably not going to be playing much more 3-tech with the solid play of Willie Henry (more on that later), but he has essentially locked up the backup spot on the strong side. His play has been....well.. exactly what I thought it would be. Wormley isn't the same terror he was as a high school sophomore, but he moves pretty well for a 300 pounder. On the negative side, he struggled in the interior against a very good ND offensive line and gave up a touchdown (that's completely not his fault) against UConn. When your 300-pound DE is expected to cover a RB running a wheel route, you're going to have a bad time.
He's held up well against the run on the outside, and has racked up a half sack an 1.5 TFLs by pushing the pocket and hustling. Here's his half sack, which he was there to clean up (h/t MGoBlog).
At times, Heitzman's 'starting role' almost seems like more of a nominal thing, since Wormley rotates in so often. Because of that, I'm not going to get caught in a semantics trap about who should be the starter and who shouldn't be. If Wormley keeps this play up, he'll be a key asset once we start playing bigger teams and more bulk is required up front.
The Freshman: Taco Charlton
What I Said: With those two in front of him, it's hard to imagine Taco making a big splash.
Some semblance of a splash is still expected, though. Mattison has shown that he likes a steady rotation at the rush end spot, and since he enrolled early, Taco's not exactly the greenest fellow out there. Being up to 270 pounds also means he isn't likely to get tossed around like Ojemudia was at times last year. Add in a bit of hype of his own, and Taco will be the perfect man to keep Ojemudia and Clark on their toes.
(Pats self on back for being so ambiguous)
Well...yeah! I think a lot of people wanted to throw Taco up higher on the list due to his offseason hype, but the two fellows in front of him had me a bit weary of doing that. Justifiably so, as it turns out.
Frank Clark had a few rough games before finally pulling in a 2 performance against UConn. Granted, his opposing RT was BAAAAAAD. Still, hopefully he'll build off of that momentum and start playing closer to the hype.
Mario Ojemudia has really impressed me this fall. He's repeatedly looked like Michigan's best pass rusher, tallying up a sack and a half and numerous hurries (the number on MGoBlue says 1-that number is wrong). The more impressive part is that lately he's been doing it with nagging injuries weighing him down. Were I a betting man, I'd put some stacks down that he ends up our sack leader come December.
As far as situational pass rushers go (a role I thought Taco might fill), SAM LBs Brennen Beyer and Cam Gordon have both racked up 2 sacks each. With the impending arrival of Jake Ryan, chances are their timeshare as a rush end only goes up.
So right now Taco's kind of in a hard place. That's five guys rights there that are at least doing their jobs well enough to justify keeping a freshman off the field. Maybe he'll pull down a sack in garbage time some time during the year, but I'm guessing the Taco Terror takes a back seat this year.
The Redshirt Freshman: Ben Braden
What I Said: In the long run, it's probably a good thing. Braden will now get snaps at tackle during garbage time this year, a position he's almost certain to start next year (whether it's RT or LT). It's also a good sign for Chris Bryant, an embattled lineman who has the potential to be the best run blocker on the team if he could just fend off persistent injuries. Regardless, this preview's for this year, and by backing up Schofield and Lewan, Braden's chances to start are ~(-20%).
Man, it's only been a month, and this narrative already seems hilariously outdated.
Remember when he was supposed to start at left guard? Well, now our friend Ben is buried at OT. So much so that instead of deploying him on an ill-fated QB sneak against UConn, we put out the lighter, more tackley-tackle Erik Magnuson in guard-like position. If any changes come at the LG position any time soon, it's likely that this will involve Chris Bryant, with Glasgow switching over to C.
What all of this is meant to say: you won't see Ben Braden. Any time soon.
The Freshman: Shane Morris
What I Said: Although Brian Cleary might provide more stability at the backup QB position, I still think we'll see heavy doses of Morris in the CMU, Akron, and UConn games. Homerish, stargazing fans will feel like they've been punched in the stomach when Morris looks lackluster against mediocre competition, but the end result will be a quarterback with just a little more game experience. If Gardner leaves after the season, we will all be happy that this happened.
Welp, that's hilarious for all the wrong reasons. TENTATIVE PREDICTION BASED ON FOUR GAMES- Devin Gardner will NOT be leaving after this season. Even if he rebounds spectacularly, scouts will still question that slump he took and wonder if maybe he needs more experience. If he truly plays up to his potential for the rest of the season, maybe it won't matter. I'd guess he'll leave it a few steps short of the Nirvanna he had in the ND game and want want more swing at it.
The other hilarious conclusion was that there would be 'garbage time' snaps in Akron and UConn. I will say no more about this, because writing anything else would just hurt.
Morris did play in the CMU game. He was 4 of 6 for 59 yards and an INT. I'm going to stick to my guns here and guess that if we see him play again this year (...Indiana maybe? Iowa? I don't know), his stat line isn't going to be much better. He's an adequate back-up as far as having a Howitzer attached to your shoulder goes, but seeing him on the field more would be bad ad Leroy Brown. Even with the way Gardner's playing right now.
The Redshirt Freshman: Jehu Chesson
What I Said: As of right now, it looks like when Michigan brings out any personnel package that includes 3 WRs, we'll see Darboh-Dileo-Gallon. Gallon and Dileo have been solid contributors for a couple of years now, and Darboh brings a certain physicality and experience (although not such a big edge, he didn't redshirt last year) that Chesson lacks. Smart money says Chesson is right behind that trio.
When I wrote that, Darboh was still not-hurt and things were significantly less open than they are now. Four weeks through the season, we know that Gallon is the true #1 WR, Dileo is the same thing he's always been, and everything after those two is .....Who knows? Chesson has factored more into the past 2 games with mixed results. While he's apparently nice enough of a guy for the Akron defenders to escort straight into the endzone, he's also looked a bit raw at times. UConn was the beneficiary, as Chesson missed some blocking assignments and misjudged a Gardner throw that almost certainly would have ended up a TD were the receiver Gallon. The good news? He's a monster special teamer!
The Freshman: Jake Butt
What I Said: Butt's recruiting profile suggests he should eventually end up as some sort of crossover between AJ Williams and Funchess, but that'll only happen once he adds more weight and blocking technique. For now, his value will come from adding another big red-zone target, as he showed off in the spring game.
Well, forget what I said about blocking technique; it's sort of looked like Butt's the best blocking TE on the team these past couple of weeks. Freshman mistakes aside, he's been throwing critical blocks that Funchess and Williams have simply missed.
On the receiving end, he's been targeted quite frequently, especially in the Notre Dame game. Although he hasn't nabbed a touchdown yet, he's grabbed 6 balls for 61 yards, making him fourth on the team in receiving yards. Butt still has a long way to go, but the way he's progressing, it looks like his role on the field will only grow through the season. If Funchess continues his inconsistency, he'll quickly lose snaps to Butt.