Michigan Football: 5 Under-the-Radar Wolverines Who Could Be Breakout Stars in 2014

Sophomore LB Ben Gedeon is on his way up the depth chart. - Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Gedeon and Matt Godin are among those with the ability to catapult in 2014.

A recent post on Maize 'n Brew's Facebook page--one which challenges readers to name a potential breakout player other than Jabrill Peppers or Freddy Canteen--makes me want to delve a little deeper into the conversation.

Thus far, readers have suggested several worthy players such as Ondre Pipkins (Jr,, DT), Maurice Ways (Fr., WR), Mason Cole (Fr., OT/EE) and, among others, Bryan Mone (Fr., DT/EE). And really, each of them stands a chance to shove their respective position group into overdrive.

A push from Ways would complement a well-rounded, but developing, corps of wideouts. An extra effort from Mone would bolster a D-line that most certainly has something to prove in 2014. Same goes for Pipkins. Finally, Cole, one of seven early enrollees, has the potential to fill in on an O-line that lacks strength in the middle and is now without Taylor Lewan (LT) and Michael Schofield (RT).

On that note, thanks to those who got the ball rolling by commenting on the M'nB Facebook page.

Now, let's get back to listing breakout players. The rules are simple: None of the players mentioned above will be included in this list, which doesn't leave a lot to choose from but certainly allows for creative projections.

5.) Erik Magnuson

The 6'6," 295-pound redshirt sophomore was being talked about in 2013, so he's not exactly "under-the-radar." Then again, some of the players on this list probably fall into the same category. But there are so many on the roster who'll actually see action on Saturdays.

We're sticking to them.

Back to Magnuson: Prior to injuring his right shoulder in spring (actually 2013 season), he was getting snaps at guard. However, missing spring activities sets him back just a tad.

The positive spin is that he's been around, so he knows the ins and outs, the lingo and the expectations.

However, he's unproven, therefore earning "under-the-radar" status. If he gets back on track, Michigan's O-line could be in for a pleasant surprise this season. The transition at left tackle could be eased by Magnuson's progression.

4.) Justice Hayes

Hayes is nearing the end of his career. But don't expect for him to mail it in this fall; he's probably intent on going on with a bang.

The former Grand Blanc superstar has endured years of shuffling, and the all-telling message of "we don't know what in the hell we're going to do with this kid" from the coaching staff (not an actual quote, obviously) doesn't do much for his situation.

Patiently, however, he waits. And then he waits a little longer. There'll come a time for Hayes, and it could be this fall. He's a great option for the slot, should Freddy Canteen fail to deliver, and he adds exemplary athleticism and versatility to the backfield.

At 5'10" and 190 pounds, he's a 'tweener, that much is true. But was Jeremy Gallon?! Skill is skill,and Hayes has enough to see the field during key stretches as a receiver or running back, not just during mop-up time.

Back in April, I wrote about Hayes for Bleacher Report. I believe that he has something give. Michigan should, too.

3.) Drake Johnson

Health is a major concern for Johnson, a hometown kid looking for his shot at glory at Michigan. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL during the Wolverines' 59-9 thrashing of Central Michigan in Week 1. According to the preseason buzz, he was in line for a role in the backfield.

Pressuring those ahead of him, the former Ann Arbor Pioneer star athlete was said to be right there with Derrick Green, De'Veon Smith, Hayes and Thomas Rawls, who transferred to Central Michigan after graduating this spring.

If he makes a healthy return to the field, expect the 6'0," 212-pound redshirt sophomore to add power to an underachieving backfield.

2.) Ben Gedeon

As a true freshman, Gedeon got his feet wet on special teams, the land of linebacker training where he fine-tuned his tackling and all of that good stuff. Linebacker is a deep position for the Wolverines, but Gedeon could crack the rotation if he remains on the ascent.

The 6'3," 236-pound sophomore could fit well as a second-stringer to Jake Ryan, who is now on MLB duty. He could spell Desmond Morgan at ILB--talk about two ways to play. Well, make that three with special teams.

Needless to say, the staff has taken notice.

1.) Matt Godin

Due to Keith Heitzman's move to tight end, the 6'6," 283-pound redshirt sophomore could see a heavy increase in reps at defensive end this fall. Of course, he's in the thick of the logjam at the position, so it'll probably take a few weeks before he emerges--if that's to happen--as a true asset on the pass-rush and run-stop units.

Coming from Detroit Catholic Central, Godin knows about high level competition; he's of the Shamrocks' championship lineage. Once given a chance, he'll flourish. If there's a player on defense that doesn't get talked about enough; it's him.

Follow Maize 'n Brew's Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81 (If you don't, you'll miss out on the photos of my two Labs, and you don't want to do that...)

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