As we torturously wait for the next few 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 give you number four.
(Previously in the countdown: Number Five)
THE REDSHIRT FRESHMAN
Ben Braden- Offensive Lineman; 6'6, 318
When I first conceptualized these posts, I had Braden sitting at spot number 2; I also think I could have justified putting him at number 1, as the two aren't that dissimilar. Or rather, weren't. Until about three days ago, most of the battles on the offensive line centered (appropriately) around the center position, where Glasgow and Miller were battling for playing time. Of course, occasionally we'd see Glasgow or Chris Bryant pop up with the 1s in practice videos, but it was widely assumed that Braden and Kalis would be the starting guards come Central Michigan.
As you saw, Bryant's absence moved Glasgow to left guard in the scrimmage. Wherefore art thou, Ben Braden, ye of my prediction for lock at left guard? Braden, notably, has not been practicing at guard for some time. He's a tackle these days (womp womp), so the depth chart at left guard (assuming Bryant is fine) goes Bryant, Glasgow, Bars.
Chris Balas later sub-tweeted some weird, ambiguous rumors of his own, but we'll believe Heiko since he was actually able to articulate his point. Also, not being Chris Balas helps one's credibility.
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%).
THE TRUE FRESHMAN
Shane Morris- Quarterback, 6'3, 201
This is Shane Morris. Despite his enormous ceiling, he is a raw, unshaped pile of clay, waiting to be molded into a beautiful B1G shredding machine by Gorgeous Al. In any normal year, i.e. one where Russell Bellomy wasn't hurt and was a little bit better than Bellomy is, Morris would be slapped with a redshirt so fast it would make your head spin.
HOWEVER. Devin Gardner is pretty good at this quarterbacking thing. His own enormously raw potential has been shaped quickly into one of the better passers in the nation. Add in his other physical attributes, and with a good season, early departure for the draft is a good possibility. Michigan coaches do not want to be caught with their pants down if that's to happen, and as I mentioned earlier, they probably don't want Bellomy or a true freshman Wilton Speight to start if that's the case. What they do want is Morris to make that same one-year step that Gardner did under the tutelage of Borges.
That's not going to happen if he's sitting on the bench. 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.