Training camp is underway for the Michigan Wolverines in preparation for the 2016 football season. Expectations for this season are high, but they are being embraced inside Schembechler Hall and the team is ready to cash in and make a statement to the rest of the college football world.
The Wolverines return one of the best defenses in the nation and bring back many of their key contributors on offense. Everyone knows Jake Butt, De’Veon Smith, Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh, among others.
But who are the players that will make their presence known this season that are under the radar heading into the fall?
Here are five candidates in no particular order:
Grant Newsome, Sophomore, Left Tackle
Jim Harbaugh has zero issues with burning redshirts if he feels that someone can contribute right away and help the team. That was the case last season for Newsome, who emerged as a key reserve lineman as a true freshman who came in and played in certain packages.
Fast forward to a year later, and now he is all but penciled in as the Wolverines’ blind side protector with Mason Cole moving inside to center. With a year under his belt and a full camp of first-team reps, Newsome could be a very steady player on an extremely experienced offensive line.
Ian Bunting, Junior, Tight End
The buzz coming out of Ann Arbor is that Bunting could be in for a big year, even with All-American Jake Butt ahead of him on the depth chart. Harbaugh likes to spread the ball around, especially to the tight ends.
Bunting is another tall target that will help whoever the starting quarterback ends up being as a safety valve across the middle of the field. Butt won’t be at Michigan forever, so Bunting very well could be the heir to the No. 1 tight end spot and his audition begins this season.
TJ Wheatley, Sophomore, Tight End
Speaking of tight ends, and this was already alluded to above, but Michigan is pretty deep at the position and another player that could be a contributor in key situations is Wheatley. At 6-6, 276, he is still extremely athletic and moves well for his size in the open field.
It remains to be seen the type of role he’ll play, but he could definitely be a factor.
Grant Perry, Sophomore, Wide Receiver
Perry was able to find his way onto the field early for Michigan as a true freshman in 2015. He had his fair share of ups and downs and finished the season with 14 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown.
With another year in the system, Perry has the look of a complimentary slot receiver that is a good fit with Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh on the outside. He should be another reliable target for the Michigan quarterbacks.
Ty Isaac, Senior, Running Back
Isaac has the most to gain or lose than any other player on this list. Other guys are breakout candidates, but he needs a breakout.
He finally hit the field as a Wolverine last season after sitting out a year after transferring from USC. He played in seven games, rushing for 205 yards and a touchdown but had problems with ball security, which saw him fall out of favor a bit.
Isaac had a good spring and appears ready to be a more regular contributor for Michigan. He may not usurp Smith as the team’s No. 1 running back, but he could definitely give them an added shot in the arm if he stays healthy and protects the football.