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An Early Look At 2017 Michigan Football: Fullback Preview

NCAA Football: Penn State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Personnel

Who’s definitely leaving? The one and only, the incredible, Bobby Henderson.

So, who will be around? When he wasn’t busy hammering something, Khalid Hill announced that he’ll be coming back for his redshirt senior year. We haven’t heard anything final regarding Henry Poggi, although he has also been invited back and I expect him to return.

Also, I should mention 2017 commit Ben Mason; Mason is currently listed as a linebacker commit, but the odds are likely that he’ll be a fullback when he comes to Ann Arbor. He’s got the right skills to do a good job of it: good pop, the ability to impact multiple guys quickly, and good speed around the line of scrimmage. Being 6’3”, 250 doesn’t hurt, either.

The Depth Chart

The presumed starter: Khalid Hill, of course. Touchdown Vulture will be flying again.

Right on his heels: Henry Poggi, of course. After some concerns about his toughness when he first moved to fullback, he’s become a very good hitter as well as a tactical weapon thanks to his ability to slip out into the flat for big passing gains on third downs. All the way back to his high school days, he’s shown soft hands and good awareness; now he’s finally putting those to good use.

Outside looking in: Ben Mason, of course. Mason has a good game, but he’ll be able to redshirt and bulk up even more while learning the offense. (Don’t laugh, we ask our fullbacks to do a lot.)

Phew, thank goodness for an easier preview today.

Two Questions

Does Khalid Hill lead the team in touchdowns again? When Hill was deciding whether to return to Michigan, one of the arguments for heading to the NFL was that his stock would never be better after a 10-touchdown season like he had this year.

There will certainly be more competition for those goal-line touches, but I wouldn’t count Hill out: he’s as close to automatic as they come from short-yardage situations, and if somebody like Ty Isaac or Kareem can do what Khalid Hill can do, then we are in very, very good shape offensively.

How much are Hill and Poggi involved in the offense? Not many fullback duos in the entire country have this much pass-catching ability or general offensive prowess, so this is certainly a more dangerous unit than what teams will be used to handling.

With that said, there are a lot more red zone weapons on Team 138 than there were on Team 137. From the tight ends, to some much taller receivers, to a lot more options at running back (including the 6’1”, 245-pound Kingston Davis, who is as much a fullback as 2,000-yard rusher and 6’1”, 249-pound behemoth D’Onta Foreman was for Texas this season, but who could be definitely be deadly in the red zone), there will be endless options for Harbaugh to choose from. And, keep in mind, this was already a very good offense in the red zone - 13th in the country in coming away with points.

Final Verdict

Maybe I’m just optimistic, but this is fifth offensive preview in this series and the fifth where I feel like 2017 has a very good chance to be better than 2016. Michigan gets both main contributors back from last year, and they add talented depth for the future.

Just like clockwork. The offensive line preview, though, comes up tomorrow, and that’s the real test.