I start my morning just like most others my age — I groggily turn over, look at my phone and scroll through whatever updates I missed while I rested.
Lately, the Michigan Football Twitter account has been counting down the days until kickoff in Arlington against Florida. With each passing day, and with each of those tweets I see every morning, I faintly remember the feeling of the crisp autumn air. The smells of a tailgate. The sights and sounds of football.
Oh, how I miss it.
And now that it is getting closer, I begin to ponder which players are bound, or perhaps due, for a breakout season. Which player steps up in place for those older players who graduated/were drafted by an NFL team this past April?
Here are my five picks for the guys most likely to do that:
- Rashan Gary, Sophomore DL
Number one in my eyes is fairly obvious.
Gary has the athleticism, bulk, speed — basically all the traits necessary to be the best in the country at his position. He knows that. The coaches know that. We all know that.
With Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton both gone, the torch has been passed to the true sophomore and former No. 1 recruit in the country coming out of high school. Those two players took Gary under their wings last season and it seems to have helped. He is now trying to do the same thing with freshmen like Aubrey Solomon and inspire them to be great and not settle for just “good.”
Leadership, tenacity and persistence are the three words that popped in my head when I first thought of Rashan. He’s going to be great this year, folks.
Michigan’s defensive line is going to cause havoc this season, and Gary will be the anchor of the madness ensued on opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks.
2. Bryan Mone, Senior DL
Following a trend of defensive linemen, I am picking Mone over Maurice Hurst for a few reasons.
Mone has been in line waiting his turn for a long time. He didn’t play a single snap in 2015, his sophomore year, after suffering a leg injury. Then he had a knee injury at the beginning of last season, forcing him to miss another few weeks. Ryan Glasgow turned it up in his absence and never looked back. He was drafted in April because of that. Now it’s (finally) Mone’s time to shine.
He has a monster frame — 6-foot-4, 310 pounds — and looked good down the stretch of last season when he was healthy.
The tandem of Mone/Hurst on the inside with Gary and Chase Winovich on the outside is going to be extremely fun to watch. Mone is absolutely due for a breakout season.
3. Chris Evans, Sophomore RB
Yep, you guessed it. Chris “Captain America” Evans is going to be a stud in 2017.
Four touchdowns and 614 rushing yards on 88 attempts made for a pretty solid freshman season. Now that De’Veon Smith has moved on to the NFL, Evans is the guy to fill the void Smith left behind.
If you guys have read any of my previous articles or listened to Victors Valiant, you know how much I like Chris Evans and you know I was wanting him to be the starter about halfway through last season. Now he will finally get the chance to be the every-down back, especially since he has reportedly put on some weight this offseason.
Combine the weight/muscle gain with his shiftiness and good vision and you’ve got yourself a dark horse for the First-Team All-Conference in 2017. Get him more involved in the passing game and the Wolverines have themselves a complete back.
4. Michael Onwenu, Sophomore OL
In order for Evans to have the performance I expect him to have this season, the offensive line has to play a big part in that. Big Mike Onwenu is my pick on the offensive line to have a breakout season.
Onwenu, according to the Detroit Free Press, was listed at 372 pounds back in April for spring practice. On Michigan’s roster last season, he was listed at 350 pounds. To shorten this up and not sound like a dietitian, that’s probably not a great thing.
Jim Harbaugh would not tell reporters how much weight Onwenu is at right now, but “(Onwenu) is getting there, it’s improving.”
If he is able to get down to where the coaches want him to be, look out for this guy. They call him Big Mike for a reason. I believe he will lose the weight he needs to and be a force to be reckoned with on the offensive line this year.
5. Khaleke Hudson, Sophomore, S/VIPER
Paging Dr. Brown, your Jabrill Peppers replacement is here to see you.
Hudson was born to play in Don Brown’s VIPER position. He’s a fast, absolutely jacked and hard-hitting safety that constantly hunts for the ball. His name on Twitter is “Hit-Man” for crying out loud.
He also tied for the most blocked punts on the team with two last season. The dude was a play-making machine on special teams last year and I expect him to do the same at the VIPER spot in 2017. He has all the tools necessary to be Jabrill 2.0 for Michigan.
Who do you expect to breakout for the Wolverines this season? One, or several, of the five I have? Someone else? Comment below who you think has the best chance to do so.