With less than a month until the season, players and coaches are chomping at the bit to finally play. The Wolverines have a lot of unproven talent that is ready to go, so let’s go over some pre-season awards. Keep in mind, with a lot of starters to replace, this list may not even be close to true at the end of the year; but at the same time, it could be pretty close.
Let’s start with the offensive side of the ball.
MVP: Chris Evans
Chris Evans ran for 614 yards on 88 carries in 2016. Michigan’s offense lost a lot, but Evans should be able to step into a key role on offense. He has the body to be the next elite back at Michigan, but with a new and some say improved offensive line, that will be key to determining his success. Evans has the tools to be an 1,000 yard rusher, but let’s see if those skills translate onto the field.
Most Improved: Tyrone Wheatley Jr
With Mackey Award winner Jake Butt graduating and Devin Asiasi transferring, the tight end spot is wide open in Ann Arbor. Wheatley Jr looks to fill that void, and is very capable of being another good tight end to play under Jim Harbaugh. Wheatley has three receptions and one touchdown as a wolverine. With the tight end spot wide open, expect Wheatly Jr. to make a big leap in his game and to stand out for the Wolverines.
Under the Radar: Moe Ways
I see Moe Ways making a big leap in his game this year. Ways only has five receptions for 64 yards at Michigan, so he is kind of a forgotten man. However, Ways has been putting in plenty of work and is ready to take a huge step this year in a very open position battle at the wide receiver spot. Ways will probably see the field a lot with plenty of other wide receivers (McDoom, Crawford, Black, Peoples-Jones.) This might be a very unpopular choice, but don’t be surprised if Ways breaks out this year.
Other names to look out for on offense: Wilton Speight, Kekoa Crawford, Eddie McDoom, Mason Cole, Nick Eubanks, Brandon Peters, Karan Higdon, and Khalid Hill.
The defense is only returning one starter but there is a bunch of young talent that has experience, plus other young players that have a lot of potential.
MVP: Rashan Gary
The number one overall player out of the 2016 recruiting class, Gary did not disappoint during his freshman year. Gary appeared in every game in his first year at Michigan and had 23 total tackles, not bad for a freshman, on an already loaded defensive line. With every starter on the defensive line gone, expect Gary to get an increase in playing time. Gary is another player who has a lot of hype, but he embraces it, and if you have seen any pictures of Gary this offseason, let’s just say I would not want to be the opposing quarterback.
Most Improved: Tyree Kinnel
Kinnel had a decent amount of playing time his second year at Michigan, mainly on special teams. Kinnel had 14 total tackles this past season, and is looking to step in as a starting safety on this young and hungry Michigan defense. You could put plenty of players that could be most improved (Bush, Washington, Hill, Long, Hudson, Metellus, etc.) but Kinnel should have a big impact in this young secondary.
Under the Radar: Chase Winovich
With Rashan Gary and Mo Hurst getting a lot of the love on the defensive line, expect Winovich to have a sneaky good season in the Maize and Blue. Winovich had 31 total tackles last season, and, like Gary, expect those numbers to go up this year with an increase of playing time. Chase Winovich will be a player that most people won’t think about, but he will get the job done.
Other Defensive names to look at: Mike McCray, Mo Hurst, Devin Bush, Khaleke Hudson, Josh Metellus, Keith Washington, David Long, Lavert Hill, and many, many more.
Michigan will have a young and hungry team in 2017, but don’t expect this team to play like a young team. Harbaugh and the staff will have them ready.
Follow @Micah_Gabler on Twitter for all things Michigan.