Entering the 2018 season, the Michigan Wolverines will be one of the most talented teams not just in the Big Ten conference, but in the entire country.
Still, though, it’s no mystery that Michigan will enter the season opener against the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame with question marks abounding at all three facets of the team — offense, defense, and special teams.
These questions can and will be answered.
How far ahead of the competition is Shea Patterson?
Shea Patterson has been anointed the savior of the Wolverine offense and yet, he hasn’t taken a single live game snap in the winged helmet.
He faces a battle, though, with the other highly touted quarterbacks on the roster. Former starter, Brandon Peters, scout team player of the year, Dylan McCaffrey, and true freshman stud, Joe Milton, will give Patterson a run for his money but it likely won’t be enough. For depths sake, and to see how far the the other three QBs on the roster have developed, we need to know how far ahead Shea really is.
Who are the starting offensive tackles?
By all accounts it appears Ben Bredeson, Cesar Ruiz and Mike Onwenu have locked down the interior of the offensive line — left guard, center, and right guard respectively. With that being settled for the most part, the starting left and right tackle jobs appear to be up for grabs.
Last season, Mason Cole did all he could to hold down the quarterback’s’ blind spot out at LT and has left big shoes to fill, but RT on the other hand, well that was a revolving door all year. So who are some names to watch for at either tackle position?
•Jon Runyan Jr.
•James Hudson III
Each of these four players brings a little something different to the table, respectively.
Bushell-Beatty is by far the most experienced and has at times shown he has been capable of holding his own, especially in the run game.
Runyan Jr. is an uber athletic lineman who has spent time both inside at guard, and outside at tackle over his career. Having that kind of athleticism potentially protecting a dual-threat in Shea Patterson isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Hudson III has been pegged by most fans as the “lock” of the bunch to hold down the left or right. He has the highest upside of the bunch but to date, is a raw player as having been switched from the defensive to offensive line last season — his freshman year.
Finally, Chuck Filiaga, the biggest of the four, has a bright future regardless of if he wins a starting battle or not. He is a mauler who doesn’t have flat feet, and would give defensive ends a run for their money with his 6’6 320 lb + frame.
Who’ll be the starting punter?
Something that plagued this team last season was the punting unit. Last year, scholarship punter Brad Robbins, as well walk-on Will Hart rotated throughout the year and struggled to find consistency.
Shanked punts were a theme that wore out its welcome far too many times, and remains a huge question going forward, and frankly isn’t something that is being talked about enough. With an off-season of conditioning and the added focus that Robbins and Hart will presumably have, it’s smart money that one of the two will emerge as starting caliber.
Who replaces Mike McCray at outside linebacker?
Mike McCray was well liked not only as a player, but most importantly as a person throughout his Michigan career. He endured trials and tribulations during his time as a Wolverine, facing injury plagued seasons in his first three years.
But Mike proved that he had what it took to be a starting Wolverine linebacker and did a tremendous job captaining the defense, and stopping the run. That production will be hard to replace no matter what you think of his overall game.
Who are a few names to keep a look out for as a replacement for McCray?
Those three players are the favorites and best fits to fill in McCray’s role.
Uche has been a pass rush specialist, but hasn’t shown if he’s capable of being dependable in pass coverage. He would also be presumably good as a run stopper with his size and build.
Drew Singleton has the highest upside of the three, with his height at 6’4 and an elite level athleticism for the linebacker position. He would presumably have the sideline to sideline speed to be an upgrade over McCray in pass coverage.
And finally, Josh Ross. Ross would bring a hard hitting attitude to the position, reminiscent of what Devin Bush Jr. brings. He has speed, and the ability to get in the backfield and shut down the run. The biggest question mark with him? Much like Josh Uche, can he be dependable in pass coverage?
Although there’s no spring scrimmage planned for public viewing, Michigan still plans to have a closed scrimmage indoors. Those in attendance will be comprised of players’ families as well as the recruits that had planned on originally visiting for the Spring Game.
Following the conclusion of spring practices, reports are sure to come out on who the most outstanding players were, and where the position battles we discussed are currently at. And with the aforementioned battle against the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame on September 1st feeling like it’s light-years away, answering the questions we posed, and many more will help give us a look into what kind of damage this team can really do.