The Peach Bowl is still two weeks away, but it’s never too early to get excited about football.
Rumors have been swirling about whether or not a number of key players will play in the game, mainly due to injury concerns before the NFL Draft. Defensive end Rashan Gary has confirmed he will not play in the game, but all signs point to quarterback Shea Patterson and defensive end Chase Winovich playing.
Players such as Karan Higdon, Lavert Hill, Devin Bush and David Long have not announced their plans as of today, but could sit out to protect their draft stock, as they are all projected to go in the draft. Josh Metellus also has said he’d look into the NFL Draft process.
If they do sit out, along with Gary, it would be a significant blow to Michigan’s chances at winning the game against Florida, and the fact both Bush and Higdon are captains would sting some of the fan base. However, a significant amount of money, at least for projected first-round picks like Gary and Bush, is on the line, and it’s up to each individual to make the decision that is best for them.
Players sitting out opens the door for other players to step up, which leads us to the main focus of this story: which players we’re most excited to see in the game.
Running backs Chris Evans and Christian Turner
If Higdon sits out, expect to see plenty of Evans and Turner in the ground game. Tru Wilson will see a number of touches as well.
With Evans, the big question is whether or not he can be a bell cow. He’d be the clear No. 1 guy in this game and would have an opportunity to show his skills against a good SEC defense. Next season, Michigan will be without Higdon entirely, so seeing if Evans can fill his spot will be important.
Turner seems to be next on the depth chart after Evans and Wilson. With O’Maury Samuels no longer on the team, Turner should see the field more often. He could challenge for the lead role next season as well, so being able to see him in a non-blowout game would be nice.
Cornerback Brandon Watson
Watson got absolutely torched by Ohio State. There’s no other way to put it, he was Michigan’s weakest defensive player on the field and the Buckeyes exploited him. I’m putting him on this list because I want to see how he responds. Will he step up and finish his career on a high note? Or will Florida’s offense pick on him, too?
Watson, who typically is the team’s third corner, could be thrust into the No. 1 or No. 2 role if Hill and/or Long decide to sit out. Cornerback Ambry Thomas could see more playing time as well.
Defensive end Chase Winovich
Winovich has been the outspoken leader of this team all year, and as of now is planning to finish his career on the field against Florida. He will go down as a Michigan legend and be remembered for choosing to come back to school for his final season.
He won’t have Gary on the other end of the line, but that will give him another chance to show how good he is regardless of what other players on are the d-line. He’s projected to be drafted anywhere from late first-round to third-round in the NFL Draft.
Wide receiver Tarik Black
After suffering another foot injury at the beginning of the season, Black returned to play in the final five regular season games, but only had two receptions for 20 yards.
He’s played behind Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones, who have been terrific for the Wolverines, but it would be nice to see Black get a few more targets in the bowl game and even reach the end zone.
Against Florida last season, Black caught two passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. It was his first career game.
We’ll see if he can end his second campaign as strongly as he started his first.