The Michigan Wolverines are just over a week away from opening the season against Middle Tennessee State and as heavy favorites, the likelihood that you see a ton of players on the night of Aug. 31 is quite high. For a lot of the under the radar guys, they can use the season opener as a springboard into breakout seasons, and that’s where we come in to gauge who some of those candidates could be.
The diehards and those who follow the program closer than most average fans will know all of these names, but for the uninitiated who knows not much more than proven star power on the team, here are five guys that could surprise you this season.
Christian Turner, running back
The theory is that Tru Wilson will get the starting nod at running back when the season opens and then at some point freshman sensation Zach Charbonnet could slide in. That line of thinking does not account for Turner, who flashed some ability in the bowl game last year and is certainly in the mix for a nice amount of reps at running back.
He’s far from a burner and not the biggest or most physical back, but his skill-set and what he can bring to the table reminds me a lot of Karan Higdon. He is a patient runner that may not have top end speed, but can bounce runs to the outside and also put his shoulder down when he has to. This rushing attack should be a “by committee” dynamic and do not be surprised if at some point his role expands more than you may expect.
Mike Sainristil, wide receiver
Ok, so maybe a lot of people have been talking about Sainristil, but he still seems to get lost in the conversation when Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins and Tarik Black enter the picture. We have seen players have awesome springs and flame out all the time at Michigan, but the true freshman has followed it up with an impressive fall camp and likely is the leader in the clubhouse to be the team’s slot receiver. They feel they are six-deep at wideout and guys should be rotating in, but he will absolutely be a factor this year and someone more people should be paying attention to.
Mustapha Muhammad, tight end
Sean McKeon, Nick Eubanks and true freshman Erick All to an extent are usually the most popular names at tight end. Despite the new offense, do not expect the Wolverines to leave their tight ends out of the equation and they may wind up using them even more than they have. Muhammad might be the most balanced of the tight ends on the roster in terms of the skill-set he brings to the table and it would not surprise me at all to see him at some point make a few big grabs to extend some drives or convert them into touchdowns.
Donovan Jeter, defensive tackle
Jeter in spring told the media that he felt like he was turning the corner and ready to make a big impact for the Wolverines. Now, he is set to likely start next to Carlo Kemp on the interior of the defensive line when Michigan opens its season on Aug. 31. There are a lot of questions about the defense, but emergence of someone like Jeter has quelled most of the concerns about the defensive line, which looks like it could rotate nine or ten players again this season.
Tie - Cam McGrone and Jordan Anthony, linebackers
Michigan has to replace the speed and athleticism that Devin Bush leaves behind at linebacker and the great news for the Wolverines is that they have been recruiting that at the position all along. Of the two players, McGrone feels like he checks off most of the boxes and now is waiting for a chance to get on the field, while Anthony is someone that already figures to work into the linebacker rotation. These two guys are too athletic to keep off the field, but it is now just a matter of how much they can get on the field.
Who are some of your under the radar Wolverines heading into the year? Take the conversation to the comments below.