There are many uncertainties surrounding college football right now. The 2020 season is still in jeopardy, and even if a season does occur it will do so likely in empty stadiums with a conference-only schedule. Still, it is never too early to take a look at the Michigan depth chart and the players slated to contribute whenever football does resume. Join us as we comb through the roster and answer key questions heading into this fall.
Joey Velazquez, redshirt FR
247 Composite Ranking: 3 stars (S 88, Overall 1039)
2019 Stats: 1 game played
There have not been many two-sport athletes on the Michigan football roster in recent years, but Joey Velazquez is a legitimate prospect. The redshirt freshman did not really see the gridiron in 2019, though, and his first baseball season was quickly ended thanks to the coronavirus (which is a bummer, as he started out 4-for-11 and made a couple starts), so he remains very raw heading into this fall.
Any time a player is super athletic, coaches are going to point to the Viper position, and that is what happened with Velazquez. Recruiting services did not give him a ton of attention because of his desire to play baseball, so his ranking is not that representative of his talent. However, it remains unknown how ready and capable he will be at the start of the 2020 season.
Can Velazquez make a case to see some reps at Viper this fall?
Velazquez lacks the experience, but does seem like a great fit for the Viper role. He played as an inside linebacker in high school, and he excels at blitzing and attacking the line of scrimmage. He is not the biggest player but hits hard and tackles well, which translates to Michigan’s Viper spot. Don Brown loves to move guys around and rush the passer from all over, and even in a rotational role Velazquez could make some noise in these situations.
The biggest concern is probably regarding his coverage skills, which are a Viper responsibility. This is probably what limits Velazquez’s playing time this fall, as he will often be tasked with matching up with tight ends and covering the flat, an area which is not his strong suit. As an outfielder, he should be mobile enough to do so, but it probably will take some reps to get him ready for higher competition.
Both Michael Barrett and Anthony Solomon look more prepared for a starting role, but that still leaves snaps for Velazquez if he can prove himself ready. His athleticism is clear as a multi-sport player, and his hustle and attitude imply that he is willing to put the effort forward to grow. It will just come down to technique and development in a non-traditional defensive role, and how quickly he can pick things up will determine when he can play.
Michigan does not have a ton of bodies at the outside linebacker positions, and while Velazquez is not a candidate for the Sam role, he could benefit from the shallow depth chart at both spots. Pure athletes can often find themselves on the field even if they are not completely polished, and while he is far from starter-level, he should be able to make a contribution in 2020. His recruitment was a shot in the dark, but Velazquez looks like a player that could have a real role on this defense.