There are many uncertainties surrounding college football right now. The 2020 season is still in jeopardy, and even if a season does occur it might do so with empty stadiums or a limited 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.
Taylor Upshaw, RS SO
247 Composite Ranking: 3 stars (SDE 25, Overall 561)
2019 Stats: 2 tackles
Two of the strongest players across the entire Michigan defense line up on the ends, but behind Aidan Hutchinson and Kwity Paye are a handful of question marks. The recent success of edge rushers has been a huge positive for the Wolverines under Don Brown, but the next generation has yet to be called into action or prove themselves worthy of playing more.
That might all change in 2020. Hutchinson and Paye are great talents, but they cannot play every snap, giving their backups a chance to finally make an impact. One such player is Taylor Upshaw, a redshirt sophomore who made four appearances at defensive end last season. He is very raw but could turn into a solid contributor as soon as next year.
Will Upshaw be able to fill in the backup anchor position?
Upshaw is ostensibly a fit at anchor, although this could be due mostly to the lack of other options across the roster. Obviously no one is even close to the quality of Hutchinson, but someone needs to be able to back him up. The most talented reserve option could be Luiji Vilain, but he probably fits best on the other side of the line, leaving Upshaw as the de facto second choice at anchor.
As a strongside defensive end, Upshaw has the size and the strength to fight through opposing blockers. He can still put on some weight, but his raw power should work well in the run game, and he seems to have the athleticism to set the edge. His in-game experience has been limited thus far, and he is unlikely to rack up a ton of snaps this fall, but he should be at least able to hold his own when called upon.
Upshaw has the speed needed to get after the quarterback. The anchor role is not a pure pass rusher, but this would be an easy way for him to provide some clear value. He was always a bit of a gamble as a prospect, a high-intensity player that has a lot of raw potential but no guarantee to turn into a finished product. How he plays this year could dictate his usage once the position opens up next year and beyond.
Michigan will have to hope that the starters at the edge stay healthy with no certainties behind them. Upshaw is not a bad lottery ticket as a backup and is someone that could sneakily make some plays in the opposing backfield. He has just not seen the field that much, though, and it is impossible to know how ready he really is to contribute. He looks like a clear part of the defensive end rotation, so his readiness (or lack thereof) could be apparent quickly.