Let me start out by saying that everyone on the Michigan roster has something to prove. Not necessarily something to prove to others, but to oneself.
With that said, from the outside looking in there are more glaring examples than others in terms of players who’d like to prove something. Here are some of of them. Be sure to drop your thoughts in the comments.
RB Chris Evans
Evans was suspended for the 2019 season due to academic issues but has since been re-instated. Michigan’s backfield will benefit from Evans’ versatility, and Evans will be trying to make his case for as much playing time as possible with RB’s Zach Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins now part of the equation.
Evans ability to catch passes will be a boost to Michigan’s offense as he tallied 34 receptions for 355 yards and 2 touchdowns in ‘17 and ‘18. His running abilities have been about the most electric of the Harbaugh era, averaging 5.7 yards per carry for 1,722 yards and 14 touchdowns throughout his Michigan career.
Having to sit out a season is something that no player wants to be a headline, and with a good season in 2020 hopefully people will forget about Evans off the field mistake. “It’s a good story. Stuck with it,” Jim Harbaugh said about Evans in January. “Can be destroyed but you can’t be defeated. Only if you quit. He did not do that. Optimistic and excited about that.”
QB’s Dylan McCaffrey/Joe Milton
We don’t know who the starting quarterback is for Michigan, and the competition hasn’t even gotten fully underway due to the pandemic. In training camp, which should start soon (fingers crossed), Milton and McCaffrey will be taking part in the most talked about quarterback competition for Michigan in years. Both players will be trying to show their leadership abilities as well as their on-field capabilities.
Both QB’s are going to show their teammates and the coaching staff everything they have to offer and why they should be the one leading the team this season. Some love McCaffrey’s speed, others value Milton’s arm strength more. Milton will be attempting to prove he’s more than just a QB with a strong arm, and McCaffrey will be trying to prove he has more to offer than his running prowess. One of them is going to prove more things than the other, and that person will be named the starting quarterback.
LB Cam McGrone
McGrone had one hell of a freshman season with 65 tackles (9 for loss), 2.5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. McGrone doesn’t have a ton to prove on the field, we’ve seen what he can do. However, with the departures of leaders on defense such as Josh Uche, Josh Metellus, and Khaleke Hudson to name a few, McGrone will have to step into a heightened leadership role.
Some believe that McGrone could be even better than former UM linebacker Devin Bush, and while that might not be something that McGrone concerns himself with, when outsiders draw those type of comparisons they want the athlete to prove their comp right.
McGrone has shown he has great football instincts and can fly sideline-to-sideline, but now it’s all about being able to do that for four quarters every game throughout a season.
DT Chris Hinton
With Michael Dwumfour transferring to Rutgers, there’s a hole that needs filling along the interior of Michigan’s d-line. Hinton had a breakout game of sorts vs. Ohio State with six tackles and received his first start at the Citrus Bowl vs. Alabama. Hinton will be looking to start from here on out in his Michigan career.
Defensive coordinator Don Brown noted that he’s excited about the former five-star prospect’s potential, and Cam McGrone noted that Hinton really stood out in the practices leading up to the Citrus Bowl stating Hintong “definitely showed what he’s capable of”. Hinton’s showed his peers what he’s capable of more than anyone else due to the lack of game snaps but the abundance of practices in which he’s shown his high ceiling. Hinton will be looking to prove he deserves to be starting next to DT Carlo Kemp, but Donovan Jeter, Mazi Smith and Jess Speight will be pushing Hinton for that spot.
WR Giles Jackson
Jackson did a little bit of everything for Michigan in 2019. He averaged 25.9-yards per return (24 attempts) with a 97-yard return touchdown, while rushing for 69 yards and a score along with 9 receptions for 142 yards and 1 TD. Impressive numbers for a player who wasn’t on the field much.
A year later a lot more will now be asked of Jackson, someone who’s likely to receive plenty of snaps at receiver. Jackson ran a few beautiful routes that showcased his route-running abilities and hard to match speed, but we have no idea how consistent Jackson is yet. Jackson will have to prove he’s a reliable target that won’t drop many balls, that once he’s in the open field he isn’t careless with the football. So far so good with everything we’ve seen for Jackson, but all we’ve seen is a glimpse, albeit a very impressive one.
There are high expectations for Jackson, and we’ll see if he meets them.
LB Josh Ross
Ross entered the 2019 as the starting MIKE linebacker, but an injury against Wisconsin derailed his season and time on the field. Ross played in just one more game, in turn preserving his redshirt. There’s a position switch for Ross this season, who will be moving to WILL linebacker with a chip on his shoulder.
Ross noted that last season was a difficult experience as he was planning to have his best season yet but had to watch his teammates from the sideline instead. A year removed from the heartache, Ross wants to turn heads this season. “I just want to go out there and show the world how good Josh Ross is,” Ross said. “And set the standard and show them how good our defense is and what we’re capable of, because I feel like we haven’t really reached our full potential in year’s past. We can do it this year, for sure.”