The hype train for Michigan football is always traveling at full speed when young up-and-comers show their skills for the first time during spring practice. True freshmen like running back Donovan Edwards and quarterback J.J. McCarthy turned heads this spring and were talked about often, especially when McCarthy connected with freshman receiver Cristian Dixon on a deep ball pass. The video has since been deleted from Twitter, but the hype was so real it had national media members discussing it.
McCarthy very well could be a great quarterback, but he isn’t even projected to start this upcoming season. That job is very much secured by Cade McNamara. Edwards could be a star in the making, but there are at least two guys ahead of him on the depth chart.
Let’s cool the hype on these two and shift the attention to five players who should have a bit more of the spotlight heading into the 2021 season.
Hassan Haskins, senior RB
Let’s be real — Haskins never gets the hype he deserves, but maybe it’s better suited that way because he always shows up when he’s needed most. He lead the team in rushing in 2020 with 375 yards and six touchdowns. The attention this offseason has been mainly on Edwards and sophomore Blake Corum, but Haskins is RB1 and will be the go-to guy in the backfield once again for the Maize and Blue.
A.J. Henning, sophomore WR
A near top 100 prospect, Henning was one of the stars of Michigan’s 2020 class. He has the speed and versatility you look for in a wide receiver, especially one who isn’t the tallest, and he showcased that in the season finale last year against Penn State. I don’t know what was going on for Henning to not receive a ton of snaps as a true freshman — he only had six receptions for 59 yards — but he should be in line for a lot more this fall.
Donovan Jeter, redshirt senior DT
Chris Hinton and Mazi Smith haven’t taken a huge leap yet, so let’s throw Jeter in on the list of players who deserve more hype, because it seems like I only hear about Hinton and Smith when it comes to the defensive tackle position. Jeter only had 11 tackles in 2020, but he played well throughout, also returning a fumble for a touchdown in the opener against Minnesota. I think he can follow up his 2020 performance with something better in his final season at Michigan.
Trevor Keegan, redshirt sophomore LG
Keegan was the sixth and final addition to Michigan’s offensive line class of 2019. After a redshirt season as a true freshman, he saw significant snaps at left guard toward the end of the 2020 season, and he performed very well. All the hype this offseason along the offensive line has been centered around Zak Zinter, and rightfully so because he played stellar as a true freshman, but I like where Keegan is headed and am excited to see more from him.
Taylor Upshaw, redshirt junior DL/LB
At 6-foot-4 and 256 pounds, it’s yet to be seen where Upshaw will exactly play in Mike Macdonald’s defense, but he showed me enough last season to warrant his addition to this list. He compiled 17 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, two quarterback hurries and one forced fumble in six games in 2020. Wherever he plays in 2021, whether it be at an outside linebacker spot or along the edge, Upshaw should be able to contribute in a positive way on defense.