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Three Michigan players to watch against Rutgers

These Michigan players will have a big role in Saturday’s game.

Michigan State v Michigan Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines will try to refocus after the incident following the Michigan State game last week and keep their undefeated record intact on the road against Rutgers this week. Under Greg Schiano, Rutgers has grown from being a laughingstock to being respectable on at least one side of the ball.

Here are the Wolverines to watch this weekend.

LT Ryan Hayes

Rutgers has a solid defense that is especially stingy through the air. With Jim Harbaugh already inclined to ground and pound with the run game, expect more carries than pass attempts again this game. That will give Hayes plenty of opportunities to create holes for guys like Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards. He’ll match up with edge Avery Young, who is leading Rutgers in tackles for loss.

When Michigan does drop back, Hayes will face a good, not great pass rush that likes to mix things up with their front seven. Hayes will have to keep his head on a swivel to keep J.J. McCarthy clean. Another edge, Wesley Bailey, is the team leader in sacks with 3.5.

DT Kris Jenkins

Although Mazi Smith gets a lot of the attention, Jenkins is quietly having just as impactful a season. With Rutgers announcing dual-threat quarterback Gavin Wimsatt will be the starter against Michigan, it makes Jenkins’ role even more important. Getting push from the interior of the line to pressure Wimsatt and keep scramble lanes closed will be important to bottle him up and prevent any long improvisational plays.

The Scarlet Knights also likes to run the ball heavily, but it’s more out of necessity since they can’t pass the ball when they try. The running game isn’t that explosive and Jenkins will be involved greatly by stuffing gaps along the line of scrimmage.

TE Luke Schoonmaker

Stepping into the void left by Erick All, Schoonmaker has taken on the No. 1 role well. He is essential to Michigan’s rush attack as it use tight ends in a variety of ways to create extra gaps for the defense to account for and cause misdirection.

Schoonmaker has also been an easy target for McCarthy to throw to, with at least four catches in four of the last five games. With a pass defense that is 21st in the country in yards allowed, he can help create mismatches and help McCarthy avoid Rutgers’ ball-hawking defensive backs.