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Michigan football’s most underrated players by position group

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We should be talking more about these guys.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 23 Michigan at Indiana Getty Images

You already know the big names. Cade McNamara, Aidan Hutchinson, Hassan Haskins, and Josh Ross are the already established big names at the University of Michigan.

This list is about the other guys. The underrated players you could be familiar with, some you may have forgotten about, and the ones that you didn’t know existed.

Several Michigan favorites began as underrated players waiting in the wings. Hell, every member of the Glasgow family was underrated and all three are now in the NFL.

Some of these players could blossom into stars, while others will merely serve as valuable rotational contributors.

Either way, these are the most underrated Michigan Wolverines by position group in 2021.

Quarterback - Dan Villari

Can one be underrated at the most prestigious position in American sports? While Cade McNamara is the presumptive QB1, Alan Bowman is the established veteran backup, and J.J. McCarthy is the future, where does that leave Dan Villari?

According to head coach Jim Harbaugh, Villari is going to be used in a Taysom Hill type of role this season.

Listed at 6’4, 235 pounds, Villari is a unit. Expect him to appear in goal-line packages, relieving Hassan Haskins of wildcat duty. Moreover, Villari could be used in similar packages as Shane Morris was in 2016.

There will not be a fourth-string quarterback in the country that will be used as much as Villari.

Running Back: Tavierre Dunlap

While Donovan Edwards was the marquee freshman running back to join the Wolverines this season, he was not the only one. Tavierre Dunlap is a true freshman out of Texas that began turning heads in the spring.

While not as highly touted as Edwards, as a senior last year in Texas, Dunlap averaged 10.3 yards per carry. On top of that, Dunlap has put on 26 pounds (currently: 6’0, 196 pounds) since joining the Wolverines as an early enrollee.

The running back room is overflowing with talent, so expect Dunlap to have a significant impact on special teams as a true freshman.

Wide Receiver: Daylen Baldwin

Senior Daylen Baldwin, who has already played two years at Morgan State and two years at Jackson State, is firmly in the mix as a high-quality fourth receiver or a solid second-team X-receiver behind Ronnie Bell.

While most are not familiar with Baldwin, he raises the floor of the wide receiving room and offers an experienced presence. The battle between him and Roman Wilson is one to watch in training camp.

Josh Gattis did not acquire Baldwin for no reason and Daylen Baldwin did not come to Michigan to sit out.

Tight End: Joel Honigford

Always searching for his role, Joel Honigford was an offensive tackle (and kicker) in high school, an offensive guard during his first few years at Michigan, and now it appears he has found a permanent home at tight end.

Down a whopping 48 pounds this year, Honigford is listed at 6’6, 257 pounds, and while 2020 saw him in limited action at tight end, 2021 promises to feature him more prominently.

With his blocking prowess, Honigford will make a great counterpart to Erick All (especially in short-yardage situations) at one of Michigan’s shallowest position groups.

Offensive Line: Ryan Hayes

Has a starting left tackle at Michigan ever been talked about less than senior Ryan Hayes? The former tight end is written in permanent ink to start in the left tackle position, but not much is being made about his talent and potential.

In 2019 due to injuries, Hayes was thrust into a starting role for Jon Runyan Jr. against Middle Tennessee State and Army. Against Wisconsin in the same season, Hayes played left and right tackle out of necessity. His potential flashed and the hype train was full steam ahead for 2020.

Unfortunately, Hayes suffered a foot injury against Michigan State and his season was over. While Zak Zinter is deserving of the praise he has received in the preseason, Michigan's offensive success will be heavily reliant upon Ryan Hayes’s health.

Defensive Line: Jess Speight

New defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald likes to run a 3-4 scheme, with beef on the line of scrimmage and versatility in the linebacking corps. With a need for more size, Jess Speight has answered that call.

With a 20-pound weight gain, Speight is now measured at the same size as presumptive starter Chris Hinton (6’5, 310 pounds). Speight is an experienced player and this size will now make him literally more to deal with in the trenches.

Most importantly, Speight adds depth and will more than likely be the first reserve to enter the game for either the aforementioned Hinton, Mazi Smith, or Donovan Jeter, along the line.

Linebacker: Jaylen Harrell

While the secondary got most of the heat in 2020, do me a favor: go back and watch highlights with your sole focus on the linebackers. Woof.

This unit has been completely overhauled and expects Jaylen Harrell to be a benefactor of these changes. The 6’4, 242-pound sophomore was seemingly built in a lab to play the outside rusher in a Mike Macdonald scheme.

Harrell will not be a starter playing behind Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, but he could be that shot out of a cannon pass rusher, a la Josh Uche, in situational downs.

Defensive Back : Vincent Gray

Pick your jaw up off the floor.

Vincent Gray’s career has gone through more ups and downs than M. Night Shyamalan’s and the negativity has gotten a bit out of hand.

Gray was not good in 2020 and that is an irrefutable fact. He is not a good number one corner when tasked with strict man-to-man defense, limited safety help, and no pass rush. Very few are.

Gray is currently battling with D.J. Turner for the second starting corner spot (Gemon Green has the other on lock), but regardless, Gray is a top-three corner on this team and will play extensively this season.

In 2019, he proved more than serviceable as a number three despite being 6’2 and covering most slot receiving options. With a revamped defense and a pass rush with a pulse, expect Vincent Gray to bounce back in 2021.