ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan finally will put its wares on display Saturday when it hosts its annual spring game.
Kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET Saturday at Michigan Stadium; practices have been closed to the public and to the media this spring.
Michigan’s coaches drafted the Maize and Blue teams last weekend, and Michigan will practice Tuesday before it heads to Italy for its final 3 practices April 27-29.
Here are 5 players to watch — technically, 4 players and 1 position group — for the spring game on Saturday.
Rashan Gary joined Michigan less than a year ago as the nation’s No. 1 recruit in 2016 and has met expectations. Playing in a position group that values cultivating depth, Gary excelled as a freshman. Gary had 27 tackles and showed his pass-rushing abilities; he had 7 quarterback hurries and 1 sack as a freshman. Now the key for Gary — who likely will start at defensive end as a sophomore — is to learn and maintain that consistency, and to emerge as a leader on a defensive line that lost 3 starters: Chris Wormley, Taco Charlton and Ryan Glasgow.
Michigan is grooming its young receivers this spring, and Donovan Peoples-Jones, a freshman from Detroit’s Cass Tech High School, has an immediate chance to contribute. Michigan lost its top 2 receivers — Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson, who combined for 1,362 yards and 9 touchdowns — to graduation and likely to the NFL. Peoples-Jones is a 5-star receiver and an early enrollee. He had 60 catches for 1,071 yards and 17 touchdowns in his senior season at Cass Tech.
Lavert Hill will be a sophomore and will compete for a starting spot in an extremely inexperienced secondary. Hill had 2 tackles, 1 pass breakup and 1 fumble return in 9 games in 2016. Michigan graduated all 4 of its starters — Jourdan Lewis, Channing Stribling, Delano Hill (Lavert’s older brother) and Dymonte Thomas. Of its returnees, only Lavert Hill, Tyree Kinnel and Josh Metellus have substantial in-game experience.
The quarterback is always the focal point of a team. Wilton Speight, a redshirt junior, threw for 2,538 yards and 18 touchdowns on 204-of-331 passing (with 7 interceptions) in his first season as a full-time starter. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters Monday that “Wilton is at the top of the depth chart that we do keep. He is the starting quarterback.” The competition, however, is who will be Speight’s backup. John O’Korn, Brandon Peters and Alex Malzone are in line for the No. 2 job. O’Korn and Speight will quarterback the Blue team, while Peters will quarterback the Maize team.
Michigan’s offensive line
Who will be the starting 5? It’s been the biggest question that has dogged the Wolverines since the start of spring practices. Michigan lost Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson and Ben Braden to graduation (and, possibly, to the NFL) and returns 2 starters: Mason Cole — who played at center last year but could switch positions — and Ben Bredeson, who started 8 games at left guard as a freshman. Yet even where they will play is a question. Nobody has specified where they have practiced on the offensive line this spring, other than to say players continue to rotate, which makes the unit even more intriguing.