ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan’s roster will look very different when it opens the 2017 season Sept. 2 against Florida in Arlington, Texas.
Michigan’s 33-32 loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl gave college football a final glimpse of Michigan’s outgoing players, a group that includes several NFL prospects.
But that same lineup also includes a few questions: Who will step in at running back, as Michigan will lose De’Veon Smith, its top rusher, to graduation? And how will the secondary rebound after losing a pair of cornerbacks who combined to defend 30 passes?
Here’s a look at what Michigan returns in 2017, and what it loses following its 10-3 season and Orange Bowl appearance in 2016.
QB — Wilton Speight, John O’Korn: Speight averaged nearly 212 passing yards a game and is the incumbent at the position.
RB — Chris Evans, Karan Higdon, Ty Isaac: Statistically, Evans appears to be the front-runner to be the starter for 2017, with 614 yards on 88 carries as a freshman.
FB — Khalid Hill: Hill will return for a final year of eligibility and gives the Wolverines strength and size in short-yardage situations.
WR — Eddie McDoom, Kekoa Crawford: McDoom quickly became a fan favorite, but he and Crawford will have to fill the shoes of two of Michigan’s top departing receivers.
TE — Ian Bunting: Like McDoom and Crawford, Bunting has to fill another big hole in Michigan’s offense, but he had three catches for 40 yards in Jake Butt’s absence in the Orange Bowl.
OL — Mason Cole, Ben Bredeson, Michael Onwenu: Cole, a center, is Michigan’s most experienced offensive lineman and can also play tackle. Bredeson started at guard as a freshman, and Onwenu will likely move from defense to offense.
DL — Maurice Hurst, Rashan Gary, Chase Winovich, Bryan Mone: Hurst chose to return to Michigan for a final season and will team with Mone to anchor a defensive line that has a balance of youth and experience.
LB — Mike McCray, Devin Bush Jr.: McCray had 76 tackles in 2016 and chose to return for a final season. Bush has the biggest upside of Michigan’s young linebackers.
CB — Brandon Watson: Watson will be part of a secondary that’s thin on experience; Michigan’s secondary will have to learn on the job in 2017.
S — Tyree Kinnel, Khaleke Hudson, Lavert Hill: All contributed on special teams and at safety, but they don’t have a lot of in-game experience.
K/P — Ryan Tice, Quinn Nordin: Tice had three kickoffs for 189 yards and was 0 for 1 on field goals and 7 for 7 on point-after kicks. Nordin dressed but did not play this season.
Key losses (among starters)
RB — De’Veon Smith: Smith led the Wolverines with 846 yards and provided a physical presence at running back.
WR — Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson: Darboh and Chesson combined for 1,362 yards and nine touchdowns and will leave the biggest holes on offense.
TE — Jake Butt: Butt leaves Michigan as a record-setting tight end (a school single-season tight end record of 1,646), but sustained an ACL tear in the Orange Bowl.
OL — Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson, Ben Braden: The fifth-year seniors fell back on their experience at Michigan and helped shore up an offensive line that gave up 22 sacks — a drop from their first year, when Michigan’s line allowed 36 sacks.
DL — Chris Wormley, Ryan Glasgow, Taco Charlton, Matt Godin: These four were the veterans of a deep and experienced defensive line.
LB — Ben Gedeon: Gedeon led Michigan with 108 tackles and teamed with McCray and Jabrill Peppers to solidify a linebacking unit that entered the season with question marks.
CB — Jourdan Lewis, Channing Stribling: Both are NFL prospects who combined to defend 30 passes, including six interceptions, and Stribling strengthened his professional prospects when Lewis missed the first three games with a back injury.
S — Delano Hill, Dymonte Thomas: Hill had three interceptions while Thomas was third on the team with nine pass breakups.
K/P — Kenny Allen: Allen took on all three responsibilities (field goals, kickoffs and punts) and was 19 for 23 on field goals and averaged 43.3 yards on punts and 64.2 yards on punts.
Linebacker Jabrill Peppers remains a wild card. The redshirt sophomore said after the Orange Bowl that he has not made a decision regarding the NFL and that he will likely wait until Jan. 16, the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft. He refuted a report on Tuesday that said he would sign with Creative Artists Agency and turn pro.
Michigan plans to apply for a fifth year of eligibility for cornerback Jeremy Clark (ACL) and for a sixth year of eligibility for running back Drake Johnson.