ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan has locked up its 2018 incoming freshman class, which means that we can begin to speculate who will fit at what position as the Wolverines prepare for spring practices.
There will be a few new additions to the roster, including a big-name quarterback and a few high-profile recruits.
Yet on offense, it is difficult to project where, exactly, Michigan’s recruits can crack the lineup. The Wolverines return so many players, especially at wide receiver and at quarterback. Michigan also typically redshirts its freshman offensive linemen, unless they possess a certain talent or skill level, or are physically and psychologically ready to play in college.
Here is a projection of Michigan’s 2018 offense entering spring practice and which newcomers could make an impact on the depth chart:
Who returns: Brandon Peters, who threw for 672 yards and 4 touchdowns in six games (including four starts), will be a redshirt sophomore, while Dylan McCaffrey will be a redshirt freshman.
Who left: Wilton Speight is pursuing a graduate transfer after four years in the program. Alex Malzone transferred to Miami (Ohio). John O’Korn exhausted his eligibility.
Newcomers: Shea Patterson joins Michigan as a transfer from Ole Miss. Four-star Joe Milton enrolled in classes in January.
Depth chart projection: Patterson, who transferred to Michigan for the spring semester, remains the clubhouse leader to win the starting job, ahead of returnees Peters and McCaffrey. However, Patterson’s playing hinges upon the NCAA deeming him eligible. Don’t expect Milton to immediately play; Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has historically redshirted freshman quarterbacks.
|First team||Shea Patterson*|
|Second team||Brandon Peters|
|Third team||Dylan McCaffrey|
*Patterson’s 2018 eligibility has yet to be determined.
Who returns: Karan Higdon returns as Michigan’s leading rusher in 2017 (994 yards, 11 touchdowns). Chris Evans (685 yards, 6 touchdowns) also returns, and they head up a deep running back group that includes Kareem Walker, O’Maury Samuels and Kurt Taylor.
Who left: Michigan’s only loss at running back is Ty Isaac, who exhausted his eligibility.
Newcomers: Michigan signed two running backs in its 2018 class, Hassan Haskins and Christian Turner.
Depth chart projection: Higdon and Evans are the clear leaders in the position group and in position to build upon their 2017 production. Michigan almost has too many running backs, which bodes well for the long-term health of the position.
|First team||Karan Higdon|
|Second team||Chris Evans|
|Third team||Kareem Walker|
Who returns: Ben Mason, a sophomore, is Michigan’s top returning fullback.
Who left: Outside of quarterback, this is where Michigan loses the most on offense, with the graduation of Henry Poggi and Khalid Hill.
Newcomers: Ben VanSumeren, a 2018 signee, played at tight end in high school but at 6-foot-3, has size, speed, sure hands and power that can translate to fullback. VanSumeren also can help his own long-term versatility by learning fullback responsibilities.
Depth chart projection: This is where VanSumeren can crack the lineup and can provide reinforcement to Mason in a position that is unique to Michigan’s offensive scheme.
|First team||Ben Mason|
|Second team||Ben VanSumeren*|
*VanSumeren is a freshman.
Who returns: Donovan Peoples-Jones, Kekoa Crawford and Grant Perry return, as does Tarik Black, who missed all but four games in 2017 with a broken left foot.
Who left: Maurice Ways and Drake Harris are each pursuing a graduate transfer.
Newcomers: Ronnie Bell is Michigan’s only wide receiver to its incoming 2018 freshman class.
Depth chart projection: This is where Michigan hopes to see the fruits of its experience in 2017. Michigan’s freshman and sophomore wide receivers got ample playing time last season but took their collective lumps. Michigan’s receivers need to build on their uncharacteristically low total of 2,226 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2017.
|Wide receiver||Tarik Black||Nico Collins|
|Wide receiver||Grant Perry||Eddie McDoom|
|Wide receiver||Donovan People-Jones||Oliver Martin|
Who returns: Sean McKeon and Zach Gentry have a stronghold on the positions.
Who left: Ian Bunting will pursue a graduate transfer.
Newcomers: 4-star recruit Mustapha Muhammad is the No. 6 tight end in the Class of 2018.
Depth chart projection: McKeon and Gentry have a stronghold on the position, which became vital in the Wolverines’ passing game when the young receivers struggled to produce. Behind McKeon and Gentry are Nick Eubanks and Tyrone Wheatley Jr., and that should allow Muhammad to ease into Michigan’s system as a freshman.
|Tight end||Sean McKeon||Tyrone Wheatley Jr.|
|Tight end||Zach Gentry||Nick Eubanks|
Who returns: Michigan returns three of its five starters from the 2017 offensive line: left guard Ben Bredeson, right guard Michael Onwenu and right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty.
Who left: Left tackle/center Mason Cole and center Patrick Kugler exhausted their eligibility.
Newcomers: Michigan signed two offensive linemen to its incoming freshman class, tackles Jalen Mayfield and Ryan Hayes.
Depth chart projection: Michigan lost 5-star recruit Nicholas Petit-Frere to Ohio State. Michigan now has to fill a big hole at left tackle. The position remains a question mark for two reasons: first, Grant Newsome’s return depends upon his health. If healthy after sustaining a severe right leg injury in October 2016, he is the leader to start at left tackle. He told reporters last week that while he feels good enough to resume playing, doctors will have the final say regarding his return to football. Michigan, meanwhile, also focuses on landing Calvin Anderson, a tackle from Rice who is pursuing a graduate transfer. Anderson has set a deadline of March 25 to make a decision on his graduate transfer, according to Al.com.
|First team||Second team|
|Left tackle||Grant Newsome*||Chuck Filiaga|
|Left guard||Ben Bredeson||Andrew Vastardis|
|Center||Cesar Ruiz||Stephen Spanellis|
|Right guard||Michael Onwenu||Jon Runyan Jr.|
|Right tackle||Juwann Bushell-Beatty||Nolan Ulizio|
*Newsome missed the 2017 season with a right leg injury.