ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The newcomers certainly made their mark for the Michigan football team.
On a team loaded with All-Americans, NFL prospects and sheer talent and depth, Michigan’s freshman found ways to make contributions. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is a believer in player development, which means giving talented freshmen an opportunity to display their wares.
Michigan played 22 freshman (19 scholarship players and 3 walk-ons), including a handful who made an immediate impact and who have high ceilings for the future.
Here are five standout freshmen from this season for the Wolverines:
The nation’s No. 1 recruit in 2016, Gary wasted no time making his mark on the Wolverines defense, helping its depth with his ability to adapt and contribute quickly.
In 12 games — and only a few months removed from high school — Gary had 27 tackles, including five tackles for a loss of 17 yards, one sack and six quarterback hurries.
The fans at Michigan Stadium like saying his name. For each of his 20 touches came the echoes of “McDOOOOM!” from the Michigan fan base. They also like the way McDoom plays; he has size (6-foot, 180 pounds) and speed, and can run and catch the ball. He finished with 15 carries for 154 yards and five catches for 59 yards.
McDoom also has confidence for a youngster — earlier this season, speaking of if he had a foot race against teammate Jabrill Peppers, McDoom said, “Jabrill is fast. But I feel like I can take him.”
It’s difficult to miss Evans if you see him on campus — he has a high-top fade reminiscent of Christopher Reid, AKA “Kid” from Kid ‘N’ Play and glasses that resemble Harbaugh’s.
It was difficult to miss Evans in Michigan’s season opener, too, as he rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries vs. Hawaii. He became one of four go-to running backs for the Wolverines — and Michigan’s second-leading rusher this season, behind De’Veon Smith.
Onwenu is a versatile lineman with a love for grapes.
— Michael Onwenu (@_MXKEY) October 9, 2016
His size (6-foot-3, 375 pounds) belies his athleticism and his agility, and he played on both sides of the ball for Michigan in a 63-3 win Sept. 3 against Hawaii, and played both at offensive guard and at nose tackle Oct. 8 in a 78-0 win at Rutgers.
Harbaugh said last month that Onwenu’s future spot is likely on Michigan’s offensive line, as it will lose Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden to graduation. But his versatility helps his cause.
Poised to take a starting spot even in fall camp, the 6-foot-5, 310-pound Bredeson immediately stepped in on an already experienced offensive line and earned six starts at left guard, plus played on special teams for Michigan.
“He has come a long way,” Michigan offensive coordinator Tim Drevno said earlier this season. “He understands what we want to do and how we’re going to do it. He processes things quickly on his feet. He’s played a lot of reps in there. The maturity level, the confidence in his eyes. … He’s really made a great transition.”