ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Expect the Michigan football team to have a few breakout players in 2017. Not just because those players are in situations where they’re designed and trained to perform, but because they have to produce.
Michigan lost a lot of talent last season — 18 starters, in fact. The Wolverines have to replace entire position groups, namely their secondary, and their starting wide receivers and starting tight end.
Michigan has a talented freshman class that includes 11 players who enrolled in January and took part in spring practices, but many of Michigan’s returning players need to gain game experience.
Here are three returning Michigan players Land of 10 anticipates will have breakout years in 2017:
“Viper” and “Jabrill Peppers” will always go hand in hand when discussing Michigan’s defense, but defensive coordinator Don Brown began planning for the future without Peppers prior to Christmas. His plans included Glasgow and Khaleke Hudson handling the responsibilities of the viper, a pass-rushing linebacker.
Glasgow is a 6-foot-1, 210-pound walk-on who registered 12 tackles and 1 fumble recovery last season when he played primarily on special teams and had spot duty at safety. However, Glasgow highlighted Michigan’s spring game on April 15 with a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown, a pair of tackles and a pass breakup.
Glasgow is the younger brother of former Wolverines Ryan and Graham Glasgow — both former walk-on players who are now in the NFL.
Kinnel will be expected to take the leadership reins of a secondary that lost all four of its starters to graduation and to the NFL, including All-America cornerback Jourdan Lewis and starting safeties Delano Hill and Dymonte Thomas.
Kinnel’s experience will be key in a secondary that has four freshmen early enrollees: cornerbacks Ambry Thomas and Benjamin St-Juste and safeties Jaylen Kelly-Powell and J’Marick Woods.
The 5-foot-11, 206-pound Kinnel played safety and on special teams in 13 games in 2016 and had 17 tackles and 1 forced fumble. Kinnel had 7 tackles in Michigan’s spring game.
Wide receiver, sophomore
Crawford is a 6-2, 200-pound wide receiver who will be in play for one of the openings at the position — Michigan lost Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson and tight end Jake Butt (who combined for 1,908 yards and 13 touchdowns) to graduation and to the NFL.
Offensive production will be vital at wide receiver, which means that Michigan will count on young receivers such as Crawford, Eddie McDoom and incoming freshman Donovan Peoples-Jones, a 5-star receiver from Detroit’s Cass Tech High School.
In 2016, Crawford had 4 catches for 47 yards and a touchdown, and 3 carries for 15 yards, but what set him apart as a freshman was that he immediately found a niche as a blocking receiver — a skill that’s generally undervalued but vital in developing as a wide receiver.