Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, May 6, 2016
Jim Harbaugh?s debut was a smashing success. He inherited a 5-7 team from Brady Hoke and turned it into a 10-3 squad that punctuated the season with a domination of Florida in the Citrus Bowl. The losses all were quality losses as the Wolverines barely fell at Utah in the opener, lost to Michigan State after one of the craziest endings ever, and then lost to a suprior Ohio State team ) and vs. an Ohio State club that no doubt is the better program ? for now.
But this remains a work in progress.
Here is Michigan?s to-do list:
1. Find a QB: It looks like Wilton Speight-yes, Wilton Speight-has emerged as the leader in the derby to replace Jake Rudock in Ann Arbor, easing ahead of John O?Korn and Shane Morris. But this race is far from over, as Jim Harbaugh loves competition. O?Korn is the more talented of the duo, as the Houston transfer has a big arm and athletic ability. Speight is more of a game manager, a la Rudock.
2. Hone the offensive line. This unit has been a work in progress for years. But it looks like it?s taking shape and ready to become an asset-and it needs to be an asset. The unit lost just one starter in center Graham Glasgow. Mason Cole has moved from left tackle to snap, filling the biggest question up front. He?s good. Left guard Ben Braden, right guard Kyle Kalis and right tackle Erik Magnuson are veterans who know the ropes. Keep an eye on sophomore Grant Newsome, a left tackle who could be special. Is he really ready for this key spot?
3. Shore up the LB corps. Some big holes to fill with Joe Bolden, James Ross and Desmond Morgan gone. To help, Jabrill Peppers has moved from safety to SAM backer. And, he has taken to his new spot. Look for senior Ben Gedeon to start in the middle. He?s the only vet with appreciable experience. Mike McCray is healthy and playing well on the weak side and was a spring surprise. Depth is unproven. Noah Furbush works at SAM. True freshman early enrollee Devin Bush, Jr., could impact. He?s a primo athletic upgrade over his predecessors; he just needs to get up to speed quickly. Sophomore Reuben Jones, junior Chance Winovich, a former tight end, and junior Jared Wangler are other options.
4. The defense needs to fine tune up front and in back. The line could be the best in the nation led by end Chris Wormley, nose Bryan Mone, tackle Maurice Hurst and end Taco Charlton, able to go eight deep with the top six being outstanding. And just wait until Rashan Gary, the No. 1 recruit in the nation, shows up. This will be a monster front. There is experience at safety with Dymonte Thomas (SS) and Delano Hill (FS). Corner Jourdan Lewis is an All-American. Channing Stribling joins Lewis to form a top corner duo. Bottom line: This will be a good defense, one of the best in the nation under new coordinator Don Brown.
5. The running backs need to excel. This is vital as a new QB is being worked in. De?Veon Smith is the starter, a tough blue-collar runner. The light came on for Ty Isaac in the spring. He was a high-profile transfer from USC, arriving before the 2014 season with a fat scrapbook. But Isaac didn?t impress in 2015 after sitting out. But the junior has lost weight and looked good in the spring. Drake Johnson is a veteran hand who needs to stay healthy. Keep an eye on freshmen Kareem Walker and Kingston Davis. This area was a question last year. No more. Time to excel.
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