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28Jul 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #31 Brandon Watson

Brandon Watson (#28, image via Newsday)

Name: Brandon Watson
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 200 lbs.
High school: Wilmington (DE) Eastern Christian Academy
Position: Cornerback
Class: Fifth year senior
Jersey number: #28
Last year: I ranked Watson #35 and said he would be a backup cornerback (LINK). He made 21 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and 5 pass breakups.
TTB Rating: N/A

Watson had a pretty solid season in 2017 and showed what an additional year of development can do for a defensive back who’s not a top-notch athlete. Watson was a liability in 2016 and was always a step or two slow. He played a lot in the slot, and that hurt him a little bit because he couldn’t be physical with wide receivers. It’s a little tougher to be a physical cover guy in the slot, because receivers have a two-way go, and they often start off behind the line of scrimmage. Last year Watson played a little more on the outside, and I thought he did a better job of recognizing routes. Maybe he watched more film or improved his formation recognition or just got more technically sound, but he became a solid corner. He doesn’t have the speed or playmaking ability of Lavert Hill or David Long, but he’s a solid player at this point.

Watson returns as a fifth year senior, even though he has virtually no hope of starting. He’s one of several fifth year guys who could probably go to a lot of other schools and start. He should get a lot of snaps on defense, and he’s also heavily utilized on special teams. Michigan has a large number of defensive backs, but Watson and fellow backup Ambry Thomas should both be key members of that defensive backfield. College football teams love to throw the football all over the field, and Michigan has at least four decent corners. In fact, this cornerback group from #1 through #4 might be the most talented group altogether that Michigan has had in the last 25 years or so. Watson’s not a game-changer in the commonly accepted use of the term, but he gives Michigan a starter-quality option in case Hill or Long gets injured along the way.

Prediction: Backup cornerback

27Jul 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #32 Brandon Peters

Brandon Peters (image via Sporting News)

Name: Brandon Peters
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 220 lbs.
High school: Avon (IN) Avon
Position: Quarterback
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #18
Last year: I ranked Peters #21 and said he would be a backup quarterback (LINK). He started four games and completed 57/108 passes (52.8%) for 672 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions.
TTB Rating: 90

My oh my, how crazy 2017 seems in retrospect. Looking back at the 2017 countdown, it’s odd to think how the quarterback situation seemed to be in such good hands. I never loved Wilton Speight, but he had a solid year of starting experience under his belt, backup John O’Korn had played well in spot duty, and Peters was the young up-and-comer who looked pretty good in the spring game.

Then all hell broke loose.

Speight got hurt, and O’Korn backslid after an amazing performance against Purdue. Peters managed the games well when he entered against Rutgers and then started against Minnesota and Maryland. In fact, he completed 66.7% of his passes in those first two games, and in his first five games of the year, he threw 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Michigan relied on its defense and run game to win all but the Wisconsin game, in which Peters got knocked out (literally). He missed Ohio State week, and he looked shell-shocked against South Carolina in the bowl game, throwing 2 interceptions.

Now Speight is gone to UCLA, O’Korn is probably campaigning to be the top QB taken in the 2019 NFL Draft, and in their place is . . . Shea Patterson, a transfer from Ole Miss.

This spring there were rumors that Dylan McCaffrey had passed Brandon Peters in the pecking order at quarterback, but reports said Peters overtook McCaffrey again by the end of spring. That seems to me to be the right position for those guys at the moment, but Peters obviously doesn’t have a stranglehold on that #2 spot. Everyone expects Patterson to start, and Michigan fans hope he stays healthy. Peters should at least be able to be a game manager again, and hopefully he can be better if he needs to be. I have concerns that he will revert to looking shaken like he did against South Carolina, but I think some people forget that Peters was only a redshirt freshman in 2017. In ye olden days, he either wouldn’t have been on the field, or people would have expected trouble because he was so young. Now we want kids to grow up immediately when they hit a college campus. Hopefully Peters continues to grow and mature on the trajectory we used to expect from quarterbacks in the 1990s.

Prediction: Backup quarterback

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