2018 Season Countdown: #73 Reuben Jones

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6Jul 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #73 Reuben Jones

Reuben Jones (image via Twitter)

Name: Reuben Jones
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 245 lbs.
High school: Lakeland (FL) Lake Gibson
Position: Defensive end
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #4
Last year: I ranked Jones #57 and said he would be a backup defensive end (LINK). He played in five games.

Jones earned the chance to play in five games last season, and he put up no statistics. That came a year after playing in five games and making two tackles. He has bounced back and forth a little bit between defensive end and inside linebacker, though he appears to be purely a defensive end at this point. So far he has been on campus for three years, and he has two tackles to show for it. A spike in playing time and effectiveness should not be expected at this juncture. He’s a good team guy, and I’ve heard talk that he might make a good coach some day, but I would be surprised to see him become a major player on the field this year.

Prediction: Backup defensive end

6Jul 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #74 Mustapha Muhammad

Mustapha Muhammad (image via Land of 10)

Name: Mustapha Muhammad
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 244 lbs.
High school: Missouri City (TX) Ridge Point
Position: Tight end
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: N/A
Last year: Muhammad was a senior in high school. He made 20 catches for 294 yards and 3 touchdowns.

On the plus side for Muhammad, Ridge Point ran a bunch of zone blocking, and he proved to be very effective at blocking the combos with his tackles. He stays low, gets good position, and moves his feet. He also seems to enjoy blocking. Muhammad is decently athletic and can high-point the ball, even though he’s not the most explosive tight end around. If his measurements are correct, he’s somewhat college-ready at 6’4″ and 244 lbs. That’s the good stuff.

The bad thing for him is that Michigan is loaded at tight end, The top two guys (Zach Gentry, Sean McKeon) return from 2017, and that’s not to mention Tyrone Wheatley, Jr. and Nick Eubanks, who are entering their fourth and third years, respectively. Could Muhammad step in and play? Sure. Would the team suffer in 2018 without his presence? I don’t think so. It would take a few injuries before Muhammad would become front and center at tight end, even with Michigan’s multiple-tight end sets. So while he’s more ready to play than fellow freshman tight ends Ryan Hayes and Luke Schoonmaker, all three guys are pretty low in the pecking order.

Prediction: Backup tight end

5Jul 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #75 Ron Johnson, Jr.

Ron Johnson, Jr.

Name: Ron Johnson, Jr.
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 245 lbs.
High school: Camden (NJ) Camden
Position: Defensive end
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #17
Last year: I ranked Johnson #71 and said he would be a backup defensive end (LINK). Johnson did not see game action.

Johnson had an opening for playing time in 2017 when Taco Charlton and Chris Wormley had graduated, elevating Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary to bigger roles. Johnson was never going to pass either of those guys, but at least there were some backup snaps available. But Johnson continued to be invisible, which was expected after he spent part of the spring playing defensive tackle due to a lack of bodies.

I’m expecting more of the same in 2018. Johnson has not generated any buzz in the off-season, and everybody returns in his position group. Winovich has one more year, and Gary could jump to the NFL after 2018, too. Maybe things will open up a little bit in 2019, but for now, Johnson will probably be a little used backup, at best. On the plus side, he has earned Scout Team Defensive Player of the Week honors three times during his two years on campus, so he obviously holds some value as a practice player.

Prediction: Backup defensive end

5Jul 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #76 Kurt Taylor

Kurt Taylor (image via Twitter)

Name: Kurt Taylor
Height: 5’8″
Weight: 194 lbs.
High school: Covington (GA) Newton/Loganville (GA) Grayson
Position: Running back
Class: Redshirt freshman
Jersey number: #5
Last year: I ranked Taylor #79 and said he would be a backup with 5 carries for 20 yards (LINK). He redshirted.

There wasn’t a lot of room for spare carries last season, because Karan Higdon, Chris Evans, and Ty Isaac were all expected to carry the load – and on top of them, there was heralded recruit Kareem Walker. Michigan brought in two running backs in the 2017 class, and while Taylor was bigger and stronger, the scant freshman carries went to O’Maury Samuels, not Taylor.

Now it’s 2018 and there are 108 tailback carries vacated by Isaac (graduated) and Walker (transferred). Where will those carries go? When asked about the tailback position group in the spring, Jim Harbaugh mentioned walk-on running back Tru Wilson at #3. Whether that sticks or not remains to be seen, but Taylor still seems to be an afterthought. Wilson, Samuels, and one of the freshmen will probably get carries, but I don’t see much of the load going in Taylor’s direction. If he can develop into the team’s best pass blocker, then I think he might have a chance to get on the field, but he’s perhaps the least athletic runner in the group.

Prediction: Backup running back

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