MLive: 13 days away from Michigan, Florida still unsure about what QB to start

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18Aug 2017
Blog, homepage 7 comments

2017 Season Countdown: #13 Kekoa Crawford

Kekoa Crawford (image via 247 Sports)

Name: Kekoa Crawford
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 195 lbs.
High school: Rancho Santa Margarita (CA) Catholic
Position: Wide receiver
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #1
Last year: I ranked Crawford #44 and said he would be a backup wide receiver. He made 4 catches for 47 yards and 1 touchdown, and he ran 3 times for 15 yards.
TTB Rating: 81

Normally, I probably would have projected someone with Crawford’s skills as a guy destined for a redshirt, or possibly with just a wee bit of playing time with no discernible freshman upside. Last year I ranked him pretty highly. Why the swing? The kid likes to block. Crawford is the best blocking receiver I’ve seen come to Michigan in a while, even though a couple other guys (Jehu Chesson, Maurice Ways) have developed those skills in college. I think that trait got Crawford on the field early, and he had a decent freshman season for someone playing behind two established seniors in Chesson and Amara Darboh. Crawford also has good hands and made a nice touchdown catch against Maryland.

Now Crawford might be the #1 receiving target in 2017. With Chesson and Darboh gone – and Drake Harris moved to cornerback – the only upperclassman receivers are redshirt junior backup Ways and junior Grant Perry, neither of whom has been a heavily utilized receiver. Since the spring, the expectation has been that Crawford would start at one receiver spot this year, with a freshman (likely Tarik Black or Donovan Peoples-Jones) starting on the other side. Crawford doesn’t have the same athletic upside as those two freshmen, but he does have those soft hands and that blocking ability, and he runs like a running back.

Prediction: Starting wide receiver; 40 catches, 520 yards, 3 touchdowns

18Aug 2017
Blog, homepage 9 comments

2017 Season Countdown: #14 Khalid Hill

Khalid Hill (image via Gannett)

Name: Khalid Hill
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 263 lbs.
High school: Detroit (MI) East English Village
Position: Fullback
Class: Fifth year senior
Jersey number: #80
Last year: I ranked Hill #. He carried 25 times for 39 yards and 10 touchdowns; he also caught 16 passes for 118 yards and 3 touchdowns.
TTB Rating: 60

Hill entered college as a bit of a tweener. Was he a tight end or . . . a guy who didn’t really fit a spot? When he committed as a part of the class of 2013, Michigan was in the midst of using bigger tight ends and “U-backs,” but the U-back position was filled by different body types and skill sets than what Hill possessed. Hill didn’t play much during the Hoke era, and he appeared to be buried on the depth chart. Then Jim Harbaugh arrived, and he found a role for Hill in 2015 as an H-back. A void opened after the graduation of Joe Kerridge, though, and Harbaugh had the idea of moving the 6’2″ Hill to fullback. I was initially skeptical because Hill hadn’t taken handoffs before and seemed a little tall for the position, but it worked out better than any could have predicted. Hill led Michigan in scoring in 2016, scoring 10 rushing touchdowns and 13 total touchdowns. He even earned a (self-given) nickname, the “Hammering Panda.”

Despite the Hammering Panda not starting a single game in 2016, he seems more valuable than fellow fifth year senior Henry Poggi. Poggi started more games, but he’s not as athletic or skilled. Hill was a short-yardage and goal line demon, and he was especially good as a lead blocker on toss sweeps. That role should continue, even with the addition of scholarship fullback Ben Mason to the roster. Hill has soft hands and has become trusted by quarterback Wilton Speight. The unknown Mason notwithstanding, I think there would be a big void if Hill were to go down, because he can fill a role as a lead fullback, short yardage runner, pass catcher out of the backfield, and H-back. It’s hard to project him beating last year’s 13 touchdown performance, but teams knew he was going to get the ball on the goal line last year, and they still couldn’t stop it.

Prediction: Part-time starting fullback; 20 carries, 40 yards, 8 touchdowns, plus 14 catches for 110 yards and 1 touchdown

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