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17Aug 2017
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2017 Season Countdown: #15 Ian Bunting

Ian Bunting (image via Gannett)

Name: Ian Bunting
Height: 6’7″
Weight: 252 lbs.
High school: Hinsdale (IL) Central
Position: Tight end
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #89
Last year: I ranked Bunting #40 and said he would be a backup tight end with 10 catches for 120 yards and 1 TD. He caught 5 passes for 46 yards.
TTB Rating: 75

Entering the 2016 season, the starting tight end position was solidified with senior Jake Butt, who would go on to win the Mackey Award. Bunting was never going to be more than a backup, and with a bunch of young options, his value as an alternate option waned a little bit, too. Michigan had Devin Asiasi, Tyrone Wheatley, Jr., and others to help out, and they did. The vast majority of tight end targets went to Butt (46 catches), and Bunting notched the second-most catches with 5 total; four other backups totaled 7 receptions. Bunting was relatively forgotten until Butt tore his ACL in the bowl game, and suddenly there was this unknown, athletic, 6’7″ kid catching 3 passes for 40 yards.

The heir apparent is Bunting. Athletically, he’s the most similar to Butt, and he even has the so-so blocking skills to seal the comparison. It doesn’t hurt that Asiasi transferred to UCLA in the off-season, further clearing a path to the starting gig. From a talent standpoint, I think Bunting is capable of matching Butt’s production, but I don’t believe the depth chart and play calling will allow it. I expect to see a few more wide receivers on the field, and I don’t believe the top three 2017 pass-catchers will get as large of a percentage as the 2016 triumvirate (Butt, Jehu Chesson, and Amara Darboh). This should be a solid year for Bunting, but not a huge breakout star.

Prediction: 35 catches, 425 yards, 4 touchdowns

16Aug 2017
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2017 Season Countdown: #16 Michael Onwenu

Michael Onwenu (image via MLive)

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Name: Michael Onwenu
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 350 lbs.
High school: Detroit (MI) Cass Tech
Position: Offensive guard
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #50
Last year: I ranked Onwenu #68 and said he would be a backup offensive guard. He played in nine games at offensive guard, defensive tackle, and on special teams.
TTB Rating: 78

In most years, take an overweight offensive guard as a true freshman, and you can slap a redshirt on him. Not for Michigan in 2016, though. Michigan’s coaching staff knew they were losing three seniors to graduation after the season (OG/OT Ben Braden, OG Kyle Kalis, and OT Erik Magnuson), and maybe they knew in their hearts that David Dawson wouldn’t be able to hack it in the program. That’s four offensive linemen gone from last year’s mediocre crew, not to mention that Patrick Kugler was a candidate to depart, too. Some seasoning was necessary. So they threw in Onwenu at offensive guard. And nose tackle. And on the field goal unit.

This year he will play a little less nose tackle and a lot more offensive guard. Onwenu is slated to take over Kyle Kalis’s right guard spot. Reviews have been mixed, however. Onwenu has always moved well for a big man (he was up around 370 lbs. for a while), but the caveat “for a big man” is necessary. He can get going in a straight line, but his lateral quickness can be an issue. That becomes apparent at times in pass protection and when trying to reach the second level. On the flip side, if he gets his hand on a defender, that defender turns into that poor little opossum you see on your way to work in the morning. Rumor has it that the coaching staff gave Onwenu some tough love and put him on a weight loss plan, and now Onwenu is down in the 350 lb. range. Hopefully that’s light enough to where he can last a whole game without getting too exhausted to play effectively.

Prediction: Starting right guard

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