2015 Season Countdown: #85 Karan Higdon

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6Jun 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #85 Karan Higdon

Name: Karan Higdon
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 190 lbs.
High school: Sarasota (FL) Riverview
Position: Running back
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: N/A
Last year: Higdon was a senior in high school. He was a 247 Composite 3-star, the #40 running back, and #478 overall.
TTB Rating: 73

Higdon was a late success story for the new coaching staff this winter. He had been a Hawkeye commit, but he was interested in Michigan for a while without reciprocation. Jim Harbaugh extended an offer just before National Signing Day, and Higdon fought through a snowstorm and some travel issues to make it to Ann Arbor. Leading up to NSD, it was a question of whether he would stick with Iowa or flip to Michigan, and obviously he sent his National Letter of Intent to the Wolverines. Higdon is a slightly undersized back who has good vision and runs tough, though he lacks great speed.

Michigan’s situation this year is an intriguing one. There are two very highly touted recruits (Derrick Green, Ty Isaac) with experience, last year’s leading rusher returns (De’Veon Smith), and Drake Johnson made a late-season push before tearing his ACL for a second time. Yet three of the four guys have been hampered by injuries at one point or another, none has been outstanding, and the job remains up for grabs. It would be a surprise if Higdon were to beat out all those guys, although it’s not impossible. It would probably be best for him to redshirt, let the situation in front of him play itself out, and then have an extra year to make an impact down the road.

Prediction: Redshirt

5Jun 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #86 Wilton Speight

Name: Wilton Speight
Height: 6’6″
Weight: 235 lbs.
High school: Richmond (VA) Collegiate
Position: Quarterback
Class: Redshirt freshman
Jersey number: #19
Last year: I ranked Speight #87 and said he would redshirt. He redshirted.

Michigan had an established starter going into last season, and the Wolverines had a highly touted sophomore backup. They also had redshirt junior Russell Bellomy, who existed in a helmetless state. Both backups had seen game action in the past, so there was no need to play Speight.

This spring Speight earned some early praise for his mental acuity and leadership, but as practices wore on, the coaches reportedly started to realize that Speight was not the same kind of athlete as a couple of the other options. He supposedly dropped toward the bottom of the depth chart, and a minor injury removed any chance we had of seeing him in the spring game. Meanwhile, incoming transfer Jake Rudock looks like he’ll be the starter this year, Shane Morris returns as the #2 guy, and there might be a battle for the #3 spot between Speight, freshman Alex Malzone, and freshman Zach Gentry. Malzone had already moved past Speight this spring, and Gentry has higher upside. Unless several injuries occur, Speight will probably sit on the bench or be a mop-up guy this season.

Prediction: Backup quarterback

4Jun 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #87 Grant Newsome

Grant Newsome

Name: Grant Newsome
Height: 6’7″
Weight: 280 lbs.
High school: Trenton (NJ) Lawrenceville School
Position: Offensive tackle
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: N/A
Last year: Newsome committed to Michigan in June 2014 (LINK).
TTB Rating: 84

Newsome was perhaps the crown jewel of Michigan’s 2015 recruiting class, as the Wolverines beat out the likes of Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, and Wisconsin for his services. Initially from Virginia, he went to boarding school in New Jersey. When I wrote the scouting report on him, I was impressed with his length and athleticism. He looks like a prototypical left tackle prospect, and while he still requires some molding, he has a chance to be a multi-year starter at the position.

That stretch as a starter won’t begin just yet, however. At 6’7″ and 280 lbs., he has a long frame without the bulk to match. Michigan has a returning starter on the left side in the form of sophomore Mason Cole, and there are a couple more developed prospects who would probably slide in if an injury occurred. The coaching staff will probably work him on both the left and right sides, and perhaps Cole’s long-term future is on the inside; a slot for Newsome might open up after a couple of Michigan’s interior guys graduate, allowing Cole to slide inside. Regardless, Newsome will probably redshirt this year while he hones his technique and gains some necessary strength.

Prediction: Redshirt

3Jun 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #88 Nolan Ulizio

Name: Nolan Ulizio
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 293 lbs.
High school: West Chester (OH) Lakota West
Position: Offensive tackle
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: N/A
Last year: Ulizio was a senior in high school (LINK). He was a 247 Composite 3-star, the #137 offensive tackle, and #1274 overall.
TTB Rating: 65

Ulizio was a late flip from UConn after Jim Harbaugh was hired. D.J. Durkin, who was newly hired from Florida, had some previous relationships in the state of Ohio, and he was sent in to attempt to reap some late rewards. Ulizio was a 2-star recruit to some sites, and he had not even been evaluated by ESPN until after he switched his commitment to Michigan. Michigan’s coaching staff identified him as a late bloomer who hit a growth spurt, which helped him turn into an FBS recruit.

I have my concerns about Ulizio because of his lack of athleticism, but the kid is tenacious and has some decent technique. As he puts on muscle and continues to grow into his body, he could be an asset down the road. That will take some time, however. He looks like a fit at right tackle or offensive guard, and Michigan has some more experienced depth at those positions. I expect him to redshirt this season, and I don’t see him really factoring into the rotation until 2017 unless there are several departures.

Prediction: Redshirt

2Jun 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #89 Jon Runyan, Jr.

Jon Runyan, Jr. with his family

Name: Jon Runyan, Jr.
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 276 lbs.
High school: Philadelphia (PA) St. Joseph’s
Position: Offensive guard
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: N/A
Last year: Runyan committed to Michigan in June 2013 (LINK). He ended the cycle as a 247 Composite 3-star, the #122 offensive tackle, and #1127 overall.
TTB Rating: 73

Runyan was a very early commit to the 2015 class, and some people had questions about why he was offered since he was not well regarded by recruiting sites and did not garner an impressive offer list. In fact, 247 Sports lists him as having received just one offer, although sometimes kids stop reporting offers after they commit. Regardless, Runyan is a Michigan legacy whose dad was a high NFL draft pick and long-time player. The biggest question about Runyan, Jr. seemed to be about his size, and he was reported to be about 245 lbs. when he committed nearly two years ago.

He reportedly got up to 276 lbs. by his senior year, which is still pretty light for a college lineman. You also may see in the highlights below that he’s lacking some technique – especially when blocking in the open field – and he also lacks the sheer power one would expect of a high-level prospect. Iowa takes kids like this every year and churns out one or two high draft picks on the line, so size and strength can be improved with quality strength and conditioning. But without that size coming into college, Runyan will probably find himself redshirting like most linemen this season.

Prediction: Redshirt

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